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Gut Feeling: The Tone of a Novel

A mix of mainly contemporary indie tracks and dance hits that seek to capture the tone of and offer hints about my supernatural historical fiction novel set in 1840s New York.

By Jaime A. Vander Velde

August 05, 2022

I grew up in a house full of music—music from various times, genres, and artists. For all of life’s permutations music has remained a constant. It has been a protective shield during adolescence, a vehicle for fun, and a medicine of sorts. In college, I was a DJ, hosting my own weekly show for the campus radio station and deejaying events.

When I write, my mind creates movie scenes and naturally, a soundtrack emerges with it. Am I the only one who creates a whole music video in their mind when listening to a song? I hope not! Instead of the music of the time period of my novel, New York in the 1840s, my Writers Playlist reflects the tone of my writing. The novel focuses on an infamous murder that took place in the extended branches of my family tree, so much of the playlist reflects the pain, darkness, and foreboding that are central to the actual historical figures and their fictional counterparts in the novel.

The titles and lyrics of the songs in the playlist also offer some clues about the plot and theme of the novel. For example, the murders took place on Christmas, so Bing Crosby’s “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” seemed especially appropriate for the victims, especially the lyric, “but only in my dreams.” I also used Bastille’s “Bad Blood” to reflect the circumstances in the family that are suspected to have led to the grizzly murders. Take a listen and imagine the music video!

Jaime Vander Velde is currently working on a novel in book inc’s Novel Incubator program. She is a teacher, amateur genealogist, and writer. Jaime lives in the wilds of suburban Monmouth County, NJ.