Music/Story Exercise


Music is a source of creative inspiration for me. When I taught elementary music, I occasionally passed out drawing paper and crayons and had the students draw a scene suggested by music I played for them.

Some authors make WIP-specific playlists that puts them in the zone as they work on their projects.

Yesterday I tried an experiment. I turned my iTunes on shuffle and hit play, then wrote down the scene I saw in my head as I listened. Here’s what came up:

  1. J.S. Bach, French Suite No.2 in C minor: Sarabande. Played on harpsichord. I imagined Marie Antoinette with her powdered up-do swishing around her palace in one of her low-cut, full-skirted gowns.
  2. Peter Davison, Invoking the Warriorfrom Adagio: Music for Tai Chi. An instructor at a gym I used to attend had the best workout music. I fell in love with this piece and asked her what it was so I could buy it. While listening, I imagined a scene from The Last Samuri when Tom Cruise watched the warriors practice and then joined in and got the tar beat out of him.
  3. Muzio Clementi, Sonatina No. 3 in F Major, Op. 38, 1st movement, on piano. I imagined a piano teacher working with a talented young student, demonstrating trills and turns. The student struggles with them, keeps repeating them, and gradually is able to play them smoothly and up to tempo, to the delight of his teacher.
  4. Astor Piazzolla, Libertango. I imagined a scene where the camera alternates between showing the musicians who have a deep rapport really digging into the music, allowing each other to improvise solos, and then showing the dancers who are flirting with one another as they sensuously explore the nuances of the tango.
  5. Gordon Lightfoot, The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald. I imagined a young man walking along a shore while winds blew and dark clouds gathered and lightning flashed and finally rain came down in sheets. The man struggled to keep upright against the wind, and finally turned away from the sea and looked for shelter.
  6. Felix Mendelssohn, A Midsummer Night’s Dream: Overture. Though this doesn’t relate to midsummer at all, I imagined a couple in a horse-drawn sleigh as snow came down. They sped silently through woods and fields with a sense of urgency.
  7. Simon and Garfunkel, The Sun Is Burning. This doesn’t match the words, but based on the guitar line and the soft voices, I see a little boy digging in a sandbox on a beautiful sunny day.
  8. Ludwig van Beethoven, Piano Concerto No. 4, 3rd movement, rondo. Part of the music sounds martial in nature, and I imagined soldiers marching in a parade. But I didn’t know what to do with my soldiers when the music sounded less military. Maybe they could just take a break for a minute until the rhythm returns. . .

Any of these little snippets could be the germ of a short story or a novel. Now, someone else listening to this music could envision something entirely different than what I saw, and, of course, that’s wonderful. Inspiration is magic.

Now it’s your turn. Choose any of these pieces of music (or even something not on this list) and describe the scene that plays forth in your imagination. Share with us in the comments below.

4 responses »

  1. This is an interesting post. I do find music inspirational when I’m writing, and I do have soundtracks for different stories that I write. With my mystery comedy, “Action Men with Silly Putty,” I actually had so many song references throughout it that I had a soundtrack. With other writing, there may be a song that I listen to for inspiration for particular scenes. I’m going to come back to this and see what I can imagine while listening to these pieces.

    Liked by 1 person

      • This will probably be a long comment. 🙂 The soundtrack is in all kinds of styles. In the beginning, the two sleuths meet a suspect with two differently colored eyes, one brown and one blue. They don’t know his name initially, so the narrator nicknames him “Kaleidoscope Eyes,” a phrase from “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.” In another spot, the main sleuth uses a bit of a Gilbert & Sullivan operetta for a password for a safe with voice recognition security. “Ride of the Valkyries” plays automatically on a web page that they come across in their investigation. I didn’t plan it from the beginning, but there just turned out to be all sorts of song references throughout it, in different styles like oldies rock, jazz, a few modern pop songs, etc. One of my favorite scenes takes place in a themed restaurant that has country line dancing, so there are some country songs mentioned in that scene. There is also another scene where they are in a Mexican restaurant with a strolling mariachi band. The band is at their table while they are talking about “Kaleidoscope Eyes,” and the band takes it as a request and begins playing “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” mariachi-style. I wrote that scene for the humor, but, later, I was curious to see if there actually were any mariachi-style covers of Beatles songs. I did find an album by a group called Mariachillout with all Beatles covers. You can find some of those on YouTube. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

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