OK, so I'm rarely in jeopardy, but I write woman-in-jeopardy novels—otherwise called "Modern Gothics"—and this is my blog. It will probably have lots of time between posts, but I'll try not to bore you. Welcome.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Music in Motion

(Photo courtesy my eldest son)
In this past weekend’s Toronto Star, bestselling author Marissa Stapley rounded up some of our fellow Canadian writers to ask them about using music to write by. They each shared their thoughts and some songs from their playlists, which I thought was fun.

I don’t listen to music while I’m actually writing—for that I need silence (and sometimes white noise on my headphones)—but playlists have definitely become part of my process.

Writing, for me, is a visual thing. I “see” the story play out like a movie, and sometimes songs set characters in motion unexpectedly, creating little private music videos within my mind that show me scenes developing.

Each character will have specific songs that make them “move”.

Hugh, the historical hero of A Desperate Fortune, really liked The Fray, to the point where even now, if I play that group’s song “I Can Barely Say”, Hugh will start stirring. It’s become very much “his” song, and while I was writing it showed me a whole sweeping arc of his backstory—a useful thing, since Hugh rarely spoke and I came to rely on the lyrics to speak for him while I was coming to grips with his character.

In Bellewether—the book I’m writing now—the historical hero, Jean-Philippe, is more a One Republic kind of guy.

The playlist just develops while I’m working on a novel. If a song comes on the radio that makes a scene begin to stir, I add it to the iPod. On the Bellewether playlist right now I’ve got 26 songs, and I’m sure I’ll add more.

Here are ten of them, in no particular order:

Breathe - Ryan Star
I've Told You Now - Sam Smith
Mercy - One Republic
The Words - Christina Perri
Unbreak - Ryan Star
Say - One Republic
Hold My Hand - The Fray
Secrets - One Republic
Human - Christina Perri
Stop and Stare - One Republic

It’s the rare writing day when I don’t listen to a few songs from that playlist. Just not while I’m actually writing. :-)

Here’s another of Hugh’s favourite songs by the Fray. Hope you enjoy it as much as he did.


  1. I like silence or white noise when I'm writing too, but I've never experienced certain songs setting characters in motion - how interesting! I can see how that would help understand your characters better.

  2. I love your playlist, Susanna! I saw a Fray concert a few years back. It was awesome! And I totally understand what you mean about characters stirring when certain songs are played.

    When I'm writing dual time novels I usually have a separate playlist for the present day lead heroine and the past one. And if I listen to that playlist all kinds of things are revealed for that character. When I write I listen to movie scores.

    Thanks for the fun post! And keep up the great work! 😀👍

  3. I actually prefer to play classical music while I write. Of course, I'm writing scholarly papers and not novels. I love your process and how the music stirs the characters stories. I'll have to go back and read "Fortune" again with that in mind.

  4. I've been reading and loving your books for years. So tickled to find you have a blog to follow (should have gone looking long ago!). I have two degrees in music so I can't have music on while I'm writing; my "aural training & sight singing" and "syntax, structure, and style of music" classes kick in and I can't string two words together, let alone a scene. But I also have a playlist for my characters--though it's not as long as yours!