A friend of mine, Jenn Burke, has a series of posts called ‘Audibly Inspiring’. I find her choices interesting and, well, inspiring. We have similar tastes in music, but differ enough to find new musical crushes in one another’s playlists. After reading back through a few of her posts, I decided to start my own collection of musical musings.
(This ramble may or may not be related to the fact I recently figured out how to link YouTube videos to my posts.)
A lot of writers find music inspiring. I know I do. Oddly, though, I don’t often listen to music while I’m writing. I used to. Back in the fan fiction days (I say that as if they were sooo long ago, when really, they’re not; I posted a story just last month), I listened to a lot of music while I wrote. It seemed a natural part of the process and I often chose artists and songs that inspired the character I planned to write that day.
I did not write Less Than Perfect under any musical inspiration. But, afterwards, when asked if Reg had a theme song, I felt really bad that he didn’t! And it seemed as if I’d done one of my characters a great disservice by not loving him enough to give him one, to have even thought about giving him one. I put a lot of thought into what he looked like, after all.
Want a peek? You know you do.
Model Ben Hill served as inspiration for Reg. Lovely, isn’t he? (If you’re not attracted to men, you need not answer that. I’ll understand.)
I chose Mr. Hill to represent Reg because he had the sort of face I imagined Reg might have: good looking, but not so absolutely stunning he seemed unreal. He needed to be ‘less than perfect’. To me, this is the face of a man who looks like, well, a man. He might care about what colour his shirt is, but he’s not going to spend all day dithering in his closet. He’s forgotten to shave for a week or more, but it’s the apocalypse. There are more important things to think about than personal grooming. Still, he has an over all clean-cut sort of look about him. And he smells nice. All forest-y.
So, when choosing a theme song for Reg, I took his looks into account. This gave me an excuse to scroll through my (not creepy) collection of photos references. I also thought about what sort of man he is and here is where I got my first hint of what his song might be. He’s a reluctant hero.
I love writing reluctant heroes. I agree that some of us are born heroes. We have a driving need to serve and protect. I say that as if I’m one of the few, the proud… I think when push came to shove, I’d stand up and fight, okay? Anyway, back to my reluctant heroes. We have those who are born, and then, we have those who are made. The folks who who will stand up and fight, not because they have to, or not necessarily because they believe in a cause, but because it’s the right thing to do. Because they want to protect something important to them. It might be something small and selfish, but more usually it’s an ideal, one they might not even be able to articulate. Am I making sense? They fight because they have to. But lack of choice does not mean lack of conscience. Once involved, they become invested.
Reg is one of these men and he shares this trait with a lot of my heroes. So when it came to choosing a song for him, I picked the same one I use for my Warden, Aedan Cousland: “Superman (It’s not Easy)” by Five for Fighting.
This is a beautiful song. Listening to it has reduced me to tears on several occasions. It’s annoying when I’m driving. But, I think that regardless of reference–mine, yours or the artist’s–this is a song many of us can relate to.
The story does not end there, though. Characters should be mutable, in my opinion. Even after you set them down on paper you can discover new facets. I recently stumbled across another song that I thought suited Reg very well. It’s a more cynical take than I had imagined for him, but the earnest soulfulness of the melody really seemed to speak for him.
Ironically, it’s the theme song for the video game Borderlands 2: “Short Change Hero” by The Heavy.
Okay, that’s it for Reg, so far, but the search for music that inspires the voices in my head is an ongoing thing. Even characters who no longer get written still pluck at my thoughts and, now and again, I collect a new song for them. I have playlists over on YouTube devoted to each one. Yes, this means I’ll be writing more Musical Muse posts 😀 Enjoy!
While other families did wholesome things this Thanksgiving, like go outside and freeze various body parts to excruciating numbness (it’s a two part process), the three of us snuggled up to our computers and played Borderlands 2. It started out with husband and I playing. Daughter wandered in and watched for a while, then asked if she could play. Husband and I attempted to have an adult discussion about whether or not she should. It went something like this:
Him: Do you think it’s too mature?
Me: We bought her Lollipop Chainsaw for Christmas last year.
Him: Okay, let’s see if it’s on sale.
Ever played a Borderlands game? If the answer is yes, you already know how much fun we had, family dynamics aside. If the answer is no, I have another question for you: Why not? Seriously, it is the most fun I’ve had gaming in a long, long time.
Briefly, Borderlands 2 is a first person shooter that incorporates elements of role play. As you quest around the planet Pandora you kill stuff and loot stuff. Leveling means upping a certain skill and Badass points give you buffs. The guns…. The guns. I could write a whole article on the guns. They’re all awesome and at fifteen levels in I haven’t decided if the stats on them are purposely random of if there is a system to it all. I honestly wouldn’t be surprised by either.
The graphics rock. Instead of the usual pseudo-cinematic style, the scenery in Borderlands has a comic book style, black outlines and sketchy colouring that allow the world to warp and change in unexpected ways. The vulgar and slapstick comedy throughout gives the whole game the feel of a Saturday morning cartoon that really should air after midnight. Though, it’s probably not a far cry from what the kids (and forty-six year old husbands) are watching on Saturday morning. (I just sounded really old there, didn’t I?)
One of the best elements of the game is the cooperative play. You can solo your way through, but playing with up to three friends (or three random strangers, if that’s your kink) is a lot more fun.
