From Sarah, With Joy

*Poet * Author * Wanderluster*

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Will Sing for Plot

If you're like me, coming up with a good plot is one of the hardest parts about writing. I appreciate anything that can help inspire me, and here is an idea I thought of about using the music in your iTunes to get a plot.

It's a simple idea, really. Just put your iTunes on shuffle and click play. Every song has its own characters and situation, right? So the first song you here is the way things stand at the beginning of your story or novel. Listen to the song, get a feel for how the characters are feeling and why. After you've gotten a feel for it, go to the next song; that song is your novel's end. The way your characters and story ends up. Again, listen to the song and get a feel for the how and why.

Here's an example, from my own playlist:

First song: 'Thank You for the Music' by Abba
Second song: 'You Can't Always Get what you Wan't' Glee Cast

So you could make a story from those like this: Maybe there's a shy, very unconfident girl who doesn't feel like she can really do much, except she's brilliant at the piano and she actually has small, but piercingly good voice. Maybe she was even abused by one of her mom's many boyfriends or something, and she's kind of given up on ever finding love in her life, and basically devotes her existence to music. She even gets in to Julliard. Then maybe she gets hit by a car or something and gets damage to her brain such that she loses feeling her left hand. Obviously this means she can't play music anymore, and this devastates her. So then what happens is she decides to teach music at a local private school, and becomes close with the widowed father of one of her students. At first she obviously has trust issues with any guy, but eventually they realize that they can heal each other by loving each other.

Anyway, you may not have gotten that story from those songs, but work it out however it works best for you. I'd love to know what you come up with!

Sarah Allen


  1. Phil Dick took the plot for the main line of his Hugo and Nebula winner The Man In The High Castle (read it if you haven't!) from the casting of the yarrow stalks and subsequent readings of the I Ching, using the Commentary of the Duke of Chou a to generate the secondary line. It's one of the greatest works of modern fiction extant. Just goes to show (paraphrasing another big favourite, Frank Herbert) that if you throw a handful of sand at the wind, you may perceive the lineaments of the face of God within.

    Keep writing!

  2. side note: I listen to music a lot when transcribing or doing housework, but when the time comes to see what's happening in that unknown place the stories come from, I have to do the silence thing. I like your idea - but the thought and thrust of the music itself blows my little scrying glass far off its course on the smoking face of the waters of the mind.

    ps - Not to mention what a Person from Porlock can do. So glad I no longer have a phone.

  3. I can write to jazz. Anything with lyrics and a beat stops me completely. And getting ideas from song content, probably not the most inspired way to write. Interesting thought though.

  4. @Softwalker: If it's good jazz, you shouldn't be able to do anything at all while it's playing. If it's not getting you that way, either chuck out that Diana Krall or buy headphones.

  5. Thanks for your comments! Yeah, usually I can't write to music either, and a lot of times this music/plot idea doesn't really work. I just thought it may help when your stuck or it may spark something when you can't think of anything. And I'm also a huge jazz fan :-) Coltrane is my fav, I think.

    Sarah Allen

  6. I've gotten a lot of plot ideas and smaller ideas from songs. I agree songs are an excellent source of story ideas, especially country songs.


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