Sometimes I use music to help me focus my writing. Less so with creative writing, as I find it more distracting than not but often with the kind of writing where I work on autopilot (hello, Technical Writing).
That said, when I find myself having a hard time “getting into character” creatively, perhaps while writing a particularly difficult scene or maybe while try to key into a specific character’s personality and motivations, I turn to music. Namely, the music I think best represents the character.
Below are the songs I most often used when developing the characters in The Endless Whispers. Maybe while listening to them you’ll find yourself keying into the characters the way I did.
Dr. Susan Carter
This character was the last character that we developed but the first character the audience will know well, thanks to this web site. Unlike the other characters, I created her back story first then filled in her personality and motivations later.
The song You by Five Finger Death Punch was my go-to song for a good third of this project in general, and it served me especially well when working on Susan. This represents her at her final stage of development, at the apex of her story arc.
That said, the song Amazing Grace by the Cherokee National Children’s Choir best represents her at the start of it all before everything goes pear shaped.
Sam is a simple man with simple needs. He’s also world weary with a tough as steel inner core. Therefore, I knew all along that Turn the Page as covered by Metallica was his song.
The original version of the song by Bob Seger is Sam when he was slightly younger, of course.
Miranda is a complex character packed into a compact package, rather like a bundle of roman candles wrapped up nice and tight and neat and, oh yeah, someone lit the fuse deep down inside and nobody knows when it’ll go off and either brighten everyone’s day or set them all on fire.
Her song always was and is Bye Bye Beautiful by Nightwish.
Black fingerless gloves, the distant memories of a nicotine habit, and the steady thrum of raw horsepower propelling her forward, Karen’s song of choice is naturally the speediest of speed metal: Through the Fire and Flames by Dragonforce.
Early in development she started out hooked on Hard as Iron by Judas Priest.
From the beginning, I always knew what Lewis’s go-to song was: So What as covered by Metallica. He’s utterly infused with the punk in-sensibilities of this song. (Although this was performed originally by the Anti-Nowhere League, I prefer the Metallica version as I’m a metalhead at heart.)
In quieter moments, I turned to the song Stranger in a Strange Land by Spock’s Beard. (Progressive rock is actually more in sync with Lewis’s personality, but So What keys into his bitterness.)
So pure, so innocent, so driven. Above all else, Darlene believes in what’s right and she’s driven by her absolute faith in God. Writing her was particularly difficult for me at times as I’m a near-faithless agnostic. The director contributed significantly to her development, for which I’m grateful. He was able to lend a perspective that I was missing.
To get into Darlene’s head, there were a few songs I tried before settling in. One of the more prominent was Hallelujah by Jeff Buckley. It seemed a logical choice in the beginning…but after trying it on for size a few times, I couldn’t do it. It was too trite, too predictable, too not Darlene. That song always sounded sadder than I pictured Darlene being. Above all else I wanted to create a realistic character, not some bullshit Hollywood bible thumper stereotype.
Then it hit me: Darlene is a Randy Travis fan, and so her song became: Forever and Ever, Amen. This also fits nicely with her relationship with Noah.
The other song to which I often turned might be trite but I love it anyway: Down in the River to Pray by Alison Krauss.
Finally, a third song with a more upbeat tempo was Don’t Act by Rhonda Vincent.
Noah is a big man with a big personality. Getting into his head was fairly easy. I just played Ace of Spades by Motörhead.
The other song was a cover of a famous U2 song: ISHFWILF by Disturbed. While it’s fairly on the nose in terms of what it represents about the character, the soaring vocals and rapid, double-thumping bass drums really got me jacked to write him.
Later, I ended up dropping the U2 remake from my playlist and turned instead to: Lift Me Up by Five Finger Death Punch (featuring Rob Halford). Unlike the other FFDP song on this list, this one exemplifies Noah’s drive to survive. The “lift me up” chorus is a nice refrain for his relationship with Darlene.
Jackman is an extremely erudite personality, more erudite than I actually am in real life. As such, I required something similarly erudite for inspiration. Jackman is categorically not a metalhead, a punk, or a two-stepper.
Basically, I hit shuffle on the Les Misérables Original Broadway Cast Recording and that was that.
Well, that’s not entirely true.
Jackman’s guilty pleasure is Weed with Willie by Toby Keith but he’d be utterly mortified if anyone ever found out.
To me he’s the one everyone loves. He’s the nice guy. The guy who is great at sports. The goose that laid the golden egg. He’s turned into a great fighter, and a leader. It’s almost like he’s in his element and the only one that keeps a positive bent on things. There’s power and drive and lots of high energy in him that feels a little like the naivete of the 80s glam rock. Queen of the Nile by Dangerous Toys and I Get Off by Halestorm.
A housewife before all hell broke loose, Terri’s music is best represented by the type of music I imagine getting her going while the kids are at school and she’s got some time to herself, driving around in the car running errands with the stereo blasting.
The first song was a no-brainer: The Lazy Song by Bruno Mars. So was the second song, come to think of it. She was married with kids but it represents the side of her pining for her “glory days” in college. Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It) by Beyoncé.
Finally, for those times when Terri needed something with a little more “singing alone in the car while parked at a stoplight,” I played Party Rock Anthem by LMFAO.