There And Draft Again

A Fellowship of Fantasy Writers

The Music of Writing: I See Fire March 26, 2014

Music has always played an integral part in the world of fantasy. Whether in the form of the siren song, cast out over a still ocean, or in the bardic tradition of weaving myths and legends into musical form; it brings a richness and sets a cultural timbre to the fantasy world.

When it’s done well that is. One of my favourite passages of ‘written music’ is when Aslan sings Narnia into existence in The Magician’s Nephew:

In the darkness something was happening at last. A voice had begun to sing. It was very far away and Digory found it hard to decide what direction it was coming from. Sometimes it seemed to be coming from all directions at once. Sometimes he almost thought it was coming out of the earth herself. There were no words. There was hardly even a tune. But it was, beyond comparison, the most beautiful noise he had ever heard. It was so beautiful he could hardly bear it…

It’s a long passage that builds a crescendo in the reader:

The lion was pacing to and fro about the empty land and singing his new song. It was softer and more lilting than the song by which he had called up the stars and the sun; a gentle, rippling music. And as he walked and sang, the valley grew green with grass. It spread out from the Lion like a pool. It ran up the sides of the little hills like a wave…

Conveying the essence of music with words is hard work. A mere record of the lyrics often can’t convey the emotional response, atmosphere or tone of the music itself. And music often tells its own story. Just watch a deleted scene from a movie without the background music. It’s never as powerful.

Fortunately you don’t have to be a gifted musician to write music in a novel, but it helps to look those with a musical gift for inspiration. Whether the music of your book leans towards the soft background music of unassuming string instruments, often in the background and unnoticed by those discussing things of import (because it never hurts to have one eye on your plot); or the type of percussion that gets into the blood and rouses passions – find yourself something similar to listen to and to quote Eminem;

Lose yourself in the music…

And then find the words to express what you feel.

Many of us create playlists that evoke emotions when we’re writing. On my epic fantasy playlist is U2, Bryan Adams, John Mayer, Ben Harper, Jack Johnson and Shooting Stars. It only takes a few bars from With or Without You, and I’m with one of my characters, riding across the plains of Gaelladorn with the wind whipping my hair and my mind focussed on just one thing…

And if you get really lucky you might come across a musician who has been inspired by someone else’s words, and who will inspire you. Like this masterpiece from Ed Sheeran:

I’d love to know how you incorporate music into your writing, or writing process?

by Raewyn Hewitt


5 Responses to “The Music of Writing: I See Fire”

  1. deshipley Says:

    Stories of mine have included music in some form or another for as long as I can recall. I like breaking out into song, sometimes created on the spur of the moment, and I guess that trait got passed on to several of my characters. A sizable percentage of them are singers, songwriters, instrumentalists, or some combination thereof — not to mention the minstrels, in a league all their own, and with books that can end up with as many musical numbers as Disney feature.

    (Heck, I /did/ write a novel musical, once. It totally needs to be rewritten, but I still feel the premise is worth returning to.)

    When thinking of things musically is something your brain naturally does (or was somehow trained to do), keeping music out of a story is more of challenge than working it in. …It also makes listening to music while writing difficult, because there’s already a soundtrack whispering in my head. (:

    • It’s funny how the other creative arts really overlap when it comes to inspiration – and can really take over sometimes. So strange how our processes can differ though. Like you I can’t listen to music while I’m writing, but will often listen to music beforehand to get myself into the zone for a scene.

  2. kathils Says:

    This is one of my all time favorite pieces. So moving and powerful. I thought so even before I saw the video.

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