Hi gang, Craig with you again. I’ve been toying with something I think you’ll be interested in. First you get some background.
When I started writing I used to play classical music in the background. I can’t handle anything with vocals or I won’t focus on the task at hand. This worked well for about a year, until my wife started having the same days off I did.
When you get up at 4:00 to write, your wife won’t appreciate your classical music while she’s trying to sleep. I started writing in total silence.
Time marched on, and we wound up with different shifts again. I made a playlist of theatrical music and that helped. (Still no vocals.)
This year we got one of those silly Alexa devices for Christmas. After about a day of trying to stump her with obscure blues music, the new wore off. Then, I was writing one day and asked Alexa to play the sound of a thunderstorm. (We’re starting to get to the point, I promise.)
The popular term is ambient noise, and it really helped. One thing I have to watch for is white room syndrome when I write. Alexa has hundreds of ambient sounds to pick from. Listening to city sounds was amazing. It reminded me there are traffic sounds, and jet aircraft to help flesh out my scenes. Marshes and swamps have frogs and insects, even a bit of wind.
About this time, I mentioned this in our top secret Story Empire cave. Staci Troilo told me about Ambient Mixer. This is a site where people make their own ambient collections and share them with everyone else. You can listen and search for all kinds of things. The Slytherin Common Room is pretty cool. If you sign up for free, you can make your own tracks. I’ve done this and the results are great. I have some for some future books, but also have a track called Serang that I really like. (It has wind, birds, a bamboo flute, and martial arts sounds.) Unfortunately, I have to dedicate some screen space to make it work while I write. Like this:
Ambient Mixer has some limitations, but is a ton of fun to use. You get about eight options, so if you’re writing for a while it starts to repeat.
I also really like YouTube. I’m not going to give you a tutorial, because you just go there and search. It has a ton of things, and most of them last about ten hours. There are quite a few without advertisements, which I prefer. The downside is figuring out how to write and play something at the same time.
Might not be an issue for you, but I found that playing YouTube on my phone, while broadcasting to a Bluetooth speaker works pretty well. This preserves my big iPad for the writing part of this adventure.
YouTube mixes sometimes include a bit of theatrical music which I enjoy. I’ve been working with a lot of pirate themes in my current WIP. Creaking ropes, cannon, sloshing waves, shouting, all serve to remind me to add some of this detail to the smoke and smell of black powder.
This is still a work in progress for me. I find I want a different ambience when I change scenes. Gathering a few links for the day seems to be a good idea. (At least in my case.) I can visit Serang out in the wilderness on her quest, then switch to James aboard Lanternfish. The sounds remind me to include a bit more environmental data in my descriptions.
You might want to check some of this out. Ambient sounds have come a long way since they used to call it white noise. There are any number of spaceports, haunted graveyards, or casinos for you to take advantage of.
It looks like many of these were made for gamers. If your dungeon campaign needs a drippy catacombs an ambiance exists for it. That same track can really help with writing, too.
Even in my Hat series, there are times I need a spooky forest, a diner, or even a busy street, and someone has created something to help.
Let me hear from you. Do you think you’d ever use something like this? Does anyone else suffer from white room syndrome? I appreciate the reminder that crickets are calling at night, or that insects exist everywhere.