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Music Your Characters Can Dance To: Creating a Playlist by Nancy Gideon

Content, content, content.  Publishers and agents want to see it.  Websites, blogs and social media venues demand it. Readers crave something that catches their eye, something that gives them an intimate link to the book they’re reading – your book. Everyone wants more, and they want to be dazzled by that ‘more.’ Having done the bookmarks, the trading cards, the excerpt booklets, the blogging, the book trailers, I discovered a content extra I really love, mainly because it was something I already DID!  Playlists.

I’ve always depended on music to get me in the ‘mood’ for a WIP and its characters.  Whether it’s rock, rap, country, show tunes, techno, classical or opera, I’d load up my iPod and my car with CDs to pump out that soundtrack for my plotting.  So taking it a step further to share that musical insight with my readers seemed a natural progression to get them up close and personal with my story.

How do you pick tunes for that list? First, decide on what you want the Playlist to represent.  Here are the things I look at when doing my song selections:


Time and place comes with its own sound.  The Highland Hills, a Regency cotillion, the new age artificiality of space, haunting Native American drums, Memphis blues, seafarer’s whistles.  With my “By Moonlight” series set in New Orleans, even that gave me lots of choices from the accordions and Cajun twang of the Bayou to the raucous, stripper pole thumping of Bourbon Street, the wails of the sax outside Café du Monde to the sultry jazz crooning out of the open doorways in the Quarter. Each had a different nuance and each set an unmistakable tone.


A moody, eerie paranormal?  Edgy, gritty suspense? Heart-tuggingly sweet contemporary? Spirit lifting inspirational?  Sexy and provocative erotica? Light and sassy chick lit? Synthetic techno for urban fantasy? Or angsty pop for young adult?

Character personality

Whether you’re showcasing the hero or the heroine or both, each will have their own stamp on the music.  Is she a pickup driving cowgirl blasting Tim McGraw on the radio?  Is he a leather-clad, Harley-riding George Thorogood & the Destroyers kinda guy? Where do they hang out – in nightclubs or Broadway theatres? What do they like to do – see Shakespeare in the Park or watch MMA at the MGM Grand in Vegas? Do they pack a picnic at the lake or pack a punch at the gym? Are they angry and aggressive or passive and lost?  Does he restore vintage cars to the sound of classic rock or push it to the limit to the thrash of misogynistic metal?  What they listen to can also express parts of their personality that they hide –  a thug who has Pavarotti or Michael Bolton on his iPod, a cut-throat CEO who listens to tranquil meditation chanting on tape, a waitress with a secret background of abuse who cues up Christina Aguilera and Kelly Clarkson female empowerment anthems.

Relationship between Hero and Heroine

He done her wrong song or she got the goldmine, he got the shaft?  Nothing says it like a torchy heartbreaker.  Is theirs a new love, a bad romance, a rebound, a lost and found or will that love go on, and on, and on?  From George Jones to Lady Gaga, they’ve got it covered.  The playlist can also reflect the growth of a relationship from rocky road to eventual wedding bells.

Scene from the book

I like to put readers into the scene by touching on the ability of music to create a feeling.  What’s playing when they take their first turn on the dance floor?  A bluesy Ben Harper’s “By My Side,” Seether’s “Broken” or AC/DC’s  humpin’ and a bumpin’ “Shot of Love”?  What’s playing on the radio the first time they make love or when they think of each other? Just be careful of copyright issues if you’re quoting lyrics!

Author’s identification to character/story

Readers love the view from our desktop. What puts you, as the writer, in the mood to write a particular scene?  Barry White in the bedroom? Norah Jones in the moonlight? Five Finger Death Punch for that macho posturing? We all have songs that instantly remind us of certain things in our past – that dance at the prom, that summer on the beach, the misery of that first break up, the dance at your wedding. You hear it and all those emotions come rushing back.  That’s the power of audio suggestion. The hero in my recent paranormal release, PRINCE OF SHADOWS is a rowdy, tattooed, rock and roller with an affinity for angry metal.  Imagine my son’s delight when I asked to borrow his Rammstein and Chrome Division.  Imagine the surprised looks from drivers in the other lane when they heard those tunes pounding from my open window on the way to work!

