Wednesday, September 21, 2011

A Musical Writing Exercise

This is something I saw on Marian's Tulgeywood blog that sparked my interest. She encouraged me to try it, and this afternoon, with excitement and trepidation, I did.

Here are the rules, or "guidelines" as I like to say:

1. Take a Technological Purveyor of Music (such as an iPod) and set it to shuffle.

2. As soon as the first song starts playing, start writing. Don't put too much thought into the process, and don't bother trying to force the writing to the song -- just let the music carry your pen along.

3. When the song stops playing, stop writing. Don't edit anything.

And now I will tell you how I veered from the rules! I believe this was originally intended for fanfiction, but fanfic is something I've only done once to my memory. It was just a short piece, a one time thing; not to mention I did it two years ago.
So, I decided I would just pull settings and characters out of thin air.
...Let me just say, I now know why doing fanfic was suggested because pulling stories out of thin air is difficult. Overall though, I think I preferred it this way.

When I first tried doing this exercise my brain literally froze. I felt strangely nervous and couldn't write a single word.
I stopped and tried again and it got easier and easier as I kept going. I ended up doing about 12 songs. But! I did not just go with my ipod's consecutive shuffle. I skipped some songs, like a 45 second one (There was no way I was attempting that...) and other songs which for some reason didn't offer any inspiration (Sorry, Buddy Holly). I also restarted the shuffle several times, because I like doing that rather than going into high digits... *shrugs*

I did do a minimum of editing. I edited whilst I was writing (...wait, that probably doesn't count, on second thought). And afterwards, I corrected some punctuation, deleted a redundancy or two, and added something at the end of one; I put it in brackets though, so it would feel less like cheating, I guess. :P It's really quite torturous to not do more editing than that and not add more to the snippets of stories, but I restrained myself for whatever reason. For now, that is.

I'm only posting half of the ones I did; the ones I like best, of course. They all turned out better than I thought they were going too, though! Admittedly, I did have pretty low expectations, heh.


-'When I Go' by Slow Club-

My knees were scraped pretty bad. Darn! I thought, relishing the word my mother frowned upon. As if my knobby knees weren’t ugly enough.

“You okay?” Gene was standing above me looking concerned.

“Yeah,” I said with pretend disinterest.

He offered a hand and pulled me up.

I winced. “Uh, Gene...” I muttered


“I think I’m just going to go home now. We can roller-skate tomorrow.”

Or next month. I thought silently.

He shrugged, “Okay, if that’s what you want.”

Oh trust me, it is. I thought.

Aloud I said nothing, just shrugged and turned around.


-'Dance Until Tomorrow' by Lavender Diamond-

“You realize we’re going to be here for a while.”

Claire’s eyes were shining, her heart and skirt whirling and twirling as she danced on the arm of her fine young man.

“Yes, I know,” I sighed.

“Do you want me to get you any refreshment?”

“Yes, some punch would be welcome.”

I hadn’t actually wanted anything, but I needed to be alone for a minute. Well, alone as one ever is in these crowded ballrooms.

I followed his path with my eyes, then looked away toward Claire who was still joyously dancing.

I was past the age of a desirable partner. The only person who had tapped on my shoulder and asked to dance was Memory. In my mind, we waltzed now.

I tripped several times though the steps were familiar. Usually it went a lot smoother than this. I clung to Memory, hoping he was strong and would hold me up. But he let go, kissed my hand and left the room.

I found myself gazing dully into space. I snapped to attention, as James made his way back with my punch.

“Thank you,” I murmured. “Just what I needed.”


-'Shadows' by Au Revoir Simone-

I lay curled on the mattress and watched her through half-closed eyes.

I lay in a daze, intoxicated by her dark tangles against the white of her back.

She slipped the familiar blue shirt on.

“Why do you always sleep in that shirt?” I mumbled through the film of sleep over my lips.

“Because,” she murmured.


