I’m working on a new project, and I’m in the constant-search-for-inspiration mode. The good news is, for me, inspiration is super easy to come by. That doesn’t make it any less valuable, of course. It just makes me a lucky writer. And a grateful one.
Of the many things that have inspired me in the last few days — 194-song playlist that will change everything, the bolded font in the newest issue of SPIN magazine, a few YA books on kids in bands, one book of Chinese Mythology, a memory of Portland and Voodoo Doughnuts, Kathy Ireland (or was it Cindy Crawford?), and cherry Lifesavers, to name a few — I found myself on The Black Belles’ website at about one this morning.
You know The Black Belles, right? I actually didn’t (I’m ashamed to admit) until my friends invited me to a show a while ago and I turned them down. I think I thought they were someone else. The Black Lips? Or Black Angels? I guess I like the Black Lips. I probably like a lot of “The Black ______” in the mad world of indie rock, come to think of it. The Black Keys (OBVIOUSLY). The Black Lips. The Black Ghosts. The Black Angels. The Black Bullets? The Black Belles. Oh and then The Broken Bells, for “bell/belle” confusion… I don’t know why I said no. I actually like almost all those bands. Whatever the case, it turns out I was stupid, and it was a killer show, and Jack fucking White was in the audience and… well. I love him. A lot.
Ah well. We all make hugely regrettable mistakes, don’t we? But I digress.
Whatever the source of my insanity that night, it has been reconciled and I super love them now. See that photo? Those girls are the best. Those girls are inspiration in tangible, inhaleable (is that a word?) form. Those girls live in Nashville, Tennessee, rock hard, and are so so so so so so so much cooler than I can ever hope to be. Plus, they’re one of Jack White’s pet projects. So. There’s that.
So, yes, on the topic of inspiration… Of course I am inspired by their music. Their look. Their general badassery. But last night, I was inspired by the bios of each artist on the band’s website:
Born and raised in sunny California. Unfortunately.
Spent childhood indoors, doing seances. Alone.
Kicked out of girl scouts for poisoning cookies. Allegedly.
Began playing drums. Hard.
Expelled from public school for performing exorcisms on fellow [unwilling] classmates.
Attended all-girls reform school; met Olivia Jean & Ruby Rogers.
Formed dark alliance.
Hobbies & interests: Stealing. Cheating. Secret Societies. Serial Killers. Russian Tragedies. Shark Attacks. Blood & Guts.
Ruby, an atypical Mississippi belle was largely ostracized by her peers due to her unusual taste and appearance. Ruby learned at an early age to amuse herself and be what some consider a loner. Her family encouraged her musically since childhood. Her propensity for dark, heavy music & love for early rock and roll led her further into alienation. A lover of the arts, she enjoys literature, comic books, drawing, and film photography. Due to her affinity for nature, mysticism, tarot, herbology and astrology, she was rumored to be a practitioner of witchcraft.
Upon her mother discovering a dead bird in her purse & her negligence of playing well with others, Ruby was sent to boarding school.However, that is where she found others just like her.
Olivia Jean is a creature native to Detroit, Michigan. Years ago in Detroit she began a solo surf band named “Idee Fixe” to conceal any suspicions towards her exercises in witchcraft and voodooism. She has since migrated to Nashville, Tennessee to be with creatures that share similar interest, otherwise known as The Black Belles. Olivia Jean is a notorious creature that’s feared throughout the world and she generally has a bad reputation for being very aggressive and highly venemous. Her bouffant and hat weaken the use of her ears and morals, therefore when threatened she will display aggression with a set of signals that warn of the possibility of an attack.
WARNINGS: If you come in contact with Olivia Jean do not operate motor vehicles or heavy machinery within the succedent 24 – 48 hours.
SIDE EFFECTS: Many people who come in contact with Olivia Jean may experience serious, sometimes fatal side effects. Nausea, vomiting, headache, unusual changes in body temperature, vertigo, and slurred speech are very common. If you experience any of these side effects contact your doctor hastily.
Born Christina Norwood. Was not always a bad seed. She grew up in Nashville, TN, where she attended private schools and studied classical piano at a prestigious conservatory. She was elected freshman class president of the all-girls prep school she attended. However, she spent most of her presidency in detention and was later kicked out for vandalism. Since then, she has strictly been up to no good.
Tina met the Black Belles on a dead moon night. They bonded over a love for killer heels and leather. Tina was inducted into the group during a candlelit midnight ceremony the following night. Since then, the girls have been playing music and growing ever–paler in Olivia Jean’s attic.
When Tina is not playing music, she can be found slashing tires, breaking bottles, kicking over trashcans, starting food fights and making boys cry. Her interests include the supernatural, the occult, shenanigans, pranks, and general mischief.
Tell me you don’t love these girls already. Here’s the thing about a bio like this. Maybe it’s 100% true. Maybe it’s not. Maybe it’s totally false or maybe completely understated and we can’t even begin to comprehend the crazy shit they get themselves into. It doesn’t matter. This is what they put forward to the world. That look. That story. They own it.
You have to own your story too. The one you’re living, and the one you’re writing.
That’s what your characters should be. Do I think believable, relatable characters are important? Absolutely. They’re a cornerstone in the foundation of great storytelling. But do I think that a character who is off the wall, or unpredictable, exaggerated, or somewhat insane is therefore not worthwhile? ABSOLUTELY NOT. They’re very important. If they fit, have a place, and make your story world that much more fuckedupamazingandahhhmagic then DO IT. Go to these places. Find REAL PEOPLE like them. Find your inspiration in the oddest of places. And let yourself get lost.
For me? These bios made my mind reel on something I was already super excited with. And that’s what matters the most. Trust me.
And Black Belles? Shelby Lynne, Ruby Rogers, Olivia Jean, and Tina NoGood? Thanks. I owe you one. And hey! If you would like your real-life selves to be immortalized as badass characters in my otherwise fictional series? You let me know. I’ve got a place waiting.
(You think I’m kidding.)