Character, Motivation, Process, Steph's Tips

Using music to create character

Gillian Flynn, best selling writer of Gone Girl, said in an interview that to get into the mood for writing the novel she listened to Eminem’s track ‘Lose Yourself’. Using music can be a really effective way to switch your mood from normal life to writing mode, and is especially useful if you’re short on writing time and need to maximize your productivity.

turned on black samsung smartphone between headphones
Photo by Vlad Bagacian on

While I can’t actually write while listening to music, I do like to listen to songs to get into the mood of the character before I write. I tend to get up early and start writing first thing in the morning, so while I’m drinking my first coffee of the day and eating breakfast I head over to YouTube and listen and watch the songs that get me in the mood.

I find that most of the songs for each book or short story are different (even when it’s the same character) although there might be one or two songs that I use for a specific character.

For Lori Anderson, my single mom Florida bounty hunter, the song I use to get in character for writing her is Fighter by Christina Aguilera. For me, the song is about using the things that try to break you to make you stronger – and that’s something that Lori has had to do her whole life, no matter what obstacles she faces, she doesn’t give up, she learns from her mistakes and fights harder. You can hear the song and watch the video here:

While I was writing the second book in the series – Deep Blue Trouble– I listened to Elastic Heart by Sia to set the mood for writing Lori’s scenes with JT (her ex-mentor and lover). There’s a lot of tension between Lori and JT. Neither are really able to express their feelings for each other, and they have a complicated and emotion-charged past that often gets in the way of the present. Yet even though they might not say it, they care deeply for each other and are drawn back together time and again, a sentiment expressed in Elastic Heart. You can listen to the song and watch Julianne and Derek Hough do an incredible dance to it on Dancing With The Stars here

When Lori is thinking about her nine-year-old daughter Dakota – who she’s apart from for much of the book – I always imagine Angela From Montgomery by Bonnie Raitt playing in the background. I love this song – listen and watch it here

And when things aren’t going Lori’s way, when she can’t catch a break tracking the fugitive she needs to find, and she’s feeling low, I listen to Dream On by Aerosmith to get me into her headspace. Listen and watch it here

For the ass kicking action scenes I listen to Pink. While writing Deep Blue Trouble, because Lori is constantly coming up against one barrier after another, even from those who should be helping her, I listened to Try. I love Pink’s music – even when her lyrics are vulnerable the way she sings them shows her strength. Listen and watch here

Have you tried using music to set your mood for writing?

Do you have a song, or songs, that evoke the spirit of your protagonist?

If you’ve not tried this technique, consider how music could help you create your next character and/or transition into writing mode faster.

To find out more about coach Steph Broadribb click HERE

This post first appeared on blog

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