This week I have been researching different background tunes for a scene in my current work in progress, the sequel to An Unfamiliar Murder. I need to find an album that is generally well known, atmospheric and melancholic in places, with resounding lyrics; but also upbeat in others. A tall order…
It led me to consider how important music is in our fiction, and whether indeed we should we use it all? Some might argue that music dates a novel, which it inevitably does, but I think there are few novels out there that don’t date already themselves in some way. If you’d written a book in the early 90’s, you’d be unlikely to mention the internet, people didn’t have mobile phones clung to their ears, folk could still smoke cigarettes in restaurants…
Others would say that music is subjective and using particular songs may alienate some readers. Hmmm. I agree that you shouldn’t pick something too obscure – only seasoned ‘Musos’ are likely to research an unknown song in a novel and it can detract from the story. But to use something that is reasonably well known, that matches the mood you are trying to create, that resonates – can be a very effective tool. True, some people might not like the tune, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they will dislike your character. How many of your friends or partners have different musical tastes to you?
Music can also be a wonderful aid to atmosphere. The mention of a song, the tune in the background, even an individual lyric can either lift, lower, or freeze the mood of your scene.
My husband recently joked that I’ve lived with my characters for so long that they’ve become good friends. And he’s right (well, for most of them anyway). I want readers to relate to them in this way too, so that they jump out and grab you, and, when you finish the novel, you miss them dearly. I think music provides a great reference point, like a car or a place that everybody knows and relates to – that all important song that conjures up images and memories in your mind. Your mind, just like theirs.
I’ll go back to my research, but leave you with a list of music mentioned in An Unfamiliar Murder:
Snow Patrol – Eyes Open
Snow Patrol – Chasing Cars
I would love to hear your thoughts.
Jane Isaac’s first novel, An Unfamiliar Murder, is out on Amazon.com, Amazon.uk and Kindle worldwide now. Jane is still very much a Newbie and with a day job, a family and a very demanding black Labrador, she squeezes her writing into every spare moment she gets. You can catch up with her at www.janeisaac.co.uk