Soundtrack for a Fading Champion

Whenever I start on a more serious story project I put together a playlist for the main character that reflects their personality and how I see them. Once I have a number of songs selected I pick out five signature songs and list them in a blog post along with how they relate to my character.

This time the character is Roy, a werewolf wrestling champion at the end of his career, and these are his signature songs. First is a short spotify playlist, and then there’s a youtube video of each song along with a few comments about how it fits the character.

1. Clawfinger – Bigges & The Best

Roy’s a world class wrestler and this is his theme song. He’s tough, merciless, and confident. He knows he’s the best. No matter what the critics and the press and the rising stars say, Roy know’s they can’t beat him. He’s just that good – just that tough.

2. The Phantom of the Opera

This is about the mask the phantom wears. It’s about what he hides from everyone else. There’s the obvious public face of Roy the wrestler – the persona represented by the previous song. But, there’s more than that to the mask. Roy also hides a dark secret that no one knows and that few have even seen hinted at. He hides it, and hides it well, for if people knew, they’d see him for more of a monster than just a werewolf.

3. VNV Nation – Beloved

This video is for the original version of the song, with a very sweet little animated video to go with it. However, I’d also recommend the orchestral version (Allegro Grazioso) which carries a lot more sadness in its sound, and as such is more fitting.

This song represents Roy’s love for Toini, his childhood friend who was killed in action so many years ago – and he still loves her just as much.

4. Depeche Mode – Wrong

Roy may be a world famous wrestler and multiple times world champion, but his life hasn’t been easy, and it’s not what he wanted. He’s made wrong decisions. He’s been in the wrong place at the wrong time, hung out with wrong people and said the wrong things.

Time and time again. Wrong.

Sure, he’s got fame and money, but he’s alone and disillusioned. Bitter. Cynic. A consequence of all that’s gone wrong and all he’s done wrong.

5. Empathy Test – Here is the Place

There’s also a charming live version of this song here. It’s well worth watching, but I’d recommend familiarizing yourself with the album version first.

Of the previous songs, three are of a failed and miserable past, and one is about a fake public persona. This is the song for the future Roy dreams of. It’s about going home to where he came from and to where he belongs. It’s about nostalgia and it’s about having somewhere you belong and where you’re safe.

Final Comments

There are plenty of songs that qualify, but didn’t make it. I could easily have picked five tracks by VNV Nation alone.

As a character, Roy is pretty sad. He’s had a tough journey, and he’s close to giving up, but he’s not a quitter. He’ll keep going. Stubbornly, stupidly, until there’s nowhere else to go and nothing left to do. He’ll deal with it when he gets there. That’s just the way he is.

Sort of, I think…

The story’s still being planned. The real writing has not yet begun.

Soundtrack for a Fading Champion

Unexpected Exploration

Please note: At the moment I’m mainly posting just to get back into the habit of updating my blog again – not because I have anything particularly important to share.

I don’t get lost.

I very firmly believe that I don’t get lost.

I may end up in locations that I did not plan or expect to end up in, and it sometimes comes as a surprise to me when it happens.

I may end up on places from where I don’t know how to get where I want to be.

It sometimes happens that I think I’m going in one direction when in reality I’m going in another.

It happens, but I don’t get lost, because I don’t feel lost.

I may feel stupid and embarrassed when it happens, and I may stubbornly refuse to believe it until reality finally catches up with me, but even then I don’t feel lost.

Obviously it helps to have a phone with gps and a map, but even without it I wouldn’t feel lost. I may for all intents and purposes be what is technically considered lost. Let’s define lost as follows:

Lost: A person is lost when they’re in a location they’re not familiar with, and when they don’t know how to find their way to a location they are familiar with.

At first I’d say that this happens to me all the time, but then I remember that there’s always backtracking. Much as I hate turning around and going back the way I came, that’s almost always an option.

For the most part, I don’t choose that option.

Like, tonight.

First though, some music:

Tonight, I went out running after dark for the first time in months. I dimly remember having gone on a night time run a few months back, but I can’t say for sure if that was before or after Christmas. It’s been a while. I’ve been looking forward to it.

