When it comes to musicals, most people tend to either love them or hate them. Regardless of your thoughts on musicals, you’ve probably heard at least one or two songs from them that get stuck in your head. (I’ll note here that I’ve been bopping along to Rewrite the Stars from The Greatest Showman for a couple of days now.)
The entire point of a musical is to intertwine both storytelling and songwriting. While it might seem like the two are worlds apart, the fact is that they share a lot in common. Songs often tell a story.
As an exercise: Create a playlist of songs for your story. Focus specifically on the songs that match your plot points. Whether it’s a cheating spouse, a determined young leader or even learning a new skill to defeat the antagonist, there are thousands of songs out there. Find ones that match your plot points and character arcs. Once you’ve gotten your playlist made, look at what kind of songs you chose. How does that help you identify your tone for each relevant scene? Are these songs reflective of what you want the scene to be?
I’d love to know what sort of songs you chose. Let me know in the comments below!
Describing characters isn’t always easy, so to help out, I present the Character Description Crawl.
Name. Count the letters in your character’s first name and multiply by ten. Write that many words.
- If your character has black hair write 50 words.
- If they have brown hair write 75 words.
- If they have blond hair write 100 words.
- If they have gray or white hair write 125 words.
- If they have an unusual hair color (pink, green, vines instead of hair, etc.) write 150 words.
- If they’re bald sprint for 5 minutes.
- If your character has blue eyes write 50 words.
- If they have brown eyes write 75 words.
- If they have green eyes write 100 words.
- If they have grey eyes, write 125 words.
- If they’re blind or are missing eyes, sprint for 5 minutes.
- If they have mismatched eyes, complete both challenges for their eye colors.
- If they’re shorter than average, sprint for 5 minutes.
- If they’re average height, write 10 minutes.
- If they’re taller than average, sprint for 15 minutes.
- If they have notable scars or injuries, write 25 words for each one.
- If they have piercings or jewelry, write 50 words for each piece. (Earrings only count as 1 piece if they are matched pair).
- If they have additional features (horns, wings, robot characters, animal characters, etc.) sprint for 5 minutes for each feature.
- If they have tattoos, write 75 words for each tattoo they have.
Rate their traits on a scale from 1-5 with 1 being the lowest. Complete each assignment that number of times. For example, if a character is a 3 on the honesty scale, complete the sprint 3 separate times.
- Honesty: Sprint for 5 minutes.
- Calmness: Write 50 words.
- Generosity: Write 25 words.
- Responsibility: Sprint for 10 minutes.
- Respectful: Sprint for 5 minutes.
- Aggressiveness: Write 100 words.
- Clumsiness: Write 25 words.
- Timidity: Write 50 words.
- Gullibility: Sprint for 5 minutes.
- Sloppiness: Sprint for 10 minutes.
Protagonist or Antagonist
If your character is a protagonist or supports a protagonist, sprint for 15 minutes.
If your character is an antagonist or supports an antagonist, write 250 words.
Finished? Let me know how many words you ended up with!
Music is a powerful form of communication. Across languages and cultures, songs hold a prominent place in both history and storytelling. And that’s exactly what we’re tackling today.
As an exercise: Set your music to shuffle and press play. Build a character based around the first song that comes up. Really listen to that song and dig into it. Let the instrumental choices inspire their looks and personality. Examine the lyrics for their internal conflicts and arcs.
Repeat the above exercise for a second character with another random song. Once you have both characters fleshed out, write a scene in which these two characters are going on a first date.