How A Music Album Inspired A Series of Short Stories
Writing prompts have never inspired much creative flow in me. In fact, I’ve always found them too generic and boring. However, I’ve found that another type of art not only inspires my everyday life but my writing ideas as well! Music.
We all know that music can affect our mood in a matter of minutes. Euphoria, melancholy, nostalgia, and confidence are just a few of the hundreds of indescribable feelings that grow within us as we listen to a certain song or album.
Those feelings can also carry over into our writing and serve as a jump-off point for starting a poem, a short story, or even a novel. Here I’ll share with you how I wrote a 12-part short story series after listening to one of the most defining music albums in all my 22 years — and how you can do the same.
One album, many stories
Just a few days before my first semester of college back in 2016, a masterpiece was released: Frank Ocean’s sophomore album, Blonde.
From the introductory track, “Nikes” to the emotionally stirring finale, “Futura Free” I was certain that Ocean’s dreamy, heartbroken narrative would stick with me forever.
Upon my first listen, I was deeply struck by feelings of nostalgia for events that have never happened to me. And this naturally led to storylines of these false memories that needed to be written down. Blonde had turned into the ultimate writing prompt, and I was more excited to write than ever.
When music manifests
I listened to each track on Blonde and wrote a short 2–3 page story based on each one; the songs’ titles were the titles of each story. Elements of the lyrics plus the scenes I pictured in my head while hearing the songs came together to create the final product.
These stories acted like chapters in a novel, minus a linear plot. The setting and characters remained the same but I just went with my gut by connecting them through the major motifs of the album.
In the end, I had a completed project that featured a boy pining after a girl who didn’t want him, a group of skaters, a guardian angel appearing at a house party, and a street race dream sequence. Sure, looking back on it now, I would probably cringe at things I thought were genius. But it’s still a complete body of work born out of raw inspiration from music, so I’m proud of it nonetheless. What matters most is that I captured the emotion I felt while listening to Ocean’s album and translated it into a tangible product.
How to start a story through music
When using music to get inspiration to write, I think allowing your imagination to go wherever feels right is the way to go. Imagine what kind of scene would play out with this certain song in the background.
If you’re not really picking up on any movie-like scenes, try checking out the lyrics the way you interpret a poem. There is usually some kind of story being told there already.
Is there one line that stands out to you and elicits a strong image in your mind? Perhaps a character could say something similar to this line in a section of dialogue.
Maybe this song or album is your character’s absolute favorite and shapes them as a person.
There are various ways to branch out from a music album or song, all you have to do is catch any thread of a story that may be hanging loose.
An unending source of inspiration
As writers, we have to open ourselves up to all kinds of sources of inspiration in order to craft new material. Life experience isn’t the only way to do this. Sometimes just listening to your favorite album or diving into a new music genre could be just the thing to get those ideas flowing.
I’m sure there’s one album in your collection that’s always been a classic, or those five songs you played on repeat for a week straight. You can open up a discussion with those around you and ask them about their favorite music; their favorite memories behind that music. Music is a medium that can literally be found everywhere, which means a chance for inspiration is more likely than not.
I’ve always had a knack for making movie scenes in my head while listening to music and looking out of a car window (true to “Main Character” form). But even if you don’t consume music in the same way, I believe that all writers can have fun incorporating music into their work.
So, in the words of the wise and ethereal Corinne Bailey Rae: Girl (or boy, or enby), put your records on! And don’t forget to write everything down while you’re at it.