While Writing, I Listen To…


It works like this: pull up my MS, pull up Itunes.  Hit “playlists –> Writing Music” and BINGO!  Got my inspiration to write – everything I need to keep my creative juices flowing.

My personal preference is purely instrumental music, at least while I write.  Most of it’s soundtracks from movies.  Recognize any of these?


The far off, fantastic images that go with these soundtracks fills my subconscious with everything needed for dramatic writing and incredible, impossible settings.

What about music for a specific scene?  Sometimes I use a certain song to give me just what I need to plow through a scene.  My favorite time this happened was with the song Arwen’s Vigil by The Piano Guys.

It’s a dance scene.  Oh, what the heck.  I’ll give you the song and the scene.

And now the scene:

A murmur of excitement filled the air as the elves parted to make room for Irsong and Emma. The music began, quiet and mysterious notes of a lonely piano. The sound paused, and Irsong bowed as Emma curtsied.

A hush fell over the crowd. The piano grew louder, and smooth voices of deep stringed instruments joined in. The tempo increased, and Irsong and Emma swirled like phantoms in the night, chasing each other with a haunting beauty.

Star stood transfixed, her eyes tracing the footsteps of the two dancers.

The melody gained a ferocity, a desperation, which drove Emma and Irsong to run and leap about each other to keep time. Star’s heart pounded to the tempo, and images of swirling shadows filled her thoughts, and she was lost in the magic of the music for a time. Ever the song grew ever faster, until it reverberated across the deepest parts of Star’s being, filling her with fantastic terrors.

In an instant, the music slowed, and Emma and Irsong danced lightly to the last measures of the music. Star had a fleeting wish that she had been the one to dance such a song with Irsong.

Another song began, and soon the elvish king entered the dance floor with a lady that Star assumed to be his wife. Then Rella and a male elf, and other couples joined Irsong and Emma in the dance.

More and more of the elves joined in, pairing off and swirling in the light of the fountains.

And there you have it: one of my favorite scenes in my entire MS.  And one of my favorite songs.


Now to shift topics: sometimes I don’t listen to music.  If there’s a seen that just needs my sole attention, a part where my music distracts me… well, then I tend to use Coffitivity.  It’s a website that provides a “white” background noise, simulating the murmurs of a cafe, or the flipping pages and whispers of a library.  Just enough noises to keep your creativity flowing, but not too much to distract you.

And it’s free.

What keeps your brain working while you write?  Do you have some favorite writing music?  Or do you use something else?  And let me know if you enjoyed my dancing scene!

The Emotion Thesaurus

The emotion Thesarus A few months ago, I bought this nifty little book on Amazon.  And I love it.

The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Gide to Character Expression.  

It’s brilliant.

Each page in is dedicated to a particular emotion, for instance, fear, humiliation, regret, curiosity, anticipation, etc.

Under each emotion, there is a definition, followed by a list of physical signs.  Each page looks a bit like this:


DEFINITION: to be afraid of; to expect threat or danger


Face turning ashen, white, pallid

Hair lifting on the nape and arms

Body odor, cold sweats

Clammy hands

All the way down to things like:

Tight shoulders

A shrill voice

Shaking uncontrollably

Next there’s a list of Internal Sensations, featuring responses such as

An inability to speak

Heartbeat racing, nearly exploding

Holding one’s breath, gulping down breaths to stay quiet

Followed by mental responses (wanting to flee or hide) and cues of having the emotion acute or long-term (insomnia, depression, exhaustion), cues of the emotion being suppressed (keeping silent, attempting to keep one’s voice light), and other emotions that may follow, along with the page number, such as ANGER (22), TERROR (154), etc.

It’s sooooo helpful when you find your characters doing nothing but smiling, sighing, and frowning.

Want to show excitement?  Try a wide grin, bouncing from foot to foot, squealing, or getting the giggles.

How about anguish? Experiment with Tugging one’s hair, checking and rechecking the time, rubbing the arms or legs, restless fingers, or rocking back and forth.

“This book comes to the rescue by highlighting 75 emotions and listing the possible body language cues, thoughts, and visceral responses for each… This writing tool encourages writers to show, not tell emotion and is a creative  brainstorming resource for any fiction project.”

Still not sure about it?  What if I told you it has an in-depth introduction (complete with examples) on how best to utilize emotion?  And that each page has a writer’s tip to refresh your memory on writing emotional scenes?

I not only keep this by me when I write, but I also pick it up for fun sometimes.  People watching me read it might think I’m crazy, however, because I tend to tap my foot, claw at my cheeks, lick my lips, and squeeze my eyes shut, trying each action as I read it.  And then I smile broadly, realizing how perfectly it fits the emotion.

Looking for some new action beats?  This is the book for you.