Keywords: music playlists, music to write to


Just like a soundtrack to a movie, books can also have music that relate to the story. I discovered the benefits of listening to certain types of music when I’m writing with my first attempt at National Novel Writing Month in 2011.


I was writing a paranormal thriller and I stumbled upon a Dubstep playlist I clicked on in Spotify. The syncopated rhythms, overwhelming bass lines, reverberant drums, and clipped samples matched the bustling urban setting, gritty violence, and darkness of my story. In a pivotal scene, I listened to Dissolved Girl by Massive Attack. My main character sat in a seedy bar filled with people from the underbelly of the city. I imagined that song playing in the background as my character scanned the bar for her contact.


In writing my novel, Burnt Edges, I listened to an entirely different type of playlist. I searched for classical music and came across On the Nature of Daylight by Max Richter. Immediately, I saw my main character standing in a grassy field as rain poured down mercilessly on her. This song became her theme, and the theme for the entire story. The haunting cello, relentless and strong, represented my characters plight and her journey. Since the story is about abuse, I don’t think I could have written it without hearing this song. It helped guide me through the difficult parts of the story. Then I heard Late by Carly Comando with its quite and peaceful piano solo. To me, this song represented my character’s resignation when she was about to give up on everything. Finally, Morning Passages by Phillip Glass became my main character’s anthem on her quest to break free from abuse and claim her own life.


Without music, I’m not sure I could really pour myself onto the page in a way that connects with readers. And I’m not stuck in a rut on what kind of music I’ll listen to either. It has to make me feel something on a visceral level so that I can then translate that into a story. It’s funny because I never considered myself to be a big music fanatic until I started writing. To me, the two go hand in hand: music brings out the “life” in my writing.






Dana Leipold is an author and member of the Association of Independent Authors. Her debut novel, Burnt Edges, depicts the unwavering resilience of a young woman in the face of family violence and abuse.


She has self-published two other books: a collection of limericks in Dr. Seuss-style for adults entitled, Stupid Poetry: The Ultimate Collection of Sublime and Ridiculous Poems, and a non-fiction book entitled, The Power of Writing Well: Write Well. Change the World.


Leipold lives with her husband and two children in the San Francisco Bay Area.


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