The Soundtrack of A Fictional Life

William Murphy never sees It comingA mix tape, a playlist, a soundtrack whatever you call it, why can’t books have soundtracks for sale like movies? 

Because kids,  compiling a soundtrack for a movie is something of a copyright, A&R big money nightmare. For books to have a companion soundtrack would be a copyright, A&R ginormous money acid trip hallucination beyond the comprehension of mortals.

Despite that, from the very first book I ever wrote (the one that will never see the light of day) to A Basic Renovation, For Your Eyes Only (originally titled And She Was–a title I think was better–but marketing didn’t think so and what do I know about marketing?) and Driving in Neutral, every book I write has a soundtrack. Most authors I know listen to music when they write. Music can be inspiring or set the mood for a scene. Characters might have their own theme song. Some characters might even have an entire theme soundtrack, which is the case with Next to You, my upcoming July release.

The music for Next to You is so vital to the story, to the character of William Murphy. Music, Bubblegum pop and Super Sounds of the Seventies is what makes Will Will, –just like movies are what makes his new next door neighbour Caroline Jones Caroline Jones, but more about Caroline in future posts.

In the words of Barry Manilow (yes, I am quoting Barry Manilow), I am music and I write the sooooooongs, but really I am writer and I write the characters who listen to the sooooooongs, and the character I wrote listens to the songs (although he doesn’t listen to Barry Manilow) that make him the man he is.

Here then is some of what William Murphy listens to.   Next to You3coverAnd seeing as all of these songs (and many more) are in my  music library, you can be assured these are also songs I listen to. You can listen to the Next to You Soundtrack here on William Murphy’s YouTube Channel

Tell me, would you buy a book’s soundtrack the same way you’d buy a film soundtrack?

Well, turn it up!

Any time I hear Eric Clapton’s Layla, it cues up a certain question in my head. The opening riff of Layla cues up the question and the response, as well as the rest of the musical set list. Perhaps you know what I’m blithering about here.  Perhaps this will nudge your memory.

Clapton + Layla riff = Hey man…is that Freedom Rock? Yeah, man. Well, Turn it up!

I bet you knew the dialogue. You probably said those words along with me, like Shrinky does now.

Does something similar happen to you when you hear some other tune from your past, something that came before the digital age, before CD’s and cassettes and 8 Track players? Maybe you heard it on vinyl and that vinyl skipped in a certain spot, like the way ABBA’s I Do I Do I Do did on my LP, and still does in my head any time I hear it. It’s stuck there in a way that reminds me of a Brain Worm, and I don’t mean an actual parasitic creature infesting your grey matter. I’m talking about something that gets jammed in your head, like a recurring song, a phrase, a silly word like Lubbock, or a Michael Jackson hee hee.

When it comes to writing fiction (yes, I knew you were waiting to see how I’d work Brain Worms into my craft), Brain Worms (BWs) can be a writer’s best friend. BWs are interesting character quirks. A BW that infests a mind can say a lot about a person’s demeanor, or day, or general sanity. For instance, if you’ve got a hero who keeps on singing, "Won’t you take me to Funky Town," you might infer that he’s:

a) horny; b) amused; c) annoyed; d) stuck in the 80s; e) homocidal.


Won’t you take me to Funky Town
can be a device threaded through the story the same way the BW is threaded through the character’s mind. Brain Worms: It’s a lot like life.

What’s your brain worm? What’s glued to your mind today? Are you mumbling Hey, man, is that Freedom Rock, like I am, or are you humming the Geroge Harrisonesque twangy part of Badfinger’s Day After Day?