Musical Characters - by Donna

I've been traveling again this week, attending an educational conference in Los Angeles. Traveling, especially over the weekend, always throws off my writing schedule. I'm so close to finishing a complete draft of my WIP I can almost taste it, but my "real" job is definitely getting in the way. I feel constant pressure to spend any available time writing, but I also have to physically be at many work related meetings, and that is taking me all across the country these days. The result is the worlds, the "writing world" and "the everything else world," start to merge and blend so that one is indistinguishable from the other.

Saturday night was just such a moment. I took a brief break from my meetings and went to a wonderful performance of one of my favorite musicals, WICKED. If you're not familiar with WICKED, it's based on the familiar story of the Wonderful Wizard of Oz, but from the totally different perspective of the Wicked Witch of the West. The story is a fascinating interplay between what we think we know about the characters and the "truth" of who they are. It's a wonderful lesson in character study, with each witch portrayed as a complex blend of both good and bad. While it's an intriguing twist on the familiar, and the story of a unique friendship, the music is also amazing. When I woke up this morning and headed to my meetings for the day, I couldn't get the melodies out of my head.

All mixed in with my characters from my WIP, the music from WICKED began to inspire my thoughts about my own characters' development and I had an idea. My current WIP has an element of musical theater and, since I like the listen to music when I write, I thought I'd try a character exercise with the songs. I know music stimulates my brain creatively in different ways from text, so I made up my own playlist below. Each song helped me think through different aspects to my characters.

Perhaps you'd like to try it out, too. Listen to each of the songs below (they can be downloaded from ITunes) and then free write to answer the questions about your characters. Maybe you'll want to create your own playlist for your current WIP with your characters in mind. How might music inspire new insights into your own characters?

1. No One Mourns the Wicked.
What events in the past made the main character the way they are? How does their family define who she is? How do other people view her at the beginning of the story? How do they expect her to act? What do others believe about her?

2. Popular. Who is the antagonist? How does she interact with the main character? What characteristics in each bring about the conflict? How are they alike? How are they different?

3. I'm not that Girl. What does the main character want? Why can't she have it? Who stands in her way?

4. Defying Gravity. Where does your main character take a chance that will change everything? What pushes her off the ledge? Does the reader have doubt as to the outcome of this choice? How will this change impact other characters?

5. As Long as Your Mine. At what point in your story would your character want to freeze time? What makes that impossible?

6. For Good. How do relationships with other characters change the main character? How does she change the lives of others? Are there unexpected consequences of actions?


I don't always comment, but so always appreciate YA Muses posts. Thanks for reminding me of the inspirational powers of music!

I love being inspired by music. If I find a song that can give me new ideas about a character I'll definitely play it while writing.

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