A lot of writers have habits when they sit down to write. Some writers set a specific time to write, some writers must have an outline, before they start writing and some must have it completely quiet so they can concentrate on the task at hand. For me the latter is not true. I can’t write with complete silence, it drives me crazy. My brain just isn’t wired that way. I need music to write because it creates a writing rhythm for me and it also kickstarts my creative juices.
The interesting thing about my writing habit is that it breaks down into components. The music I write is dependent on the type of script I am writing. If I am writing a play, then any music will do and usually I enlist the help of Pandora. Okay that’s a shameless plug. When it’s a movie, that’s a horse of a different color. I need movie soundtrack music, but not always. It’s the same for a television series or at least the one I am writing now, which is science fiction. Why movie music? I am such a visual person that I need to hear a soundtrack going through my head to help me see what I am writing. It also makes me feel like I am writing a movie.
Having said that there have been movies I have written with all rock music. I did this while writing my Soccer Adventure movie and the sequel to it. A lot of the music I listened to while writing Derby Double, was rock music.
Since the movie was set in the 1980’s, I was looking for an 80’s feel to it and I wanted a lot of it to be English since the movie was set in England. Somehow using an American artist just didn’t seem to help me visually. I remember I had a particular image for the hotheaded kid Mick Such who becomes the star of the team. I wanted the kid to be a rebel, so I made sure that when I described him, I gave him spiked blond hair, he wore leather and rode a motorcycle. When this whole image came into my head, I suddenly knew what I needed to listen to while writing, editing and rewriting this scene. It had to be Billy Idol, a true rebel. The two songs I always listened to were White Wedding and Rebel Yell. I used White Wedding when we first meet Mick. He’s on his bike and he’s late for training for Sheffield United. He got drunk the night before and he spent the evening with some random girl he picked up in a bar. When Billy Idol’s White Wedding hit, then my mind went wild and all these cool ideas started happening and it brought Mick’s character alive. In fact when Seamus meets him at a training the first day, he gives him the once over and asks, “Who are you, Billy Idol or a Footballer?
Derby Double is a movie that opens with a bang. The IRA attacks a peace rally. To put me in the mood for this scene, I needed something that fit the moment and set my tone. I chose the title track to Dire Straits Brother In Arms, from there my ideas came fast and furious.
Later in the movie, after Seamus goes through weeks of putting Mick through his paces. Mick slowly improves and begins to realize his true potential. We watch Sheffield United climb the League table and start to make serious runs at both domestic cups. As we watch a montage of matches where Sheffield United take the league by storm, I wanted some music that reflected that. Odd though that the English band I chose to listen to was not from the 80’s, they weren’t even from the 90’s. It was Coldplay and the song I listened to while writing this montage, was Clocks.
During the bigger matches, particularly the FA Cup Final, I used a series of different songs. After Seamus’ big half time speech that kicks his club in the butt after being 3-1 down to their bitter rivals, I listened to a lot of the Joshua Tree from U2. “Where The Streets Have No Name, was huge for me as they came out of the tunnel back onto the pitch. I used it because the opening riff, just worked beautifully and as the players egged their club to cheer louder and louder and make United believe, the song seem to intensify my ideas. The other song I used as Sheffield United made their comeback was Tears for Fears, “Everybody Wants To Rule the World.” It just seemed to fit and helped me create a lot of my better ideas.
For the sequel I pretty much did the same thing, while writing that movie. The odd thing is that I used very little music from the 80’S and went more modern. Groups like the Killers motivated me through some crucial scenes and for the big matches with Sheffield Wednesday, which was United’s main rival, I decided Def Leppard fit, especially during the most tense moments in the movie. David Muckwith, comes on as a substitute and is ticked off at his former teammates, particularly his sister’s ex boyfriend who calls him out in an interview. Now David is a bit of an odd egg and I decided to have him do some very strange things. After the interview, he gets a mohawk and when he comes on, the music I listened was by Def Leppard and the song was Animal. It fit Muckwith so perfectly, because he had animal rage for his former teammates and his former friend Sherwood, who had cheated on his sister. In the tight match, Muckwith ends up scoring the winning goal for United.
For my television series, I have tended to lean much more towards movie soundtracks. Most of the stuff I tend to listen to is more in the vein of action adventure soundtracks. I am very fond of the soundtrack for the Mummy and listen to it quite frequently, but I tend to lean more towards the Super hero soundtrack movies, Particularly the X-man 2 soundtrack. These pieces have helped me create some great stuff.
Yes we writers are a bit odd and we all have our own methods to write the piece. For me, it’s music. I must have music to write, or my muse is stifled. Music may not be what you need, you may need the quiet mode or you may have another method all together that may be odd in of itself. All I know is music works for me and I’m not about to stop listening to it while I write, because he helps create those moments that are truly magic and fun.