Allegories, or something

This weekend, after visiting friends, I turned the radio station.

Ordinarily, this is not such a striking occurrence: the radio plays woefully little music anymore, and I’m a finicky listener. As it was, my husband is regularly driven crazy by my flipping through stations, but our rule is: s/he who drives gets to control the music. He was in the passenger seat, having enjoyed several glasses of bourbon. I had control. So I switched.

We’d been listening to classic rock station, and I exchanged it for the oldies. That’s the kind of people we’ve become, really: the “current music” station is for the kids, and we’re the old people listening to “classics” and “oldies.”

ImageAs it went, I turned from Pink Floyd to disco. Suddenly, my husband turns in his seat and looks at me, stricken.

“You turned off Floyd for disco?” he asked, aghast. I made a face at him: there are few things that are off-limits for us to discuss but, since we met back in college, music is one of them.

“Holy shit,” he breathed. “If this was the seventies, you’d be a disco person over a rock person.”

With this, the entire foundation of our relationship, in my husband’s eyes, was rocked. He dropped back in his seat with wide eyes. “I don’t even know what to think.”

 Just earlier that evening, my friend was attempting to describe my literature tastes to her partner. I knew she was trying to be polite, so I interjected: “I’m a snob.” It seems like the easiest explanation when it comes to my taste in books, indeed: I read mostly lit fic, or, more tellingly, books where nothing happens and all the characters are jerks who never redeem themselves. It’s somewhat of a joke between me and Laila, that I can’t write happy things, that the best I can do with an ending is ambiguity. 

But music, man. I am an easy sell with music. Yes, I like skill, I like the chops on guitar and excellent lyrics and songwriting. But put a good disco beat on, a catchy pop song, and I’m toast.

Character creation (see how I brought this around? LIKE A BUS) is complex, and difficult. It is difficult because of this sort of thing: no person lines up exactly in every category. It would be easy to believe that a lit snob like myself would only like, say, classical music, or, at the very least, the certified geniuses of rock. But, dammit, if you look at my playlists, at what I’ll blast in the car, you’d find I’m much less discerning.

I laugh until I can’t breathe at really juvenile physical humor. I enjoy witty pop culture references on t-shirts. I’m reading Jane Eyre and just bought glittery Selena Gomez nailpolish.

There is an art in creating a well-rounded and believable character. Complexities do not dwell only in the action, in the drama, in the way they love or speak. Put a song on the radio and see if they dance. What’s on their bookshelf, what television show can they not pass by when flipping the channels? Where do they buy their underwear, in what order do they put on their socks?

Such a detail can color an entire story, can make a plot all its own, define a theme in your character’s life with a life of its very own. Who a person is is not defined by their musical taste, no, but it can reveal an aspect of them that allows a reader a deeper look, and can be more revealing than how they might react at their mother’s funeral.

Please don’t analyze my love of disco. There are some things I don’t really want to know about myself.

 

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