On Writing, Music & Character Playlists

Friedrich Nietzsche once said that “without music, life would be a mistake.” I believe there’s a lot of truth in that. Music has done its part in getting me through plenty in life so far. But as important as music may be to my life, it’s just as important to my writing.

Every character I’ve ever written (every main character, I should say) has had his or her own playlist. These playlists go through changes and are always evolving as I write through a story and develop the character. I’ve found, over the years, that it’s difficult to develop a character without taking his or her favorite music into account, and I attribute this to my own borderline obsession with music. It’s truly a lifesaver, and while that’s another story for a different day, that same life-saving music obsession is found in every one of my main characters. The process of developing characters and their playlists is one I very much enjoy, even when the process is at its most meticulous stage.

My Process for Character Playlist Creation

Depending on your own process and such, the process I’m about to lay out may seem convoluted or complex, but I assure you that it really isn’t as bad as it may look. I’m a bit of a perfectionist, so I tend to devote a lot of time to early details to ensure the later steps go as planned.

And so, here we go.

1. Conduct a Character Interview

While this is technically a character development step, it’s an important part of character playlist creation, too. Conducting this interview allows me to learn every little thing about my character, and those little details are what influences the character’s musical tastes. Details like ancestry, background, where he or she grew up and what he or she is interested in — all of these things are incredibly important. If you’re curious about the questions I use for character interviews, look here.

2. Create a Basic Character Profile

This step is pretty self-explanatory. I take the answers I get from the interview and create a basic character profile. I try to find a photo that embodies what my character looks like (sometimes i’ll sketch one myself). It’s important for me to really dig in and understand who my character is. When I’m able to understand a character’s psyche, it’s pretty easy to establish musical tastes and a playlist.

3. Pinpoint Artists

This is always the fun part for me. I love searching through the music I own and the music I’ve saved and liked on platforms like Pandora and Spotify to nail down the artists I think my character would listen to. If I can pinpoint a favorite artists for my character, that’s great. I love adding little details like that wherever I can. There’s no limit to this listeither. Some character only like a handful of artists, whereas others claim a whole genre.

4. Take Those Artists/Genres and Create a Playlist

This is the step that typically takes the longest for me, and that’s because it never really ends. I’ll listen to songs and if they fit into the life of my character and/or his or her story, it gets put in the playlist. Because music and musical tastes evolve, just like the story typically does, my playlists tend to change as I write further into the story.

Below is part of the playlist I created for the main character in the novel I’m currently working on. This one is mostly rock, but it’s also the playlist that the character (Bryna) listens to before she fights. I thought I’d share it, just so you get a general idea.

And that’s really it as far as process goes. I love doing it this way, and I don’t think my characters would be as detailed or as well-rounded if I didn’t do it.


Featured Image Credit: Brett Levin Photography via Flickr.com.




On Rejection

I’ve been reading WRITERS GONE WILD by Bill Peschel. In it is the following brief section on rejections.

Rejections are tough, but never have I had to deal with anything close to these. I’m thankful for that.

A New Writing Space 

A few weeks back, I was lucky enough to be able to get myself a new desk. My writing space is feeling much more welcoming now. All that’s left to find is the right chair. 

Calming the Anxiety: Part 2

I like to believe that we all experience anxiety at least once in our lifetimes. I also believe that those who don’t experience it very often are truly the lucky ones. 

A large number of people – at least three million, according to Mayo Clinic – experience anxiety every year. That, to me, isn’t surprising, given the vast amount of things to worry about and stress over. With all of those factors – which differ from person to person, mind you – it can be hard to figure out how to escape the stranglehold of anxiety. Piggybacking on the statement that everyone experiences anxiety differently, there’s also the fact that what helps alleviate anxiety for one person may not necessarily work for someone else. 


There are a number of simple thing I do that help alleviate and/or lessen the anxiety I feel every day. The first – meditation – is the method that works the best and is the most reliable for me. I wrote a bit about that in my last post, which you can find here

 Music has always been a big part of my life. I listen to a wide range of genres and artists, and I’ve learned to associate certain types of music with my feelings and emotions. In doing so, there are certain songs, etc. that can improve my mood when I’m feeling especially low. I’m a big believer in playlists, and have quite a few that are mood-based.

Chances are pretty high that if you’re reading this, you already know that I’m a writer. It should be no surprise that writing is another way I fight anxiety. Whether it’s working on a novel, writing a journal entry, or writing my daily morning pages, it feels great to get anxieties down on paper. I write my fears and thoughts down, and when I work on my novel, I’m able to escape into my fictional world for a while.

Reading is along the same vein, and I regularly use that as well. I’ve always been addicted to books and reading, but I love that I can escape into fictional world’s or go back in history. When you’re focused on another world or a certain character, there’s little room for anxious thoughts.

Last but not least is running. While this one may not happen daily (weather is always a factor), it’s an important one. Running allows me to exercise, enjoy nature, and empty my head. Exercise – in any form – does wonders in that regard.

