In last week’s Inspiration Through Music post, I talked about being able to identify with characters based on other emotions they might be feeling. Especially while writing horror or apocalyptic fiction, it is sometimes easy to skip over the idea that a character has entered a completely different world, one where the old rules don’t apply. It’s a jarring and often horrifying experience, but also very sad. It can also be hard trying to get into your characters head, trying to decipher what their reactions are toward what’s going on. My advice, in this instance, is to always look toward your own life. What is your normal routine? What are the things you look forward to everyday? Now imagine that those things are no longer here. Imagine there is no conceivable way you’ll ever get them back. Scary, isn’t it? I find it’s easier to imagine this if you have some piercing emotive music to listen to, something that really hits you. That is why I’ve chosen this week to share the Dead Island Original Game Soundtrack with you.
Dead Island is an open world survival horror video game created by Techland and published by Deep Silver. In it, you choose to play one of four survivors on a vacation resort island that has been overtaken by a zombie virus. The game has you performing tasks for certain people while also following a basic plot story, very similar to Grand Theft Auto. Want to see more of it? HarshlyCritical, a youtube let’s player that I follow, began a playthrough of this that is quite entertaining and can be found here.
What really attracted me to this game besides its beautifully done graphics and superb music, was the atmosphere and how human the individual stories were for some of the characters in the game. The music pinpoints people who have lost everything and are now just trying to scrape by to survive. As can be expected, there are some brilliant action sequences along with some chilling and disturbing ones, all complimented by Pawel Blaszczak’s thrilling score. Today, I’ve chosen six songs that I think will really put you into your character’s shoes as they traverse the horror/thriller/apocalyptic novel you’re working on. [Note: all of the following segments are snapshots from a novel I’m currently at work on.] Also: The following subject material is dark and probably gruesome to a few of you. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Lifeguard Theme Piano: The old house looks nothing like it used to. As she stands on the front lawn over looking the charred frame and the smoking remains, she thinks about how lucky she was that she didn’t move back to it. It will always hold those distant and yet strangely comforting memories. But there is still something about it that coils in her stomach, makes her wish she wasn’t sad to see it gone. She steps over the threshold that once held the front door and into the place where the living room used to be. She closes her eyes and can almost picture where the mantle and the fireplace used to be, with the old painting of the boat rocking in the wind in a harbor. She nearly sits down, remembering where the old green couch used to be but stops herself. It is so strange being in a place so familiar, having it lose everything that once made it so comforting. If only this carnage hadn’t happened. If only the world wasn’t falling to pieces. But things can’t go back to the way they were. This place can’t be home anymore.
Menu Theme: She stares down at the baseball bat in her hands as if its a foreign object. Never before had she ever thought she’d use it as a weapon. Never before did she think that she would have to dig it out from the back of the closet after her son went off to college. But here it is, the rubber grip sticky under her sweaty palms. The scratching and scraping at the kitchen door grows louder. She jerks her head up toward it. There was only one way out of that place. And it was through that door and whatever was on the other side of it. She lifts the baseball bat over her shoulder and swings through a few times. Her second swing strikes a vase on the table. Glass shatters over the rug, flowers cascading across the room. A little bit of practice was good. But she still wasn’t sure she was ready for the real thing. Wood cracks in the kitchen. She glances around the corner to see the door beginning to buckle. She raises the bat again and waits, her heart hammering faster and faster with each second that passes.
They’re Coming: She stumbles. Her heart leaps into her throat as she struggles to get up on already tired legs. She has to keep going. The bag over her shoulder is heavy and chaffing her skin. She can’t leave it behind. It holds the only food and supplies she has. Behind her, she can still hear them coming, the footfalls crunching through the twigs and dried leaves. She doesn’t know how many there are but knows its too many for her to take on at once. She can’t afford to even try at this point. She has to find a safe place to hide out, somewhere that she can hole up in until the sun comes out tomorrow. Then she can get her bearings and find the road again. “Keep going,” she chants to herself, the mantra being the only thing keeping her from giving in. This wasn’t the time to quit. She’d made it so far already. And he was out there somewhere looking for her. She had to make it back to him.
Leaving the Banoi: The car starts. It’s a miracle but she doesn’t ponder on it too long as she hits the gas and feels the car rocket away, the town dissolves into forest and countryside, the trees and hills like blurs on both sides of her. The tears blur her vision, sobs racking her body as she tries to force them under control. Once again, she is all alone. She stares at the photograph pinned to the sun visor, the one of him standing beside her, a grin on his face, life in his warm brown eyes. She remembered laughing so hard in that picture that her mouth hurt. That photo was all she had left of him. She wipes away her tears. She has that at least. She still has a reminder. She still has something to remember him by. She forces herself to put the thoughts away if only for just a little bit. She has to concentrate now. When she gets to a safer place, then she’ll let it out. But she can’t now. The car disappears over a hill, heading toward a thicket of trees and a large yellow moon brightening in the darkening sky.
Ambient Cave: The afternoon sun dips below the horizon. It doesn’t take too long before night falls. She watches it from her living room window, wondering what this night has in store for her. Strange things have been happening, the scream last night being the most concerning. The streets were unusually quiet today. And no police had shown up to look in on what had happened downstairs. What was going on? The apartment is suddenly cold. She goes to the couch and grabs a blanket, curling up in it. When she returns to the window, she hears something over the rooftops. It’s almost an empty howl, a sound that shouldn’t exist, something that didn’t seem to have a natural explanation. And in the darkness at the end of the street, something moves. She grabs the binoculars from the side table and lifts them up, trying to focus it on the object. By the time she does, it’s already vanished. She puts them away. That’s when she sees it. Something is standing in the middle of the street, closer now. But it’s shape doesn’t make any sense. It’s not a person… much larger than any kind of animal that should be around. It’s perfectly still. And it seems to be staring in her direction…
Mechanic: She hugs herself as she collapses onto the floor of the bathroom, the tears flowing. Her hand trembles as the gun falls onto the floor beside her. Her hands are still spattered with that woman’s blood. She can still see the horrified expression on her face as she lay dead. She’d just killed someone. Out of fear, out of rage. She couldn’t believe it. What had she become? What had these things forced her to do? She finds herself in the fetal position, shaking. After several minutes, an unnatural comfort begins to slide through her thoughts. It was terrible. But she had to do it. If she hadn’t, she wouldn’t be alive now. It didn’t make the reasoning right by any means. But she was alive. She wasn’t ready to accept that everything was now different. In just a span of a few days, society had collapsed. There were probably others out there, just as desperate as herself, and also armed. She had to prepare herself. But first, it starts with getting up. And at this moment, she’s just not ready.
Next week on Inspiration Through Music, we’ll be doing a hodge-podge of understated music from horror movies. Don’t expect to see popular themes like Ghost Busters and the Exorcist in here. I’m going for movies that haven’t had much attention for their horror tracks. It’ll be fun! Stay tuned!