Setting the Mood: 24 Songs to Accompany Specific Scenes While Writing

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Music is medicine. Sure, if you get shot in the stomach, cranking CCR isn’t going to stop you from bleeding out. Odds are, if you’re reading this, then you’re old enough to understand that music cannot treat bullet wounds. Note: if you have recently been shot, please seek immediate medical attention. LitReactor will not be responsible for another poor fan’s ignorant death.

But still—music is medicine. It treats wounds not visible to the public eye. It picks us up and it brings us down. If souls exist, it’s because of music. It's the ultimate motivator. It fills us with inspiration to live creative lives. If I ever find myself stuck on a particular scene while writing, blaring some music will almost always restart my flow. But I have to be smart about what music I play. With writing, I can’t just put on any random song. I have to analyze what kind of scene I’m writing and determine the best possible song to fit the scene’s mood.

Hence this article. While writing, you will undoubtedly come across at least a few of the below scenarios. Maybe you won’t have the easiest time figuring out how to approach them. Maybe you just need an extra kick to get your ass moving.

Well, here’s that kick.


CAR CHASES

So your protagonist just robbed a bank and now the pigs are on their tail. You gotta burn rubber and get the hell outta Dodge. Here’s what you need blaring in your CD player—or whatever the hell people use to listen to music at the time you find yourself reading this article. Maybe Google glasses eventually make a comeback, or, hell, all entertainment's now inserted directly into our genitalia, I don’t fucking know.

“Bad Habit” by The Offspring

There are few other songs in this universe that instantly makes me want to go fuck somebody up and drive like a reckless maniac. Blare this song as you speed down the highway and I guarantee the urge to take on not just the local police department, but the entire planet, will hit you full-force. I won’t lie. I’ve screamed along to the lyrics of this song on more than one occasion. Sometimes I even sing it when I’m not driving. Like when I stub my toe or I spill coffee on my crotch, which seems to happen on a regular basis lately.

BONUS TRACKS

LET’S FIGHT

Sometimes you just gotta punch somebody in the face. This is a fact of human nature. People get punched in their stupid faces. If you’re writing pretty much any genre, there’s a good chance one of the characters is gonna end up brawling with another character. You try writing a fight scene in the wrong mood and it’s going to come out staler than the three-month old bread in my pantry. You gotta get yourself pumped and ready to kick some ass. You need...

“Out of the Black” by Royal Blood

I’ve heard this song a couple times, and it never fails to get me pumped up to fight somebody. Anybody, really. Hell, even myself, if I don’t start watching my mouth. Sure, I’ll probably get my ass whupped, but I can accept that. But then I watched the music video for this song, and now I want to go battle weird bunny mascot aliens with awesome nunchucks.

BONUS TRACKS

  • “Lemon Scent” by Dead Sara (her voice is terrifying and just SO ANGRY, seriously, you don’t want to fuck with this woman)
  • “The Fight Song” by Marilyn Manson (pretty self-explanatory here, folks)
  • “Headstrong” by Trapt (probably the song every teenager played on repeat in the early 2000s after getting picked on by bullies)

KOOL KATS

Writers tend to make their protagonists bona fide badasses. We do this because, often, we are recycling onto the page our own fantasies of who we wish to be in reality. This isn’t always a problem, it just depends on how much we choose to differentiate the characters from ourselves. If the characters prove to be an exact carbon copy, we aren’t going to be fooling anybody. Regardless, we still love to read about bad motherfuckers. Gangsters and rogue po-lice. Anybody with a quick draw and a cool Stetson. Speaking of Stetsons...

“Sinister Kid” by The Black Keys

Raylan Givens is one of the most baller characters to ever step foot into the realm of crime fiction. He’s great in the Elmore Leonard books, but he really shines in FX’s Justified. If you haven’t watched it yet, you’re doing yourself a grave injustice. I’ve always thought “Sinister Kid” by The Black Keys is the perfect theme song for Mr. Givens. Just give it a listen and tell me I’m wrong. Tell me you don’t want to immediately start writing about some kickass gunslinger taking on the world.

