Starting today, I’m writing Hunter and Prey, book 3 in the White Changeling series, as a part of NaNoWriMo. To kick things off, a special post about this book’s writing playlist seems appropriate. (Seeing as I’ve been torturing myself with it for the past two weeks.)
The Hunter and Prey Writing Playlist
As Hunter and Prey centres around a werewolf, it’s only appropriate that, after watching Blood and Chocolate again, I found the book’s anchor song in that movie’s soundtrack:
That song perfectly encapsulates Adren’s frame of mind and internal struggle in Hunter and Prey, both in tone and lyrics.
Part two of the playlist, the book itself, is laid out here (for the curious: the anchor isn’t here because it’s not on SoundCloud, and this playlist is on SoundCloud because Lion by Saint Mesa isn’t on Youtube):
How My Writing Playlists Work
Every writing playlist I create for my books has three requirements:
- It has to aesthetically fit the book such that I can write without being distracted by it
- The lyrics have to make sense for the book (if not be a perfect fit)
- The structure has to fit the book
The simplest playlist I’ve had was for The Tree and the Grave, where I just listened to the Moana soundtrack the whole time I worked on it (omg, I love that movie so much). The most purposefully constructed one was for The Illuminated Heart, due to the fact I was writing it using kishotenketsu, a four-act story structure I’d never played with before.
The anatomy of the playlist for The Illuminated Heart works like this:
- Theme song (primary anchor)
- Ending song (auxiliary anchor)
- Open story
- Act 1 (ki)
- Act 2 (sho), part 1
- Act 2 (sho), part 2
- Act 2 (sho), part 3
- Act 3 (ten), part 1
- Act 3 (ten), part 2
- Act 4 (ketsu)
- Close story
Since I only had a few weeks to write the first draft and I was still learning the structure, I wanted something that would immerse me in it, so the music itself could guide me in my writing. Starting the playlist with a summing up of the story (an anchor- for The Tree and the Grave, my anchor was a drawing) kept me focused on the big picture. The rest of the playlist, songs taken from my favourite anime, were put together to reflect my best understanding of how the different acts worked. Musically speaking, of course :)
Of all the pieces, the anchor (whether in one or two parts) is the most important. The rest can be whatever and seem to change depending on the needs of the story, but an anchor is essential if I hope to write the book I want to write.
How the Hunter and Prey Playlist Works
You already know the anchor:
I’d nailed that down in the summer so, when I went to work out the playlist, I used it to help me keep in mind what I was looking for.
And, to find what I was looking for, I employed a sophisticated life hack: to find awesome music, find someone who has better music taste than you and plunder their recommendations. In this case, the person was Maggie Stiefvater, and the recommendations were the SoundCloud tag on her tumblr.
Hunter and Prey, like the rest of the books in the White Changeling series, will have a five-act structure (unless something really unexpected happens), but that comes into play in the editing stage, so I wasn’t sure how relevant that would be to the playlist. So I decided to focus on finding songs that fit first, and work out how they’d go together later.
As I found songs that sounded right, I began discovering that the sound and lyrics of each one fit different characters’ perspectives on themselves and each other.
So, once I had all the component pieces, I structured the playlist like a conversation, removing songs that no longer made sense and ordering them so that it would be like listening to the book from beginning to end.
The written version of this conversation (one line per song, starting with the anchor song) goes like this:
“I am,” Adren says to herself.
“No, you are like me,” the antagonist tells her.
“No,” says Nadin, eager to support Adren, “She’s not what you think.”
“Who are you to defend her?” the antagonist ripostes.
“Me,” says Nadin, withdrawing.
“Nadin, you don’t understand,” says Adren. “They see more than you do.”
“And we both know what I see,” the antagonist says to her.
Adren’s eyes widen, and grief fills her. “No. We don’t see the same thing at all. And I’m sorry.”