She gathered up her hair into a ponytail.

“I’ll tell you when you’re older,” she teased.

“I’m as old now as I’ll ever be,” I sighed and fell asleep.

My closed eyes couldn’t see her regarding me gravely and lovingly before she turned off the naked light bulb and lay down beside me [on the equally bare mattress].


-'Avant la haine' by Romain Duris and Joana Preiss, from the film "Dans Paris." (Which I've never seen, I just love the song.)-

“I’m an idiot,” she moaned, digging her hands deep into the damp soil.

No one except a bird or three heard her and they did not understand.

“I wonder sometimes if I should be allowed near living things,” she sighed, regarding her dilapidated garden.

“I can’t handle this,” she said in a sad monotone.

“I can’t handle this!” she screeched at the sky, standing up and brandishing a trowel.

The birds, the only ones who could hear, flew away.

“Of course. Yes.” She knelt down again.

“I’m an idiot,” she whimpered.


-'Sunshine' by Smoke Fairies-

She hadn’t realized how far down the city would be.

Are you sure you’ve done this before? She wanted to ask the stolid, silent man standing beside her. She didn’t dare.

She held out a foot in front of her. Five toes. An average foot belonging to an average girl.

“I shouldn’t be doing this,” she thought as she put her foot on the unnervingly meager looking rope.

Simultaneously she felt her faith soaring and plunging.

She wavered. His hand suddenly gripped her arm.

She didn’t dare look at it. But she could feel each finger digging into her arm, strong and strangely reassuring. Five fingers. An average man.

She took a step forward and felt him let go of her arm.

Another step. And another.


-'Movin' Out (Anthony’s Song)' by Billy Joel-

He kicked a nearby garbage can.

I’d never seen him so filled with anger; it sparked in his eyes.

“Tell me he’s not lying to me,” he said in a fierce undertone.

“I don’t know, I don’t know,” I cried. “What did he tell you?”

“Said there was nothing between you. That true?”

“Yes, yes. Of course! There was nothing.”

Nothing that could ever be perceived. Only years of me pushing desire to the back of the mind.

“There was nothing,” I repeated numbly.

Nothing but dreams. In his world that was nothing; in mine... everything.


Anyone reading, feel free to do this yourself! I'd love to read what you all write. You can do as many or as few as you like and follow the rules as loosely as you desire. :)


  1. wow! i love the one with "Dance Until Tomorrow" theme... and the one with "Sunshine".

    you really are one of my favorites!

  2. Love them all, especially "Dance Until Tomorrow"! From reading them, it sounds as if you had fun writing and got into the stories, even if it was challenging. I am going to try this exercise, too... great idea!

  3. "Shadows" and "Sunshine" were both absolutely brilliant. You are such a talented writer (in all of them, really, but those two were my favorites.) I listened to the songs while I was reading--at least for the songs I could find--heh, to be honest I couldn't see the connection in all of them, but that's okay.
    p.s. You almost sound like you're defending your one-time forary into fanfic, haha. Stop me now before I start my anti-fanfic rant (which is quite well-rehearsed in my head.)

  4. haze: Aww, thank you, dear. I was sort of amused when I realized I did sort of theme the 'Dance Until Tomorrow' one, the title pervaded my subconscious as I was tryong to come up with a story in 2.5 seconds! :)

    What a coinkydink! You're one of my favourite too! <3

    Jade: Thank you very much! I suspect 'Dance Until Tomorrow' turned out so well because the song is almost 7 minutes long. XD I'm looking forward to reading what you write. :)

    Jenica: Oh, thank you so much! That's a good idea; to listen to the songs while reading! And oh, I meant to make that clearer: the lyrics (and even sound) of the song don't have to directly influence the story. Sometimes it just seemed to work out that way, though. ('Dance Until Tomorrow' for instance.)

