Dumb Little Writing Tricks That Work: Name That Tune!

October 25th, 2010 by

So I posted a DLWTTW the other day suggesting the value of ‘star-casting':

…that reminded me of “star-casting,” where a writer imagines ‘casts’ certain actors to ‘play’ the roles of various characters in the screenplay they are writing.

In comments, Désirée said:

Stupid advice, I would say. Then I just see the actor in roles she or he already played, and make my character as an already existing one.

As I’m prone to say, “There’s no right way to write.”  Some writers may benefit from star-casting.  Others… not so much.

So allow me to provide an alternate approach that won’t attach you to a specific actor: Figure out what song the character is.

I read this years ago, where a director on a film project approached all of the main actors and gave them each a song to consider in relation to their search to find their character’s essence.

I was reminded of this recently when I watched The Social Network.  I won’t give away the plot, but there is a moment in the movie where the soundtrack kicks in with The Beatles’ song “Baby, You’re A Rich Man.”


The song’s lyrics:

How does it feel to be
One of the beautiful people?
Now that you know who you are
What do you want to be?
And have you travelled very far?
Far as the eye can see.
How does it feel to be
One of the beautiful people?
How often have you been there?
Often enough to know.
What did you see, when you were there?
Nothing that doesn’t show.
Baby you’re a rich man,
Baby you’re a rich man,
Baby you’re a rich man too.
You keep all your money in a big brown bag inside a zoo.
What a thing to do.
Baby you’re a rich man,
Baby you’re a rich man,
Baby you’re a rich man too.
How does it feel to be
One of the beautiful people?
Tuned to A natural E
Happy to be that way.
Now that you’ve found another key
What are you going to play?
Baby you’re a rich man,
Baby you’re a rich man,
Baby you’re a rich man too.
You keep all your money in a big brown bag inside a zoo.
What a thing to do.
Baby you’re a rich man…

I won’t tell you which character this song refers to in The Social Network, but his name rhymes with Smark Smuckerberg.  And coming when it does, the song describes the character – and the moment – perfectly.

As you work on your story and develop your characters, consider what song best describes the emotional truth of who they are.  Perhaps they’re “Viva Las Vegas.”  Or “Like a Rolling Stone.”  Or “Beautiful, Rich, Dirty.”  It’s a great way to differentiate your characters and keep in focus their distinctive persona.

This has been another installment of Dumb Little Writing Tricks That Work.

2 thoughts on “Dumb Little Writing Tricks That Work: Name That Tune!

  1. annaliterally says:

    Personally, I agree with the star-casting (or friend-casting) when I write. I once had a script that I was stuck on–the story was close, but not where it needed to be. Once I "recast" my protag, everything fell into place.

    I've never done the music suggestion before. Maybe I'll try it on my next one. Thanks for the great idea!

  2. eshawcomedy says:

    Nice tip – I think I subconsciously do something similar to this when listening to music while writing. The type of music I listen to will cause me to write dialogue/character actions with a certain attitude or emotion. I think, "How can I convey the emotions provoked by this song via my script?"

    Of course there are instances where this wouldn't help – i.e. listening to Tupack while writing a family film…

Leave a Reply