Listening to Find Your Characters
I don’t generally attribute specific sources of inspiration to my writing, but occasionally, something grabs my attention and says, “Hey! You need me!”
That’s how I had a theme song for a novel before I even started writing.
Here’s what happened. I was just in the beginning stages of outlining a novel, when, on a long commute, I was listening to a Radio Lab podcast. The whole episode was devoted to Zoë Keating, who’s a great musician and cellist. At one point, she played a then-unnamed tune (later named Escape Artist, but I still have my own name for it) and I thought, holy bollocks … the entire tune just screamed my character’s name, as if it’d been written to reflect him. If the novel were turned into a movie, variations on this theme would blast out every single time this guy came on screen. Here it is:
It happened like this only one other time with a very different novel I have yet to write.
The lyrics in this Gaelic Storm song are great, and I love the story, but that’s not what got me. There was a timbre and a feel to it that helped solidify a different character. I heard this song and thought, this is the character, if things had gone differently for him.
You see, I’m pretty sure every single writer has been asked, “Where do you get your ideas?
And everybody words their answers differently, but it usually boils down to “everywhere.” The news gives you an interesting plot line. Overheard conversations at the ball game give you back story to a character. Someone’s weird body language in a bar makes you wonder what if?
Inspiration is everywhere once you open your eyes to it, and usually it’s so subtle that it just trickles in, one piece at a time, until it builds to a story. Only occasionally (for me, at least) does one thing in particular carry this much weight.
So, how about you? Anyone inspired by music? How do you flesh out your characters?