Playlist, then Plot
Most of the time, I wait to create book playlists until I’ve written a couple of chapters. This gives me time to get to know my characters and pick songs they would like. To firm up my plot or theme and select songs that mesh. Many writers I’ve talked to have the same process: plot, then playlist.
But what if that “plot, then playlist” order was reversed? What if songs inspired elements like setting and plot before those elements even existed? Music is already creative, beautiful, and full of emotion. Using it as a springboard for a story can only be a good thing, right?
To help with the “playlist, then plot” process, I’ve compiled a few songs to inspire various elements for your next story. Bonus points if you grab a random song or two from each category and see what brilliance you can come up with.
Setting (Place) – If you’re anything like me, you set your stories where you live now or where you’ve lived in the past. For some variety, get inspired by one of these place-centric songs.
- Empire State of Mind – Jay-Z
- Carolina in my Mind – James Taylor
- Times Like These – Kid Rock
- San Bernardino – The Mountain Goats
- Running Back to Saskatoon – The Guess Who (Canada – just for you, Spence!)
- California – Phantom Planet
Setting (Time) – Who says your story has to be set in 2014? Maybe you need a decade with a little disco!
Characters – Let’s be honest, there are only so many character traits you can borrow from your friends, family members, local barista, or the guy who delivers your mail. Try finding fresh faces in one of these songs.
- Dear Marie – John Mayer
- Hey There Delilah – Plain White Tees
- Eleanor Rigby – The Beatles
- Mary’s Song – Taylor Swift
- Jonathan – Fiona Apple
- Zac and Sara – Ben Folds Five
- Anna Begins – Counting Crows
- Dear John – Taylor Swift
Plot – While plagiarism is a no-no, listening to these songs that tell stories for some inspiration can’t hurt!
- Take the Money and Run – The Steve Miller Band
- A Boy Named Sue – Johnny Cash
- The Ballad of Love and Hate – The Avett Brothers
- Harper Valley PTA – Jeannie C. Riley
- The Mariner’s Revenge – The Decemberists
- Fast Car – Tracy Chapman
What are your favorite songs that can be used to inspire story elements?