TCWT: 8 Essential Tracks of Writing Playlists

The TCWT blog chain, by John over at Teens Can Write, Too!, explores a different question each month, and for February, it's:

How does music relate to your writing?

You heard me ramble about a Thranduil playlist the other day, but my 8tracks account is primarily for writing playlists. And that is essentially how music relates to my writing — playlists fills up all the "grey space" so I don't get distracted as easily, and puts me in the right mood.

So instead, I'm going to talk about how I put together a playlist. 8 songs for 8tracks, obviously. As an example, I'll be using the playlist for Winner Takes All, my novel-in-revisions.

1. The theme song

Every story needs a good ... theme song. It should convey the core themes and atmosphere of your writing. This is your Twitter pitch right here. A quirky YA might have a Taylor Swift song, an epic fantasy can borrow the Game of Thrones soundtrack. Winner Takes All, as a bittersweet semi-tragedy and political fantasy, uses part of the Swan Lake ballet.

2. The otherworldly song

The point of writing is to build a whole new world *starts humming*. And so you should have an otherworldly song, one of ghosts and spirits. This is where the rabbit hole begins, so give the entrance all the ceremony it deserves. WTA's otherworldly song is Gregorio Allegri's Miserere, filled with opera-esque singing.

3. The melancholy song

The other point of writing is to torment characters. *grins evilly* So when all seems lost for your main character, we must have a song along with the backlit piano, preferably with a moon. My melancholy song is Chopin's Prelude no. 4 in E Minor.

4. The Hakuna Matata song

Despite all the defeats, our protagonist must learn to let it goooo. A little carefree music as they chat with their long-time allies isn't unwarranted. WTA's Hakuna Matata is Impromptu Caprice, a harp piece whose title means "improvise as you wish".

5. The success song

Since we're building up to it anyways, the protagonists can't be tortured all the time. A rousing song as you bid the citizens of Minas Tirith to stand! Beethoven's Symphony No. 5, with its trademark opening, is perfect for the war-heavy WTA.

6. The defeat song / the villain song

All right, that's enough happiness. Disney movies always have villain songs, but since WTA's true villains aren't the antagonists, I prefer to call it 'the defeat song'. Let all the things go wrong here. As an interesting contrast, I chose Beethoven's Symphony No. 7, aptly named The Fall.

7. The love interest song

Even though WTA isn't a particularly romance-heavy work — in fact, all the romance is only hinted at — characters don't have to be completely uninterested in romance. (Unless they're aromantic. In which case an exception can be made for a Bromance/Sismance (??) song.) Across the Stars highlights how love is only a faraway hope.

8. Obligatory Star Wars song

I know the last one was already a Star Wars song, but as Christina once said, I work a Star Wars song into every. single. playlist. And so a Star Wars song is reserved for each playlist. Duel of the Fates is WTA's, with much military skirmishing and political manoeuvring.

Which of these songs can you find in your writing playlists? Do you use playlists often? And should I pronounce WTA as 'dub-ta' or 'dub-tee-ay'? Share with us in the comments!

And don't forget to visit all the other blogs in the chain:

6th – and
7th –
8th –
9th –
10th –
11th – and
12th – me - you're here!
13th – and
14th –
15th – and
16th – and
17th – and
18th – and
19th –
20th –
21st – and
22nd – and
23rd –
24th – and
25th –
26th – and
27th – and


  1. This is such a neat post! I personally love book playlists--they're such a great way to stay inspired. I've also been looking for more instrumental music, so I'll definitely give some of these songs a listen :)

    1. Thank you! I've made one or two fanmixes, but most of the music I listen to is for writing inspiration. Instrumentals are definitely my fav, so I'm glad I helped you discover a few new ones :D

  2. Oooh! I love how you have a reason for each and every song you've selected! I don't have that kind of discipline in my life, let me tell you. Minus Star Wars, I'm not super familiar with these things. Also, I vote for 'dub-ta' because that sounds cool.

