In novels like “High Fidelity” (Nick Hornby) and “Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist” (Rachel Cohn and David Levithan), music is central to the story. But even if your novel doesn’t focus on music, you can use it to establish the mood of a scene or strengthen your depiction of a character.
Song Lyrics vs. Song Titles
Before we go any further, you should know that you can’t quote song lyrics without permission. You can, however, mention song titles. Song lyrics are copyrighted but not song titles.
In my debut romance book, “In His Corner,” (published under my pen name, Vina Arno) I used music to help describe my characters or set the mood. I mentioned the song titles but never quoted the lyrics. The book is about an Olympic gold-medalist boxer, Tommy “the Juggernaut” Raines, who goes to the ER to get stitched up and falls in love with the beautiful doctor, Siena Carr, who treats him.
She was born into money, while he comes from a blue-collar family. She’s dedicated to healing patients; he excels at knocking out his opponents. They are opposites. Throughout the story, they take turns resisting and chasing each other. Music helps describe their tension-filled romance.
“In His Corner” Playlist
Here are the songs featured in the book in chronological order and how they helped in the storytelling.
#1 “Get Lucky” by Daft Punk, featuring Pharell Williams
It’s summer 2013 in San Francisco. On their first date, the Juggernaut takes Siena to a rooftop bar, which also has a dance club. The book says “Daft Punk was blasting” when they arrive. Although not specified, I was thinking of “Get Lucky” for this scene because that’s what Tommy is hoping for.
#2 “Clarity” by Zedd
The Juggernaut asks Siena to dance with him at the club, while Zedd’s electronic music is blaring. “Clarity,” a sexy dance music, is perfect for setting the romantic mood in this scene.
#3 “We Will Rock You” by Queen
This is the Juggernaut’s favorite workout song. The book mentions it twice. The song is playing while he’s at home skipping rope and as he enters a massive arena during a million-dollar fight—his first as a pro—in Las Vegas. Listen to how this song literally rocks with the clapping and stomping, signifying the Juggernaut’s physical prowess.
#4 “I’ve Got it Bad” by Nina Simone
Siena loves classical music, while Tommy likes hip-hop and rock. The disparity in their tastes and backgrounds makes Siena feel insecure about their relationship. She listens to Nina Simone’s “I’ve Got it Bad,” a heart-wrenching song, while mulling over their future together. This song demonstrates the vulnerability of the romantic heroine.
#5 Verdi’s Prelude to Act One of “La Traviata”
Siena, who was named by her parents after a city in Tuscany, loves all things Italian. In one scene, she and Tommy listen to the prelude to Act One of the Italian opera, "La Traviata," by Giuseppe Verdi. This song is a reflection of Siena’s socio-economic background and her cultured upbringing.
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Listen to the “In His Corner” playlist on Spotify. Registration is free, though you have the option to pay for premium service. If you can’t access the icons above, you can also click here to listen to my book’s playlist.
“In His Corner” (contemporary romance) by Vina Arno, published by Lyrical Press, is available at:
Giveaway for U.S. and Canada only, from April 14-28, 2015
One grand prize:
- $50 Amazon gift card
- Electronic copy of In His Corner
- Siena keepsake box with the image of Siena, Italy, in honor of the book’s heroine, Siena Carr, who was named after the Italian city
- Italian cookies and chocolates