Music: The Roadmap of a Character’s Psyche
As a writer, I often make use of subtle devices to add layer and dimension to the story without beating the reader over the head with it. For instance, I have always have Pitbulls in the stories I write. Animals are very intuitive regarding a person’s energy, so they serve as a great barometer for the morality and motivation of a character. Another device that I often use is music.
In my own life, I often find songs running through my head. A long time ago I realized that the lyrics running through my head were always an indicator of my current mental state. Today, I woke up with the lyrics to Muse’s “Uprising” tramping around my brain, specifically the lines “We will be victorious/So come on.” Well, I also had a deadline for a $1Million dollar proposal for the 9-5 due today. I finished it yesterday and feel like I did a kick ass job on it, so it was no surprise to wake up to that song in my head.
I use this device in my writing to illustrate the current frame of mind for the character. As a for instance, in Reunions, a current work in progress, the main character, Charli, sets out for a drive with no destination in mind. She’s recently moved back to her home town where she was estranged from her family after the death of her mother. The song playing on the radio as she drives out is Gritz’s “My Life Be Like.” The lyrics are “It's times like these that make me say/Lord if you see me please come my way/Leavin' bread crumbs for when I stray.” With no real conscious thought, she ends up at the cemetery where her grandparents and mother are buried. During this visit, she comes to a few realizations about her past and her relationships with these three people. The song, the scene and Charli are all symbiotically tied together. The song is a form of foreshadowing. Charli needed closure on this area of her life and she found it by saying her goodbyes.
In the same book, there is a scene where Jake, Charli’s love interest in the story, sees Charli dancing with her Pitbull, Fred, and belting out the lyrics to “He Is” by Heather Hedley. This song is about a woman who loves a man who is the embodiment of her desires. Charli isn’t aware of Jake’s presence and in this unguarded moment we learn about what she is seeking in a man. The question that she’ll spend time answering in the story is if Jake is that man.
I can’t speak for other authors, but I feel like it is possible to overwrite a story. The prime directive of writing is show, don’t tell. I interpret that to mean show the reader in as many creative ways as possible. Yes, I could spend 500 words writing about her type of man and what her life lessons have taught her. And I could certainly spell it out explicitly for the reader. Or, I can drop hints, like the above, and use the story itself to expose Charli’s needs and desires.
For me, music is deeply personal and representative of my personality. My playlist runs from the Jackson 5, to Lyle Lovett, to Run-DMC. A trip through my playlist is a musical stroll through my psyche. My characters all have playlists and you can discern their personalities just by knowing the songs.
Excerpt from Coming Out Of Her Shell:
All Romance Ebooks: http://www.allromanceebooks.com/product-comingoutofhershell-602713-144.html
He was there. Susan could feel his eyes on her, even if she couldn't see his face. His balcony was in shadows, but she knew he was watching her. The very thought that he watched her in such an intimate, vulnerable moment was both thrilling and shameful. She couldn't believe she was doing this. Again. She should stop. Just get up go back inside the house and get back to her normal and predictable life. She was crazy to play this game. She knew nothing about him other than the easy going image he projected.
Sure, he was beautiful to her. Tall and lean with a natural athletic build. The kind of body that said he stayed active rather than pumping iron. His slightly shaggy, black hair gave him a lazy, relaxed appearance that belied the intelligence he sometimes let slip through his "don't take me too seriously" exterior. If she had to catalog his features, she'd say that individually they were fairly ordinary. He had a broad chin, straight nose and perpetual five o'clock shadow. His eyes were the exception. They were otherworldly. Emerald green, they had captured her the minute she'd seen him at the neighborhood block party the first week she'd moved to Chester Park. The sum of him took her breath away. He had a casual grace when he moved that said, "I'm okay with who I am, so fuck off if you don't agree."
She hadn't spoken to him that day. Hadn't said anything more to him than "Hi" and "How are you?" since she'd moved in three months ago, despite living next door to him. She thought of him though. In fact, she was beginning to fear she was obsessed with him.
She'd learned his name from one of the neighbors ... Eric Tanner. Such a simple name, it rolled off the tongue beautifully. She savored its syllables, sucked them into her mouth like the cherry off the top of a sundae. She loved his name; she longed to use it intimately. To whisper it in his ear as she nibbled on the lobe. To scream it as she came around his cock and milked his climax from him.
