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Last Friday I was invited to guest post on Blame it on The Muse. Below is a copy of that post.

God Shuffled His Feet

(with a bow to the Crash Test Dummies)

Story ideas come from many places, but often they are stillborn, or lie stagnant, waiting to be infused with inspiration by you, the writer, while you wait for a visitation from your muse. I have a digital drawer full of story ideas, but what makes one of them rise up and speak to you, demanding to be your next WIP, and then come to life on the page?

For me, it turns out that music plays an important role. This began quite inadvertently when I began my first completed novel, about four and half years ago. My mother had passed away a couple of months before, and I guess I was brooding and hiding from the world. I wanted to start writing Reconcilable Differences, and I found immersing myself in music helped to sooth me and keep me focused. I was drawn to the music of one of my favourite artists, Sting, and as I listened to his songs, one album (Brand New Day) soon became the soundtrack for the book I was writing, and one particular song (Ghost Story) its theme song. As I listened, the lyrics of that song, and it’s haunting mood, came to represent my characters situation and emotions. I now have the transcript of that song as a forward for my manuscript, and hope I can include it one day when it’s published.

I listened to that music over and over and over while I wrote and revised that manuscript over two years. Just popping my ear buds in was all I needed to immerse myself in my fictional world and resume work with passion and commitment. I even listened to the same music at other reflective times, such as driving and exercising and bedtime, because we all know the writing continues even when we’re not sitting at the keyboard. To this day, my son complains if I put Sting on, poor thing.

When I began my next novel, The Aviary, I thought, hey, what worked before might work again. I need a sound track that’s appropriate and inspiring. So I actually did a little internet research, found out what was popular in England in 1997 (where the novel is set) and downloaded a whole slew of music, some of which became new favourites. One band, The Verve, I loved, and one of their songs (Lucky Man) again became a theme song. One of my main characters even evolved into a musician, who played and sang some of those same songs!

Over the years, I’ve become a more disciplined writer (I’m a plotter) and so the evolution of my story and character arcs is much more worked out before I start. I even have a scene plan that I follow pretty closely. Nonetheless, I still have to sit down and infuse life and emotion into each and every scene. I have to be in that world and in those characters heads and hearts. Music can be the muse that helps me get there. So I think even with my carefully crafted plan, I still need the muse to make it happen. My current WIP is going well enough, but I’m still searching for its perfect soundtrack. Perhaps Coldplay…?

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