Points of Light: Music

Last week, I discussed how a video game gave me inspiration for the worlds and diverseness of Lightrider. And since I’ve already discussed TV and literature, I’d like to discuss another aspect that helped in a particular area of the book’s development- my love of music. Obviously, this didn’t mean I was now writing about rock stars, but as Zelda helped me to create a diverse, rich world, music helped me to create real people to populate it.

Points of Light: Music

What I Learned: Personality

While Zelda was influential in the construction of the physical world and different types of characters, music was influential in shaping the personalities of my characters, and showing how to chart their progression. When I was developing the Knights, I was either starting completely from scratch, or I had one central aspect. This meant a lot work was needed to really make these characters three dimensional, and I couldn’t just imitate people from books or film. I needed new inspiration, and I found it in my stereo. I am a major fan of various music (punk, rock, Celtic folk, reggae, just to name a few) and as any music fan will tell you, the best music has force, meaning, and most of all, a distinct personality behind it. After all, it’s easy to tell Marilyn Manson from One Direction. And because of that, many aspects of the characters came into the fold by listening to different bands. For example, Windrider’s personality came into being by listening to the Bouncing Souls. The BS’s are a pop-punk band that perform technically simply music, but infuse it with positive and often life-affirming lyrics (check out songs like ‘Gone,’ ‘Kids and Heroes,’ and ‘Baptized’). As such, listening to them made realize how Windrider needed to be presented- on the surface, his knowledge of comics and fantasy seems immature and lighthearted, but once you dig beyond, you can see how his method of thinking is vital to the Knights, who are now dealing with those kinds of situations.

Cowpunk legends Social Distortion also played a part in the character of Forester. Early albums had SD painted as generic angry punks (‘Mommy’s Little Monster’, ‘The Creeps’), but as they progressed, their lyrics became more about overcoming the addictions and personal shortcomings that had plagued them (‘Prison Bound’ ‘Still Alive’), just Forester started out arrogant and then showed his true potential. Wavecrasher was built from the Replacements and the Goo Goo Dolls, who both touched upon desire for acceptance (‘Iris,’ ‘Can’t Hardly Wait ‘Skyway’), lack of confidence (‘Here Comes a Regular’, ‘Hold My Life’ ’Naked’ ), and finding joy in being a loser (‘Takin’ a Ride,’ ‘Kiss Me On the Bus’). Sometimes the entire sound of a band was enough to define a character. For instance, Ska-punkers Reel Big Fish often write mean-spirited songs wrapped in happy, cheerful melodies (‘Sell-Out’ ‘Somebody Hates Me,’ ‘Your Guts (I Hate ‘Em)). That helped to paint Groundquake as someone that seems nasty and rude but is still someone you want around when things are bad. And finally, Nightstalker was influenced by my favorite band, Celtic-punk legend the Pogues. Their music was rabble-rousing and dark (‘Streets of Sorrow/Birmingham Six, ‘Boys from the County Hell,’ ‘If I Should Fall from Grace with God’), but also introspective, mournful, and loving (‘The Old Main Drag’, ‘A Pair of Brown Eyes,’ ‘A Rainy Night in Soho’). These were the characteristics that the Knight of Shadow needed- someone that was capable of action, even when it was dark, but open enough to see people for what they are and to regret his dark actions when he had to.

What Writers Can Learn

Music is really poetry set to a tune, and as such, there are plenty of ideas and character sketches buried inside it. No matter what music a writer likes, it can often point the way towards a great character. The artists I’ve mentioned are only a few colors to flesh our characters with- writers should try not only today’s musicians, but the greats from all eras. Jim Morrison, Bruce Springsteen, Neil Young, Bob Dylan – even Motley Crue and Duran Duran – if something about them inspires you. Just keep an open ear for a song or a lyric that resonates with you, keep it close; it may one day point you towards a great character, or maybe even a hit song.


Posted on March 20, 2013, in Inspiration and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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