I don't know what it was -- my early education in piano; natural sense of pitch; heck, maybe even the ballet training -- but something apparently wired my brain to closely associate music with stories. And over the last ten years or so, I've taken that tendency and made it foundational to how I work.
I've been thinking about this because I finally, after a variety of false starts, have figured out the "sound" for the Dragon Age game kniedzw and I are running. I realized that Ramin Djawadi's music for Game of Thrones fit really well, so I went looking for more of his work, and simultaneously started browsing through the scores for other shows in the genre John Perich dubbed Blood, Tits, and Scowling. Trevor Morris' work on The Tudors and The Borgias falls into precisely the tone I'm looking for. So I'm slowly acquiring music and building out playlists for various moods -- creepy scenes, grand scenes, battle scenes, etc. And as I do so, the game coheres in my head.
This is why I was asking for Polynesian music earlier (and by all means, bring on more recommendations!). It isn't that I can't write a book without building playlists for it . . . at least, I don't think so? I used to do it all the time. I'd have one or two "theme songs," and that was all I needed. But now, figuring out the sound of a story is part of my process. And it isn't just cat-vacuuming, I promise! In order to pick music, I need to know the feel I'm going for -- so picking music helps me decide on a feel. When I make an actual soundtrack, with track titles and everything, I make decisions about what the important parts of the story are, and what their shape is or should be. It's a musical outline.
Approaching it this way gets me thinking about the story from a new angle, with a different part of my brain. Music can route around all the fiddly little details and get to the heart of it, the mood and response I'm trying to evoke. Sometimes it even creates the story.
So if you'll pardon me, I need to go check out the soundtrack to Rome.
This entry was also posted at http://swan-tower.dreamwidth.org/594846.h