Music doesn’t always just inspire with the lyrics. Sometimes, it’s the feel of a piece that says more than the words can. This is just as important, and can drive a character just as well as any lyrics.
This week, I wanted to turn to one of my major supporting characters, and the song that helped shape him, not with words, but with tone.
For those who have read the book, they already know I must be talking about Leto. For my anime loving friends, yes, that is a direct nod to Full Metal Alchemist, right down to the fact that Leto is a Blessed of the Sun God, Grannax. How my love of anime influences me as a writer is a whole different post, though, so we’ll leave that for later.
Leto is one of those characters who isn’t in a story for very long, but leaves an important impression on the characters. He’s not even the only Blessed of Grannax we see, with the cast visiting Lansing, a kingdom ruled by a Blessed of Grannax, Untar Fel.
The difference between the two is massive, though, which served two purposes. First, to show exactly how different two Blessed of the same God could be, but also to show how differently they operate, and influence the characters. While Untar can offer a lot of support in terms of finances and military aid to the characters cause, Leto offers something else.
This is where the song really comes into play, as it is Leto’s very personality that leaves a mark on my main cast. There’s a warmth, a brightness, an honesty to him that inspires them to try and be better people themselves. Just as the song has an upbeat tempo, so to does Leto.
My concept of him as a character was someone who smiles often, and easily, quick with a joke, and a little self deprecating. He is sincere in his every word and action, even as he is casually flirty and a bit comical. I’ve always seen him as being a bit like a young Marc Blucas. All floppy and effortlessly charming, but with an undertone of sadness he strives to overcome.
I had a lot of trouble with the character in the first few drafts, as he often came across a bit pushy, or worse, clingy. He failed to hit the mark I wanted to him have, as someone who’s life, and death, would leave a lasting impression on the characters. Someone who, as their journey took them into ever darker territory, would be what they remembered as a beacon of light.
One day, as I was driving home from work, 1000 Miles happened to be on the radio, and everything I wanted to do with the character snapped into place. Not from the lyrics, but from the feel of the song. This chipper, happy, warm piece of music that spoke of love.
At his core, Leto is a romantic. He believes in love, happiness, and joy, even as he fights a war that can’t be won, only lost. In the darkness of the world of War Witch, he is a beacon of light, a reason why the war must be fought. He was everything about that world that made it worth being saved. That he was also a solider, seeing horrors beyond words, and had experienced so much tragedy in his own life just made his personality all the more important.
He is the kind of person who overcomes pain and sorrow with love and joy. It’s just who he is. Because of that, and because he dies while retaining those qualities, he becomes a figure the rest of the cast remembers as almost saintly. He is what they look to, what inspires them, when they are at their lowest, in the dark.
Not because of anything he said, or did, but because of how he made them feel, and the light he brought into the world, just by being himself. It was fitting, in so many ways, that a warm, happy, upbeat song should bring all that into focus, not with words, but in the way it felt itself.
Next week, a character who never appeared in the in the story until the final draft, was intended as a secondary character, and through force of personality, made herself a main character. That devilish, charming, goofy bright spot in a tragic world, the Elven martial artist, Izra Tallamora.