Pick and choose from the suggestions above to build a soundtrack that gives personality to your WIP or new release. Whether songs reflect the couple’s emotional growth during the course of the book or set the pace of the plotline, make it a hook the reader can’t resist.  And make sure it has an explicit language warning if necessary in case they’re listening to it at the office!

Don’t have a huge collection of old albums, CDs or an iPod with a memory larger than your first computer?  Not sure where to look for just the right song to fit the situation?  Try Pandora or iTunes. Key in the type of music you’re looking for and they’ll do the leg work.  Ask a friend or the son or daughter of a friend what they’d recommend.  The attorneys in my office are the motherload of eclectic music from Trombone Shorty to Marc Broussard and love to share. Then there’s always Glee or the CW channel.

I’m the least tech person you’ll ever find, and the last one to ask about putting all those songs into a playlist format.  Fortunately, I have a very clever virtual assistant in My Girl Friday who puts them together for me. So I went to the source and asked her for advice.

“I’ve used two different playlist platforms: tubesnack and Tubesnack offers a compilation of YouTube videos for the playlist, but the ‘owner’ of the individual music video can block its use,” Florence Price warns. “Technically, it works well, both in playing the video and also in image clarity. And you can use tubesnack for Book Trailer playlists too.” Check out examples on her Rebel Yell Media Management site. She uses the “carousel” template but there are other styles to choose from. Tubesnack is a free account with an upgrade option. “Once you’ve finished the playlist, select ‘Embed’ and copy and paste the code,” she tells me. “Updating is as easy as ‘edit’. offers songs with no video that you build then embed on your page or post, or you can share. The downside is the amount of advertising on the site. The playlists are stored within your account until you delete them. You can’t upload music to either platform, so you’re limited to what’s available through them, but there are platforms that allow you to upload audio files.”

Where does she get the music? “I only use Amazon to download my music,” says my VA. “Their MP3 downloader software will automatically save to your Media Player or iTunes after your purchase. Prices range from $0.89 to $1.29. If you don’t want to embed your playlist on your page or post, you can host your playlist on either site and link to them.”  When she started to explain the process of placing HTML code before and after the playlist embedding code on WordPress, I went into a tech coma, but was cheered by the fact that Blogger lets you copy and paste the embedded code after selecting “HTML” to the right of “Compose” in the upper left corner of your post.  I’m breathing into a paper bag, but I think I could handle that . . . or find a neighbor kid who can whip through it without any problem.

Whether it’s the lyrics, the beat, the sound or the connection, the right tune is out there that will bring your characters, scenes and story that richer dimension.

Here’s a sample of what I came up with for my hero in PRINCE OF SHADOWS. Enjoy!


Nancy Gideonis the author of over 54 novels ranging from historicals and series contemporary suspense to paranormal, with even a couple of horror screenplays thrown into the mix.  When not at the keyboard, she works full time as a legal assistant and feeds a Netflix habit along with a love of all things fur, fin and fowl.  To find out more about Nancy and her titles, visit her website or blog where she’ll be talking about the playlists for her latest release, PRINCE OF SHADOWS,  the 8th book in her “By Moonlight” dark paranormal shape-shifter series with Pocket.



Others Controlled Her Fate

A gentle female held hostage in a deadly play for power, Kendra Terriot’s only means of survival for herself and her family is to play to a careful courtship game. The one she chooses from her clan’s dangerous heirs will inherit the coveted crown, keeping her their prisoner forever . . . unless she can retain her virtue until rescue arrives.

The Past Destroyed His Dreams

Favored son of their brutal Shifter leader, the only calm in Cale Terriot’s violent world is a childhood love for his delicate distant cousin whom he’s pledged to make his queen. With Kendra at his side, he knows he can become the kind of ruler his clan needs, but first he must learn how to become the kind of mate she desires.

A Choice Would Determine Their Future

In a treacherous race for control, where weakness means death, Cale must prove he’s not the beast his beauty fears and still protect her, especially once her unrequited love returns to free her. The only way to win her respect could mean surrendering his throne. The only way to win her heart could mean letting her go . . . even if she no longer wants to be saved.

Read an excerpt or buy a copy at Amazon.

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