What makes a story come alive, makes you forget where and when you are because you are in the story? I hope one day I know the answer. If there was only a magic formula, put the x here and the y there and hooray! You have written a best seller. And people think math is hard, they should try writing a novel. While there is no "magic formula" there are elements that every story should have, one of those is a well developed world.
I think non-fantasy writers would agree with me when I say that you have to develop normal worlds also. Basically, I do not think creating the world is limited to fantasy. However, fantasy authors are taking on a much bigger project by inventing their own world. I think in either case, music really helps.
It takes me FOREVER to start a new novel or even start coming up with anything but a basic idea for a novel or series because I spend FOREVER making the playlist for that world. There is no way to express how helpful a music playlist is for me. The music sets the tone of the world.
There are some bands in my iTunes that are always a "go to" when it comes to playlists because, 1. I'm in love with that band, 2. their lyrics frequently reflect ideas I desire to be in my stories, 3. they have some sort of other-worldly sound to them.
The bands I frequently use in my playlists are:
Anberlin- my sister said his voice sounds like a chime as the ring fades out, I could not describe this better. I always seem to find Anberlin on my playlists and "Inevitable" ends up on nearly every playlist. Why Anberlin find themselves on so many of my playlists is because of their varying tempos. It is quite difficult to find songs that sound like a fantasy world, are faster and suitable for fight scenes, and I actually like them.
Black Rebel Motorcycle Club- their sound is what I'm looking for, I prefer to write some sort of urban fantasy, it's urban enough and fantasy enough. Their sound varies greatly, "Killing the Light" has a very fantasy feel to it while "Fault Line" has a folkish sound. Their lyrics deal with everything: death, romance, rebellion, questioning rebellion, and has lyrics that refer to the supernatural. Perfect.
Josiah Leming- beautiful lyrics and voice, "Theysay" is a must for every novel with romance. His EP has an ethereal quality to it while some of his other songs remind me of Iron and Wine (just his voice and an instrument, no other influences), and others like Coldplay. It's fairly easy to find songs from him that work on my playlists. Also, Josiah's lyrics are very real, I feel like he is putting his soul into song lyrics. If my character and his soul ever feel the same way, then you have a song and character match made in Heaven.
McFly- This is a case of pure obsession. Most McFly songs sound nothing like the worlds I am trying to create. However, it's actually a lot easier than it would seem (especially to those who are familiar with the band). "It's All About You" is one of the simplest love songs and finds its way onto many playlists of mine. Their sound has changed over the years and much of their later stuff does not sound out of place on my playlists. Also, their lyrics are simple and are easy to relate to. It almost seems as if some bands try too hard to make their lyrics complicated and other bands lyrics are just too simple. McFly seems to have this just right. Also, they are my favorite band ever.
Muse- I think they may be the only band on every playlist. Muse, like Anberlin, has a sound that fits within my worlds but has songs you can write a fight scene too. Lyrics also play a large role in why I always chose them. If the story has romance, the possible end of the world, an uprising (guess which song applies here), or conspiracies, Muse works.
Am I the only one that does this? Also curious, if you do make extensive playlists to help set the tone of the world in which you are writing, what bands do you usually use?