Brute Squad Writing

Character Theme Songs

I listen to music a lot when I write; I find it really helps get me into the right mind-set. This is especially true when I’m writing characters. I’ve posted a couple of playlists before, for Naeris and Roshan, and I’ve certainly written in generalisation about why I picked certain songs.

Now, I’ve written a lot of character-based fluff pieces recently (I’m trying write more words, more often so that NaNoWriMo doesn’t come out of left field again), so I’ve had a lot of chance to listen to some of those playlists. For some characters, like Aidan (a wild-mage baker) it’s easy: I just throw on ‘Magic Dance’ and get writing. So I thought I’d try something a little different this time, and try to pick the one song from a character’s playlist that I think encapsulates them as a character, and work through why I think that. Now, I’m much better at consuming music than I am at writing about it, so buckle up. It’s time to get experimental.

Character Theme Song: Naeris Alleyborn – ‘The Cave’, Mumford and Sons.

The song talks a lot about faults; about changing ones ways and seeing the world in a different light. What are the faults Naeris wants to leave behind? What ‘shame’ do they know? For that, we need to take a look a their history.

Naeris was abandoned as a child, and grew up on the streets of the capital city of a kingdom gripped by brutal tyranny. Survival meant stealing, and that meant taking things from people who probably needed it just as much as you did. To a gang of orphans, living hour-to-hour, the mere fact that someone else had something meant that they were better off than you. Why not take it? Why not join a gang of criminals that would provide shelter and decent food in exchange for a bit of theft or arson? We’re just trying to survive, even if that means preying on others. I mean, they all do it too–those guards, shaking down that merchant for extra coin, that woman turning in her husband for treason to get the reward money.

In short, Naeris bought wholesale into the corrupt, unjust world they lived in. They were too distracted by the shadows on the walls to see what was really going on. And yeah, obvious Plato reference; I mean, the song is called ‘The Cave’. But there’s another, more fitting cave I wanted to discuss.

So, St. Francis of Assisi, right?. All round swell guy, loved fighting wars, partying hard, making money at the expense of others, and all those great things the upper-class of his time loved to do. A moment of divine inspiration, and he starts to come around to the idea that maybe all that money could be used to help people. He goes off on a vision quest to a bunch of remote, lonely places (a cave was probably involved) and he comes back a changed man. His view of the world has basically turned upside-down; he was ‘walking on his hands’, as the song puts it.

For Naeris, the revelation wasn’t sudden, but rather the slow and inexorable realisation that something was very wrong with this society. Was it, like Francis, divinely inspired? That it reached a climax around the same time The Traveller chose Naeris as their cleric is, almost certainly not a coincidence, but the causality of that moment is a bit muddy. Did the Traveller simply see a soul that desired great change and grant it the power to achieve that? Or was it the other way around? I think–I say think, because I’m not entire sure myself–that it was a bit of both. Naeris went into the cave already knowing that things weren’t right, and emerged with the power to do something about it.

So, now we have a person with a not-too-great past who has been given a chance to change their ways, perhaps divinely inspired, perhaps not. A once-infamous rogue who now works as a champion of the poor, of ‘widows and orphans’, fighting for the freedom of the people from an oppressive regime. Someone who knows what it’s like to think that the shadows on the wall are all that there is, and who wants to show people the sunlight outside the cave (oh, that allegory again). Someone who, despite their faults, is finally figuring out what they’re supposed to be doing with their life.

There is one line, in particular, that resonates with the character:

I’ll know my name as it’s called again

It’s a bit silly, because I’m not entire sure what the original intent behind this line is. But ‘Naeris’ is just another nickname–they didn’t know until recently what the name their parents gave them was. Perhaps somewhat ironically though, they have been called it all along by The Traveller: Little Nightingale. Ultimately, Naeris needs to make a decision about who they are; about which of their many names is theirs. Which one represents the person Naeris wants to be — someone who fights injustice and inequity with compassion when possible, and with steel when required. The kind of person who looks upon Heptera, demon-goddess of rot and decay, and wants to redeem her. To deliver her from the corruption that was forced upon her (as far as they know; the DM might know otherwise).

Anyway, this has been a fun exercise, and I’d like to hear your thoughts!

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