How To Use Music To Layer Characters

How To Use Music To Layer Characters


Writers Write is a writing resource. We’ve put together a series on music in writing. In this post we discuss how to use music to layer characters.

Music In Writing: Part Three – How To Use Music To Layer Characters

In my two previous posts I discussed how to use music to strengthen your writing. Today, I want to talk about layering characters.

I try to make a playlist for each of my characters. This list is not something I will necessarily use in my novel, but it helps me to get a better sense of my character. The music we listen to reveals a lot about us. A classic music enthusiast, a hard core metal fan and country music lover – each one of these people created a different image in your mind. They are all unique. I like to choose a theme song for each of my characters.

My antagonist at one time listened to Chesney Hawkes “The one and only” over and over again before he had a big meeting. Can’t you just see him standing there singing to himself in the mirror? How much do you already know about him? Arrogant, but insecure. Old-school, but still thinks he is young and with it. You can be sure he has some “Eye of the Tiger” going in his office. Lots of air punching.

My protagonist loved the song “It’s oh so quiet” by Bjork. Quirky songs for quirky girls. She was romantic, but often disappointed by the unrealistic expectations she had of a picture perfect romance. She was also rather erratic, just like the song.

Is your character a Taylor Swift fan? Does he dance to the Macarena in secret? What song puts them in a good mood on a crappy Monday morning? What song makes them turn up the volume and what song makes them turn off the radio? These layers will filter through into our stories.

How do I do this? 

  1. I choose a song that suits my character.
  2. I think about the time frame. How old were they when the song was released?
  3. How does the song make them feel?
  4. What does the song remind them of?
  5. Who does the song remind them of?

People have very strong feelings about music. Explore it. Dig in and find out what makes them tick.  Happy writing and listening!

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 by Mia Botha

If you enjoyed this post, you will love:

  1. Music In Writing: Part One – Pacing
  2. Music In Writing: Part Two – Memories
  3. Three Tips For Writers Who Eavesdrop

TIP: If you want help writing a book, buy The Novel Writing Exercises Workbook.

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  1. Robin E. Mason

    what a fantastic idea!! I have favourite flower, cookie, beverage… how did I miss music???

  2. Carolyn

    Love all 3 of the posts on music – especially Part One on using music for pacing

  3. Michelle Wallace

    I enjoyed all three posts on Music In Writing.
    Thank you for sharing.

  4. Mia Botha

    Thank you! Happy listening.

  5. linda

    Wonderful, clever idea!

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