How to: draw inspiration for characters from music [a 500 followers special]
Under the cut you will find a guide written by myself on, how the title already says, draw inspiration for characters from music in four easy steps, though I think you can draw inspiration for plots, too. I will use “Yayo - Lana Del Rey” and “Heart Attack - Demi Lovato” as examples to show you that you can draw inspiration from two totally different music genres (indie vs. pop in this case).
I. Listen to the song and read the lyrics.
Isn’t really that hard, is it? Of course, first of all you have to pick a song, and it really doesn’t matter which one you chose, though if you don’t know where to start, just look at haffalump or the-music-mixer's perfect mixes and just pick a random song. But in our case we have two songs;
Yayo - Lana Del Rey (listen // lyrics)
Heart Attack - Demi Lovato (listen // lyrics)
While reading the lyrics, I don’t mean just skimming through it. Really read it, word by word, and try to get an impression of what the song is about, which brings us to our next point.
II. Understand the lyrics.
Song writers, just like poets, often like to use methapors in their lyric, so this is what I try to say with ‘understanding the lyrics’. Try to imagine what they could mean by expressing the song in the way they did. I will now chose the refrain of both songs to show you what I mean, though you can use any line you’d like, even only one line can already give you a vague idea, and you should indeed take a look at every line, not only the refrain.
Put me onto your black motorcycle
Fifties baby doll dress for my “I do”
It’ll only take two hours to Nevada
I wear your sparkle, you call me your mama
Here we have a lot of open questions, what does Lana mean with ‘Nevada’? What does she mean with ‘sparkle’? And what kind of a relationship could they both have if he calls her ‘his mama’?
Puttin’ my defences up
'Cause I don’t wanna fall in love
If I ever did that
I think I’d have a heart attack
I think this lyrics is a bit more clear than Lana’s, but there’s still one question: Why doesn’t she want to fall in love?
We’ll most likely have a few questions now (or not), which leads us to the next point.
III. Interpretation of the song.
This is probably the most important part of the whole progress, and the one that gives you most creative freedom, in my opinion. Let’s start.. Yayo;
We had a few questions left from earlier – now it’s time to start answering them. When I think of Nevada, I automatically think of Las Vegas, and in combination with „Put me onto your black motorcycle, Fifties baby doll dress for my “I do“ I think of a girl that is in love with a guy with a lot of tattoos (“I like the snake on your tattoo“) and together they want to run off to Las Vegas and get married (“[…] for my “I do“”). She’s wearing his sparkle, this could be a fake diamond ring he gave her, since well, diamonds sparkle, or his studded leather jacket, in which the studs would sparkle in the sun. Maybe he calls her his “mama” because he calls her his daddy (“let me put on a show for you daddy”), what makes me think that he might be a few years older than she is.
The main question here is, why she doesn’t want to fall in love, and there are, once again, endless options: Maybe she fell in love before and got hurt, maybe her mother or her friends told her stories about how they got her heart broken, or maybe she’s just afraid of love. But I think in our case she’s been hurt before (“Never said yes to the right guy”), so she’s afraid of getting hurt, again.
IV. Building your character/s from there.
So we’ve alredy gotten a vague idea of how the character/s could be like, but now it’s time to start building, or rather embellish everything.
Okay, we have this story of two lovers that wanted to run off to Las Vegas to get married. But what kind of characters would do that? I think it could be that he’s a member in a motorcycle band, with a lot of tatoos and someone who lives for the moment and usually doesn’t give two cents about love, but then he met her, a small town beauty who comes from a wealthy family and who wouldn’t allow them to get married, that’s why they want to get married in Las Vegas. He shows her a different side of the world, not only the prude one she had been living in her whole life, and she shows him that he’s capable of love, but in my opinion this song is sadder than it seems to be, and she might end up commiting suicide, because Lana mentions ‘heaven’ in her lyrics (“Hello, heaven, you are tunnel-lined, with yellow lights on a dark night”), so it could mean that maybe her parents found out about their marriage plans and she was so desperate that for her the only way to get out of this was suicide.
The girl that’s too afraid to love because she’s been hurt before - boring, because it’s overused. But Demi puts more meaning behind it, because in my opinion this song is about a girl who used to get what she wanted (“Never had trouble getting what I want”) but when it came to him, she felt like she wasn’t enough for him, because she’s kind of a tomboy (“When I don’t care, I can play ‘em like a Ken doll, won’t wash my hair”) but he’s someone popular who tends to date rather ‘girly’ girls and not someone like her, that’s why he makes her want to act like a girl (“Paint my nails and wear high heels”). Because she’s used to being around guys and acting normal around them, she thinks this would be the case with him, too, but it isn’t, she’s really nervous (“I get paralyzed, and every time I try to be myself, itt comes out wrong like a cry for help”).
And now we’ve got four (!!!) ideas for characters. I’m pretty sure this method can be used on pretty much every song, though it might get a bit hard with Skrillex songs but whatever. Of course, everyone is interpreting every song and every line different than me so feel free to get creative and think more to what I have wrote earlier, because those are just vague ideas. I think an important step is also just to add small details to everything, so you have kind of a ‘framework’ for your character, its personality, its family and everything, just based off this song. Also, I think sometimes it’s good to try out a new genre, because I usually only listen to indie music but listening to Demi’s song was kind of refreshing, too, cause it gives you totally different ideas.
I really, really hope this has helped anyone and feedback would be very much appreciated. ♡
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