This brief list isn’t meant to be persuasive or anything of the sort. It’s just helpful to read about methods others have used, and that’s what this is for. 

Anxiety is tough, especially when there’s so much to be anxious over. Any little thing is worth a try when it comes to finding relief. Wouldn’t you agree?

Calming the Anxiety: Part 1

When I was a sophomore in high school, I was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder (depression as well, but for the purposes of this post, I’m focusing on the anxiety). I was 15 and had no idea what anxiety was, but I knew something was wrong. How did I know this?

  • I couldn’t sleep and was averaging around two hours of fitful sleep every night.
  • I didn’t want to get out of bed in the morning. Or ever.
  • The thought of seeing more than a few people scared me.
  • The idea of school made me sweat, dry-heave, and cry.

After being made to go to school, I’d sit in class and literally shake until the end of each period. I couldn’t handle being called on. I couldn’t handle the groups of 15+ every period. Having to walk down jammed hallways and sit in a full cafeteria was complete hell. The fact that I made it through each day was something to celebrate, albeit a small something.

I wasn’t given a prescription then. Instead, I was directed to meditation, which I hadn’t heard much about. My parents were given brochures, which I read through. (They assumed everything was a phase, and weren’t overly worried.) At home that night, I gave meditation a try.

I’m 32 now, and I’ve been meditating daily for 17 years. Meditation isn’t easy, and even after all these years, it’s sometimes hard to know if I’m “doing it right.” I’ve learned to understand that for many, “doing it right” isn’t something to worry about. Meditation is a journey of sorts, and you learn as you go. It’s a wonderful thing and has been one of the very few constants in my life as of late.

My general “schedule” (for lack of a better term) is pretty basic. As soon as I wake in the morning, I sit up and I meditate for at least fifteen minutes (yes, I set my alarm for an earlier time to accommodate this). At noon, regardless of where I am, I meditate again for at least ten minutes (if possible). Then, at night before bed, I meditate another time for at least a half hour. If I find the day to be especially stressful, I’ll fit in shorter “emergency meditations” as often as I feel I need to. This schedule may seem cumbersome or interrupting to some, but to be quite honest, I wouldn’t be able to survive a day without it. These moments of mindfulness help stop my mind from racing, help me avoid negative/dangerous thoughts, and force me to realize that anxiety, while sometimes downright frightening, can be temporary and can be controlled.

Because meditation is such a mainstream practice now, there are plenty of apps, videos and the like to assist in meditation practices. I use an app called Calm (which you can learn more about here. The free tier allows for a number of meditations (guided and not), and if you’d like to experience things further, there’s a subscription. Through this app (as well as the subscription), you’ll find meditations that focus on emergency anxiety relief, sleep, muscle relaxation, self-confidence, and many other things. I’ve tried a handful of other apps, and while all of them are fantastic, this one has been my favorite and has done the most good for me on a daily basis.

There are plenty of people in the world who dismiss meditation as “hippie garbage” or a thousand other colorful phrases. That’s fine; we all have our opinions on things. However, I believe meditation can save a life. It’s saved mine a number of times. I’ve been asked over the years if meditation really works, and my answer has been “yes” every time. I like sharing my story, and have done so a couple of times (this is an abbreviated version, of course; I could talk about meditation for days). I think it’s important for skeptics to hear stories like mine. While it may not sway them, I think it still plants the seed that maybe, just maybe meditation does help.

More soon.

On Keeping a Physical Journal

Late last spring, I decided to start keeping a physical journal again.

I’ve always been big on writing my feelings down and keeping track of daily life in this way, but over the past few years, it happened less and less. When I did remember to write things down, I wasn’t really writing them down, per se. I was using an app on my phone (called Day One, which, in itself, is quite outstanding). It was definitely convenient in numerous ways, but after a few years of doing things this way, it just didn’t feel right.

As I’ve stated many times before, I’ve always been someone who thinks better on paper. Not just when writing creatively, but when keeping a journal, too. Because of that little fact, it didn’t take much to get back to a physical journal.

Murakami & Life

Sometimes fate is like a small sandstorm that keeps changing directions. You change direction but the sandstorm chases you. You turn again, but the storm adjusts. Over and over you play this out, like some ominous dance with death just before dawn. Why? Because this storm isn’t something that blew in from far away, something that has nothing to do with you. This storm is you. Something inside of you. So all you can do is give in to it, step right inside the storm, closing your eyes and plugging up your ears so sand doesn’t get in, and walk through it, step by step. There’s no sun there, no moon, no direction, no sense of time. Just fine white sand swirling up into the sky like pulverized bones.

And you really will have to make it through that violent, metaphysical, symbolic storm. No matter how metaphysical or symbolic it might be, make no mistake about it: it will cut through flesh like a thousand razor blades. People will bleed there, and you will bleed too. Hot, red blood. You’ll catch that blood in your hands, your own blood and the blood of others. 

And once the storm is over you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, in fact, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about. 

From Kafka On the Shore by Haruki Murakami.