Give That Novel A Soundtrack!

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As a writer who relies on music to kickstart my muse, I am rather fascinated by a trend in Young Adult fiction whereby authors share a playlist for their novel.  This is absolutely brilliant as the audience for YA fiction is addicted to earbuds and personal music players.

I count myself among this pool of earbud addicts, mainly because when I read a book it plays like a movie inside my head. When I was younger, I would imagine music or pick songs to listen to while I read a book, all in an attempt to further immerse myself into a character’s mind or within the setting of a story.

Naturally, I relied on the same practice of turning to music when I began writing. Just like the books I read as a kid, both of my novels play like movies in my head. And yes, there is specifically chosen music for certain scenes. This process is nothing new in the writing world, but it is interesting to see writers making their playlists public.

The first time I came across an official novel soundtrack was when I read Twilight. Stephenie Meyer didn’t necessarily list the songs in the book itself, but she thanked specific bands in her acknowledgments and often spoke of specific songs that inspired scenes between Edward and Bella, (particularly the band Muse). Later, when The Twilight Saga: The Official Illustrated Guide was published, Meyer released her playlists for every book in the series. Both the reader and writer in me devoured the music that pumped life into Twilight.

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A small portion of Stephenie Meyer’s playlist for Twilight.

For each song listed, Meyer went as far as quoting specific scenes from her novels. For those of us who have read Twilight more than once, this playlist gives us yet another reason to pick it up again.

More recently, I read Divergent by Veronica Roth. In the back of the book, she provides a playlist of songs and connects them to details in the story. After listening to a few of the songs, I gained a much deeper sense of the atmosphere and mood. Even though the writing was fantastic, an official playlist added a new dimension and gave me another way to enjoy the book.

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A peek at Veronica Roth’s playlist.

Some YA writers publish their playlists via the internet. For example, Becca Fitzpatrick created public playlists for all four books in her Hush, Hush series. She linked them through Spotify and will soon expand to iTunes. Her website even encourages readers to listen to fan-created playlists as they read.

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Click to visit Becca Fitzpatrick’s website.

Fitzpatrick’s strategy not only enhances the novel, but it builds a community among fans. More importantly she creates a strong connection between author and reader.

On the flip side, it can be argued that good writing shouldn’t need any “bells and whistles” to connect with readers. To this I say, the YA market is all about knowing your audience. This is a generation who can carry music with them wherever they go and they do. They listen to it at home, while walking to class, out in public, on the bus, etc. In a sense, the music gives them a world of their own.

For the YA reader, adding music to a book makes complete and total sense. A novel soundtrack gives them the ability to connect and relate to the characters and story on a personal level. Not only can they fully immerse themselves into the book, but it becomes part of their world. The music is what ties real life and fiction together.

From a fangirl perspective, having an official playlist for beloved characters allows the magic of the story to play over and over again. When it’s not possible to sit down with the book, a reader can revisit the characters and story whenever and wherever she pleases. It falls along the same lines as Twilight t-shirts or Hunger Games posters in that the young adult audience thrives on connections wherever they can find them. When writing a series, creating this kind of fanaticism is pure gold.

YA writers have a massive opportunity to create intense fervor for their books by offering another level of emotional investment. As I put the finishing touches on my YA novel, I’m leaving a little room on the last few pages to create a playlist that will give my readers the ultimate experience.

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c.b.w. 2013

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9 thoughts on “Give That Novel A Soundtrack!

  1. Playlists for books is a fairly ‘novel’ (pun intended) idea for me. I first heard about this was when I read Thunder Road, by Chadwick Ginther and interviewed him. His chapter titles were lines from songs. I generally don’t have music playing when I write, unless it’s wordless, otherwise I end up typing what I hear! However, I did refer to some songs in my books, songs that I knew were from the time period played by a group related to my favourite historical site, the one where I set my stories. It is an interesting concept and it will be fun to learn what songs you were thinking about when you were writing. It might be something I’d consider doing if I were to write a contemporary YA story. :)

    • I think a lot of writers use music, but I don’t know that publishing playlists would work in mainstream fiction! The YA audience is so attuned to listening to music in everything they do it makes sense to make it part of their reading experience. Anything to get them reading right? :-)

      p.s. I love how Ginther titles his chapters! How cool is that?!

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