Guest Blogger Steve Fisher writes about Musical Writing
Writing is a mysterious craft. Part inspiration, part perspiration. This is about inspiration. Or rather one form of it. Music. When I’m looking for a magic tonic of creativity, I turn to motion picture soundtracks.
Think about some of the most effective films you have seen. Chances are they started with a great script, added competent and creative direction, exceptional performances, sublime cinematography and brilliant editing. But perhaps the crowning element was the evocative score. What would Star Wars be like without John Williams’ majestic symphonic score? How effective would Titanic be without James Horner’s haunting themes? How chilling would Psycho be without Bernard Herrmann’s staccato strings? A good film can be made great by the music. A film can also be ruined by a bland or misguided score. In deference to the filmmakers, I won’t cite examples.
So what does that have to do with writing? We’re all affected by music, one way or another. When you sit down to write, play the kind of music that evokes the emotion or atmosphere you are trying to achieve. Take a moment to immerse yourself in the melodic environment. Then try putting pen to paper, fingers to keyboard, ingesting the music continuously as you do so. You may find a new richness wending its way through your words.
Try this for an exercise. Select four tracks of music, each with a different sensation—upbeat, somber, romantic, whimsical. As each plays, write. It doesn’t matter what: poetry, prose, screenplay, essay. They don’t have to go together. Just do it to see how it feels.
When you’re ready to actually use music to work by, be selective. Match the musical themes to the emotional ones you are trying to achieve. You may just find additional inventiveness. And the labors of writing may become more harmonious.
Steve Fisher has written for television, film, stage and print for more than 3 decades. He sleeps in formaldehyde to keep his youthful good looks.