I’ve always created a soundtrack or playlist for each story I write. It can be just a few songs, or hours worth, played in a continuous loop the whole time I’m working. Inevitably the songs melt their way into my consciousness as I’m working, and ends up guiding or directing the story in various ways.
Lately, I’ve found instances where completely changing the soundtrack to a story’s composition has helped me to see it differently, has shifted the mood to make the story work.
The last story kicked off with a bunch of aggressive Killing Joke songs from the albums Night Time and Fire Dances. That feel worked for some of the more energetic scenes, but I was only able to get the right mood in the weirder, dreamier scenes when I switched the soundtrack to some long instrumentals by The Necks. Initially I only started play The Necks because they happened to be mentioned in the story from the beginning, but I found they really worked as a soundtrack for writing.
Right now I’m finishing up a story that seemed to call for classical listening. I started off writing to a mix of 20th century opera, but the story didn’t quite open up for me at first. I was able to write the plot, but the feel was lacking. Then I scrapped that playlist and instead looped a Joy Division mix. The right mood for the scene came into focus. The elegiac, almost gothic quality of the music helped sharpen the story’s emotional undercurrent, even though a reader of the story would probably never guess the writer had been listening to something like “Atmosphere” or “Dead Souls” or “Isolation.”