music · Young adult writing

Music & YA Writing


When you sit down to write, do you…

  • Turn-on the iPod?
  • Navigate over to Pandora.com?
  • Flip through your selections at Playlist.com?
  • Throw on a record?
  • Insist on utter silence?

Chances are good you’re doing one of the first four. There’s always someone who does the fifth, but really, what fun is that? Music is the jelly (or jam, as was the case growing up in the Rieman household) that goes well with the peanut butter known as writing. It drives stories, puts emotions and feelings into our bodies that fly out of our fingers, and moves characters through scenes you never expected to write. Sometimes it even makes us cry when we see how a particular song affects our story.

In particular, music and writing for young adults is akin to peas in a pod. The youth culture demands — and needs — music as a part of its soul. Whole teen subcultures are driven by the likes of hip-hop, metal, goth, and punk music. As teenagers begin to discover their tastes in music, so they also become enlightened as to who they are. Folks, you just can’t get that with silence.

Now, you don’t have to listen to the very latest Billboard hits to get with the YA audience. Mix a few of your own high school faves to bring things to the surface. How about that sappy Thompson Twins song they played over-and-over at every dance? Or the Bangles tune that was on the stereo when your boyfriend first kissed you? (Okay, I’m showing my age. BTW, I preferred The Cure and Pat Benatar to Debbie Gibson and all that yakk.)

The point is that the music that moves you can also move your writing. Take a moment and build a playlist for free online, or rethink your iPod. Reload your CD magazine and keep listening to the songs that inspire you most. It could very well lead you toward the most realistic, heartfelt YA story possible.

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