In my previous post I mentioned how I’d gotten back into running again (jogging, technically – I’m not very fast), and how I’m really enjoying it.

With the shift I’m on it’s not feasible to go running in the late evening though. I have to get up early to go to work, and I try not to skew my sleeping pattern to much over the weekend. Most of my running happens in the afternoon or early evening, when it’s still light outside.

It’s nice, but it’s not quite the same as running at night.

I like to be out in the dark, all alone in the street or on countryside roads. There’s just me and the music. I love running with music. The set I linked above was put together specifically for night-time running.

The music is slow and steady. It’s dark and repetitive, with eerie noises, and with melodies that flow in and out of the soundscape. It starts out sparse and minimal and builds up over time. The music never goes too crazy, but the last thirty minutes are still a lot more energetic than the beginning.

I believe in running as a form of meditation.

It’s a way to set your mind free to wander why your body does something else. You don’t need to think too much when running and your thoughts can find their own paths to wherever they want to go.

Sure, it’s not like “real” meditation, but there are similarities, I think.

The music helps.

So, anyway, tonight I went out running. I had the opportunity and I took it. It was just as good as I remembered.

As I set out, I decided to take an old route I’ve taken before. It’s about ten kilometers, and it’s mostly flat. Easy.

Before I made this decisions, I’d been browsing the map and looking at potential options, bu eventually decided against any of them.

I should have stuck to that.

As I got to an intersection in the road I turned left instead of right. One of the routes I’d been looking at went down that way. I felt fine, and the running was easy, and I figured I could easily handle fifteen kilometers instead of ten. No big deal.

Unfortunately, as I should have learned since many a similar incident in the past, my map memory isn’t perfect. A little bit later on I took a left when I should have kept on Straight.

I realized about a kilometer later when the road didn’t cross over a highway as expected (it went under), and I stopped to check the map on the phone.

Yep.

Wrong turn taken.

I can’t turn back though. It’s not right. Demoralizing. Weak. Yes, I know it’s stupid, but I’m running for fun and it’s no fun to turn back. It’s like admitting defeat, and I’m too stubborn to do that, so I went on.

I had a vague idea I’d be on my way up towards the airport, which might be a nice good run. Turns out I was sort of wrong about that too. I got to a place from which I knew I could find my way to the airport, but not by a pleasant route. The roads too narrow and with too many hidden bends. It’s not safe for anyone on foot.

So I went a different way. I found a path along the highway which matched one I’d followed another time further along.

There were no lights.

Normally, I don’t have a problem with running in the dark. Even at night there’s enough ambient light from the city that you can see where you’re going. Usually.

Tall trees blocked out most of the light from the surrounding streets, and a high wall separated the path from the highway. I could only just barely tell my feet from the ground where I ran.

Yes, I slowed down quite a bit.

I’d never gone that way before. It was exciting, and a little bit scary – in the right way. After a while, and without incident, I emerged from the trees. There were more lights here, and there was even a lit tunnel under the highway.

The path I ran shared the tunnel with a wide stream.

As I entered, something in the stream splashed. Big enough that I heard it over the music, but fast and small enough that I never saw what it was. It was not a crocodile. There are no crocodiles in Ireland. Don’t be silly. Probably just an other, or a big rat. Definitely not a crocodile.

I think that was the most scary thing that’s happened to me in a while. Unexpected and unseen – a weird noise from outside the shelter of the music.

I’d been toying with the idea of joining up with another trail I knew that I’d be crossing later on, but I decided not to and went straight home instead.

I didn’t make the ten kilometers I’d planned originally, or the fifteen I’d changed my mind to. It doesn’t matter. Nine kilometers isn’t a bad distance, and it feels kind of good to tell myself I could have done twice that distance, and actually believe it.

I could. I’m in a good spot at the moment. Fit enough, and not injured. I could, but taking a wrong turn, and ending up in the wrong place kind of ruined the mood a little bit.

Getting to go out and run at night was great though, and getting to test out my night-time running soundtrack was fun as well. It worked really well, even if I didn’t even get halfway through it.