    1. It's just a quick and easy formula, because 8tracks forces you to pick at least 8, well, tracks. I've also found looking for these specific areas can help ensure my tracklist isn't just one long musical of DOOOOM.

      "dub-ta" does have a ring to it that just spelling out the letters doesn't, but at the same time it's less intuitive ... hmm ...

  3. Your playlists are all so amazing! :) Looking at my playlists, I follow the same sort of structure, but I don't think I have thought about it before.

    1. Thank you! :D I don't necessarily compartmentalize everything into this formula, but if I can't think of 8 tracks, I do a quick scan of these ideas to ensure I have a good mix of atmospheres.

  4. Excellent to see someone else with a little Tchaikovsky involved!
    (My humble attempt on the chain:

    1. *flails a little* Tchaikovsky is awesome. Swan Lake is definitely my fav!

  5. This is really interesting!! I only started linking music to my writing when I starting writing full length novels, but back when I wrote simple fics, I didn’t even think about it. I think it really helps to give your scene or chapter an emotional base to work from.

    1. Thanks! Yep, same here. In fact, I had absolute disdain for so many times of music. I was such a biased little porcupine. *pats temporal paradox spines* *nods* Music is so great for building the atmosphere.

  6. I agree with you, 150%!
    I always listen to music when I write, although usually it's quite loud and action-packed music like Imagine Dragons- Warriors if I am writing an action scene. Different songs for different scenes, you see. I've done this ever since I can remember, like when I was 9 and had Hanna Montana songs playing on my Barbie CD player while I wrote about a caterpillar and a duck going head to head to rule the pond. (For the record, they both lost out to a seagull named Mo)
    Although my writing has improved since then (thankfully) I still listen to music while I write. Although it is not the same style as Hannah Montana (I have moved on) it helps significantly.

    1. Absolutely! I have a few go-to songs for a certain atmosphere, like DOOM or melancholy or bliss or fluff, etc., etc. It really helps to get that vibe in your scene, although for revisions I tend to use less music.

      Your story sounds absolutely hilarious, and reminds me of a Chinese folk tale about a crane and a mussel who were fighting because the crane wanted to eat the mussel and the mussel clamped its shell on the crane's beak. A fisherman ended up netting them both, ha!

  7. I like this approach. I tend to be a lot more organic in my playlist-building, but you seem to have a good method going there.

    1. Thanks! Usually at the start I let my music sense wander, but when I'm looking for the last two tracks I turn to this formula :D

  8. Great post! I love the way you broke it down into the category of songs that you have in all your playlists! I tend to just make playlists by adding songs that fit as I find them. I don't really have a formula or anything like that, but this seems really cool! :D

    1. Thank you! It's a handy way to keep my incoherent music taste organised.

  9. Oh hey, how interesting! I must admit that I rarely, if ever, make playlists for full books - there's just way too many components to fit in, and (as I have mentioned before) I loathe non-cohesive playlists. I do make mixes for characters and for scenes and for themes and for basically every single one of said components, though - I don't tend to follow any formulas, but even so, it really helps with inspiration. :D

    1. Well, in that case, I must volunteer myself as playlist-maker for Frozen Hearts. I guarantee it will be perfect. (Or, at least, I guarantee the presence of Star Wars music.)

      I actually prefer playlists that mix it up a little bit and can surprise me with the next tune! In fact, sometimes I find myself not mixing it up, which is why I came up with this formula to make it all-rounded.

      (Hmm, now to apply this formula to my grades. *refuses to do sports*)

  10. I've never made a playlist for a novel before, mostly because I get tired of songs rather easily and I find myself needing to change things up a bit after a while. But I think it's really cool that you can do that. Lovely post :).

    My post

    1. Hmm, I don't really encounter that problem. For me, it's mainly failing to be inspired by songs I'm unfamiliar with. But everyone has their own style ;P


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