I’ve fallen into the habit of writing to movie soundtracks. It’s not a bad habit – the moods and the tempos help me find my own characters and pacing – but an addicting one. Just from watching a trailer, where there’s just snippets of a score or a song, I can get hooked on a soundtrack. Here are seven of my favorites:
1. Atonement by Dario Marianelli
In college I had the tendency to become a complete psychopath whenever I had to write a research paper. I would sit at the same table in the library, stare dead-eyed at my multiple Word documents (one for notes, one for an outline, one for rewrites, and one for the actual essay), and basically cease to exist for up to five days. The Atonement soundtrack was the only thing that could keep me focused, revving me up with the fast typewriter in “Briony” and allowing me moments of writer’s block agony during “Elegy for Dunkirk.” Maybe it wasn’t the healthiest method – but I got it done.
2. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button by Alexandre Desplat
Benjamin Button is a beautiful movie, and its soundtrack equally so. The pieces are quiet and thoughtful – “Benjamin and Daisy” is my favorite – coaxing the words out of my mind. If you buy the entire album, it even includes snippets of the narration, like F. Scott Fitzgerald’s sound advice that “Our lives are defined by opportunities, even the ones we miss.” A little bit of Brad Pitt in between paragraphs never hurt.
3. Jane Eyre by Dario Marianelli
There are times when I just want to pretend that it’s a rainy day in 1800’s England and I’m working on a Gothic novel that the Bronte sisters can’t wait to read…this film score gets me there (after I’ve made tea, pulled on wool socks, and gazed out the window). The songs are soothing and somber, with gloomy titles like “The End of Childhood” and “An Insuperable Impediment.” If you’re more into Jane Austen, Dario Marianelli also composed the score for Pride & Prejudice. And Atonement. And now he has stolen my heart.
4. The Spectacular Now by Rob Simonsen (and Various Artists)
I’m not always in the mood for quiet, sometimes I need quirky – like if I’m working on a creative writing piece with a sillier kind of character. Rob Simonsen did a spectacular job of capturing Sutter’s swagger in the first track, “My Name is Sutter Keely,” but proves he has depth with pieces like “Walk in the Trees” and “Goodbye, Cassidy.” Side note: I’d like to know how Tim Tharp came up with that name.
5. (500) Days of Summer by Various Artists
“Us” by Regina Spektor is the most fantastic opening song in a love story (sorry, a story about love) EVER, not to mention the best title sequence. The tracks follow each other so effortlessly and fit each scene so perfectly that I’ll find myself daydreaming the entire movie instead of writing…hey, there’s nothing wrong with rejuvenating the creative flow. “Sweet Disposition” by The Temper Trap and “Quelqu’un M’a Dit” by Carla Bruni have become my go-to’s when writing short stories.
6. Perks of Being a Wallflower by Various Artists
If you’re trying to write a story about a kid who doesn’t quite fit in, just listen this soundtrack and you’ll be able to picture where he sits as lunch and how he acts in class and when he starts to find himself. Bravo to Stephen Chbosky for writing the book, directing the movie, and capturing the awesome-awkwardness that is high school.
7. The Fault In Our Stars by Various Artists
This is my latest obsession. After crying through the book and sobbing through the movie, I decided I would also like to tear up to the soundtrack. “All I Want” by Kodaline, “Not About Angels” by Birdy, “No One Ever Loved” by M83…I just…can’t. Write to any of those songs and you’ll be able to create that tear-jerking scene you’ve been avoiding for the sake of your reader. Sorry, reader.
*Might I add that almost all of these movies are adaptations?
What would be on your story’s soundtrack?