As an author who loves music, it would be lovely if I could include a soundtrack with my books and stories. Do publishers ever do that with audiobooks? I would put songs or tunes that had inspired characters or scenes. Or my publisher could hire someone to write original music. Since those dreams will have to stay dreams, I have to include music in my stories the best way I can. Using music to show character is a fresher, more novel way for readers to get to know my characters than physical description and dialogue.
A Main Character Who’s Also a Musician
My teen detective Rae Riley is, first and foremost, an amateur photographer. It’s the way she sees the world. But, like a lot of creative people, she enjoys other arts. She played drums in her high school marching band and jazz band. Making her a drummer gives her personality another layer. She’s playing an instrument that leans more toward males, so some might see her choice as unusual or offbeat (ha!).
When I was in band, certain personalities tended to pick certain instruments. The Type A, straight arrows played flute and trumpet. The clarinet was the everyman or woman of the band. The more quirky kids picked trombone, saxophone, or percussion. My character’s choice of instrument can say a lot about who he or she is.
If you need to draw disparate characters together, making them all musicians gives them a common interest and a plausible reason for people who might not normally associate with each other to interact. Rae joins three young police officers in jam sessions because they play outlaw country music for fun and didn’t have a drummer. (Yes, it’s supposed to be funny that cops like outlaw country.)
Favorite Music Reveals Character Traits
The fact that these millennial cops are playing music from the 70’s says something about their personalities. Houston, who sings lead and plays lead guitar, explains how he can’t stand current country music. His love for outlaw country can mean any number of things. Maybe he’s not concerned with following popular trends. Or he doesn’t like how big business takes over an art form; he likes art for art’s sake. Or he just likes to be different, to stand out from the crowd.
When Rae and the cops take a break from jamming, they play songs from their playlists. I can use their choices to say something about their characters. Since Rae doesn’t know the three young men well, she hesitates over her selections because her playlist contains what she considers some pretty obscure songs. So she picks more popular songs. Her choice shows her uncertainty in this new social situation. Out of the four characters. the bass player is the only one to pick instrumental pieces instead of songs. I can use that deviation from the other characters to reveal something about him.
Now it’s your turn. Have you written or read about characters who love music? How did the author use music to show character?