Thursday, May 3, 2012

GUEST BLOG: Rayne Hall on Music For Writing Fight Scenes

Whatever music you play in the background affects your writing. It helps if it's instrumental, because lyrics can be distracting. Try to  find tunes which suit the mood, culture, period or setting of your story.

Ideally, the music you play in the background should have medium or fast tempo. The tempo of the music will affect your heart rate as well as your subconscious. Fast, bouncy music leads to fast-paced scenes, while ambient relaxation music can give your scene the pace of a slug.

Consider burning a CD or creating a playlist for every WiP, or better still, for every scene. 

Is Harry Hero about lead his loyal henchmen into battle against the Forces of Evil? Will Helga Heroine defend her virtue against Vicious Vince? 

Put on fast music, and the fight will practically write itself.

Here are some of the tunes I play while writing fight scenes. At YouTube, you can listen to them for free. Just don't be tempted to watch the clips when you should be writing. 

* Sabre Dance by Aram Khachaturian. Very fast, exciting, perfect for sword or dagger fights.
* The final of the overture to the opera William Tell (aka Wilhelm Tell aka Guillaume Tell) by Giaochino Rossini. Very fast, great for cavalry charges.
* Ceddin Denden, a traditional Turkish military song. Medium tempo, good for historical fiction.
* Walkürenritt aka Rideof the Valkyries by Richard Wagner. Dramatic and intense, good for final showdown fights at the climax of the novel.
* Unstoppable by E.S. Posthumus. Dramatic, good for realistic, gritty, violent scenes.
* Kafkas Lezginka (aka Kavkas Lezginka), a traditional tune from the Caucasus, used for ultra-masculine folk dance performances. Good for dagger and fencing fights.
* 40 Göktürklü. Soundtrack from a Turkish historical movie. Good pace, steady bouncy rhythm, some singing.
* Seyh Samil aka Sheik Shamil aka Seyx Schamil and various other spellings. A famous folk song from the Caucasus and the Middle East, celebrating the heroism of a historical resistance leader. This is an instrumental version with a steady rhythm. 

You can also listen to military marches, which generally have a steady medium-to-fast rhythm. However, their exuberant mood is designed to make soldiers happy about going to war and does not reflect the brutal reality of battles.

Movie soundtracks, especially from fight scenes, are often dramatic and intense. Although they lack the steady rhythm most authors need for writing, they're great for plotting and sure to get you into the mood. 

Put on music – apply fingers to keyboard – write!

Rayne Hall  is the author of thirty books in different genres and under different pen names, published by twelve publishers in six countries, translated into several languages.She teaches online craft classes for advanced and professional writers (Writing Fight Scenes, Writing Scary Scenes, Writing about Magic, The Low-Word Diet and more).

Recent releases under the Rayne Hall pen name:
“Storm Dancer” (dark-heroic fantasy novel)
“Writing Fight Scenes” (Practical step-by-step instructions how to make your fictional fights realistic and exciting.)
Recent multi-author anthologies edited by Rayne Hall:
“Haunted: Ten Tales of Ghosts”


The first painting is by Francesc Sanz i Cabot: The General Juan Prim y Prats at the Battle of Tetuan, which occurred on 4 February 1860. The second is by Francisco de Goya, La rina c. 1819, both in public domain.


  1. I tend to listen to soundtracks from films when I write. Armegeddon, Stargate, Avatar, Batman Begins, Pirated of the Caribbean, Hunger Games, Star Trek, Inception, and others are staples for me. Which one depends on my mood and ALSO the mood of the book.

    I do tend to avoid songs though; I find that listening to words distracts me while I am writing. The exception being songs in other languages; because I don't know the language, Gaelic vocals for example come across as just more music.

  2. Kevin -- me, too. My current faves are Last of the Mohicans, the 2005 Pride and Prejudice, Fateless (I adore Ennio Morricone's film scores for writing), Remains of the Day, Master and Commander, and LotR (although as I'm playing some of those on piano, they can be a bit distracting as my fingers want to play notes, not letters).

    I'm also with you on lyrics. Generally, they don't work, and when they do, I can't understand the words.

