Warning! Plot spoilers below!
I’ve been wanting to put down on paper one of the methods I used to make important distinctions more clear in my fan-fiction book, Least of These. The book is written in first person, rotating between two viewpoints that are considerably different. All the odd-numbered chapters are narrated by a 42-year-old man who has a unique position in the governmental system of Suzanne Collins’ universe. The even-numbered chapters assume the viewpoint of a 12-year-old girl, watching her sister go through the trials of the first Hunger Games book.
Setting aside the plot for a moment, to jump back and forth between two viewpoints so completely different posed a rather large challenge for me. How can you write a story that makes sense, while at the same time switching between two entirely different mindsets? Fortunately the content of the Hunger Games universe lends itself well to children maturing faster than normal and adults losing their grip on reality much more often, which allowed me to pad the main character ages toward each other. To some extent, Primrose grew up some and Kippen lost a little of his logical process, both of which played well into the plots.
Still, there was a serious gap and I wasn’t sure if I could write a story convincingly from these two intensely diverse viewpoints. I could have written each viewpoint at separate times, but there was simply too much that had to work together, which I will cover some other time. My worry was that the duality would become unbearable for the reader or plainly illogical, lacking any thread which tied the two viewpoints together.
Mood is a major factor in how I write, having to do with my process. It’s important to feel what the characters feel and to actually exist in their shoes, even at the expense of your day. Perhaps the primary component this time around was my experimentation with various music types in order to acquire the necessary emotion for each scene. Here, I plan to provide the two albums that came up most often and explain the way they assisted in developing each character.
For much-older Kippen’s plot, the odd-numbered chapters, OSI’s Blood came up almost every day and I played it through to the end, sometimes letting silence continue the moods it evokes, instead of moving on and playing a new piece of music. For those who are unfamiliar with OSI, Kevin Moore and Jim Matheos have fashioned a fantastic sound that seems industrial during some movements, metal at others, all mixed among effects that are closet to techno. The music is never really any of these genres, however. The best way to describe OSI is that it’s… well… odd. I appreciated their first two albums, but Blood is truly a work of art. It’s darkness was exactly what I needed to understand the evil that eventually drives Kippen insane, lashing out at the government with a network of improvised bombs. and finally tracking down a target and savagely murdering him.
Many times, we’ll see a story in film or in a book where someone engages in a heinous act because that’s the sort of life they’ve always known, or someone will do something evil and we think little of it because evil is sometimes done. But the truth is; good people will sometimes do terrible things because a long train of bad logic has led them far off course from decent behavior.
That’s what happens to Kippen. From the beginning of the book to the end, the reader witnesses his misery pushing him to become evil, culminating in his strangling another man, everything leading to his own execution. OSI’s Blood packs in a chillingly quiet darkness that provided exactly the mindset to write a man’s descent into madness. While the whole album does a fantastic job of leading you to the final track, perhaps you can listen to the last track to get the impact (see above).
Primrose, on the other hand, goes the opposite direct from Kippen. She takes her misery and comes to grips with it, accepting what she must, while not allowing an inability to rectify all wrongs to destroy her. The writing mood obviously had to be slightly more hopeful for the child, consequently, Rocco Deluca’s Mercy kept winding its way onto my speakers.
Rocco’s alternative rock, resonator-guitar, melodically-high voice, and strange lyrics were enough to get my attention a few years ago, and his most recent album can truly be called a work of art. What’s very odd is that the album isn’t all that upbeat. It’s a rather slow and wandering set with only a handful of positive tone songs. It’s anybody’s guess why I should feel much more optimistic while listening to an album with track names like “I Trust You to Kill Me” and “Junky Valentine” and “Save Yourself”, though I suspect Rocco is keeping that secret to himself.
For Primrose, it was frighteningly perfect. The album begins with “Mercy”, a rather positive, laid-back tune. In Least of These, Primrose is introduced trusting that everything will be okay in time, “Waitin’ on the sun to shine,” as Rocco offers in his song. The second track “I Trust You to Kill Me”, offers the moment that Katniss was forced to volunteer for the Hunger Games so that our little Primrose didn’t have to go. The main thrust of Primrose’s strife isn’t only that Katniss would die; it was that Katniss would die for her. The third track is a haunting song that chills my rib cage each time I hear it. “The Painting” is a love song very much outside the normal bent of ballads and really must be listened to. It captures my vision for Primrose’s view of Katniss entering the Capitol in the procession, a remorseful fascination with her beauty.
While writing Least of These, I found dozens of other ways to relate Mercy to the plot, even sequentially, but you get the drift and at this point it probably looks a bit tepid. I’ll leave the rest be for now with exception of the ends when the album and the plot both take a decidedly happier tone. “People live their lives / I know we hurt and deceive / It’s not that I’m blind / I just want to believe” In Least of These Primrose finally accept that the world may be cruel, but she can live with love. Ultimately, Katniss’ returning home vindicate her optimism (at least until Mockingjay‘s last third). Try out another song, “Bright Lights (Losing Control)” to get a tiny hint of the flavor (see above).
During a creative writing class I had in high school, I tried out a unique idea that crossed my mind for how to tell stories: adding little notes for what song someone should put on while they read the next part. Obviously there are a host of logistical issues, but perhaps these could be solved by technology. It’s an intriguing concept, the manipulation of the reader’s mood more fully. I plan to explore it in the future.