Today I welcome back Rachel Churcher, Author of the Battle Ground Series! To celebrate the release of Book 4 today, Rachel has completed another fantastic guest post about her musical inspiration behind the stories and the playlists she imagines for her characters. A great follow up to her earlier Pacifists Guide to Guns and Armour post, you should definitely check that one out too if you haven’t already!
Over to Rachel!
Battles and Beats
I’m going to say something surprising to kick off this post.
I’m writing about music, and how closely I associate certain songs with my Battle Ground series of books – but I don’t normally listen to music while I write, and I don’t surround myself with music most of the time. I have playlists, but they are mostly for special events and parties. I’m not someone who puts on their headphones to walk around town, or to help me concentrate. I prefer silence when I’m writing.
So what am I doing, writing about the songs connected with my story and characters?
It all has to do with music, emotion, and sharing the thoughts in my head with my readers.
Words and music
As I write, I can see each scene like a movie in my mind – and movies need soundtracks. Soundtracks enhance the emotional experience of watching stories on a screen. They suggest and guide the emotional responses of the audience. They reinforce the connection to the characters. They help to immerse the audience in the world of the story.
But these soundtracks, for me, come later. I’m not thinking about them as I put the story together. Everything I write leaves an emotional print in my mind, and if I hear music that triggers that emotion again, my brain will jump me back into that scene. I’ll be feeling the same things all over again – inside the head of my character.
One of my proofreaders describes what I do as ‘Method Writing’. Like Method Acting, this involves becoming each character as I write their scenes. It’s intense, and exhausting, and it gives me a very strong emotional connection to all the events in my story.
So what happens when I hear music that connects me to those events? I find myself back inside my character’s head, living the scene again. It’s intense and exciting, and it helps me to understand what motivates and inspires me as a writer.
In Battle Ground, the first morning my characters spend at their training camp is chaotic and noisy. I love the idea of playing ‘I Predict a Riot’ by the Kaiser Chiefs to illustrate their first experiences of following strict rules in a new setting.
Later in the book, Bex, the Point Of View character, is returning to camp through the woods at the end of the morning run. She takes a moment to appreciate the sunshine, the beautiful surroundings, and the birdsong. Poor Bex. Having a happy moment generally means that I’m about to put her through hell, again. The contrast is intentional (sorry, Bex!), and needs contrasting, lighthearted music to make the happiness happier, and the dark stuff darker. ‘You Bet Your Life’ by the Lightning Seeds is perfect for this sequence, contrasting a carefree, happy moment against what happens next.
Ketty’s ‘iron fists and steel toe caps’ scenes in Battle Ground and False Flag need something heavy and euphoric. ‘Supermassive Black Hole’ by Muse, ‘Nothing Else Matters’ by Metallica, and ‘Here Comes the War’ by New Model Army all evoke the feelings of power, fear and brutality in these scenes.
The music and lyrics of ‘Manhattan Skyline’ by A-ha turn out to be spookily relevant to a scene in False Flag, where one character sees another in a hospital bed. The verses convey quiet sadness and shock, while the loud choruses suggest anger and determination, fitting the scene precisely.
In Darkest Hour, there’s a sequence of chapters that removes the characters from their routine lives step by step, until they find themselves waiting silently in an unfamiliar place in the dark. The scene feels almost dreamlike, with an other-worldly quality. ‘Hey Now’ by London Grammar fits perfectly here, capturing the emotional displacement as well as the physical isolation and the feeling of transition and uncertainty. The scene feels important – pivotal to the plot and to the characters – and the music reinforces that feeling.
I’d argue that the same track works at the end of Fighting Back, as the characters react to a dramatic event. The feelings of displacement and uncertainty are appropriate, and the track reinforces the significance of the events.
Ask yourself which song you would want playing every time you entered a room. It needs to sum up your personality, and your attitude to whatever life throws at you.
Walk-on music for me? ‘Unwritten’ by Natasha Bedingfield if I’m in a positive mood, or ‘One and One’ by Robert Miles if I’m feeling a bit more introspective.
And my characters? Bex and Ketty both have walk-on music. For Bex, it’s ‘Stand By Me’, by Ben E. King. Loyalty, friendship, and bravery, in one neat package. For Ketty, the choice is equally obvious: ‘Tubthumping’, by Chumbawumba. Discipline, determination, backbone, and not letting the world get you down.
The books have walk-on music, too. Battle Ground shares ‘Stand By Me’ with Bex, and False Flag shares ‘Tubthumping’ with Ketty. Darkest Hour’s theme tune is ‘The Swing of Things’ by A-ha (I know I’m showing my age here, but check out the lyrics!), and Fighting Back walks in to ‘The Old Boys’ by Runrig. Victory Day’s song sums up the entire series. John Farnham’s ‘You’re the Voice’ is the perfect end-titles music for the final book. Political, confident, and empowering – everything I want the series to be.
Music in my ears
I should give a special mention to the music that helped me through writing the Battle Ground series. Singing along to the soundtrack of The Greatest Showman is a fantastic way to wake up in the morning. Lady Antebellum’s album Need You Now works wonders at calming my thoughts if they’re racing when I sit down to write. And Faerie Stories, the album by the Peatbog Fairies, is amazingly effective at breaking through writers’ block, allowing me to put my first draft into words.
I may not spend most of my time surrounded by music, but when I do, it’s an emotional experience. My job as a writer is to communicate events, plot, and character to my readers, but more importantly than that I need to make you feel what they feel – and what I feel while I’m writing. Film-makers use music to enhance those feelings, and to bring viewers closer to the action, and I believe the same trick can work for readers and writers.
If there’s a song playing in the background, and you see me stumble, or brush away tears, you know there’s a character in my head, going through something. I can’t avoid that musical trigger (my characters will have revenge for everything I put them through!) but I can notice it, live through the moment, and come out with a better understanding of my story.
And a new song for my Battle Ground playlist.
Fighting Back, Book Four of the Battle Ground Series, is published today on Amazon. To celebrate the launch, catch up with Battle Ground, False Flag, and Darkest Hour in the Kindle Box Set of Books 1-3 – free to download today!
Find the Battle Ground Book Series playlist on Spotify.
Thank you so much Rachel for another amazing guest post, these really bring the reading experience to life even more! You can find my 5 star review of Fighting Back here and more about the author and the series at Taller Books!