Monday Music – Music vs. Noise

Photo by badpoint

Photo by badpoint

Welcome to Liz Johnson!!! She is one of the new members of the thoughtsonplot team. Follow with us this week and meet each of the new team members. Comment and be ready to answer questions about this week’s launch posts for your chance to win a $50 Amazon Gift Card.

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Liz JohnsonAs I sat down to write this blog post over my lunch break at work, I plugged in my earbuds, turned on the soundtrack for Pacific Rim, and began typing. All of a sudden, one of my coworkers in the next cubicle row over came to my desk and said, “Is that you? Are you the one making all the noise?”

I pulled out my earbuds, and my face turned beet red.

It turns out my music was blaring across the entire office floor, and I only thought it was coming through my earbuds. I hadn’t plugged them in all the way, and my little laptop speakers were doing their best to serenade the whole building. Oops!

I tell you that story, not only because it’s indicative of my life in general, but also because I think it’s a good illustration of our personal reactions to music. To me, the haunting strings and techno-orchestra from the movie Pacific Rim are beautiful and tension building. As the tension in this soundtrack builds, my insides wind tighter and tighter. I feel it deep within, and I love it.

To my coworker, Kay, it’s nothing more than noise.

That’s why I’ve begun taking recommendations for the music I listen to while writing with a grain of salt (and not being offended when someone doesn’t like a recommendation I may offer). The response to writing music is as varied as the writers themselves. For many, the music can’t have lyrics. For others, words don’t matter. For some, the words are the most important part.

I’ve discovered that the music in the background has to put me in the right mood for the scene I’m working on. Pacific Rim is my go-to for the tension-filled scenes in my Love Inspired Suspense books. In fact, I got a little carried away by the explosive clash of metal while writing my December release, Navy SEAL Noel, and I ended up with a climactic scene that had one reader telling me she almost had to put the book down. But I think that’s one of the points in a suspense novel—to have your reader so nervous for your characters that they feel that tension deep inside themselves. And the music helped me do just that.

But as a romance author, not every scene I write has that same fear-of-death suspense. Some scenes have a more subtle tension. And I have go-tos for that, too. Like the group Needtobreathe. Their Southern charm and soothing harmonies leave me feeling whimsical and like anything is possible. So inevitably, my characters discover that with God all things are possible.

I really have only two rules for choosing my writing music.

  1. Choose a piece of music that makes me feel something.
  2. Match that feeling with what needs to show up on the page.

But I suppose that every author has their own rules for writing music. And I suppose there are even authors out there who don’t write with the aid of some background tunes. But to me that silence would just be too noisy.

What’s your favorite piece of music and how does it make you feel?


P.S. I’m so happy to be joining some of my very favorite writers on this blogging adventure. Michelle, Patricia, Jessica, and Jill are incredible women and amazing authors. What a joy it is to share a few minutes with them and you!


33 thoughts on “Monday Music – Music vs. Noise

  1. I’m writing a suspense scene this week and will come back for Pacific Rim. For those scenes, I usually listen to The Phantom of the Opera or my Hans Zimmer station on Pandora. Have Batman Begins waiting for me. 🙂
    It’s also great to be on this blog with you Liz and the other great writers–Michelle, Jill, and Jessica (AKA Robyn–she’ll know what I mean).

  2. I completely agree, Liz! And I cracked up at you not getting your ear plugs plugged in. Sometimes, I belt out a particular line or I catch myself talking the dialogue out loud when the music is really moving me. I’ve done this at the library a time or two! hahaha Sometimes, it’s not so much about the words being sung as the emotion it creates. I wrote a kissing scene to Tyrone Wells’ Use Somebody. The rendition was perfect and the words kinda were too! I got a little carried away too. 🙂

    • Liz Johnson says:

      I’m so glad I’m not the only one embarrassing myself in public, Jessica! 🙂 Sometimes when I’m writing at Panera, I find myself reading what I’ve just written aloud. Always a great way to make new friends with the people at the next table over. 🙂

  3. JillKemerer says:

    I love Pacific Rim and I’m so glad you shared the video! I get too distracted listening to music when I write, but I always have a few songs that put me in the mood for a particular story. Carrie Underwood has some great slow songs, and Lady Antebellum too!!
    I’m so excited to be blogging with you, Michelle, Patricia and, of course, Jessica!! 🙂

  4. I’m excited too! I just got so excited over Liz’s post, I forgot to say that! hahaha

  5. Michelle Lim says:

    I am SOOOOO going to use these music clips! Thanks, Liz!

