Sunday, May 2, 2010

Music in Your Manuscript

I recently wrote several scenes for my YA novel in which music was being played.  And I realized that writing ‘music’ into your manuscript is a tricky business.

On the one hand, if the reader recognizes the song/title, the music could help bring them into the story and ‘hear’ what the characters are hearing.

If they don’t know the music, the written lyrics could add something to the emotional or physical tension in the scene.

However, if the reader isn’t familiar with the music and the lyrics really add nothing, it could end up flopping up the flow and bringing the reader out of your story.

So I guess my question is- 
what books have you read where music has helped to enhance a story or scene?

Was there ever a book that you read where this had the opposite effect?

Have you ever ‘Googled’ a song that was mentioned in a book you were reading?  
(I do this a lot actually but I always kind of wish I had the song placed in my head before I read said scene so I wouldn’t have had to be taken out of the moment to go look it up.)

Happy Monday Everyone!
Spring vacation is officially over in France and I’m back to work :(


Avo said...

Hmm... "Dance dance dance" by Haruki Murakami made excellent transparent use of music for one the main characters friend. She appears with earphones on her ears that leak blaring eighties music.It really help set that character's personality and position her in time (positioning her in time was very important from a narrative perspective).

I can't recall a specific instance of it not working... Probably because when I read something I don't know I look it up, and if I don't like the results, I'll just imagine something that suits me.
Oh wait! There was a book I read recently, "War of the oaks" by Emma Bull. I really enjoyed the book, but the music it focused on was alien to me, and after looking it up, not to my liking I discovered... so I stopped looking up the names and dreamt up other music.
So in effect, it doesn't matter to me what music the author intends, if I like the story but don't like the music I'll simply replace it as I read... And If I'm not liking the book much, I'll simply skim past those parts.

Swimmer said...

I read this one book where every chapter had a song and I didn't know any of the songs! It was hard to follow but then in Twilight and the Last Song I loved the piano because it had meaning but even then it was a little hard to follow.

Vicki Rocho said...

I've said it before, and I don't mind outing myself again--I'm a musical ignoramus. I only know a handful of bands & songs. I like plenty of songs, but rarely know who the artist is.

So writing music into the plot line is difficult for me. I also worry about the legalities of it - how many of the lyrics can you use before you need a release from the artist? I've heard this can be very expensive at publishing time.

I Google lyrics all the time. I think it should be mandatory for artists to include the lyrics with the CD. I can't sing, but sometimes I wanna sing along with the RIGHT WORDS, y'know?

Laura Pauling said...

I can't even remember a book that reference music, so I'm guessing it didn't impact me that much. :)

India Drummond said...

The only time I don't like to read about music/lyrics in books is when I feel like the author is just trying to show off how cool their musical tastes are. Seen that happen several times and it immediately puts me off!

Unknown said...

The only books I've seen this happen is when they're making passing observations of the character listening to music. When done well, it sets the type of character the MC is.

There's only one part in my story where I mention music, and that's to set up the scene. I mainly just discribe what it sounds like, I don't go into detail about the song title or any of the lyrics or even the singer who's singing. It's just a mention of the type of song.

MTeacress said...

I love writer's blogs! What a good point. I have music in my novel and now I'd like to take a second look at it and ask myself if it's a good idea. Thanks for the input.

AiringMyLaundry said...

My novel does have music mentioned a few times. My heroine is a big fan of oldie music (even though she's in her 20s) so this usually gets odd looks tossed in her direction since most people are blasting out Britney Spears or Lady Gaga.

Carolyn V. said...

I've been inspired by music and have written scenes because of certain songs. But I have never mentioned music in my books before. Hum...might be a good idea. =)

Jessica Bell said...

Um, yeah I really got into Nick Hornby's what's it called that became a movie? Can't remember title right now - brain fried from work. It really enhanced the book for me.

Never had apposite effect.
Yes, I ahve googled - why wouldn't I? I want to know what's playing damn it!

I struggled with this myself. I think I have a lot of unknown music in my book. I hope people google mine if it ever gets published!

Slamdunk said...

You stumped me with the main question--I can't think of a book that I read that used a song.

I have googled song lyrics that bloggers used in short stories though.

Lydia Kang said...

Hmm, can't think of one outside of "Claire de lune" in Twilight. I have to say, I was pissed they used that song because i love it and now it reminds me of Twilight!

Angie Paxton said...

Stephen King's books are peppered with music. The lyrics he quoted were always apropos to the scene and usually added to the creepiness factor. Through his books I've been introduced to several artists I never would have sought on on my own. For him it worked. However, I've also seen this done badly and it sort of backfired because it ended up just being a distraction from the story.

Talli Roland said...

Hm... Movies, for sure, music has really influenced me. Books, not so much; I'm more about the seeing/ feeling than hearing. I've never Googled a song I read about in a book, unless it keeps cropping up in an annoying way.

Dawn Ius said...

Happy Monday back!

I try not to put specific references into my MS UNLESS the band / musician is so popular everyone *should* get the reference - but I'm not sure I have even done that.

However, when writing, I listen to music and not always what I like when I'm not writing. Every book has a playlist, typically the character's fave song / band at the time. In my current MS, Jagger loves Audioslave. I couldn't sing a single Audioslave song or even name one for that matter, but I know when I'm in the "zone", Jagger could :-)

If you've ever read Joe Hill, he does a good job with subtle musical references. If you know the band / lyric, you'll smile. If not, it kind of flows seamlessly into the text. Well done.

TV shows and movies are another matter - I'll Google any song that I like.

Laura S. said...

I can't think of any books with music right now. But I know I've googled some! I just know it never bothers me when I read about music I've never heard.

Shelley Sly said...

I don't remember many books that reference music, or maybe it just slips past me. I know some books mention very popular songs (by Michael Jackson or The Beatles, for instance) that I don't need to look up, but it doesn't usually affect the emotion of the scene.

I actually reference a crude 90's song in one of my manuscripts, because it fits the subject matter of the scene, but now that we're in the 2010's already (or whatever we're calling it -- wow, can you believe we're so far into the 21st century?) I'm not sure if my readers will know the song I'm mentioning.

T.J. Carson said...

My best friend read my manuscript while listening to music and a scene made her cry because of the song and emotional tension of the scene, they just meshed well in her head. But I have not put 'music' per-say but I do use lines from songs I find inspiring, not that I expect anyone to recognize, it just sounds like part of the novel and not a sort of shoutout to the singer/band/song. But I do believe music can profoundly affect the reader, if they know the song, if they don't, then it depends on the connotation the lyrics have with what is happening in the novel.


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