Music and literature are irrefutably linked, of course. Songs are moving poetry, and if done well, so is a good novel.
As my current work-in-progress developed in the creases of my brain, I couldn't help but listen to the music that carried the words into place. Spirituals and old hymns invaded my sleep. Johnny Cash and Patsy Cline whispered to me as I drove. And The Indigo Girls, the iconic duo that framed my college years, kept asking me: how can you bring your protagonist from her beginning to becoming Closer to Fine?
My story covers three generations. Depending on where in time my pen landed, the music followed me.
The first song that grabbed me was Wade in the Water. Here's my favorite version:
This song reminds me of childhood, sorrow, and redemption. Yet this version, by The Brotherhood, is and interesting and snappy take on the old Spiritual. I can't stop listening to it!
The next era, 1968, wasn't accompanied with hippies and LSD-- prominent markers of the music from that decade-- but with the deep bass of Johnny Cash, and his gleeful duet with his wife about cheating on each other. Jackson.
And when I got to my modern day protagonist, it wasn't the music of today that defined her. To me, it was her own development from the 80's and 90's that left musical imprints. And it was only the songs of one group that came to mind: The Indigo Girls.
How do these three songs relate? In some ways, they don't at all. A Spiritual about deliverance from slavery, a kitschy song about cheating on your spouse, and an acoustic folk rock ballad about seeking knowledge and transcendence. Yet they relate to me, and they relate to the manuscript.
In the playlist of my mind, they've helped move the story forward and make it more than it was before the music. Without these songs (and many more) I don't believe my novel would have followed the path that it took in the end.
The music paved the way.