The Undercover Soundtrack – Laura Pauling

It’s all about capturing the emotion’

Once a week I host a writer who uses music as part of their creative process – perhaps to tap into a character, populate a mysterious place, or explore the depths in a pivotal moment. This week’s post is by YA author Laura Pauling @laurapauling

Soundtrack by Taylor Swift, Kelly Clarkson, Colbie Caillat, Natasha Bedingfield, Christina Perri, Adele

To quote Randy Jackson from American Idol: ‘The transference of emotion is what the audience wants.’

Readers more than anything want to feel what we’re feeling when we put our hearts into a story. Whether it’s heartbreak, humour, revenge, sorrow…etc. And sometimes listening to the right kind of music, a certain song that pushes my heart to its limit, can transfer over to my writing.

Stories at your fingertips

So when I was writing A Spy Like Me, I took into account that this was a fun, suspenseful story. I listened to Taylor Swift a lot. Her teenage voice and lyrics pumped into my ears while the story poured out through my fingertips. And it really helped lift my mood and emotions to where they needed to be.

A Spy Like Me is about change. Seventeen-year-old Savvy is uprooted from her home and moved to Paris, France. She lives with her dad and misses her mom. But sometimes change is what we need to find the answers. And that holds true for Savvy. Here’s Taylor’s song, Change. One of many I listened to.

The whole story, Savvy fights for knowledge. She’s tired of the lies and strikes out to find the truth…by – you guessed it – spying! But through the chaos and danger, sometimes, she wouldn’t mind going back to before it all began, when her mom lived at home and they were a family. Here’s Taylor’s song, Back to December.

Of course, living with a teenage daughter helps; and together, we’re putting together a great playlist for this spy trilogy. Kelly Clarkson: Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill you) and Break Away; Colbie Caillat: Brighter than the Sun, Natasha Bedingfield: Pocketful of Sunshine

That’s just the start. But I’ll stop there. Just watching these videos and listening to the tones and the themes give me goose bumps. Like they were written for Savvy and what she’s experiencing.

Not about the lyrics

Sometimes it’s not the lyrics of a song that match my story, but the emotion. And that’s what writing comes down to: how well the author captures the emotion behind the story. For example, Christina Perri’s Jar of Hearts: a hugely popular song. It was the sound and tone of this song. It moved me. It’s filled with this aching emotion that drives me to write. It still does when I hear it. I have yet to act on it. Someday…

Why did Adele win the Grammy? She was just singing a song about a guy breaking up with her and wishing him the best. There are countless songs like that from the past, in the present and in the future. But her big time emotion transferred to her audience. The incredible unique voice helps too. Listen to Adele sharing about Someone Like You and singing it in her home. Incredible.

Emotion on the page

In all my writing, whether a fun spy adventure in Paris or not, I strive for that emotion to come across on the page and to my readers. I will work toward that every time I sit down to write. And I’ll keep doing it.

It’s funny. I accepted Roz’s invitation to guest post on this series but waited days to write it. I knew what I wanted to say but I wasn’t sure how to approach it. It wasn’t until tonight, watching American Idol and hearing Randy say, ‘transference of emotion’ that it all came together. Why I listen to music when I write (not when I edit). Why I find songs that fit the tone and style of my writing. And why as a writer I learn so much about storytelling from listening to a heartfelt song.

Thanks for having me, Roz. It’s an honour.

Laura Pauling writes about spies, murder and mystery. Her debut novel, A Spy Like Me, is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords and her blog is here. Visit her blog before May 25 for a Spies, Murder and Mystery Marathon with guest posts and free giveaways.

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  1. #1 by R F Brown on May 16, 2012 - 1:05 pm

    Reblogged this on R F Brown and commented:
    I also write with a soundtrack. My novel, Merrily He Rolls Along, theatrical musical comedy with fiction. In my iTunes I’ve even created a special playlist for each chapter. Sometimes I imagine the voice I want to convey through whatever lyrics. But mostly, as this blogger writes, it about how the music makes me feel as I write.

  2. #2 by Laura Pauling (@laurapauling) on May 17, 2012 - 12:51 am

    Thanks so much for having me Roz! :)

  3. #4 by RaShelle on May 17, 2012 - 12:59 am

    Great post, Laura. I love your MC’s name. Savvy rocks! And she lives in Paris?! What a great story.

