Happy Tuesday (or Wednesday for some of you)!
Last week, I covered one of my favorite ways to find inspiration for characters. Today, I’m talking about another method I use often to get design inspiration: listening to music.
Method #2/? – Music
I know several of you prefer video over post, but musical copyright is always an issue when doing videos. Instead, I have some links to the music I listened to for inspiration this week so you can listen along!
Music is a lifeline to me. Whether I’m in a creative slump or not, listening to my main playlist (the one Sara and I made for our book series) pumps me up to write without fail. If you are one who loves music but you don’t have a Spotify or Pandora (not sponsors) account, I highly suggest signing up! Both are free with ads. I personally prefer Spotify because I can pick what I want to listen to much easier. The mobile Spotify app isn’t the best, but on a computer, it’s wonderful.
The best thing about Spotify is that you can make playlists. I’ve made playlists for all of my main character’s in our book series, and a few side characters as well. Listening to a character’s playlist helps to get into a character’s mindset. One of my characters has a love for Native American music (and so do I), and his playlist is filled with it. The genre helps me feel his calm nature, while other genres in his playlist, like Viking metal, reminds me of the power he holds at bay. His playlist also has some 20’s and 30’s, classical, and rock songs thrown in there that he would listen to. You can hear his playlist here, if you’re curious:
My general rule of thumb when creating a playlist is pretty simple and straight forward. If it reminds me of the character, I add it to the playlist. If you take a peek, you may see quite a few repeated songs across my playlists. Those songs may remind me of a few characters, so I may choose to add them to several different playlists. Our main playlist is extremely long (over 1300 songs), while my character-based playlists are short. It takes time to make a playlist, and my main concern is adding to our primary. Since we also have to focus on plot elements and scenes, I tend to add music to our series playlist first, and then to a character’s playlist whenever I remember to. For those of you who only have to focus on a few characters, creating longer playlists for every character may be an easier task.
The music doesn’t have to be something characters themselves would listen to. It could be the overall vibe you get from a song, the tone and melody, the lyrics – anything. It MAY also be something that they would listen to as well. One character in particular (Sara knows the one) listens to rap music. Sara and I both rate rap (sorry to those of you who like it), yet you’ll find quite a few rap songs on our series playlist. This is because, going against our better judgement, we listened to a song and thought deeply of that character. In a sense, he poked at our minds until he basically forced us to add it. At this point, we actually don’t mind those songs. They remind us so much of that particular character that we may even sing along “with him.” He isn’t my character, he is Sara’s, so I can’t speak for her, but I assume that listening to rap motivates and inspires Sara into playing that character if she is having writer’s block. I definitely know the same works for me with my characters, but none of my characters listen to rap, so I can’t say that with complete certainty. 😛
When I create a playlist, whether it be for a character or book in general, I like to have a wide variety. I won’t just add rock music, I won’t just add classical. I fill the playlist to the brim with music of all kinds: rock, classical, folk metal, instrumental, indie, electronic, everything. I have certain genres that I enjoy better than others, but when I add things to a plot or character playlist, I’m not focusing on what I like. I’m solely going off of what makes me think or feel about the plot or character. Even if it’s not something I’d listen to on a regular basis, I’ll add it if it gives me inspiration. I like adding different genres because it gives me a different view. For instance, the lyrics may be spot on to a very sad scene, but the tone of the music may happy. I’ll add it to a playlist because it gives me a different perspective of what is going on in that scene. While something tragic may have just happened, I might realize that one of my characters has already found the light at the tunnel. This keeps my view fresh so that I don’t drown too much in my own personal ideas. After all, people and stories aren’t monotone. They are a symphony of melodies and depth.
I just recently (yesterday) watched a video that had a great way of explaining that same idea in terms of art. He was nearing his final step of the painting when he took a random photo from the internet and added it as a background to his painting. It changed the whole aesthetic of the painting, and he liked it so much that he even kept the background. I loved that idea for art, and I do the same with writing. In his words, he explains, “…it adds a completely new mood. All we are trying to do is to see the potential. To see what it could be. We were stuck on this for so long that we never considered [going in a different direction]…. The point is to shock your system and give you some inspiration and a new direction to go because we are always exploring, always experimenting, and we’re never settling.” I absolutely loved that line and I completely agree with him, even if he was talking about art and not writing. He also had some fun tips for creating characters through art, so I’ll link the video!
My next method for character design is art, and I’ll likely be covering that next week. I had planned to cover it today as well, but I’m realizing that music really does deserve it’s own post, so next week it is!!
