Writer of words. Builder of worlds.

How I Use Music As Inspiration (Story Included!)

I don’t like playing music while I am actually writing. I find that either it distracts me, or I effectively tune it out when I am working. So it doesn’t really add anything to the process. However, for me, music has proved a great source for story ideas.

I’ve always like to attach stories to songs and pieces. When I was learning to play the piano, I would attach stories to the most mundanely classical of pieces. (The king held a ball. Something sad happened. Then the king came back and people were happy again.) I’ve done this with pop songs as well, although in those cases the lyrics tend to inspire me, too. I especially like interpreting metaphorical lyrics literally. (One piece I wrote was inspired by Delta Goodrem describing love as an ‘Electric Storm,’ so my story basically was about people surviving an actual storm.)

My stories do tend to deviate from the songs in the end. Here is an example of a song that made its way into a story. An insight into my writing process, I guess.

So the piece was Beethoven’s Fur Elise. You will have heard it before, even if the title is not familiar. It’s one of those. It starts in A minor (a sad key), goes into a comforting F major, returns to A minor, goes into a stormy episode before repeating the A minor theme once more. So as Fur Elise can be translated into For Elise, I started wondering, who is Elise and why is Beethoven writing a piece for her? (I didn’t look it up – I still don’t know. I’d rather not, really.)

So I started making up a kind of story that would kind of fit the moods in the piece. Maybe they start off feeling nostalgic, and remember some wonderful childhood (that’s the F major) go back to feeling nostalgic, then remember the tragic event that cut off that period of innocence. (that’s the stormy e minor) and feel nostalgic again.

Anyway, I used that idea and it morphed into a bit of a strange story that might or might not have demons in it. Here it is, for your reading pleasure:

For Elise

This is for Elise. Elise, who had pale skin, dark hair, and eyes a beautiful shade of grey-green that I had never seen before or since. Elise, who was my first love.
I loved you the moment I first set eyes on you. You were so beautiful, so bonny and lithe, that I almost believed you were from another world. I used to be so scared that you would just disappear, so I did everything I could to woo you. I gave you flowers, jewels, time. My friends laughed at the way I lost my head over you, and after a while they stopped being my friends. I gave them up, all for you. I still remember those days we picnicked down by the river, when we waded in the shallow water, holding hands, splashing and laughing. Those were the happiest days of my life.
I wanted to grow old with you. I wanted you to grow old with me. But after we were married, you were beset by demons, or so you said. Demons that lied to you, demons that told you you weren’t beautiful, demons that told you I didn’t care for you. None of that was true, it was all lies, and I tried to make you see it. I tried everything to make you ignore the demons you heard, the demons that made you scream and thrash in your sleep, the demons that made you afraid of me, the demons that made you hate me. I did everything I could think of.
But none of it was enough. Then one night, you ran off into the night and the rain without me. Running away from the demons. I tried to follow you but I couldn’t find you. There were these cliffs near our house, and people said you must have gone over there, lost your way and slipped, falling down, down into the ocean. They never found your body.
Oh, Elise, I miss you so. And now I am a lonely old man in a house far too large for one, and I have a confession to make to you. I never believed in your demons. I didn’t think they were real. I thought they were just things you made up to explain the things you did and the things you said.
I know the truth now. I know because they came to me last night, the demons who tell such lies. They told me it was my fault you ran away, that I didn’t ever show my love for you, not properly. They told me I treated you bad, that when you ran that night you weren’t running from them, but from me. I knew they were lying and I tried not to hear them, but they kept on at me even when I blocked my ears. I had thought the pain of losing you had gone, had been healed, but it seems the pain had never went away. It had simply stayed buried in a dark part of my soul. Last night it came back.
This is for you, Elise. If there really are demons, then maybe you are still around in some form, and you will be able to read these words I write. I’m so sorry. I’m sorry for the things I did and the things I said. I’m sorry for not listening when you told me about the demons, about the whispers and the screams in your mind. I’m sorry I drove you away, drove you to your death. Did I do that?
This is for Elise, the girl I loved, who was plagued by demons. I hope she can find it in her heart to forgive me.


The Importance of Art


  1. Ben

    I do enjoy listening to some post rock when writing, I did a few “mood” pieces, writing based on the feeling I got from the music, but if you’re listening to post rock you often end up writing abstract nonsense.

    Then again, I mostly write abstract nonsense.

  2. Not sure if my comment got posted…

    What I said last time was that I have done this too – I called it aural prose. I enjoy listening to post rock when I’m writing, actually – it makes me focus, but I think it might be specific to the type of writing. When you try and write stories while listening to post rock you mostly end up with abstract nonsense.

    • sharonxwong

      I should mention that I moderate these comments manually, so you won’t be able to see them until I get a chance to check if it’s spam 🙂 Also there’s nothing wrong with abstract nonsense as long as it’s fun nonsense.

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