    Hahaha, now I'm quite interested to hear it! Yeah, I guess I was kind of defending it... :) Of course, I'd never really thought of it as fanfic before and all the sudden I realized, "Dang, that was fanfic, wasn't it?" Not that I have much of a problem with it, it's just not for me.

  5. Oh, I knew what you meant. It's just that, listening to the songs, that's not what would come to my mind. I feel like--and I may yet try the exercise--my pieces would be almost directly from the lyrics. (Of course it'd be different if I was writing fanfic, but then...well. XD)

  6. All these pieces are gorgeous, I want to read more and more of each one! In fact I would love to read some longer story by you. I adore your way with words. I think everyone has so different ways and yours is among my favourites. :)

    Also, about what Jenica said above. That listening to the songs that's not what would come to her mind. I think it indeed varies. Merely a single song can mean so many different things to different people. I think it would be interesting to see the results if a few writers were to listen to the same playlist. I bet the results would vary much. I think it would fascinating.

  7. Jenica: Ohhh! Okay - got it. :) Well, my brain has always moved in strange and mysterious ways. ;) You never know! Random things might come pouring forth from your brain. I was quite surprised at what started springing up in my mind. :)

    The Tame Lion: Thank you. :)

    Jessica: Oh, dearest! Thank you from the very bottommost of my heart! That is one of the highest compliments I could be paid. You may be in luck, I do seem to be writing more stories lately... :)

    Yes, that is so true! It's incredible, isn't it? That sounds like a good basis for a scientific experiment! Though it's probably not nearly important enough in the grand scheme of things to ever be done. Pity; I think it would be extremely fascinating too.

  8. What an intruiging exercise, I shall have to try it one of these days! I feel as though I would break the editing rule just a bit as well, I can't help it :p

    Lovely stories as well, such an imagination you have <3

  9. I really like Dance Until Tomorrow and Sunshine! :) And I know how you feel about takes a lot of will-power to stop editing!

  10. Jhordyn: You should try it! Hehe, yeah; it's almost impossible not too. At least for me. And hey - these rules aren't hard and fast! As long as the exercise starts the inspiration rolling, that's all that matters, right? :)

    Thank you so much, sweet girl. <3

    Marian: Thank you very much! :) Augh, it does take an insane amount of willpower! It also takes a lot to not just keep going after the song ends!

  11. I love them ALL. What a sweet idea. I have went through a horrible phase as of late with no inspiration at all, so this should help me.


  12. Thank you so much, dearest Ariana. <3 I hope it does help!

  13. "I was past the age of a desirable partner. The only person who had tapped on my shoulder and asked to dance was Memory. In my mind, we waltzed now."

    Favorite part! I loved reading all your stories - I don't think I can choose a favorite :) I like how you were indeed able to pluck characters and situations from the inspiration of these songs. I usually listen to music when I write; it doesn't help all the time, but sometimes it's just the very thing you need :)

    I'll have to add this to my list of exercises to try :) I'm still deciding who I'm going to write to for the Dear You post, haha :)

  14. Dear M. I can't describe how much I adore visiting your blog. You always have such interesting and engaging posts. These stories are incredible. My favourites are Sunshine, Avant la Haine and When I Go. The sparseness of the prose is what makes them so brilliant. I will definitely try this exercise. :)

  15. CloudyKim: Thank you so much, Kim! I almost always listen to music while writing too! Somedays it does just seem to keep those creative juices pumping.

    I'd forgotten about that, haha! If you can't think of anyone, I won't be offended if you just skip it. :)

    Thea: Oh, you lovely being! Thank you! I wish I could convey the depth of my thanks, but it is so hard with this prosaic text over the internet abyss. You are too kind. ♥
    I hope it offers wells of inspiration. :)


Silhouettes of a secret. A story told over a cuppa. Or perhaps just sitting on that stone bench, basking in the moonlight... and not saying anything at all.

("I can no other answer make but thanks, and thanks, and ever thanks." -Shakespeare, Twelfth Night)