Books Don’t Come With a Soundtrack

January 11, 2010 at 5:33 am (Thoughts on Writing, Voice) (, , , , , , )

Maybe the title should be ‘books don’t come with a soundtrack yet’ because we know books are changing all the time and with audio books chances are there are some out there that already have a soundtrack.  However, for this post I am thinking about traditional print books and they don’t have a soundtrack.

I was thinking this because I was planning out a scene in my head the other day for a writing project I am hoping to start just as soon as I settle everything from the move and in my head it had the most fantastic musical score playing behind it. My protagonist was running and there were explosions and there was smoke but through it all there was this fantastic full orchestra and I was quite swept away.  Unfortunately you can’t write in the middle of a story “orchestra plays dramatic music in background” so the scene becomes so much less than what I originally imagined and without the score the entire scene just become fairly flat and i realised that I would definitely need to work on it.

Writing isn’t just about telling stories.  It is about connecting to the reader and captivating them emotionally.  That is what separates a person’s favourite books from a book that was an alright read.  For me the books that become favourites are the ones that manage to replace the soundtrack with the author’s voice.

You can tell any scene about a thousand different ways, unfortunately about nine-hundred of those will be boring, terrible, or completely incomprehensible, which leaves you with about 100 ways to tell the scene that might actually work.  However there is a difference between something that works and something that sweeps the reader away and transports them into the story.

How important is voice to you?  Which authors do you read because of their voice?  I would love to hear your views.



  1. uninvoked said,

    but you can write it so compellingly that people put the soundtrack in themselves. I do it all the time, and am often annoyed when writers go out of the way to tell me the song blaring away so I can’t imagine it for myself >.<

    • Cassandra Jade said,

      I never understood the point of that – unless the piece is a period piece and they are trying to set the mood.

  2. Elizabeth Spann Craig said,

    Voice is really important to me…maybe slightly more important than characters, even.

    I love a storytelling voice–just as if I were sitting by a fire and a friend was telling me a story. MC Beaton has a voice like that.

    Mystery Writing is Murder
    Mystery Lovers’ Kitchen

  3. Carol Kilgore said,

    Voice is probably the most important thing for me. I keep working on mine. I think Toni Morrison has a great voice. And Lisa Scottoline.

  4. catwoods said,

    Voice is key for me. I don’t want to be told what to experience. I want to feel it for myself–through the writing. Not because of it.

    Fire by Kristin Cashore is a great example of voice. An older book that does this seamlessly is Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor.

    • Cassandra Jade said,

      “I want to feel it for myself – through the writing” – totally agree.

  5. barbaraannwright said,

    Terry Pratchett and C.J.. Cherryh. I love their voices, and I can always spot a book by them even without a cover.

    I like to imagine ambient noises when I read, the babble of a noisy tavern, the crash of seaside waves or the gentle lapping of a lake side. Even if the author doesn’t describe the sound, I still fill in running boots on wooden floors or pounding hooves on turf.

    • Cassandra Jade said,

      Terry Pratchett has an amazing voice. He just draws you straight in to the story and sucks you right into the world.

  6. Siggy said,

    I read Natalie Goldberg when I want to get jumpstarted and inspired (Writing Down The Bones, etc) My wife actually bought me four of her books for Christmas–yes four. I usually pick up one of her books and start reading anywhere.

    An author I do not read too often but every time I do I become invigorated is Henry Miller. Some people might be offset by his comments about women but if you can get past that you will be rewarded. I consider him one of the greatest authors of the twentieth century. He is worth looking up.

  7. andrewhayett said,

    Of all the authors I’ve read, I think J. K. Rowling writes a lot better than most. She is able to leave you breathless with her writing. Her books are so ‘addictive’, for want of a better term, that you don’t mind staying awake at midnight just to read them. I wish she would write another story that doesn’t have to do with Hogwarts or Harry Potter. I’m sure it will be a great read.
    Voice is very important to me. I just try to write the way I can, but when I can improve it, I do. I have written one novel and I am still starting to discover my voice. I have to work at it to become a better writer. I can write good because I enjoy reading novels.
    I like your soundtrack idea. But it shouldn’t be on every book–authors have to leave some things to the reader’s imagination.

    P.S. I sort of agree with the comment left by ‘uninvoked’.

  8. Jemi Fraser said,

    Voice in huge – it’s what makes each writer unique. I like many different tones of voices – depending on the genre and my mood – but each voice I enjoy has something compelling to keep me reading.

    • Cassandra Jade said,

      Definitely depends on mood. Some authors are just perfect for one time but at others you really just don’t want to read their work. Thanks for the comment.

  9. Siggy said,

    One comment about voice is not to be overly concerned with. Simple write and write. Eventually you will develop your own voice. Your voice is your unique way you have of expressing yourself, the unique set of thoughts, which compose you, the only you, you can be. At some level, you do not choose your voice, its only yours. Sure you can play around with it but write long enough others will recognize the voice only you can have. It is your unique set of fingerprints if you want to call it that you have: the unmistakable stamp you put on everything you write.

    • Christi Craig said,

      I posted recently about voice and craft, and one reader commented “if you stay true to yourself, it emerges.”

      So, I agree, Siggy. I think the more you write, the more your voice reveals itself. I may have to improve my craft in storytelling, but my voice is either woven into the story or it isn’t.

      The key, for me, comes in finding my voice and then sticking with it.

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