Writer’s Music: Mychael Danna II


As I wrote in February, Danna’s music has helped me a great deal as a writer. While The Sweet Hereafter creates an unsettling atmosphere, Breach provides an air of mystery no plot should live without.

Say what you will about writing for a specific genre: if you want a page-turner, you’ve got to have a puzzle of some sort to be solved. Characters must work out causes of events, sources of conflict with others, and their own inner flaws. These puzzles can’t just sit on the table half-finished until the last ten minutes; someone’s always got to be working on them or the reader’s going to leave, bored, and never return.

Danna’s Breach utilizes an extensive string section, keyboard, and a few brass and woodwind instruments to build upon each other with musical rhythms. As “A Full Day” begins with the keyboard, I can watch my characters start with little, and slowly begin to piece the different elements of their mystery together, just as Danna brings in layers of short rhythmic melodies, each played by different instruments. By the time the keyboard pulls together its melodies over the crescendo of strings, my characters have uncovered a clue vital to uncovering the kidnapper and where he’s hidden the protagonist.

One other note on Danna: the timing of his music. While I may start a track over and over during the writing process, I expect my story to read in time with the music. If my scene lags—and it does, shamefully often—I know it must be tightened. Writers constantly hear they must “keep up the pace,” but apart from using a metronome, how does one pull it off? In moments where mystery dominates the plot, use Breach’s rhythms to drive your characters onward.

Selection: “A Full Day”

Click here for more on Mychael Danna’s BREACH and other albums.