Written by MANDY WALLACE
Has this happened to you?
I was all set to jump into my NaNoWriMo story scene. Sure, I was nervous as usual. But I had my outline. I knew where the story was going. No problem, right? Ugh.
Except when I fired up Evernote and put my fingers to keyboard, everything slipped away. My blank screen became the empty reflection of my mind staring back at itself.
Okay, fine. I can handle this, I thought. (All while trying to remember how to breathe.) This has happened before. It’s just nerves, right? So I try again.
I type out a sentence. But I just don’t feel it. In fact, everything I write falls flat.
My characters were raring to go, old flames locked in a stale mate of conflicting goals that even their shared history can’t conquer. But everything I wrote reflected the mood Iwas in. Stressed about WriMo. Trying to write two thousand words between paying the bills and scrubbing the soap scum out of the tub. Not exactly a great mood for writing.
So every character movement. Every twist in the plot. I just couldn’t get into it. And I know my readers will feel the same because if I don’t feel it, how can I write it into the story? (If I get far enough in this story that it ever has a reader, that is.)
So I did what I always do when I don’t know what to do with a story. Google search! And that’s how I found this mood-altering tool. (Don’t worry! It’s legal.)
Get Into The Right Mood for Your Story Scene, No Matter What You’re Writing
Lots of helpful tools exist online for writers. And the most helpful ones usually aren’t made with writers in mind. That’s the case with this tool too.
AudioSparx is actually for filmmakers. It’s an online music database for creating mood in movies and television. That suspenseful song that plays during a tv heist? The creepy sound that follows the monster in a horror film? AudioSparx is where filmmakers buy that stuff.
But we’re writers, so we get it for free.
Find a great song, get into the mood, and write away. But AudioSparx isn’t just music. Otherwise Pandora or the radio would suffice. AudioSparx has something for writers that no other music has. And I’ll tell you what it is.
What do I mean by that?
No One Else Organizes Mood and Emotion Like This
The clever people at AudioSparx have organized their music by mood. And not just “happy,” “sad,” or “scared” either. But “erotic” and “gritty” and “regal” too. Think I’m kidding? I’m not.
Sure, they break it down by “dramatic” or “suspenseful.” But AudioSparx gets into some serious specificity. Maybe one of your characters is planning to double-cross another character during a heist? There’s a song to invoke that betrayal. Or maybe there’s a bit of brooding in your rising action scene? Yep, there’s a song for that too.
I don’t pretend to understand how musicians capture this level of emotional nuance in music. Seriously, how do sounds make you feel brooding or tell your audience that one character is about to betray another?
But when I listen to this music, I definitely feel it. And the images that come out of it are liquid heat.
For example, after listening to that betrayal track, I learned that one of my characters was secretly thrilled by the idea of betraying an old friend. She would never admit it, even to herself. But when she was about to take something she wanted without permission, she felt powerful. I learned something about her I didn’t know before, and it came out in the writing. Added depth and nuance to a character I’d only scratched the surface of. It was an unexpected benefit.
These musical scores may not win awards, but boy am I glad I found them. Because it made my story better.
What might it do for you? Here’s how to find out.
Transform Mood Music Into Emotionally-Gripping Scenes
#1 Find The Right Music for Your Scene
AudioSparx is like having emotions on tap. All you have to do to capture the right mood for your scene is find the right song. And that’s the other great thing about AudioSparx. Finding the right song is easy.
Music may be a powerful mood-enhancer. But not every song is searchable by mood keywords. Unless you’re on AudioSparx.
If you’re going for an overall mood, browse through the AudioSparx dramatic music page. Here you’ll find music for scenes like horror, action & crime, science fiction, and sports.
Or get more specific. And this is where AudioSparx gets really powerful for writers. What is your character feeling in this scene? Search through AudioSparx’s music by mood to find your character’s emotion. Maybe she’s thankful? Or aggressive? Lost, defeated, or scared? Whatever she’s feeling, you’ll find it here.
#2 Invite The Muse
This is the best part. Listen to the song once with your eyes closed. Think about your characters. Think about their goals in the scene. And let the images play out in your mind. Don’t try to direct it. Just let the characters and the music tell the story.
#3 Jot Down Your Impressions
Jot down the images and impressions you got from step two. What images did you see? What were the expressions on your characters’ faces? How did they move through the setting or interact with each other? Write that down.
#4 Invoke The Muse
Listen to the song again. Pause the music any time you get a clear image of your characters. Don’t worry about writing complete sentences. And don’t worry about writing these story snippets in order either.
Because the images you write down can be anything. The rustle of fabric. A whiff of perfume. The rough sandpaper feel of a callous on skin. Any of these can spark an idea, take your plot in a new direction, or deepen a character. So get them all down.
#5 Weave The Results Into Your Story
This is where you make sense of the images. Use them to tell a story. Fire up your editor. Or just try to keep up with the ride.
A Few More Helpful Notes
An Entire Story Can Unfold Without You Even Trying
The nice thing about the songs on AudioSparx is they have their own story arc. Each song opens, builds up, climaxes, and concludes. Allow your story images to unfold in the same way. Our minds are hot-wired to make sense of our sensory experiences. So if you’re thinking about your story while you listen to the song, the images may unfold in an almost complete story arc on their own.
Don’t worry if this doesn’t happen the first time. Just leave yourself open to it if it does.
AudioSparx Is Free (If You’re a Writer)
You don’t have to pay $60 bucks for a song on AudioSparx just to get into the storytelling mood. Just listen to the track preview. It will play the entire song for free.
One Little Problem That Might Annoy You
You know how photographers sometimes watermark their copyrighted images to prevent theft? Well AudioSparx sort of watermarks its music previews so the songs can’t be used in a movie without payment. You’ll notice an annoying voice say “preview” every few seconds when you listen to a song.
For some writers, this may ruin the effect and make AuidoSparx unusable as a writing mood tool. That’s okay. You didn’t lose anything. And there are other tools out there we’ll discuss here on the site. But for those who can ignore it, AudioSparx can be a powerful mood-invoking writing tool.
This Technique May Even Improve What You’ve Already Written
Get a taste for a few of the options. Listen to a few songs, and see what comes out.
Like me, you may not have had a betrayal in mind when you started your story. But maybe some of your characters do. Listen to a song you didn’t think you needed. Whether you’re a panster or a planner, this mood technique can take you in directions your characters always knew you should go.
Like my character experience above, I didn’t see her response to betrayal coming. And for some reason, that just made it all the better. Because I bet my readers won’t see it coming either. And if they’re half as thrilled as I was to discover this about my character, then my story will be that much better.
What surprises might you find in your story this way?