As I was writing recently, and listening to classical music in the background, I was reminded of the many connections between creative writing and music. Hard-working blog writer that I am, I took a break from my keyboard, and started to muse more deeply on the numerous similarities between the two forms, sublime, structural, and visceral.
Fiction, poetry, and song all tell stories in their own unique way. A great novel, a stirring sonnet, or a timeless ballad from the American song book all take us to a particular place and time and wrap us up in their tales of love and hate, whim and whimsy, elation and heartbreak. Where the settings and the timelines in a novel or short story are tangible foundations from where the actions, emotions, and fates of the characters spring forth, a song (through its lyrics) or a poem often only takes us to the deeper, more private, places like the hearts, souls, and memories of characters. In each case, whichever the form, a story is being told.
Structurally and stylistically, creative writing and musical composition both depend on the perfect weaving of dramatic highs and lows for optimum effect. Whether it be Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities, Beethoven’s “9th,” the Beatles’ “A Day in the Life,” or Stephen King’s The Body, a novel, short story, song, or symphony all rise or fall on the strength of their literary or musical “construction.”
Grasping these connections and applying the lessons they teach can make you a better wordsmith. Whether you’re writing a novel, a screenplay, ad copy, or a blog, you’re a storyteller. The greater your mastery of structure, the more entertaining, persuasive, or informative your work will be. Reading makes you a better writer, literally. So can listening to music, in a more instinctive and intuitive way.
Another element that makes writing and music so aligned in the creative universe is the fact that they are both visceral forms that stir emotions and appeal to the senses. An unforgettable read or a classic musical score can have a profound emotional and sensual effect the first time we experience it, and throughout a lifetime. A poem that touches through simple truth, or a memorable melody that instantly returns us to a special moment can arouse feelings and push buttons that were sleeping or inactive for years.
Finally, one more reason I connect writing and music so strongly, is the hands-on, workmanship fact that about ninety-nine percent of the time I write by music! I work with music as my nurturing companion. And from what I’ve heard from other writers, I’m decidedly not alone. My form of choice is classical, but I also listen to lots of jazz, and sometimes I put on music that complements what I’m writing. Light and frivolous for a humorous piece, dark and intense for a suspense story. As I’m writing, music provokes, inspires, and helps keep me in my “zone.”
Michael V is a freelance writer available on WriterAccess, a marketplace where clients and expert writers connect for assignments.