  6. My smile for the day!!!!!!!!! 🙂

  7. Melissa Tagg says:

    Needtobreathe is my favorite band ever!!! But I can’t listen to them while I write. Why? Um, well, because if I listen to them while sitting in front of my computer, then it’ll inevitably lead to me going to YouTube and watching videos of them performing live and before I know it, I’ve used up all my writing time lost in a happy NTB daze.

    Yeah, I’m really not kidding when I say I love them. 🙂

    I rarely listen to music when I write, but if I do, it’s usually a soundtrack. The Pride & Prejudice soundtrack is great to write to!

  8. Liz Johnson says:

    Melissa, I can’t imagine not having music on while I’m writing. But I do hear you! NTB can be quite distracting! But what’s not to love about them? They’re delightful! I wrote my entire third book while listening to The Outsiders album on repeat. Now every time I hear one of those songs, it takes me right back to my kitchen table in my old apartment, tapping away at that story.

    Thanks for stopping by!

  9. Lisa Jordan says:

    My son absolutely loves the Pacific Rim soundtrack. He blares it while he cooks–he’s a chef who creates in the kitchen.

    For me, writing to music helps me to focus on the current scene instead of the distractions around me. I don’t have a specific artist or album. Instead I choose music to fit the mood of the scene I’m writing. I love using iTunes radio or Pandora, but I do have a writing playlist, too.

    • Liz Johnson says:

      Lisa, I LOVE that your son cooks to the PR soundtrack! I’d like to know what comes out of his kitchen when the jaegers start fighting! 🙂 I’m all about fitting the mood of the scene, too. Thanks for stopping by!

    • Michelle Lim says:

      Lisa, there are a lot of writers who listen to music before they write to get in the mood and then turn it off while they are writing.

  10. I loved this post. And I’m listening to the Pacific Rim clip as I write. Yeah, I totally understand how this ups the tension in your writing. 🙂

    Music is so powerful. I admit, I often write with silence. But, there are times when I like to write with music my characters like. It can help me get in their heads. But not always. 🙂

    I’m excited to read more here as you ladies share your wisdom!

    • Liz Johnson says:

      Jeanne, thanks for stopping by. You and Melissa Tagg both said you don’t usually write to music. That is so foreign to me! And amazing! Y’all are rockstars in my book. I’d be lost without the rhythm of it.

    • Michelle Lim says:

      So glad you stopped by.. I can’t wait to learn more from these ladies, too!

  11. Candee Fick says:

    I love writing to music. Listened to the soundtrack from Rudy when writing the football action scenes in the novel debuting this year. When I wrote a manuscript set in a dinner theater, I had to have musicals playing. But my go-to lately has been instrumental hymns that have been interspersed with nature sounds like birds chirping. It helps set the mood for sure!

    • Liz Johnson says:

      Candee, what a great idea–the Rudy soundtrack for football. 🙂 I was addicted to the Wicked soundtrack for a while there, and I noticed my characters getting pretty intense. 🙂 Thanks for stopping by!

  12. Jamie Restemayer says:

    When I was in college and had papers to write I was always looking for music to listen to that could get me in the mood to work on the paper and then crank out the paper. I always found that I write better when I am listening to country music, but then I found Eric Church who is country but also a little rock and I got some of my best work done listening to his CD’s

  13. I love beautifully trained voices–from Celtic women to Josh Groban to Charlotte Church.
    Sally Burbank

  14. twilk68 says:

    Of course blogging is a lot different than writing novels (everyone has a blog these days), but when I’m writing or researching, I like to listen to the same playlist I use when I’m going to sleep. Mainly, it’s worship songs from groups like Hillsong, Kutless, Needtobreathe, Third Day, etc. I have been known to throw in a mainstream ballad every now and then, though. Sometimes I hear the words, but if I’m in the zone, it’s just background noise. Although…

    The other night (I’m on graveyards now) I was listening with earbuds on and trying to focus on my spreadsheet and think about an idea I had at the same time. Didn’t work so well. I didn’t hear my coworker come back in from a break. I Want to Know What Love Is by Foreigner came on. I don’t want to say I was singing along, but I was singing along. Got caught. That was bad…

  15. Thank you for sharing. Love the clips.

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