Written by Sarah Yoon (Sneak Peek of FireStarters)

Looking for ways to hone your creativity this year? Give this writing prompt from our upcoming book, FireStarters, a try! FireStarters is all about inspiration, the differing creative types, and how to harness your particular creative energy to generate your best ideas. 

You might stick with your preferred vocalists, sometimes venturing to explore a recommended album or a Pandora suggestion. But if you don’t like country, why listen? The same goes for rap, indie, classical, etc. As a composer, Duncan Bohannon comments that if writers listened to his work and created “something that became completely opposite to the mood that I wanted to set…I would be interested to know how they came up with what [they] wrote.” Even when your reaction or interpretation differs from the artist’s intent, music of any genre can enrich your creative process if you listen thoughtfully. Each step out of your auditory comfort zone helps you discover a new facet of the art and more fodder for character creation.

1.  Look up the top 100 artists in an unexplored genre of music. Pick one artist and choose an album—how far you’re willing to go out of your comfort zone is up to you.

2.  Create a character around your impressions of the lyrics and vocals. Mull over the artist’s intent: what attitude is he or she trying to present? Why? Does he or she succeed?

3.  Listen to the instrumental layers. The relative complexity or simplicity of the soundscape gives nuance to any piece and adds to the character’s presence.

4.  Write a character profile, listing traits, goals, and even an imaginary bio. Each beat and each note is a hint at his or her personality, so listen well.

5.  Compare the character to others that you have created. How does he or she bring variety to the mix? Integrate elements that you wouldn’t usually include or reserve them for later stories.

When listening to music that you don’t particularly like, it’s easy to stereotype and ignore. Instead, listen closely and step into artists’ shoes. You’ll be surprised by how much they can show you about the world and round out characters that you create.