Worldbuilding: How To Use Music in Your Worldbuilding

Worldbuilding Music Header

Some days it’s far too easy to feel like this –


When that happens music is a very handy – and easily accessible – tool to get the creative juices flowing again or to set the right atmosphere for the scene you are busy with. I find that sometimes “writer’s block” can simply be that you need to get into the right headspace to write the next scene, especially if it is an especially difficult or emotional scene. I also have specific music I listen to depending on the type of work I’m busy doing (I basically always listen to some kind of music while working – or podcasts while I’m doing filing).

While browsing around in a music store is a lot of fun when you’re looking for new music, there is also so much music available on YouTube, that it’s very easy to sample music in that way before buying it. Some of the best music I write to is also only available on something like iTunes here in SA (especially the indie music), so I’ll leave the music store for buying other music.

How do I find the music?

When you’re looking for some music to play while writing fantasy, sci-fi or even horror, the best way to find a playlist or an artist is to search for “epic music” or “fantasy music”. This will lead you to artists like BrunuhVille, Adrian von Ziegler, Two Steps From Hell, Gothic Storm, and Audiomachine. The music is really epic and cinematic in scope. I also find that using their music leaves it open to a lot more interpretation than soundtracks do sometimes.

Painting a picture through world music

If you’re writing a story taking place in a real world culture (or one closely based on a real-world culture), you can also look for music from that culture or country to help you get a feel for the place and the people. The main thing, I have found, is that you need to set the mood for the piece you are about to write. In that way you can also build a whole soundtrack for the story you are writing. The internet has also made it easier than ever to find music from different parts of the world to use in your writing.

Using music and lyrics as an inspiration for a new story

When you’re really stuck listening to music (with or without lyrics) which you are unfamiliar with can be a wonderful way to get inspiration for a new story. I love writing flash fiction in-between working on my longer fiction to recharge my batteries and help me to come back to the longer piece with new eyes, so to speak. (Very handy when editing.)

Die Heuwels Fantasties song Verwag my terug is a prime example of a song that directly influenced a story called “Shells” which I wrote after the first line sparked a link with the prompt we had been given for the week in a flash fiction competition. (The song starts with the line “I remember that I just wanted to hold your hand”.) The story and the song have nothing else in common, though. Using song lyrics to influence your writing, therefore, does not mean writing the song in prose form, but rather using it to let your imagination take flight. When you are stuck this can also be a great way to become unstuck.

I really enjoy listening to new music by my favourite musicians and find that they can also give me new inspiration or add to a piece of a story I am already writing. For instance, here is a new composition by BrunuhVille – isn’t it beautiful?

My own (growing) worldbuilding playlist

I’ve started compiling some of my favourite writing music into a playlist on YouTube, so if you’d like to have a listen, just follow this YouTube playlist link. The music is especially good for writing fantasy, I think 🙂

Do you listen to music while you write? What music do you enjoy using for worldbuilding or listening to while you write?

By Carin Marais

Bibliophile, writer of speculative fiction, non-fiction, and maybe-fiction, language practitioner, doer of stuff.


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