I make movies in my head.
When I write fiction (or even non-fiction for that matter), I visualize the action in my mind to help me get it into words. I try to imagine what the scene would look like if it was shot as a movie, which I think helps me to describe it with more realism.
This technique works well if you’re describing real events from memory, but it can also work if you’re describing fictional events from your own imagination. I think many writers do this in one variation of another, but I like to add another twist.
No epic movie is complete without an epic soundtrack, so I set my mental movies to music.
Music can be an incredibly visceral stimulus. We all have our own life soundtrack – music specific to our experience and memories that vividly brings us back to certain places in our lives. Music evokes strong feelings, and when coupled with visual stimulus such as film, it makes for a powerful and memorable experience.
It can also be used to inform and inspire your writing.
Think about how some movies incorporate music to add depth and emotion to a scene. Here’s a few that come to mind:
The Fellowship of the Ring – Boromir’s Last Stand
The Return of the King – Faramir’s Sacrifice
Master and Commander – Man Overboard
Braveheart – The Betrayal
Glory – The Flogging
Glory – Storming Fort Wagner
The Last of the Mohicans – Final Chase
I own each of these movies, as well as their soundtracks. I don’t normally buy DVDs unless the film really made an impact – and all of these did, in large part because of their masterful use of music to drive home triumph, grief, loss, sacrifice and innumerable other emotions.
So if music is such a powerful tool for movies, why not use it as a powerful creative tool for your writing?
You don’t have to actually dub music or shoot an epic film – your mind’s eye (and ear) are the only tools you’ll need.
When you’re writing an emotional or epic scene, try listening to different styles of music as you work. Instrumental acoustic music tends to work best for me, since it doesn’t bombard you with lyrics that probably won’t match your script. I tend to listen to a lot of Celtic traditional and Celtic progressive rock, because it comes from a tradition of storytelling – and I just like Celtic music.
You can use whatever style suits you or suits the story you’re working on. You might be surprised when you find a heavy metal song that fits perfectly with a medieval battle scene, but it can happen. It’s all about the tempo and tone of the work, and how it fits with what you’re creating. If it inspires you or takes your imagination to a different or deeper place, its perfect for your soundtrack.
What movie scenes are most memorable to you because of their use of music? What tricks do you use to get your imagination going?