A slight breeze stirred the air, feathering across her exposed breasts. She imagined the whisper kiss was his lips and was lost to the fantasy. Her nipples tightened painfully and moisture flooded her core.
She hadn't meant for him to see. This game they played hadn't been planned. It had been totally accidental. Truly. But, playing with Eric was seductive. Like dark chocolate, it made her ravenous and one bite was not enough. It was a heady mixture of power and vulnerability that she never wanted to end even though she knew she should stop. She would stop. She wouldn't do it again. She couldn't do it again. Not if she wanted to respect herself.
It had started so simply. She had decided that she needed more personal time and changed her schedule at work. Truthfully, she was bored out of her skull. She'd been a corporate shepherd watching diligently over her human sheep for over 15 years and she hated it more everyday.
She was 35-years old and her life was so routine it put even her to sleep. All she did was work. QuestCom ran like a well-oiled machine. Never let it be said she didn't do her job. She was efficient, organized and effective, but about as fun as a tax auditor. She had no real friends, she'd never been married or in a truly serious relationship and had no children, though it could be argued that her Pug, Roxy, was her baby. She simply didn't know how to relax and be herself with people. Men especially. Once "cold fish" had become a recurring theme in the bedroom, she'd sworn off men. What was the point? She couldn't relax enough to try some of the things they wanted her to do and she got tired of the complaints.
It wasn't that she blamed them. Even she got tired of the missionary position. Nor did she think it would be very fun to screw a woman who could barely tolerate having sex with the lights on. She was repressed and she knew it, but so far there hadn't been anyone worth making the effort for. So, to balance out her failure in the dynamic woman department, she'd made a point of being the best employee she could be. Her career had skyrocketed and she was the youngest Chief Operating Officer in her company's history. She was good at her job, but she hated it. She excelled in her role, but she was bored and it showed.
When she'd taken to just staring out the window of her office for hours at a time, she decided she needed a change. Hell, she needed a life. So, she had rearranged her schedule to take every Thursday afternoon off. Her plan was to take up a hobby. She just hadn't expected it to be masturbating for her sexy neighbor.
She hadn't known he was there that first time. She had simply gone out for a swim. After doing enough laps to leave her breathless, she'd put on her sunglasses and hat and stretched out on her favorite lounge chair to let the sun dry her off.
She'd lain there trying to remember the last time she'd had sex (two years) and fantasizing about Eric. Wondering if he was involved with anyone. Imagining him naked and plunging into her. Without any conscious thought, she'd begun to stroke herself - outside her bikini bottoms because she never touched herself directly - until she brought herself to orgasm on the sheer fantasy of Eric.
As she'd struggled to catch her breath, a sound like a chair being pushed back drifted to her from the direction of his balcony. She opened her eyes in time to see the object of her fantasy stand up and turn to go inside.
She'd been shocked. Mortified. Humiliated. She'd stumbled to her feet and run inside as fast as she could. After locking the door, she'd slid down the wall and sat there on the cold marble tile with her arms wrapped around her knees rocking as she tried to calm the nausea roiling in her belly.
He'd seen her masturbate. Watched her at her most vulnerable moment. She'd been imagining herself with him and he'd watched as she pleasured herself. To her utter shock, as the idea sank in, rather than puke up her lunch, her nipples tightened and her pussy clenched.
The reality slammed into her. He'd watched her! Eric had seen her masturbate.
The thought was both electric and erotic. The idea of his eyes on her aroused her more than she thought possible. She broke out in goose bumps and her pussy throbbed. She refused to touch herself again though. She wanted to savor the memory of coming with his eyes on her.
And so it began. Over the weeks, she'd become more and more brazen. Touching herself in ways she'd never had the courage to before. Rather than feeling embarrassed by Eric's presence, she was emboldened. She didn't even bother with a bathing suit now.
One evening, after making sure his car was gone, she'd gone so far as to arrange the lounge chair so that the angle and distance would be such that, even though he'd have a good view, he'd have to pay close attention if he really wanted to see her.
She performed for him every Thursday afternoon at two o'clock without fail. Today was different though, today was her last performance. She'd promised herself she would stop this madness. She was becoming consumed by the fantasy of him and she couldn't take it anymore.
It was a lie and she felt like a cheat. She wasn't really this sexy, erotic woman. It was a game she was playing and it had to stop. So, today was her finale and she planned to make it good for him.
