I like to dream in movie trailers. Do other people do that?
It’s something I’ve done since I was a kid, just staring out the window, a tune in my head, picturing video game characters starring in a massive budget movie that may or may not crossover with whatever franchise I was into at the moment. I’m slightly ashamed to say that the Mortal Kombat movie that hit theaters was not nearly as entertaining as the one in my head, but it did have a pretty entertaining soundtrack, at least to a fifteen-year-old.
Not much has changed, at least in this regard. I still like to daydream listening to music, building little movie trailers in my head, only this time, the trailers are based on my properties. Having a handful of tunes in mind while working on a book can be a wonderful source of inspiration. I can’t count how many times I’ve been trying to crack a scene when the answer just falls into my lap, delivered on a musical platter.
Sometimes, it seems too easy, a bit like cheating. All I have to do is find the right song, the right combo of lyrics and sound that makes the story just sort of bloom without hardly any effort at all. So, in the interest of sharing, here are a few of the tracks that played midwife to my debut novel, Still Dark. For bonus points, give them a listen in between reading breaks and see if you can find where they actually had an impact.
Came Back Haunted, Nine Inch Nails
I’m a fan of a wide, often embarrassing range of music. I won’t go into all the details, but you might not expect a horror writer to listen to so many video game soundtracks, but here we are. Nine Inch Nails might be as cliché as you can get for a horror writer, but dammit, I don’t get to pick and choose. It just sort of happens, that little click that gets its hooks in you, and before you know it, you’ve listened to the same song forty times in a row.
This track doesn’t exactly blaze any new ground, but any Still Dark fans should give it a listen, especially after finishing the book. Imagine it from the perspective of Apex, the central villain of the novel, and I think you’ll see what I mean.
Johnny Cash, Heart of Gold
If the last one was the ballad of Apex, this one is a solid fit for Walt, my favorite character in the book. He’s an adventurer who’s past his prime, a fella who’s seen a lot and lost even more. Out of everyone, he’s got a solid cause to be bitter, but he refuses to. He’s never really stopped looking for that heart of gold, even though he’s getting old.
I chose the Cash version just because you can really hear the gristle coming through, and Walt’s nothing if not gristly.
The Day I Tried To Live, Soundgarden
Look, I’ll be honest with you. I don’t even know half the lyrics to this song. Chris Cornell was a hell of a good screamer, and all that yelling just gave you a mood as opposed to a meaning. With this one in particular, it’s all about that repeated mantra…
“One more time around.”
Maybe it’s about how hard it is to be a rock star, or maybe it’s about drug use. I don’t really know, but for me it fits well with the novel, especially with Laura’s arc. Every time she thinks she’s done for, that she doesn’t have anything left, there’s one more time around.
When a thunderous explosion rocks an idyllic cabin resort in the Great Smoky Mountains, animals and humans alike begin to act strange. Jim, along with his wife Laura and son, Sam, are cut off from the outside world, but they soon realize the true nightmare is just beginning…
Deep in the snow-covered woods, something is waiting. The creature calls itself Apex, and it’s a traveler. Reading the minds of those around it, Apex brings the terrifying fears hidden in the human psyche to life with a singular purpose: to kill any that stand in its way.
Locked in a fight for their lives, Jim and his family must uncover the truth behind Apex, and stop the creature from wreaking a horrifying fate upon the rest of the world!