How to Use Music to Enhance Your Writing

Guest Post by Michael D. Young

Michael

Michael is a graduate of Brigham Young University and Western Governor’s University with degrees in German Teaching, Music, and Instructional Design. Though he grew up traveling the world with his military father, he now lives in Utah with his wife, Jen, and his two sons. Michael enjoys acting in community theater, playing and writing music and spending time with his family. He played for several years with the handbell choir Bells on Temple Square and is now a member of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

He is the author of the novels in The Canticle Kingdom Series, The Last Archangel Series, the Chess Quest Series and the Penultimate Dawn Cycle. He also authors several web serials through BigWorldNetwork.com. He publishes anthologies for charity in his Advent Anthologies series. He has also had work featured in various online and print magazines such as Bards and Sages Quarterly, Mindflights, Meridian, The New Era, Allegory, and Ensign. He has also won honorable mention three times in the Writers of the Future contest.

His latest release “The Hunger” is available on amazon.com.


Hans Christian Andersen once said “Where words fail, music speaks.” As authors, we might not want to admit that words can fail, but it doesn’t take much to test the theory. Simply consider a single emotion such as love. We use the word “love” to apply to everything from your favorite drink at Starbucks to the person you want to spend your life with, and everything in between. The concept of love is a nuanced and multifaceted thing, and that’s only dealing with a single human emotion.

That is why music is such a vital part of describing the human experience and transmitting inexplicable messages to others. For writers, this means that music, when used properly, can be an integral part of enhancing your writing. It can be used both to affect the writer and to affect the reader.

Affecting the Writer

For me, getting into writing involved shifting gears, getting in a new frame of mind. This can be especially difficult when you are dealing with other concerns from everyday life, and your writing time is limited. Using music can be a way to “prime the pump” to get you in a writing frame of mind.

My tool of choice is Spotify, where I can create playlists based on different moods and mindsets. If I’m writing sad, I listen to sad, whatever that may be for me. I have great songs I can listen to for exciting action scenes, tender scenes of sentiment, and even the peaceful resolution near the end of the story.

It might take you a bit to figure out which music affects you, but it is worth the investment. Just stay clear of things that get too easily caught in your head—or you might be thinking about the song the whole time you’re writing.

Affecting the Reader

Music is an integral part of the real world, and it should be part of most fictional ones. Use music to highlight moments of high emotion, to punctuate events of the greatest importance, or even to give world-building flavor or backstory in an organic way. Make sure to steer clear of other people’s copyrights with existing songs, and if you make up your own song lyrics to include as a part of a story, make sure you really know your stuff. Make sure you understand the rules of rhyme and meter that many great songs follow. If you don’t, you risk it becoming a distraction instead of an enhancement.

About Bonnie Gwyn Johnson

Bonnie Gwyn handles all guest bloggers on this website. Contact her if you would like to volunteer your time to share writing advice for The Authors' Think Tank.

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