BONUS TRACKS

2 $P00KY

If you’re one of those weird horror writers, you’re gonna eventually need to nail a perfect eerie atmosphere. You need some spooky tunes for fright radio. So tighten your diaper and let’s get scared with…

“Heels” by Disasterpiece

You probably recognize this one from It Follows. I imagine you also heard it in your last fifteen nightmares because holy fucking shit.

BONUS TRACKS

LOVE & STUFF

If I was an intelligent person, I would argue that love directs every good story. But I’ve never claimed to be such a disgusting creature, so I’ll just let the music speak for itself...

“Punk Rock Girl” by The Dead Milkmen

This is the quintessential love song. Some people might try telling you differently, but those people are terrible, ugly liars who are only trying to deceive you. “Punk Rock Girl” fills me with hope and pure excitement. If you want to write a scene that invokes the thrill of love and romance, you need to put this song about stealing cars and rioting in pizza parlors on repeat.

BONUS TRACKS

SEXY SEX

Sexy sex goes hand-in-hand with love & stuff. Sometimes your characters are going to bone. There’s no stopping it. So let’s get groovy.

“Business Time” by Flight of the Conchords

Aww yeah, baby. You know what time it is. It’s no coincidence this article was published on a Wednesday, baby. Awwwwww yeah.

BONUS TRACKS

  • “Erotic City” by Prince (RIP)
  • “Drive” by Melissa Ferrick (XXX)
  • “Yakety Sax” by Boots Randolph (this was actually my #1 pick because, as long-time readers already know, I lost my virginity to “Yakety Sax”, but when I turned in the first draft of this article, editor Joshua Chaplinsky just laughed like a jerk and said, “You’ve never had sex. You’re like eleven years-old.” So I guess I’ll just sneak the song in here at the end.)

All right, so now's the time to tell me how wrong I am in the comments. What songs would you use instead? What other categories would you add? Let's hear 'em.

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Comments

Adrian Shotbolt's picture
Adrian Shotbolt April 27, 2016 - 4:53pm

I'd go with THE TROOPER by Iron Maiden for a car chase, though BREAKING THE LAW is a wise choice.

Anything by Michael Bolton for sexy time!

And if i want to punch some shmuck in the chops, it has to be BEHEMOTH \M/

Love n stuff: Curtis Stiger "All that matters" 

Spooky stuff: Lost Themes 

kool Kats: BRMC.

Joshua Chaplinsky's picture
Joshua Chaplinsky from New York is reading A lot of Brian Evenson April 28, 2016 - 9:02am

Haha, Trapt. Musical taste put on probation.

Jose F. Diaz's picture
Jose F. Diaz from Boston is reading Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel April 28, 2016 - 10:53am

How did Sade not make it into Sexy Time?

"Lovesong", by the Cure for Love n Stuff.

And I'm glad there wasn't a gloomy section. The list would never end. But I think it would start with Antony and The Johnson's cover of "Knocking on Heaven's Door", followed by Nine Inch Nails' "Something I can Never Have".

Marvin Gaye, "Got to Give It Up" for Kool Kats.

She Wants Revenge's "Tear You Apart" for Spooky Stuff.

 

 

Max's picture
Max from Texas is reading IT April 28, 2016 - 1:48pm

Jose - There actually was a gloomy section, but I deleted it at the last minute. Too many songs indeed.

 

Up yours, Chaplinskly.

Jose F. Diaz's picture
Jose F. Diaz from Boston is reading Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel April 28, 2016 - 9:17pm

lol, good to go. 

Marco Filice's picture
Marco Filice from Hamilton is reading too many books to list in the given space May 1, 2016 - 12:21pm

Couldn't agree more with Heels. Sounds like an insane asylum of the world's most brutal serial killers gone amok, turned into an apocalyptic circus.