the playlists

November 6, 2009

Creating the playlists always shocks and delights me.

As I’m writing this, I’m listening through the playlist for Kitty #8 (still no solid title, alas) for the very first time.  I still have a song or two I want to add, but I couldn’t resist playing through what I have.  And I’m amazed.  It’s awesome, and so incredibly appropriate for the book I’m in shock.  It’s like I planned it or something.

See, when I’m picking songs, it always feels like I’m doing it on a whim.  I’ll have all my music on shuffle, or I’ll be in the car listening to the radio, and some random song comes on that makes me sit up and go “Yeah!  That!”  It usually isn’t the lyrics that get me.  Instead, it’s something about the tune or rhythm or mood of the piece that fits some aspect of the story I’m working on.  I’ll make a note, often in the middle of the text as I’m writing.  I have to go through later and pull them all out.

Then I put the songs in some kind of order.  The first and last songs usually jump out at me, and I try to put something strong and mood-changing in the middle. (You’ll notice how often something industrial/techno/goth ends up in the middle.)  I try to put the songs into some kind of story arc — building tension, then resolving.

Then I start paying attention to the lyrics.  That’s when I realize my subconscious is way smarter than I am, and the songs that felt like whims jumped out at me for a reason.  I’m not a lyrics person — I have to listen to a song dozens of times before I learn the words, if I don’t ever see them written down.  So I often pick songs without knowing what all the lyrics are.  But then I listen, and something like this happens:  The Clash’s “Train in Vain,” which marks the climactic moment of Kitty and The Midnight Hour, includes the line, “All alone I keep the wolves at bay.”  Too perfect.  ELO’s “Mr. Blue Sky” has a line, “Hey you with the pretty face, welcome to the human race.”  Is that about Kitty or what?  Tom Petty’s “You Don’t Know How It Feels” is on the seventh playlist and the first line is, “Let me run with you tonight, I’ll take you on a moonlight ride.”  If that’s not a song that’s unintentionally about werewolves, I don’t know what is.

I actually try to avoid the obvious songs:  Warren Zevon’s “Werewolves of London” is verboten, as is Duran Duran’s “Hungry Like the Wolf” and the Shangri La’s “Leader of the Pack.”  But somehow, I keep picking songs that refer to wolves, moonlight, nighttime, reaching the dawn, survival, and so on.  The songs don’t always work out so nicely, but they do often enough that playing a new list through is always an adventure.

Sneak peak:  Playlist #8 includes one of the most blatantly werewolfish songs I’ve ever put on a playlist.  I heard it a few months ago, in the car, and thought “Oh hell yeah.”  (I’m going to try embedding…)  If you’ve never heard this song, I highly recommend listening all the way through.

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15 Responses to “the playlists”


  1. Too cool. I’m glad I’m not the only person who does this, but I rarely talk about it. I associate songs and artists with every story and book, even though none of my characters are DJs. And I too get shocked at how my subconscious picks out certain songs and how really listening to the lyrics and the music can switch up my plot.

  2. EmeraldWolfHeart Says:

    The sneak peek song is funny, thanks for sharing. Also just like to say I think its totally cool some authors provide playlists or have playlists for books. I’m not a big time writer but I’ve always found if a song doesn’t influence what I’m writing usually I find one that clicks perfectly with what I’m writing as I do it. So yeah thanks for being a cool author.

  3. Thomas Says:

    Awesome song! It’s really good and quite funny as well. It just makes me that more excited to actually see what’s on your playlist this time. Can’t wait until your next book comes out. Keep up the great work Carrie!

  4. Tim of Angle Says:

    The Animals did ‘Hey There Little Red Riding Hood’ on a TV special (probably back before you were born) that had Liza Minelli as Little Red Riding Hood. If you’ve never seen Eric Burdon made up like a wolf, well, it was pretty amazing.

    How about ‘Kitty and the Music of the Spheres’?

  5. ArcLight Says:

    Ahh…Sam the Sham. Love that song. Had it on a 45 I got from who-knows-where ages ago. And don’t forget “Woolly Bully.”

  6. Markysan Says:

    I’ve loved this song since I was a kid. I think they used it in the closing credits to the movie “Never Cry Werewolf”.

    Carrie, for the most blatantly werewolfish song ever, check out “Almost Human” by Kiss (from the Love Gun album).

    I don’t use “playlists” but I DO have a “soundtrack” associated with my unpublished book. Both this song and “Almost Human” are in it. 🙂

  7. Michael Says:

    Here’s one under the ‘obvious’ banner, but could be inspirational for some character. (And the video is not from the band.)

    Motorhead: Year of the wolf.

  8. Kendall Says:

    That’s a neat song, the one you posted. I made a playlist for the NaNoWriMo story I’m working on now, and it took me almost two months to complete it. But I wanted to fill up all 80 minutes on the cd. I like your playlists. They’re cool. 🙂

  9. ZOO Says:

    Oh man! I love “Little Red Riding Hood.” Thanks to my parents it’s been a part of my lifetime playlist from an early age.

    As for mood music when writing, etc… Have you ever heard of Nox Arcana?

  10. Cat Says:

    Squee! Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs. Did you know that Bowling for Soup did a cover of this song? Or that the Shammettes did “(Hey There) Big Bad Wolf”? Can’t find that one, though… it’s not well known.

    Hmmm. It does make me wonder what Kitty #8 is going to be about, though… Say, are we going to see her Brazilian jungle cat any time soon? I imagine Luis might have some lingering issues, though…

  11. Antonio Rich Says:

    I used to think the “playlist” at the beginning of your books was a list of songs that Kitty might play on her show…So, for you, it’s a list of songs that you identify with the current story? A kind of soundtrack?

    Saw the steampunk picture/costume…”hubba hubba”

    I noticed that Natalie Morales(from tv’s The Middleman) is now appearing in USA Network’s “White Collar”

  12. Gathers Scrolls Says:

    Good picks! As far as this theme goes, I’m also partial to “Control” and “Wild” by Poe. 🙂

  13. Kat Says:

    I love the Little Red Riding Hood song! Sometimes blatant is good.

  14. Robert Says:

    Here is a few worth checking out
    These have a dangerous undertone–

    Your Name No More by Piers Faccini
    Fun For Me by Moloko
    Tigerliliy by La Roux

    And a cool song that talks about how we are all different and the same–

    Everybody by V.V. Brown

  15. Robert Says:

    Kick in Warren Zevon’s lesser known songs

    Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner

    Lawyers, Guns and Money — I think of Cormick every time I hear that song!


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