  3. That's an interesting point, Kevin. Lyrics in other languages are less distracting because we don't understand what those guys are singing about.
    Do you find soundtracks work during the actual writing process? I find the varying tempo can be distracting. Though I love soundtracks for plotting - their intense emotional content and mood is inspiring.

  4. LOL This is so funny, Deborah. I imagine sitting down at the computer keyboard to write a story, and my fingers starting to play the tune instead of typing. Fortunately, I don't play the piano. (Fortunate for my writing, that is.)

  5. I find the easiest soundtracks to use are the ones which retain a consistent tone throughout, yes. The more consistent, the better! Inception is good for this. So is Battle: LA, and oddly, the soundtrack from the "Transformers Prime" TV cartoon (which I would *never* have found except it was by the same composer who did Battle: LA).

    But yes, some soundtracks I don't use in their entirety because they're too variable in tone. I did yank a *great* playlist from the soundtrack for the new fifth season of Doctor Who, for instance - just grabbed the 20 tracks with the tone I wanted out of the 60-something tracks in the album.

  6. Sometimes I just listen to my all time favorites. I know the songs so well that I don't listen to the lyrics at all.

  7. Soundtracks are the best. I like: Sky Captain, Pirates of the Caribbean, Wing Commander, Sinbad Legend of the Seven Seas, Krull...and John Debney's Cutthroat Island, which I think is the greatest pirate score ever written.

  8. For me, it depends on the fight. If the main characters are cracking skulls and taking names, I'll usually go punk music (Marked Men, Ex Humans, Hex Dispensers)--if they're getting their tails kicked, it'll be grungier stuff but probably still technically punk (Mystery Girls, The Men). Usually I'll get a little into the scene before I settle on the music that needs to accompany my writing.

  9. I am so impressed by the diversity of musical tastes here. I love classical music (actually, Romantic) and "narrative music" (like Rimski-Korsakov's "Sheherazade") so movie scores work really well for me, too. There may be some generational differences here, but what we have in common are connectors music-to-creative juices!

  10. Hi April,
    This is an interesting point. If we're very familiar with the lyrics, maybe we don't notice them any more I'm not sure if that works for me, though. If I know the lyrics, I sometimes sing along with them without noticing... and this distracts awfully from what I'm trying to write.

  11. Hi Doug,
    I see a theme in your choice of soundtracks. Do you use this music specifically for pirate yarns, or also when you write something else?

  12. Hi Sam,
    Punk music? That's an interesting choice. I've never tried that. Maybe I should. :-)

  13. Hi Deborah,
    I also like classical (and romantic) music for writing - especially ouvertures. Give me a Rossini or Wagner ouverture, and my imagination thrives. Although the varying tempo of ouvertures isn't ideal.
    If I had facilities for editing, I'd use just the best bits (most suitable for writing) from the ouvertures and put them on a continuing loop.

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  15. I find it impossible to listen to music and write at the same time. The music rhythm and the writing rhythm always clash. Where I write is up a short flight of stairs from the kitchen and I leave the radio turned on very low. I can't hear what's going on in any detail, but I can hear the sounds.

  16. Ah, that's interesting, Jonathan. You're the first person I've met who can't write to music at all. I understand about music being distracting - I find it distracting if the tempo is uneven or if the lyrics are strong - but it seems you're more sensitive to it than I am.
    It's remarkable that you still like some music in the background.Is it a kind of "white noise" to block out other, even more distracting, sounds?

  17. Not so much white noise as an addition to other sounds. I can hear the wind and I can hear seagulls, but these sounds aren't constant, and because volume varies on different tracks on the radio, it fits in with the others. I like to have the radio on but I don't like to hear it. Of course I might be insane!

  18. Hi Jonathan! Your comments about listening to the radio remind me of how different we all are. I find radio, even turned down low, incredibly irritating and distracting. TV, ditto. Yet the sound is soothing or refreshing or centering or enriching to other people.

    I think that's one reason conversations like this are so valuable. They allow us to learn from one another and to appreciate our differences ... and to find new ideas to try out for ourselves.

    I do listen to noncommercial radio and audiobooks when I drive, however.