How music inspires story

sn-sixteen-candles-284-1Opening credits of Sixteen Candles, the classic 80s John Hughes film, appeared on the flat-screen TV at a Chinese food restaurant one evening while my husband and I ordered orange chicken and chow mein.

I couldn’t help it. I totally ignored my husband—but not my food—as Samantha, played by Molly Ringwald, stomps through the house the morning of her 16th birthday, waiting for someone, anyone, to wish her a happy birthday. But her beautiful older sister is about to get married and her grandparents are due to arrive at any moment. Samantha is the last person on anyone’s mind.

Throughout the movie, AMC Story Notes for Sixteen Candles appeared periodically at the bottom of the screen. During the high school dance scene, this note popped up:

“John Hughes often came up with soundtracks for his movies before he wrote the script.”


This little gem of inspiration came after discovering a story soundtrack created by writer Dani Pettrey (a “Featured Author” on ACFW’s home page).

Dani Pettrey websitePettrey has a super fun “Fun” page on her website containing bonus materials for her books, including a video interview, character dossiers, story soundtrack, a link to a Pinterest board for one of her books, and a snow report. I was so impressed with her creative presentation that I bought her book, Submerged, via my Nook. (The first chapter is awesome so far.)

I’m working on my second novel, an adventure romance about Carrie, a jaded young woman stuck on a sailboat with an arrogant, unavailable man during a trans-Pacific crossing. Also on the crew is the captain, Carrie’s brother-in-law, and the first-mate, her sister. Inspiration for the novel was drawn from the greatest adventure I’ve ever had—crossing the Pacific in a 42-foot sailboat with four family members.

To take a break from research and planning, I spent an evening creating a preliminary playlist for my novel. What a blast! I often listen to the playlist during my commute—plotting, scheming, and thinking about my characters.

Here’s the playlist for Hope is an Ocean:

If you’ve created a playlist for your novel, did you do so before or after your wrote the book? How did it help your creative process?