How To Use Music To Show Memories

How To Use Music To Show Memories

Writers Write is a writing resource. We’ve put together a series on music in writing. In this post we discuss how to use music to show memories.

Music In Writing: Part Two – How To Use Music To Show Memories

Last week I spoke about using music to help you pace your writing. This week I want to talk about memories.

Sound is one of our most primitive senses. A song can take you back and unleash a lifetime of memories.

When we teach at Writers Write we use the following prompt: What was your favourite song when you were 16? Write the scene.

Anthony Ehlers, my esteemed colleague and memoir-ish slave driver, made me write this scene:

The sea is as grey as the sky. The pale sand and dry Fynbos do little to add the scene. The squawking gull shatters the silence and the subtle pallet. Bloody bird.
My window is speckled from the relentless spray of the sea. I lie down on my unmade bed and turn my back on the room. I can only see the sea now. Voices come and go. My parents, their friends. Over-full hearts in an over-full holiday house. I have no desire to talk to them. An overdose of cheerfulness and yet another request to go join the boys on the beach. Which boys? My brother and his idiot friend or his seven-year-old brother? No thank you. They can keep their ball games and sand castles.
I dig in my bag and pull out a tape. The label worn off, the pencil words faint:  Depro. This tape confounds my parents. Who listens to a tape called Depro? But I know it by heart. Every song, every word. I hear the footsteps coming closer. I slip the tape into my radio and press the earphones to my ears.
“It’s that tape again.” I hear my mother say over her shoulder as she peeps into my room. I press play, turn up the volume and pretend I don’t hear them. Def leppard, Love bites, pours into my skull. REM, Everybody Hurts is next.
Yes, it’s that tape again.

I had forgotten about that tape, that holiday and those sullen, pubescent emotions. Music can bring so much to life.

Last week I suggested that you choose the soundtrack for your book, this week try creating a soundtrack for your life and dive into those scenes. Just as I had songs that I clung to as a sixteen-year-old, your character was once, or is still, a teenager. Create that playlist. Give each song a memory.

Or as Billy Joel said:

‘Son can you play me a memory
I’m not really sure how it goes
But it’s sad and it’s sweet
And I knew it complete
When I wore a younger man’s clothes.’

Happy writing and unleash those memories.

Watch out for next Wednesday’s post, Music In Writing: Part Three – Using Music To Layer Characters.

Top Tip: If you want to write a book, sign up for our online course.

 by Mia Botha

If you enjoyed this post, you will love:

  1. Music In Writing: Part One – Pacing
  2. Three Tips For Writers Who Eavesdrop

TIP: If you want help writing a book, buy The Novel Writing Exercises Workbook.

This article has 0 comments


    Pianoman – my biggest favorite ever, and I am much older than you. No wonder I enjoy your articles so much.

  2. Anthony Ehlers

    I don’t know about esteemed colleague, Mia. Let’s go with crazy, ha ha. Great post.

  3. Michelle Wallace

    Ah, a song can definitely unleash a lifetime of memories…

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