Your story’s world is a full one. The story itself may be about only one or two main characters, but those people have family, friends, acquaintances, and enemies. And those people have beliefs, fears, experiences all their own. And, even if the reader never discovers these facets in full detail, it’s important for you to know who those people are. From the way they dress to the way they dance, their dietary habits or exercise routines, what they do for work and play, the magazines they read and the television programs they watch…all of these details will help you solidify in your head who each person is, and – in turn – make it easier for your readers to differentiate each character outside of name alone.
You don’t have to do all of these, of course (your time is likely better spent in the guts of your story), but pick a few for each of your characters, to help realize them more fully. Music is a great way to do this.
You’ve heard people say, “This is my song,” when they hear a particular tune. The same holds for the characters in your story. Whether a song describes that character, or it’s their own favorite song, music provides a way for you to make your world bloom. The best part? Unlike plotting your story or designing your world, giving your characters their own songs doesn’t have to take very much work at all!
If you hear a song on the radio (or on your mp3 player of choice), and you’re reminded of a particular character or story moment, set it aside in your mental list of story details. Listen to that song when you’re on your commute, doing your morning exercises, or washing the dinner dishes: this keeps you in-tune with your story and characters even while you have to do the necessary chores of your life. And keeping your story close to you this way (even if you don’t get the chance to write as much as you might like during the day) will help keep it immediate, so you don’t lose too much momentum while you’re, you know, living.
For example, whenever I hear Kevin MacLeod’s lovely piano track for “With the Sea”, it instantly puts me in the mood to write the about quaint coastal fishing village where my novel takes place. When I hear that opening guitar riff for “Bad Reputation” by Joan Jett, I am ready to write Ross’s confident swagger. And, when Pete Townshend sings about how to “Let My Love Open the Door”, Amber’s dimpled smile comes immediately to mind.
Some writers like to work in silence, so, for those of you who do, I won’t impose upon you the suggestion to create a playlist for your story. For those of you who enjoy a bit of music while you plot and pace, though, I’ve got to ask:
What’s your character’s theme song?