Every Breath We Drew Was Hallelujah

06 September 2013

Back when I answered Meghan's questionnaire, I mentioned that I'm very picky with my writing music. I can't write without it, as my pen tends to grow dry without a tune to jog it along every now and again, but the majority of it has to be instrumental, or else I struggle with focusing on the task at hand. Words in my head and words in my ears do not mesh well together. But even though I don't listen to a lot of lyrical music while I'm writing, music still remains a heavy influence over all the stories in my head. One line in a song can spark an idea that, in time, becomes a suitable plot. I thought it would be interesting to share a few of these songs, lyrical or otherwise, that tie with my characters. As a little caveat, I have seen this idea floating around the blogosphere from time to time, but I can't recall who first started it, so I'll only say that it did not originate with me, and leave it at that.

violet bradshaw

I could hardly write such a post without mentioning the first of my characters to ever see the light of day. Even as I grow in my writing and am able to recognize the errors I made in my earlier attempts, I will always have a warm hollow in my heart for Vi and the rest of the Bradshaw family. "Worn" by Tenth Avenue North reminds me so much of Violet, particularly near the end of Violets Are Blue. She reaches a point where she grows tired of fighting, tired of weeping, tired of all emotion. She is simply worn and doesn't know how to remedy that.

let me see redemption win
let me know the struggle ends
that you can mend a heart
that’s frail and torn
I wanna know a song can rise
from the ashes of a broken life
and all that’s dead inside can be reborn
'cause I’m worn

susannah dixon

As the main character of Rifles in the South Field, she gets two songs. The first is "Song For the Broken" by Barlow Girl (an odd choice, I know), which has elements in it that resonate with Susannah. That steadfast, hardworking, stoic attitude is very much a part of her and something she struggles to shed in part throughout the course of the book.

(oh why does it take so much?)
to bring me to my knees,
(oh why does it take so much?)
pain for me to see,
(if strength is only found when)
I am on my knees,
(why is it so hard)
to show that I am weak?

The second song is "Paradise" by Coldplay, which has more to do with Susannah's early years than anything else. The sense of childlike faith and dreams that pervades the song corresponds perfectly with her personality as a young girl.

when she was just a girl
she expected the world
but it flew away from her reach
and the bullets catch in her teeth

life goes on, it gets so heavy
the wheel breaks the butterfly
every tear a waterfall
in the night, the stormy night, she'd close her eyes
in the night, the stormy night, away she'd fly . . .

kenneth hughes

There's something about "Some Nights" by Fun* (the clean version, that is) that fits Kenneth perfectly. It can make for depressing listening when taken in large doses and doesn't fall along the lines of my usual music preferences, but it's a remarkable echo of my British infantryman's heart. He didn't choose his battle, and when called to defend his land, he struggles to rationalize shedding his blood for a cause in which he puts no faith.

but I still wake up, I still see your ghost 
oh Lord, I'm still not sure what I stand for 
what do I stand for? what do I stand for? 
most nights, I don't know... 


Mercédès has lived in my head since the spring, but she's only been the subject of a few hastily scribbled scenes and a secret Pinterest board since, as she and her world are not quite ready to see the light of day. In time I will reveal some, but for now, I enjoy holding her story very close to my heart. The significance of Sara Groves' "Painting Pictures of Egypt" rings so true for Merche that it can cause a subtle ache to rise in my throat if I listen to the song too closely. As I mentioned a several weeks ago, Mercédès is a stranger in a strange land, learning about and adjusting to customs that could not be farther from her own.

the past is so tangible
I know it by heart
familiar things are never easy 
to discard
I was dying for some freedom
but now I hesitate to go
I am caught between the promise
and the things I know

I've been painting pictures of egypt
leaving out what it lacks
the future feels so hard
and I want to go back
but the places that used to fit me
cannot hold the things I've learned
those roads were closed off to me
while my back was turned

stephen & agnes randolph

You haven't met them yet, save for a picture of Agnes in one of my three (!) posts in August, but I could hardly resist leaving this husband and wife out of the mix. Their relationship has a distinctly unique nature, and I can't wait to explore and develop it further after I finish Rifles in the South Field. "Dancing in the Minefields" by Andrew Peterson, a favorite of mine already, was and continues to be a source of inspiration.

