It’s been much too long since I’ve shared some music recommendations. I decided it was not only long overdue, but I’ve been writing my second book and an idea struck me. And yes, that’s right, after almost two years of writing and deleting and more writing and more deleting and rewrites and edits, I finished my first book. All I can say is that it’s a young-adult mystery complete at about 91,000 words, which is equivalent to about 360 book pages. I’ve began querying agents recently, so fingers crossed for good things!
But anyways, back to my point. In my second book, the final installment of my duology, there’s a certain character that makes a much more prominent appearance. In fact, he kind of takes over as the new antagonist. But he’s so unlike the first antagonist because his intentions are better and more reasonable, which is why I refer to him more as an anti-hero than a villain. He’s so complex and damaged, yet he has this heart that only wants good things, and that’s what I love about him. In my eyes, he’s so real because he doesn’t handle his emotions or his problems well. He tries to do the right thing, but he makes so many mistakes, like all of us. He cries and he laughs, he’s smart and occasionally snarky. I don’t like to pick favorites here, but he is very fun to write about. He’s taught me so much and opened my eyes to topics that I’ve always wanted to explore. I hope I’m writing you well, my boy.
So in this second installment, a wild side of my anti-hero starts to come to surface. This isn’t a part of his natural personality, but with all that’s happened to him, he’s snapped. He finally wants to have control over his life. He wants to rebel. And these are the songs that I listen to in order to put myself in that wild mindset.
(P.S. The stencil for this character is Iwan Rheon to give you a bit of a visual. But no, my character is nothing like Ramsay Bolton. LET ME MAKE THAT CLEAR. After all, he’s a diverse actor who has played many other parts that don’t have a bad bone in their body.)
1. “New Americana” – Halsey
Of course Halsey is on this list, and there will be more. (She’s also on my other list here.) She has an incredible voice with meaningful songs, lyrics that capture a variety of all emotions so well. I’m sure most of you have heard and listened to her, but if you haven’t, add that to the top of your priority list.
“New Americana” captures the classic urge to rebel. It makes me think of dystopian worlds where people bunch together and overthrow the government, or a group of rowdy teens who get into trouble for the fun of it.
But when I first heard this song, I had to put in on repeat because it gave me such a good visual of my anti-hero boasting around with his false confidence. I pictured him fighting and dancing like a kid, sneaking into shops with his bow and arrow slung over his shoulder. (He’s old-school in his fighting techniques.) But this song and these lyrics really captured this new shell of distorted confidence that he constructs in this second installment, something that he thinks makes him stronger.
2. “Control” – Halsey
I mean, it’s all in the title. This song is dark and vicious, speaking of sadness and madness. But it turns around with these lyrics of becoming strong, asking the listener, “Who is in control?” These lyrics capture my anti-hero so well with lines like: “My mind’s like a deadly disease”, “I can’t help this awful energy”, “And I couldn’t stand the person inside me” Because like most people, he’s scared of the things that are after him and of what he might do, that he’s more evil than he realizes. But as I said, he’s also desperate for a clutch of control.
This is something my protagonist can relate to in different ways, a quality these two characters share. They both tend to feel trapped and without a sense of control in their own lives, but in different ways. So this song reminds me of both of them in equal parts, yet in slightly altered ways. And many of these lyrics fit many of my protagonist’s fears.
If you’re writing a character who’s struggling with internal demons or drowning within their own fears, definitely give this song a listen. It’s bound to help put you in that mindset.
3. “Colors” – Halsey
In my mind, this song is describing someone who’s depressed and broken, saying, “everything is blue”, “so devoid of color”, “pulled apart at the seams”–all of it makes me think of a boy who’s lost in his own sorrow. And that makes me think of my anti-hero, because he’s a troubled boy who’s been through so much, things that most people wouldn’t want to live through. And he doesn’t, but he’s pushed through, over and over again.
