Temporary cover art for Christina's Portrait.

Creating a playlist for a novel

I create a playlist for every novel. This includes my work-in-progress, Christina’s Portrait. You will find the playlist on Spotify:

I listen to a few songs on my playlist before starting a writing session. It gets me into the mood of the scenes I’m working on and helps me focus on the themes of the story. Each song plays an important role in the book. I’d like to talk about some of the songs and how they fit into Christina’s Portrait.

The novel is split into two timelines, one in 1977 and the other in 2021. I paired songs from both eras that go together in theme and tone. For example, “Brick House” from the Commodores in 1977 goes with “Body” by Megan Thee Stallion in 2021.

“You Should be Dancing” by the Bee Gees is a quintessential 1977 song, but it’s here because of James at 16, not Saturday Night Fever. As I wrote in 2014, there was an episode where several Reseda girls’ basketball players appeared. (In this clip, the audio with that song had been stripped out.)

My book has a scene that takes place at a girls’ basketball game, so I had to include the song in my soundtrack.

Sometimes, I include the titles of songs in the narrative. Here’s one example:

I gave her some albums, Eagles Hotel California, Pablo Cruise A Place in the Sun, and Fleetwood Mac Rumours. I think she liked Fleetwood Mac the most because she started playing it right away at her party…

While “Don’t Stop” played on Laura’s record player, Christina, Jenny, and I hung out at the shallow lobe of the kidney-shaped pool… 

If you listen to “Don’t Stop,” it gives some hints about what happens in the story.

I refer to another song at a pivotal point in the plot, but I don’t name the title. See if you can guess which song it is. (Edited to remove spoilers.)

The music started. It began as a growing electronic buzz. Then a pounding, steady beat. Then the soft floating “Ooooh” of the singer…

The beat rose up my body. It drove me to swivel my hips from side to side. My shoulders followed. Then my knees. Electricity pulsed down my spine.

Today brought some sad news about the theme song for Christina’s Portrait, “Water Sign” by Gary Wright. It fit the themes of regret and unrequited love, and the moody atmosphere fit the tone of my book. Gary Wright passed away this weekend at age 80. The news added meaning to an already meaningful song.

The finale of the playlist summarizes the themes of the story. That’s why I chose “You Do Not Walk Alone,” a choral piece written by Elaine Hagenberg. It not only encapsulates the message I want to get through, it reminds me of my time in Vocal Ensemble at Reseda High School. My favorite performance of this song isn’t on Spotify. It was performed by the Taylorsville High School Madrigals from Salt Lake City, Utah.

I’ve always felt a connection between music and storytelling. This is why I create a playlist for the novels I write.