'cause we bear the light of the Son of Man
so there's nothing left to fear
and I'll walk with you through the shadowlands
'til the shadows disappear


Again, someone I haven't officially introduced on Literary Lane. Giles hails from a novel that won't be written for at least two more years, but inspiration is a fickle creature, and I've learned to snatch him up when I can. "A Place Only You Can Go" by Needtobreathe matches him perfectly. He's a simple character and a man of few words, but his love runs as deep as anyone else.

take my notions and words to heart
this is the cry of a man
I can't bring you fortune or noble life
but I'll love you all I can

oh, I know this song won't do
enough to prove my love to you
in my heart you'll always know
there is a place only you can go


Rowen's theme, "For the Love of a Princess" from the Braveheart* soundtrack, remains the only movie track I've included in this post. I meant for the focus to be on music with lyrics that coincide with or inspire my characters, but Rowen can be such a shadow of a girl sometimes that only an instrumental piece will suffice. The haunting and lonesome melody reminds me so much of her.

What songs define your characters?

*I can't recommend any other songs by this band, having not heard any more myself, but I would definitely advise listening to their music with caution. I also have not seen Braveheart, but I love the soundtrack, as I'm sure you know full well.

10 epistles:

  1. What an excellent idea - coining songs for your characters! You won't mind too terribly if I borrow it?
    Violet's song will always resonate with me; a filthy sinner tired of coming back to the cross with guilt on her shoulders. Wanting cleansing again.
    Aside from my love of the song, "Paradise" does seem a perfect fit for Susannah! But we've hashed that our before, so I won't bore you. ;)
    KENNETH. My fascination with him must be measurable to your fascination with Favian. But I don't claim to be as lamentable as he.
    It's been years since I've listening to "Painting Pictures of Egypt," but I can still remember having felt a sort of strengthened nostalgia after the first time. The lyrics now repeated brought back that emotion, but this time with Mercedes woven into the heartstrings. Now I feel like I know her even better.
    Agnes and Randolf: you two have stolen my heart. Thanks, Peg! ;P
    WAIT A MOMENT. Giles is The Person?!? Okay missy, you've got some explaining to do to your ever-so-curious seester.

    1. I don't mind in the least, as I assured you already. :)

      Dear sister, I beg you to recognize that 'tis Agnes and Stephen. Their surname is Randolph. And yes, they have quite stolen my heart as well.

      There are many Personages — pray inform me of which you speak? You sound vastly intrigued, though, which is decidedly gratifying. ^.^

  2. I love this post. I love the song Some Nights, and it makes for a great theme for Kenneth

    1. Yes, and you were right there when I realized it!

  3. This was a wonderful post. I loved it! I do the same thing- there are certain songs that just speak something special about a certain character.

    1. I'm so glad you liked it, Hayden! I'd love to hear what songs coincide with your characters if you ever feel like sharing. :)

  4. I'm taking a cue from Bree here, who took a cue from *you*, & making my own post on this very intriguing subject on Tuesday! Love this peek into your characters & the lyrics you connect with them!

    1. I can't wait to read your post, Meghan! Thanks for commenting!

  5. I always love knowing the theme songs that inspire characters and their authors in their writing. So I really enjoyed this post, Elizabeth dear, though I was quite unfamiliar with all the different songs you mentioned (except Braveheart - ho hum!). Violet's song sounds so beautiful.... and so does Kenneth's though he's is so painful and heartbreaking. Gah, I think he's going to pull on my heart-strings when I finally get to read his story!!

    And I enjoyed getting wee glimpses into the theme songs for new characters from story ideas - yay!! They sound like such fascinating characters... thanks for giving us a peek!

    A little while ago I got to write a similar post on the different theme songs for my characters on my blog, it would be wonderful if you like to check it out :).

    1. It's something of an eclectic mix, I know full well. With some of the characters, the song was one that had directly inspired him or her; with the other (more stubborn) ones, I matched songs that reminded me of them. The only unifying theme is that it's all music I enjoy, though to varying degrees.

      I'm fairly bursting at the seams with these new ideas and have to keep myself from sharing too much before I have certain wrinkles smoothed out. I generally like to have all my ducks in a row, so to speak, but sometimes I just want to gush without restraint. That's what sisters are for, I suppose. ^.^


"Gracious words are like a honeycomb; sweetness to the soul and health to the body." —Proverbs 16:24

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