  4. #5 by Heather McCorkle on May 17, 2012 - 1:34 am

    I love how Laura connects the emotion in music to her emotions in writing. What an excellent inspiration. Now I’ll be hearing Taylor Swift when I read A Spy Like Me!

  5. #6 by Elle Strauss on May 17, 2012 - 2:16 am

    I’m one of those odd writer ducks who doesn’t listen to anything when she writes. Silence is my muse. However, I’m going to click on over to your music links and have a listen!

  6. #7 by Katie Klein on May 17, 2012 - 4:19 am

    Great post! Music plays a *huge* role in my writing, too. Depending on what kind of scene I’m writing, I’ll keep a single song on repeat until I “get it right.” And I LOVE Christina Perri. Her newest, “A Thousand Years,” was the inspiration behind a key scene in my latest WIP. :)

  7. #8 by Sarra Cannon (@sarramaria) on May 17, 2012 - 4:47 am

    Great post! And so true about the emotion of the song needing to match. Sometimes I find lyrics that are great, but something about the tone or emotion of the song doesn’t quite fit.

  8. #9 by angelacarlie on May 17, 2012 - 4:56 am

    Great post, Laura! Music is a huge part of my writing process, too. PS — I heart American Idol. ;)

  9. #10 by Lisa Nowak on May 17, 2012 - 5:19 am

    It’s amazing how much emotion and story a song can communicate. With some songs, it’s the music that moves me, with others the lyrics, and with still others, it’s both. Often, I’ll hear a song and want to explore its story further through my own writing.

  10. #11 by authorkarenhooper on May 17, 2012 - 10:54 am

    Music has done wonders for my stories. I create a playlist for every manuscript I write. Love Randy’s quote because it’s so true. Thanks for telling us about your creative process, Laura!

  11. #12 by Jessie Harrell (@JessieHarrell) on May 17, 2012 - 2:14 pm

    Loved this! I have to listen to music while writing too, and while I never thought about it being a transference of emotion, that’s very much what it is. You’re so smart, Laura!

  12. #13 by Karly Kirkpatrick on May 17, 2012 - 3:41 pm

    Music is big in my writing as well, I’ve used different songs to inspire different scenes, etc. Some of my titles have even been inspired by songs. I totally understand about transferring the emotion. I definitely pull that from the song and put it into the scene.

  13. #14 by Sierra Dawn on May 17, 2012 - 3:50 pm

    I can relate so well to this post. I’m a singer and a writer and I’ve always wanted the same thing out of both: to make my listeners/readers feel. There’s something so inspiring about knowing that my voice, whether written or sung, can make strangers feel exactly what I’m feeling. It proves that we’re all connected. We may not feel it all the time, but we certainly do with music and writing, like all forms of art.

    I don’t always listen to music while I’m writing, but I’ve been known to have a song remind me of what one of my characters is going through. Often that leads to an epiphany, a breakthrough as if I was my character listening to the song, and that epiphany usually makes it into my writing. For me it’s usually a combination of lyrics and music that does the job. Ordinary words sound extraordinary when delivered on the right note.

    What I’d like to know is how you keep the music and the writing separate. Because I feel the breakthrough as if I’m the character, I always want to put the song into the story so that the character can make the breakthrough the same way I did. Sometimes it works. But sometimes I worry that I’m so drawn to music that I include it too much, rely on it too much maybe. I started out my novel without music being an important part of the main character, but by the time I’d finished she was so influenced by music that I thought I should make it part of her character.

  14. #15 by rozmorris @dirtywhitecandy on May 18, 2012 - 12:46 pm

    Wow, Laura’s post has really hit the right note. It’s interesting that her musical choices include so much pop – most people like to write to classical or soundtracks. But Laura has unashamed big songs that boldly reach for a feeling.
    I can see the appeal of both. Sometimes I like a piece to swirl in the background while I do some hard thinking. Another time I like to be grabbed and swept away – and then, like a lot of you guys, it’s the sound and feeling that does it, not the words.
    And I love Sierra’s point about ordinary words being turned extraordinary by phrasing or music. Song lyrics are a good way to remind ourselves of the power of placing.

  1. ‘It’s all about capturing the emotion’ – The Undercover Soundtrack, Laura Pauling « Nail Your Novel
  2. The Not-So-Undercover Soundtrack | Sierra Dawn, Write On
  3. If the world ends today… | Sierra Dawn, Write On

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