I’m a big listener of music, always have been and if I need to escape from the world for a while it’s the headphones that I turn to. Judging by the number of people I see on a daily basis wandering around the city, on public transport and even down the gym, I’m not alone in this pastime. With so many people on the planet tuned into their favourite sounds, it will come as no surprise to learn that fictional characters have musical preferences too. Let me put that another way: if you’re writing a character and they DON’T have a favourite tune or band, you’re missing a trick.
Personally, I’m a fan of singer/songwriters with a story to tell (Neil Young, Bob Dylan), symphonic rock (guitars plus keyboards and an orchestra), and plain old guitar driven rock. In years gone by I’ve listened to practically everything from high tempo punk to stoner rock with its gyrating, sludgy bass. Somewhere in-between comes the Seattle sound, led by Nirvana and Pearl Jam.
I find with music that certain songs act as an anchor to certain feelings, and simply playing the right song takes you back to the right head space. Conversely, if you have a favourite song that you used to listen to with an ex, it can be too painful to listen to that track or album for years on end.
The Ferret Files is a mix of high finance meets secret societies meets government conspiracy; the right band to get me in the Ferret headspace is without a doubt Muse. Matt Bellamy of Muse is a musical geek who loves a conspiracy theory, which is just perfect. The other band I listen to a lot is Nightwish, a Finnish female fronted rock act who deserve to bigger internationally than they are. Fantastic live.
In order to tell the story, I’ve chosen a number of characters who each have POV chapters. When writing, it can be tricky to flip between them and get in character. As each of them is a different person, with differing musical tastes, one of the tricks I use is anchor songs.
Ferret’s anchor song is ‘Uprising’ by Muse. Cyrano, his drug dealing tricky best mate’s anchor song is ‘Somebody Put Something in my Drink’ by the Ramones. Marcus, the gay government official is anything by Kylie, but specifically ‘Can’t Get You Out of My Head’. Juliet, Ferret’s posh girl-gone-bad girlfriend has a thing for bad boy rockers, so it’s Guns N Roses for her, ‘You Could Be Mine’. Damien, the confused Account Executive who wants to tread the boards, but daddy would disinherit him – he’s fond of Les Miserables. Flamen Dialis, High Priest of Jupiter – he listens to Pink Floyd.
For me, my character’s differing musical tastes help me to feel the conflict brewing between them, and ultimately it’s conflict and conflict resolution that drives any good story. If everyone listened to the same music and wanted the same thing – well, there’s no point in me picking up a pen.
Cyrano, for instance, with his love of fast tempo punk is never going to get along with Marcus, who’s busy secretly prancing about in feather boas. He’s also going to have a thing or two to say to Ferret about liking safe pop/rock. Ferret & Marcus on the other hand, they get along just fine. Whilst Matt Bellamy of Muse isn’t a true bad boy, he is quite bonkers, so Juliet will live with this while dating Ferret, just as Ferret will live with the odd bit of G’N’R in his life. Cyrano and Juliet: funnily enough, they’re instantly drawn to each other, and such an attraction is never going to sit well with our hero.
Have a great week. And while you’re at it, have a think – what’s your theme song? What single song sums up who you are, your wants and desires? One day you’ll have to make a fabulous entry, and that’s the song that you’ll want playing. By all means, leave a comment and let the world know what it is. In the meantime, never underestimate the power of music to evoke powerful, positive emotions in both you and others.