Writing Music,Part 2: Character Karaoke

This weekend, I got a tweet from @marmaladelibby (aka Ange) at Libby Blog with a link to her review of ORLEANS.  At the bottom of the review, she has posted a brilliant soundtrack of songs that evoked the book for her.  I’ve seen this done in some small press and indie comics—often the artists will note which songs they were listening to when they drew a given page.  I used to want to do that for my books, but the fact is, I’m rarely listening to music when I write.  Even if it’s playing in the background in my favorite café or on a TV somewhere, I tune it out while I work.  Since last week’s post was about putting music in a novel, I thought this week I’d write about music for your characters.

I recently took a fantastic Improv for Writers workshop with Robin Schiff and Wendy Goldman.  (You can take it up at Hedgebrook next month.  Trust me, you won’t regret it!)  One of the exercises we did involved listening to a two polar opposite pieces of music and creating a character from each one before putting them on a date together.  Iot only was it a fun way to “learn” our characters, it was also fascinating to see how very different they were from the other students’ even though they were all based on the same two pieces of music.

I’ll be teaching my own writing workshop on character building next month and I’m convinced there’s something to the whole music thing.  So, this morning, in the shower with all this floating in my head, I thought “What if all of my characters were in a karaoke bar—what would they each choose to sing?”  Not only do I love the incongruity of my ORLEANS characters sitting sullenly in a neon lit karaoke bar together like a bunch of high school seniors on the last day of a bad spring break, but knowing who would really love to be on stage and who would rather jump out a window is interesting. 
 
I came up with a list of songs for the characters in ORLEANS.  I know I should list it here, but I won’t because– much like photos of the characters on a book cover– I don’t want it to color your experience of the book.  (If you really want to know,  email me in six months and I’ll post it.)
 
I also applied it to the novel I’m currently working on to see what I might learn about my cast of characters.  The results were… interesting.  I think I need to work more on my protagonist. “The Happy Wanderer” is not a strong character theme song. 
  

Suffice it to say, if you take my class, we’ll be playing Character Karaoke.  And I’ll be working on that protag of mine.  Anything to stop this sort of thing from happening again.