Music & Writing Multiple Points of View

Music is a big part of my creative process. There’s a lot of power in playing just the right song, at just the right moment. The fight scene in the second chapter of Elevation, for example, would simply not exist as it does without Woodkid. I was stumped, and then those drums woke me up.

When I began writing, the way that music played into my process developed organically. I began to notice that certain songs reminded me of certain characters. I’d be sitting on the bus on my way home from work, and The Head and the Heart would shuffle on, and suddenly I would be thinking of my character Yarrow. Often enough, those thoughts would yield useable ideas.

Once I realized this, I decided to give each of my characters their own song. This strategy became increasingly helpful as I added more view point characters to each book. The most difficult thing about writing with multiple POVs, for me, is switching from one head to another. They each have their own voice, their own struggles, their own goals and plot-lines. It is sometimes challenging for me when I’m in a groove with one character and then I suddenly have to shift.

The best trick I’ve found is to use music cues. Whichever head I need to jump into for the next scene, I play that character’s song. Because I do this so often, I believe it triggers something in my brain to help with the transition. It’s a simple Pavlovian reaction. My mind hears those drums, and it knows that it’s time to be Ko-Jin.

Having such strong tries between certain songs and certain characters also helps push me to ponder and day dream in constructive ways. If I’m out for a walk or at the gym and I know I’m going to have a writing session soon, I put on music that tells my brain it’s time to think about work. The connection is there, so I don’t have to try to herd my wild thoughts into a more productive direction. It happens effortlessly.

So, this is my tip: if you write multiple view points in your story, and you ever find it difficult to jump in and out of heads, take a moment to choose a song for each of your POV characters. I currently use the apple music app, which allows you to play a “radio station” based on a specific song, and it always plays that song first.

Some advice:

1) Don’t get too hung up on finding a song that perfectly speaks to the character in every lyric. Maybe there’s just a line here and there that fit. Or maybe the words are all wrong but the voice and beat are perfect. Ultimately, the song doesn’t matter that much, as long as you build the connection between it and your character.

2.) Make sure to choose different artists for each character, not different songs by the same artist. For me, the association tends to spread from that one song to all songs by the same artist. All Woodkid songs now make me think of Ko-Jin, even if they don’t fit. I think you’d have some crossed-streams if you overlapped.

3.) Pick songs you like enough that listening to them over and over again won’t drive you crazy. Personally, I can listen to the same song a million times in a row without a problem, as long as I like the song.

4.) Consider the mood / tone of the song in relation to the types of scenes that character is likely to be featured in. Having a slow, sleepy song for a character who gets into a lot of sword fights, for example, might not jive well.

Bonus

For fans of my Marked series who are curious, here are the songs I use for my POV characters. I threw them into a Spotify playlist for you. The order goes: Yarrow, Bray, Ko-Jin, Arlow, Peer, Chae-Na, Vendra.

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Fantasy and science fiction writer, author of The Marked Series. Avid traveler, BJJ enthusiast, coffee swiller.

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