Making a New Character with Musical Inspiration
This week, one of my DnD friends asked me what my next DnD character was going to be. I’ve never played a druid (someone that can do magic through nature) before, so that’s what I’ve decided for my next DnD character. I figured I’d just go for it and make him with all of you, since I had already started to get an idea about him through music (as opposed to last week’s method of using photos). Like last week, I’ll post the songs that I came across on Spotify and walk you through my vision and inspiration I got from each of them. I also did some SUPER quick sketches with them as well. I combined two methods into one, but I will share those with you when we cover our next inspiration method of art.
I did make a playlist for this character, and you can listen to all of it here, but I will be pointing out specific songs that gave me the most inspiration for this character.
***For those of you that play DnD with me, there may be spoilers ahead for my next character, so be warned. If you do happen to read everything, I expect you to stay IC about it. >:(***
Song #1 – Soulfly V by Soulfly
This song was really the one that made me want to play a druid. I envision an elf of some kind sitting on a rock in the middle of the forest, meditating. Rain might be falling, or he is sitting on a boulder in the middle of a stream. Light is shining down from between tree branches, and overall, everything is peaceful and light. With this song, I envision the elf character to be a male, and he is slow to anger. He finds peace whenever he is in nature, and nature is where he wishes to be.
Song #2 – Winds of Change by David Arkenstone
Ah, the music of my childhood. This song gives me so many wonderful memories. But setting all of those memories aside, I did think of a druidic happenings, so I added this one to the playlist as well. With this one, I can see a party of elves in the forest, dancing around a fire to the beat of drums. The woods are thick with overgrown bushes and moss, and maybe even a few deer are poking their heads out to see the festivities. The camp is secluded, and the only noise in the forest is that of the music the druids play and the chirping of animals.
This song gives me some ideas about the druid’s background. While I do usually leave character’s backgrounds up to interpretation until after I’ve played them for a while, some characters do tend to work better if I make a background first. That is the case of this character. I honestly have no clue what he looks like or what he acts like right now, but I am coming up with some ideas about where he comes from: a little village of some sort, or a traveling group of forest-dwellers that want only to experience nature.
Song #3 – The Clouds Breathe For You by The Glitch Mob
This song is the first one that made me think of the character himself rather than his Druidic abilities. After all, druids aren’t just druids, they are people with personality as well.
I’ve added this song to another already-made character’s playlist, but it gives me two entirely different feelings when I think of the characters separately. That’s the beauty of music. It can have different moods or feelings without ever changing. With my already-made character, I think of the wonders of space and time, perhaps even floating through stars in an endless void.
With this druid character I’m making, I think of a cloaked person hiding in the shadows, waiting for something to happen. He has slipped through the trees in silence with the air of a true hunter, but it’s not an animal he hunts. He’s patiently watching a group of people sitting around a fire, listening to them converse about pointless topics. He doesn’t plan to kill any of them, but he is soaking in the information he needs. Once the group has gone down for the night, he sneaks away.
I envision him with a bow, but for a DnD druid, that may not be accurate. Since I’ve never played a druid before in DnD, I’d have to make sure that they are proficient in bows before I solidified that fact. In my mind, however, he has a bow. Multi-class ranger maybe?
Song #4 – Cymatics by Nigel Stanford
I have always loved this song. This has to be one of my favorites. Just throwing that out there.
This one is also a song that I’ve added to other playlists, but that’s totally fine in my opinion. Once again, it gives me a whole different vision when I think about my druid. Cymatics definitely sounds more futuristic and spacey, but for my druid, I get a little glimpse into his actual personality.
He’s cunning and tactful. His overall goal is to win something. What that something is, I’m not sure yet. It could be a person, a title, a rank, an object…. All I know is that whatever it is, it’s very important to him, and nothing will stop him from getting it. The closer he gets to his goal, the more ruthless he becomes. He refuses to die before he wins, and he will fight with everything he has to make it out alive and reach the finish line.
Songs #5 and #6 – Losing You by Ephixia/Laura Brehm and Heal Again by Rameses B/Ghost Wars
I put these two songs together because both of them give me a similar vision. I’m definitely getting the vibe, obviously, that he’s lost someone, but I personally don’t want it to be through death. I feel like I see too much death in character’s backstories and while that is totally okay, plenty of my characters already have death in their background. I don’t want that for this character. Since I am making his backstory before playing the character, I’d like to at least pick a few things that I’d like him to have gone through to shape him into a character I want him to be.