He was hard, so hard it hurt. Eric slowly, carefully opened the zipper on his Levi's to free his straining cock. What in the hell had made him think going commando was a smart idea?
Thank god his balcony was enclosed rather than one of those open grill-work types. Most people wanted sunny, open balconies. He didn't. He preferred to sit and ponder in the shade, his feet propped up on the railing with a cold Guinness in his hand.
His balcony was his refuge. No frilly patio furniture for him. He liked solid, comfortable furniture sized for a man, but only one chair and one side table for his beer. He didn't share his balcony. At least, not with other humans. Peanut was the exception, but even his Pitbull wasn't allowed out here when he watched Her.
Eric was never more grateful for the shadows than he was when she performed. He was hanging free for the world to see and he didn't relish the idea of being seen with his pants down, literally. Despite being in the shadows, she knew he was there. Watching her. She had to. All evidence said that this was a private show just for him and he'd be damned if he wasn't going to watch. Hell, who was he kidding, he'd gone from watching to participating weeks ago.
As he stroked his erection, he wondered if that was truly her intent. Was this a show for him? Did she do it to torture him? Drive him to distraction? Tease him to madness? Or, was his ego leading him off a cliff? What if she didn't know he was there? Maybe she just liked the idea that she might be seen. It could just be the thrill of potentially getting caught that got her off.
Eric rejected the notion. Her performances were as regular as clockwork. Two o'clock every Thursday afternoon. He'd begun clearing his schedule in order to guarantee he'd be home when she performed. Without fail, he'd find her next to her small swimming pool, stretched out on one of her blue and white striped chaise lounges. She always wore a straw hat and sunglasses with a fine, white linen cover up. In the beginning, she'd worn a barely there bikini, but over the subsequent weeks she didn't even bother and now, she was always naked under the cover up.
If there was no thought of him watching, why be so regular? Everyone knew he ran his dog training business out of his house. She might be new to the neighborhood, but his advertisements were everywhere and most of their neighbors used him to train their dogs. She'd have to be completely self-involved not to know. But still, maybe he was wrong. She'd never said more than two words to him when they ran into each other. In fact, she seemed to always be in a rush to get away from him. The few times he'd tried to engage her in conversation, she'd looked at him like he had two heads.
Eric had first seen her the day she moved in. Her long, brown hair had been pulled back in a simple pony tail. She'd worn no make up and had looked fresh and young. She'd glanced up at his house and he'd gotten a glimpse of clear skin, brown eyes and full, rosy lips. He'd instantly imagined those lips wrapped around his dick and he'd had to think of Roseanne Barr naked to force the sucker down, so he could go meet a client.
Only later had he found out that her name was Susan Mallory and she was some kind of executive suit at a local firm. He steered clear of those types. They always wanted to put you in a box and he'd had enough suits to last him a lifetime in his father. Despite owning a successful business, his father had always treated him like a loser. The refrain never changed. His business was infantile, he dressed like a slob, he had no ambition. Their conversations consisted wholly of criticizing Eric and highly unwanted "suggestions" that were for Eric's "own good."
When his mother had been alive, Eric had tolerated his father for her sake. Once the cancer had taken her, Eric didn't even bother. He couldn't remember the last time he'd spoken to his father and that suited him just fine. Nope, he stayed away from suits. He liked his life and he wasn't changing to satisfy anyone else's opinion of what he should be doing with himself. If someone didn't like him, they could just fuck off.
Which brought him right back to her. Maybe these performances had nothing to do with him and she just liked to masturbate in her back yard. Maybe she just wanted to pleasure herself in the open air with the sun heating her skin and drinking in her cries as she came. Sometimes, though, he could swear she said his name.
Either way, she was going to kill him. Literally. It wasn't going to be an easy death either. No. She clearly planned to make it slow and tortuous. Killing him bit-by-bit, until he begged for death rather than submit to her torture.
As it was, he didn't think he could stand it even one moment longer. The ache was excruciating. He needed relief. He needed peace. One way or another he had to end this madness, but when he did, it would be on his terms NOT hers. She'd be the one begging. She'd be the one screaming and writhing. She'd be the one under his power.