Daughter downloaded her copy that evening and began to play. We were level 7 and so she needed to catch up to us if she wanted to co-op. The next morning, husband roused her sometime before midday so she could continue catching up. She wanted breakfast before she started gaming. We accused her of being weak. Still, we are her parents, so we allowed her to eat. She caught up to us by lunchtime and then wanted to take a break to eat again. Kids these days. Then it was time to play together.
Here are our characters:
Husband=Gaige the Mechromancer. Since this picture was taken she has acquired a new ‘skin’. She is now rocking a bunny hat and some weird mask with a sewed up mouth. It’s sort of disturbing.
Daughter=Maya the Siren. Maya always has the biggest guns. Always. She was the first to collect and equip a rocket launcher and uses it with child-like abandon.
Me=Axton the Commando. I thought he was good looking. I also thought I’d see him more often. He’s actually pretty good with his, er, guns. He loves his sniper rifle and we both extract a lot of joy out of perfect head shots. He also has a lot of fun with his sentient shotgun and assault rifles.
Yes, I am the big guy with the little gun. As a friend kindly observed, Axton does not feel the need to compensate. Still, my family thinks it’s hilarious.
Daughter: It looks like you’re holding a little water gun.
Husband: It’s Nerf or nothing.
Me: *dangerous silence*
To set up our co-op in Borderlands 2 we needed to configure a voice chat, which meant digging out an old headset for daughter’s computer. No problem. We have a few spares. This is where I should note that our daughter has the same set up we do: a laptop for surfing and a PC for gaming. My PC is in a corner of Husband’s man cave. Hers is in her room. We did discuss yelling through the wall at each other in order to coordinate co-operative play, then decided voice chat would be better.
It took us a while to coordinate voice chat. After testing her mic over and over, we figured out the problem, though. Her mute button was on. Then my mic wasn’t working. Turns out my mute button was on, too. I’d say the issues were not related, but we are, er, related.
(There is another story that could go here, something about me being convinced my new headset was broken for two days until I discovered the mute button.)
Those of you who have children will get the next bit: my daughter is twelve. Through voice chat she sounds six…which is really cute until you realise she’s listening to the same suggestive banter you are. We’ve had the talk, she gets it. She still giggles about it all, though. A lot. Which made me giggle, which made Husband laugh. So, the first half hour of the game was a lot of snickering, giggling and laughing as we wondered if we were the worst parents in the world. Then we got down to killing stuff.
Surprisingly, she didn’t suck at this part. Daughter and I have co-oped before. We play Halo: Reach on the Xbox. She is the sort of player who runs into the midst of everything and lets off a grenade. If she lives, it’s a success. If she dies, it’s my job to revive her. She employed much the same method of play in Borderlands, much to the dismay of Husband. At least there is no friendly fire in Borderlands…unless someone blows up a nearby gas tank, which a certain someone did just after reviving me. (We look for opportunities to do this now. I think the score is even at the moment.)
One of the ways to get around in Borderlands is dialing up a vehicle and driving through the landscape. I let Daughter drive ours. Ten minutes of belly busting laughter later, we finally caught up to Husband. We’d only rolled our vehicle sixteen times and driven off three cliffs. As parents, we have decided she is not getting her license until she is thirty. And, no, she is not allowed to use the defense that I plugged the only exit to an exploding building in Halo with one of my vehicles. That was a parking issue, not a driving issue.
At this point, the fact we were using voice chat barely mattered. We were yelling through the wall, particularly when laughter flooded the channel so that no one could make themselves heard. Also when instructions were IMPORTANT, like:
“Do NOT go around that corner/through that door/past that marker/into that room/one step away from where you are now.”
Which was usually followed by:
“Goddammit she aggro’d the whole room/zone/planet.”
Playing with your children can be frustrating for a couple of reasons. One is having to watch your language and worrying about what she’s hearing in the game. Another is moderating your reaction to her doing stupid stuff. She wants to know what is in every room, she wants to try on every outfit in the customization machine, she wants to use ALL her golden keys NOW, she wants to spend all her money on the daily deal weapons and she really, really, really needs to be the first one into every room.
Oh, and you can count on her to be looting and/or consulting her inventory when the BIG BOSS is sitting on your arse.
Speaking of looting, she has all the good guns. And she is constantly out of ammo. So, I guess she’s shooting something. Actually, she’s getting better at the whole co-op thing and it’s probably due to two things. The first would be us yelling through the wall. Husband and I had a giggle about how much we sound like parents on occasion. “Stay with the group.” “We’re playing the game together, aren’t we?” “Don’t go near the exploding tanks.” “Of course you’re going to die if you run into the middle of the room.” Okay, the last two are probably outside the usual run of parenting advice. Though, anyone should be cautioned about standing near explosives.
The second would be the fact that success breeds success. As we move through the quests and collect bigger and better rewards, she becomes more focused. She’s also a proper part of the team. We’ve coordinated a couple of actions now and she’s really come through. As parents, we have convinced ourselves this is teaching her cooperative and management skills. Mmhm.
We had a lot of fun playing together over the holidays. We did get around to cooking a turkey and it was only about two hours late to the table. In fact, dinner was late every night as that last quest stretched from the promised ten minutes to half an hour. Apparently our parenting style also includes teaching our daughter about flexible deadlines.
We do have one hard and fast rule, though: no gaming on week days. It’s kind of a relief, actually. I have a house to clean and a book to write.
Going to leave you with the opening cinematic, which includes the theme song “Short Change Hero” by The Heavy. It pops up about halfway through and really encapsulates the flavour of the game—which, I will say again, is FUN. Regardless of who I play with, it’s one of the most entertaining games I’ve ever played.