This song also reminds me of his new addiction to cigarettes, being that one of that one of the lines is: “Everything is gray, his hair, his smoke, his dreams.” So other than the gray hair, this matches my anti-hero with precision, how everything has turned gray for him. He can’t think of another life for himself, of hopes and dreams. He’s hopeless, which also partially connects to my protagonist. They’re more alike than they realize. Many of us can feel hopeless, and this is the song that produces those emotions powerfully.
4. “Young God” – Halsey
No, I’m not quite done with Halsey yet. (Sorry not sorry.) “Young God” is another song that again captures the confidence my anti-hero tries to boast and wants to have. He wants to feel like a god, but not to the extreme of being bowed down to, but to help others. He wants to be the god who swoops in and saves the day, but he doesn’t particularly want the recognition for it.
Multiple lines of this song also connect with the main plot points of this second book, things I’m afraid I can’t reveal. *wink* But a particular line that stands out is: “You know the two of us are just young gods, and we’ll be flying through the streets with people underneath, and they’re running, running, running.” This makes me think of him wanting to chase away all the bad people of the world and him being the reason for their departure. There may be a few explicit lines in this song that don’t fit the situation, but for the most part, this song speaks the possibility of power, of what it would be like to have control and be a legend.
5. “Take It All” – Ruelle
Since Ruelle’s first album was released, I’ve been a huge fan. I have all of her songs saved and probably listen at least one at some point each day. “Take It All” has been a favorite, with the muted tones and the sharp-edged lyrics and the pulses of power. If you haven’t already listened to her, you must.
Of course this one had to be in this playlist. The title speaks itself: it’s all about taking it all for yourself. My anti-hero may not be power-hungry like my first antagonist, but again, there’s this urge to want have some form of control in the world and be responsible for an act of goodness. He may not want to take it all, but these thoughts do cross his mind, and that scares him.
6. “Now You” – Gjan
Gjan is an artist I’ve recently discovered and my goodness, she is a talent. She creates such powerful and fast-paced music, my favorite being “Now You.” This song helps me create a multitude of action sequences because of the immediate swift pace and the constant energy and the lyrics. I mean, the opening lyrics are: “So come on, let’s fight let’s fight.” If you’re writing action sequences, definitely give this one a listen.
Being that most fighting sequences involve my protagonist and/or anti-hero, this reminds me of them clearly. But there’s a particular line that made my head instantly latch onto my anti-hero. And that line is: “No, oh no, there is no competition; yes, oh yes, I’m in my best condition; walking in on thin ice dressed like a badass.” That line speaks for so many types of characters. But what I love about is how it says, “walking in on thin ice”, which implies that they’re on the brink of falling in and drowning. And that is powerful and true. My anti-hero occasionally gets in over his head, and though he knows it’s wrong, he finds it difficult to stop.
7. “Free” – Broods
I, of course, have to save the best for last. If you follow me on Twitter, you must know that Broods not only one of my absolute favorite artists, but this particular song “Free”, embodies the core message in my duology. And that cover art? That fits several elements of my duology superbly. I’m still convinced this song was written for my duology.
But anyways, this song fits both my anti-hero and my protagonist extremely well. Like I said, it might as well have been made for them. Both characters feel very trapped for different reasons, and they feel like no matter what they do, they can’t break free. There are always these claws keeping them from escaping, which is something that I think most of us can relate to. To me, freedom is that lightness of the heart when you know you’re doing the right thing, whether it’s being honest or pursuing your passion. It’s doing whatever makes you feel happy.
Both my protagonist and my anti-hero are desperate for this lightness of the heart, which is why they (particularly my anti-hero) get caught up in a fleeting act of rebellion for that burst of freedom. My protagonist tends to handle this in different ways, but my anti-hero drags her into these rebellious acts. It’s quite an adventure with lots of rebellion. *laughs evilly*
So what do you think of these songs? Have you heard of these artists or songs before? What do they make you think of? What songs make you feel rebellious? Or, for you writers out there, what music do you listen to for your chaotic characters? Be sure to let me know!