I’ll try again another time.

Unexpected Exploration

The Music Does Its Job

One of my rituals for writing is that with every new story I start I create a playlist with music that I think I may want to listen to while writing. I try to pick songs I enjoy and that feel like they will fit with the mood/theme/character of my story. It’s usually a fun little project and it helps me get in the mood for the writing.

I’ve not been too sure about how well it works though. The theory is sound, and I think it works in practice, but I don’t really know for certain.

Just now though, I got a little bit of empirical evidence that it really does help. One of the signature songs of my character Toini came on, and I was instantly transported back to her story. I got the same feeling I had when I was writing it, and my mind conjured up the images of what I described in the story. It really did work, and it made me really happy, and now I want to get back to that story again – even though it’s basically finished and I told myself I wouldn’t do any more with it.

Also, here’s the song:

The Music Does Its Job

Songs of Forgotten Roads

I put out a new mix-set. It’s one of the serious ones, where I’ve spent a lot of time and effort both on picking out the songs and on making sure the transitions are smooth. It’s not a journey though. Rather, I’m trying to set a mood and then stick with it, intensifying it little by little as the set goes on.

If you’re into dark and mellow electronic dance music (even if not for dancing), then definitely check this out. I’d very much appreciate it.

Songs of Forgotten Roads

Soundtrack for a Frozen Soul

One of my favorite parts of beginning a new story is picking out the music I think I’ll want to listen to while I write it. I try to vary it a bit so I don’t always listen to the same things, but even then a lot of songs will overlap from story to story. Artists like Covenant, Basia Bulat, Pink Floyd, and Depeche Mode have been in the playlists for all the stories I’ve written – along with several others.

Along with creating a playlist for the story, I also pick out a few signature songs for the story’s main character. These are songs that I feel fit the character especially well, or which I connect with them in some particular way.

The time has come to list Kala’s signature songs.

Eivør – Brotin

Eivør is a Faroese singer-songwriter, and this song is in Faroese. I do not understand the language, and I haven’t looked up the lyrics or tried to find a translation. With this song it’s all about the feeling, and I think perhaps that not understanding the lyrics contribute to that. It’s mellow in a slightly haunting and ethereal way, and that’s why I picked it.

The feeling of this song is one I want to try and replicate in my story. There’s something mysterious about it; fragile on the surface, but with hints of a hidden strength underneath. It’s very close to how I imagine Kala as a person.

Mandalavandalz – Kaunista

Once more it’s a song in a language I don’t understand: Finnish. Kaunis is the Finnish word for beautiful and Kaunista is some kind of variation of that. Here too, the foreign language lends the music an air of mystery.

There’s nothing fragile about this track though. The music starts out carefully, but quickly grows. It gains strength and confidence, develops an attitude and then lets it all loose. This song is about Kala dancing around the Fire of the Lonely Ones, deep in the forest under the stars of winter. It’s about how she lets go of her fears and worries, starts to put her past behind her, and gives herself to the fire and the music.

Annakin – Trooper

This song, it seems to me, is both about change and about finding your place in the world (though I admit I could be wrong). Both of these concepts are central to Kala. Her entire existence has been thrown to the wind and she needs to find a way to get back on her feet somehow. It’s kind of what the entire story is about – in a roundabout fashion.

The mood and sound of the song also ties in well with the character – in much the same way as the previous ones. On the surface it’s cold and perhaps a little bit vulnerable, but there’s strength and power hiding underneath. If you haven’t picked up on it already, that’s kind of a theme here.

If I had to pick only one song for Kala, I think it would probably be this one.

Hybrid – Break My Soul

Hybrid is a band I’ve been a fan of ever since I first encountered them back when I was at uni – nearly two decades ago – and this one of my favorite tracks of theirs.

This is a song about coming back – about standing up straight after having found your balance. At least, as far as it applies to Kala it is. It’s about how she’s taking her first steps in her new life and how she’s getting ready to take on the world again. She’s gone through the bad things, still are, but she’s found hope, and she’s found the will to go on living.

And she’s got a thing or two to tell the world about the hand she’s been dealt.

