Music as Muse

Confession: I thought I had an original idea when my first story came from the rebellious and socially conscious album Second Law by the band Muse. I thought someday I would send them a letter telling them how Everett and Mara and the 2nd Federation Army had come to be and I would thank them for creating their beautiful soundscapes and subversive lyrics that fostered this baby idea. Imagine my surprise when I learned that the author of a certain extremely popular vampire book series had also given Muse credit for her characters. Now I’m not sure how the “rise against the powers” songs produced by Muse inspired a vampire-human love story, but I once got a crazy idea from a Duran Duran video and wrote a whole manuscript in three months off of it, so inspiration comes when it comes.

The first iteration of my novel Trusting a Traitor came to greet my imagination as a musical. I adore musical theater and acted in all the classics in high school: Guys & Dolls, Bye, Bye Birdie, Oklahoma, Fiddler on the Roof, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. When I was a kid, I thought I would be a dancer/actor/entertainer in some form, spending hours alone choreographing dances and plays that only I could see. I hit a snag in my adult life, doing very little creatively, until one day during one of my forty-five minute commutes to work. The story came to life from the music and hit me upside the head. I could see the dark setting and the prison cells and the desperate longing to be free of oppression. In one of the songs on the Muse album, Matt Bellamy ends it with a chant: “Fight! Fight! Fight! Win! Win! Win!” and then proceeds to conquer a G above the staff—and as any music people out there know, it’s a damn high note. If I rearranged Second Law into a musical, that song would be the battle cry.

After listening to that album until I knew every line, pause, cadence, and note, I dove into an earlier album, Black Holes and Revelations, where I opened another box of plot. The short song “Soldiers Poem,” sung in hauntingly tight harmony, locked in my antagonist’s sarcastically cold demeanor:

“And do you think you deserve your freedom?

No, I don’t think you do.

There’s no justice in the world.”

I knew freedom would be the ultimate goal of my story, and the only way for my characters to get it was to fight for it with everything they had.

I’ve utilized music often in my writing, especially when I’m stuck. Recently, a song I had come to love sparked a whole scene and when the words came, I wrote them frantically, that awesome moment of clarity that you must wrangle and tame and make yours. I seek inspiration from every source that unlocks my mind. I would love to know where other writers find their muse, and if anyone has playlists they want to share, please do!

Trusting a Traitor Soundtrack:

  • Soldier’s Poem – Muse
  • Explorers – Muse
  • Defector – Muse
  • Stay – Rhianna
  • Close – Nick Jonas & Tove Lo
  • Elastic Heart – Sia
  • Some Nights – Fun.
  • My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark – Fall Out Boy

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