Matt King

author of The Circle War series

Music: The Unsung Writing Tool

(I apologize for the title pun and won't be offended if you petition to have me deleted from the Internet)

My typical volume level

My typical volume level

I consider myself to be panmusical, which isn't even a real word, but whatever. One look at my music collection and you'd probably assume it was the Noah's Ark of digital albums. There's 50s pop, hair bands, grunge, power metal, yacht rock--just about anything. Whether I play them in order or hit Random, the effect is the same. It's a crapshoot.

To me, there are two main categories of music: stuff I can listen to while I write and stuff I can't. Nearly all of it is in the second category because I'm really weird when it comes to writing and music. I need to have something playing, but it can't have words and it can't be too distracting. It also can't put me to sleep, so that gets rid of Classical and slow jam monk chants. As if those weren't enough conditions, it also needs to fit the mood of what I'm writing, which in the superhero world is usually a mix of uptempo, dramatic, with the occasional somber scene sprinkled in. In other words--movie soundtracks.

Here's my current playlist for Writing Music:

I know. It's a lot of Hans Zimmer. Sorry.

When I'm not writing, I'm usually thinking about stuff I want to write next, whether it's scenes in the current book or something I'll get to down the road. That involves a lot of visualization, and once again, I like to have music going while I do it. Visualization music can be anything, and the end result is usually something resembling a personal soundtrack for whatever I'm working on. For instance, I probably have three hours of music dedicated to Godsend, alone.

Here's a sample:

Not everything is tied to a specific scene. Some of it belongs to individual characters. August tends to be more on the power metal side of things. Gemini is a 50/50 mix of Tool and A Perfect Circle. Bear trends toward prog rock.

When it came to The Last Winter, the mood changed a bit. It's a darker story, so I added a few songs to match. There's still a lot of thrashy metal, but it's mixed with brooding stuff from Theocracy, Stratovarius, and Dream Theater.

My favorite from that list is "I Am." When I see the movie trailer for The Last Winter in my head, it's pretty much the opening two and half minutes of that song. I hate the word "epic" so it stands to reason that I'll now use that word--Shit gets epic there at the start and doesn't really let up. Perfect for that book.

Now I'm onto the third Circle War entry and I'm just starting to put together the playlist. I won't have more until I finish plotting out the scenes, but here's a sample of what I have so far. My favorite of this small bunch? "Sequence" by The Droids. It's completely different from the music I normally put on these lists, but that's why I like it. It's the kind of music I'd play over a montage of scenes summarizing the first two books before you read the third. Also, I just used the word "montage," so feel free to unfriend me.

If you do the Spotify thing, you can follow any of those lists. The first two are pretty set in stone, but I'll be adding to the third as more and more of these scenes play out in my head. If you have a song you think I should include based on what you've seen so far, let me know. I'm always on the lookout for the next random band to add to my ark.

All site content © Matt King 2019. Background image by NASA.