Today was especially intense. She'd gone slow, prolonging each moment. She'd started by rubbing some kind of oil all over her body that left her glistening from head to toe. She'd lingered over her breasts, rubbing each one in turn, pushing them together and massaging the oil into them. She'd made sure to rub and play with each nipple until they were deep red and jutting out from her body before continuing down her stomach. When she'd reached her legs, she'd lifted each one in turn. She'd massaged her calf and thigh for long moments as she exposed her pussy to him. He imagined he could see her moisture glistening, even from this distance.
After rubbing in the oil, she'd lain back and continued to leisurely rub her belly and breasts. As he watched, his impatience grew. He wanted her to continue, not leave him in suspense. He thought about standing up and demanding she go on, but rejected the notion before it was even a complete thought.
What was she doing? Why was she waiting?
Just when he thought he'd go crazy, she'd reached for her glass, some kind of blue, girlie drink, on the table next to her and sucked an ice cube into her mouth. She then slowly drew it out from between her lips. He swallowed hard and imagined her sucking him in and out of her mouth like she'd done to that ice cube. His dick had gotten so hard at the thought that he was gritting his teeth as he worked to hold back his climax. He wasn't ready to come yet.
She began to slowly rub the ice over each rosy, nipple. He could see her belly clench and contract with each frigid touch. Her eyes were hidden by her sunglasses, but her mouth was parted slightly and he could see the tip of her tongue darting out periodically to lick her bottom lip. He wanted to feel that tongue darting out against his cock.
She continued stroking down her body with the ice cube until she reached her pussy. As he watched, she opened her legs and spread her outer lips and then inserted the cube into her pussy.
"Holy shit," Eric groaned as he watched her fuck her pussy with the ice. His cock was jumping in his hand as he pumped his hand up and down in rhythm with her thrusts.
She strained against the chill, pushing her hips upward. Her thigh muscles flexed convulsively and she clenched her free fist around the end of the lounge chair as she worked her pussy. She kept thrusting the ice in and out until it melted and then she shocked the hell out of him by licking the moisture from her fingers. She lay there for several moments, breathing hard. Her breasts rose and fell with each inhale. He drank her in as she lay there. The sun glinted off her skin in small flashes with every breath.
Soon, but not soon enough for Eric's cock, she resumed her ministrations to her pussy. Parting her lips and stroking her clitoris in small, lazy circles. She seemed to have all the time in the world today. There was no rush, no urgency. She dallied over her pussy alternating between thrusting her fingers deep and then circling them around and over her clit.
Eric wanted to scream his frustration. She was killing him. He couldn't stop himself from imagining what her pussy would feel like wrapped around his dick. He barely held his climax at bay. He panted through clenched teeth as sweat began to dribble down his back. He seriously contemplated barging into her back yard, throwing her legs over his shoulders and pounding his cock into her until she screamed his name over and over.
Instead, he silently begged her to put him out of his misery. He wanted to watch her come. He wanted to hear her moan. He loved watching her come. She was beautiful when she climaxed. Arching her back so that her pert, round breasts thrust up into the air. The fingers of one hand buried in her pussy as she plucked and squeezed her nipples with the other. Her moans were music to his ears and ultimately it was the sweet, sexy little purrs she made that sent him over the edge every time.
Today was no different. Her legs tensed and her back began to arch. Finally. This was it, she'd reached the end of her tether and she was going to come. Eric gripped his penis more firmly at the base with one hand, while he used the other to work the head of his cock harder. He squeezed the head almost to the point of pain as he waited for her to go over.
"Come on, baby," he whispered. "Let me see. That's it. Don't make me wait any longer."
Harder and faster, his hand flew up and down his shaft. He wouldn't come before she did. He made sure they came together every time and today would be no different. Eric groaned and cursed himself for a fool. He shouldn't do this. Every single time he promised himself it was the last time. Every time he swore he'd end it. He couldn't go on with this torture. He was becoming obsessed and he knew it.
Today's performance had been the most intense yet and if he didn't do something about it soon, she was going to drive him to drastic measures. He knew if he crossed that bridge there'd be no coming back ... for either of them.
Eric panted with the strain of holding back. She was close, but she seemed to be deliberately prolonging the show. His cock throbbed as sweat bloomed all over his body. He didn't think he could go on much longer.
"Now," he groaned. "Come for me. Now."
As if she'd heard his whispered command, she threw her head back as her orgasm claimed her. Gasping and moaning, she writhed through the whirlwind.
That was all it took. As the luscious sounds of her pleasure reached his ears, he broke and together they rode the wave.