At this point, for those of you who have been following along with my previous lessons, you may be asking yourself: “but I thought she always waited to create backstories, and I thought she only figured out backstories through character progression.” Yes, that is mostly true. I do that for 90% of my characters, but that remaining 10% is completely different and that’s why I’m mentioning this. I personally prefer to let the characters lead me through their backstories, usually because it takes a FREAKING LONG TIME for me to write out backstories otherwise. When I choose to write a background first, I go all out. And I mean all. out. The last character I did this with is one of my main characters in our book series, and, no joke, I spent months, working on it every day, coming up with his backstory. I poured an insane amount of research into him. It was a blast, but his backstory is 10+ pages (11pt font, single spaced) long with only bullet points. Main characters tend to need a lot of backstory, but I didn’t even write everything out. I really try to avoid this method because for me, it eats up my time and I honestly tend to get a bit obsessive with it. I will absolutely cover this method in the future, but since it is only 10% of my characters that are made this way, I won’t be talking about it quite as much.
You also might be wondering, since I like to let the characters lead instead of me, why in the world I would drop things in his background that I pick. Well, truth be told, when it comes to those 10% of characters, I work backwards. Usually, I will let their choices show me what events they have gone through, but with these characters, I will choose events they go through and see how they act. With these kinds of characters, I don’t know their interests or deep personality, and that is what I learn about when I play them rather than their backstory.
*****SPOILERS FOR THOSE WHO PLAY DND WITH ME*****
So since I am going the route of making his backstory first, I’m going to become familiar with who he USED to be rather than who he is now. With these songs, it’s obvious that he lost someone, and we’ve realized that. But who? Why? How? This is where I’m going to pick a few things.
First off, so far, I’ve seen him as an elf. But I’ve played many elves in the past, and I’d like to make something I’ve never done before. I like to experiment with characters, and I hate when two of my characters are too similar. I’ve never played a drow before (a dark elf), so I’m going to be going that route with this character. I’m leaning more toward half-drow, but I may leave that up for debate as I really dive into his backstory. Drows tend to lean into an evil alignment, and I don’t see this character as evil. Neutral maybe, but not evil. With a DnD character, you also have to think about party members and setting, so I’ll probably wait until closer to the start of the campaign to choose.
Even though I know he’s at least half-drow, I think he was raised in a drow setting. I’ve listened to these songs quite a bit since they give me pretty decent ideas, and I’m getting the idea of him having either fallen in love, or at least befriending, someone that he shouldn’t have. Perhaps a prisoner or something. Since I know he is a druid, I will pick that person to also be a druid or a nymph. I’ll be doing more DnD lore research so see which would be the best option, but that’s my general idea right now. He/She was either released, or he helped him/her escape the drow camp, and now, he is on a quest for them in some regard. It may not be to find them, but it may be to protect them from afar somehow. I’ll be doing more research and such to really figure it all out. Like I said, it takes me a while to flesh out backstories for characters like this, but I really do go all out. And no, I won’t kill my DM with information. He will just get the important pieces while I get everything else.
Last song, Song #7 – Summer of the Occult by Seven Lions
Another one of my absolute favorite songs. Ugh, I love this one so much.
This song is really the one that made me want to pick a drow race for him. I can see his friends, and even family, taking part in some deeply disturbing events that he has to follow along with. He doesn’t want to, but he has to, and he does. In the end, he learns a lot from it all, and he uses that knowledge to help others in the future.
He finally leaves the drow, or maybe he escapes. Not sure yet. Either way, after his leaving, he finds a group of druids that he learns from. He trains and learns, and he loves it all. But the things that he’s learned in the past are now a part of him, and maybe he will have hard times fighting that off. His end goal may be to “wash himself clean” in a sense and to become fully one with nature rather than what the drow wanted him to be.
I probably won’t be posting a lot about this character. I’d rather keep him quiet so those who play DND with me don’t get spoilers. After all, once you have Out of Character knowledge, it tends to be hard to keep it Out of Character. It’s better to FOIC (find out in character) and learn as your character does. The campaign may or may not be streamed, but I’m not even sure when it will start right now anyway! Let me know if you’d be interested in watching us play, and I will pass on the request to our DM! 😀
Next week, I’ll be covering the one more inspiration method. There are so many methods to choose from, but I’d like to move on to other topics soon. If you have any topics that you’d like for me to cover, please let me know and I will add them to the list! Have a great week, everyone!