Depeche Mode – When the Body Speaks

This is the soundtrack to someone mortally wounded freezing to death all alone somewhere out on the ice wastes of the northern sea. Most likely, that’s not at all the way it’s meant, and it’s not what the lyrics are about, but if you close your eyes and listen and pretend you don’t understand the words, you’ll see it.

Picture a vast plain of ice. Picture someone lying there, on their back, with falling snow piling up around them, and their blood frozen on the ground. Picture that they’re still alive, but not for much longer.

There is no one else around. No one will come to save them, and no one will know their fate. They know all this, and they’re fine with it. They’ve made their peace, and now they just wait for the end.

This is the song that plays in the background.

The above isn’t a scene from my story. It’s not how Kala will end. It’s not a spoiler. It’s an attempt to paint a picture and show you how the song fits with the character and the story.

Edit:

Kala?

This is a late edit. I realised a few hours after I posted this that I hadn’t really introduced the story – just assumed everyone would know. That’s probably not the case.

So, anyway…

Kala is the main character of my NaNoWriMo project: Kala is Alone. It’s meant to be a cold, grim story about a young woman who loses everything and her struggle to get on with life. I’m putting up the chapters on the blog as I go, and you can find them linked from the story’s main page, here.

Don’t expect much though. I’m not used to writing fast, and I’m not used to having as vague an outline as I do for this one. I’m sure it’s good for me – educational and stuff. It probably won’t be my best quality work though. Still, it’s there if you want to have a look.

Soundtrack for a Frozen Soul

Magical Mixtapes

Music is important to me.

If you’re one of those who’ve been following this blog for a while you’ll know I tend to put quite some effort into picking out music to accompany my writing. I make playlists for my stories, and I pick out signature songs for my main characters. When wrote Emma’s Story every chapter came with a link to a mix-set I’d picked out.

I do my own mix-sets too. It’s a different kind of creative outlet. This my latest one:

This is the second installment in the Magical Mixtape series. The idea behind it is to pick out music that’s dreamy, melodic, and a little bit mysterious. I want to create a mood that’s inspiring and that sets my mind wandering.

Have a listen, and I think you might see what I mean.

It’s electronic music with slow, but stead and insistent, beat. There are melodies and voices that weave back and forth and hint at something or the other. A lot of it is dance music, but I try to pick tracks that don’t feel like it’s just dance music. I want music that I can also enjoy while lying on my bed with the lights out, or while going for a walk.

Don’t get me wrong – I love dance music, but this set isn’t for dancing. You can dance to it, but it’s not why I made it.

 

I did this one as inspiration for my NaNoWriMo project. Kala is the name of the main character. The story takes place in winter, and it doesn’t really have anything at all to do with summer, or Kala’s dreams of summer. In fact, if I had really wanted to make a set to go with the character and the story, it probably wouldn’t have sounded like this at all.

Still, it works in how it puts me in the mood for writing, and for making things up, and I’m sure I’ll soon enough connect it with the story as well – whether I like it or not.

Finally, here’s the first installment in the series:

 

Magical Mixtapes

Music in A Land of Ice and Stone

Whenever I start on a new story I put together a new playlist for the story. I pick out music that I hope will inspire me and which I think has a mood and a feel that fits with my character and my story.

I also pick out a few signature songs that will serve to represent the main character of the story. Like for Toini, and for Alene. I’m going to do that for Kala as well, but not yet. It’ll probably be a week or two. The story and the character are still both too young for me to really know for sure what songs will work for her.

The basic idea though, and the setting, those are things I’ve bounced around for quite a while. I’ve got a good feel for those. I’ll show you.

Here:

This video captures the feeling of the Kala’s world very well, both the sounds and the images. Unfortunately, it doesn’t show any forest or it would be perfect. I’m a big fan of forests, and they will figure in the story, even if they perhaps don’t exist in this kind of landscape.

Let’s say the forest grows further inland – or something like that, perhaps in valleys shielded from the sea. I’ll try not to worry about it too much.

I should probably spend more energy on figuring out the plot.

Music in A Land of Ice and Stone