Shutting the Door

In his book ‘On Writing – A Memoir of the Craft‘ horror writer Stephen King gives an account of his early years and his inexplicable urge to be a story teller. He also offers practical advice to writers, whether they be beginners or seasoned wordsmiths. This includes his own recommendations on how to eliminate distractions.

For any writer, but the beginning writer in particular, it’s wise to eliminate every possible distraction. If you continue to write, you will begin to filter out these distractions naturally, but at the start it’s best to try and take care of them before you write.

This is sound advice. I know that when I sit to write I’m apt to be easily distracted by any minor sound. In his book, King goes on to explain how he ‘takes care’ of these distractions prior to writing.

I work to loud music – hard rock stuff like AC/DC, Guns ‘n Roses, and Metallica have always been particular favorites – but for me the music is just another way of shutting the door.

I generally take Stephen King’s anecdotal offerings with a liberal helping of salt. But this one strikes me as being highly feasible. Could the contents of his imagination be dragged screaming from his mind and hammered onto the page by heavy metal’s cacophony and caterwauling? Possibly. Probably.

Like King, I also play music while writing as a means of ‘shutting the door’. However, I find song lyrics to be just one more undesirable distraction. My own choice is therefore the instrumental variety.

More specifically, I’ve favoured film scores, especially those by Hans Zimmer. I regularly play the soundtracks to Gladiator, Sherlock Holmes and others as a means of isolating myself from the world and so allowing me to write free from diversions.

While writing The Door to Caellfyon there was one particular score that tended to be my ‘go to’ piece when faced with producing an action scene. This was not one of Hans Zimmer’s but was written by Randy Edelman. The piece is called ‘Promontory‘ and is the main theme score to the film ‘The Last of the Mohicans‘ – one of my favourite movies of all time.

To hear the recording click the image.

It is unsurprising that the rousing, relentless beat of this theme should so inspire me when faced with the need to capture an action or fight scene. I’m clearly not alone in my view, for it seems that the piece is also a favourite among combat troops. In his blog post titled ‘The Ten Best Pre-Mission Songs for Combat Operations‘ Pablo James writes:

From the dawn of warfare, music has played a role in the lives of the soldier. From the days of Civil War troops playing harmonicas and singing folk songs to the soldiers of the 80s selecting a precious handful of cassette tapes for their Sony Walkman until today when young troops can put hundreds of their favorite songs on their smartphone, music has always accompanied American warfighters into the fog of war.

Of the ten songs on James’ list, Promontory is the only instrumental piece. So, what makes this music a favourite among troops preparing for battle? Pablo James gives his view:

It’s relaxing, motivating, spiritual, and aggressive at the same time. It’s also a great song to listen to when you get together with your buddies, pour a few rounds of Guinness, and reminisce about your fallen comrades.

Pablo James – The Ten Best Pre-Mission Songs for Combat Operations

‘Relaxing, motivating, spiritual and aggressive’ – this makes it the perfect mix for any writer tasked with creating fictional conflict. It certainly worked for me.

Chapter Six of The Door to Caellfyon, is now available on this site. To view, access the appropriate menu tab or, for a downloadable PDF file, click here.

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