I believe that one telling characteristic of a person is the music they enjoy. So how could I not feel the same way about my characters? I think about how Zane likes electronic dance music, just like I think about how he likes video games and superpowers and chameleons. For me, this is part of the process of getting to know him.
With the help of a young man with musical tastes similar to Zane’s, I was able to put together my character’s own distinctive list of favorite songs, and weave them into his story. However, the first song in the novel is a little different in that it is a favorite of seven-year-old Zane, who loves creatures with superpowers. In 1993 he is a big fan of the genie in Walt Disney’s Aladdin and he likes to sing “A Whole New World” by Alan Menken and Tim Rice while he plays with his pet chameleon Balthazar.
For every song in y1, I’ve found a live performance that I think shows a little of a the personality of the singer or of the song itself. I’ll admit that I’ve had a lot of fun seeking these out. Options for Disney songs are limited, so I was delighted to find this beautiful video of contestant Lenisa singing “A Whole New World” for The Voice Kid Australia 2014. Her initial nervousness, the tension of her family, the responses of the potential coaches and her final triumph at the end will all put a lump in the throat of any viewer. You may or may not want to continue onward to see which coaches she picks, but please, do enjoy her voice.
At the end of February, the television kept talking about a bomb which had gone off in the parking garage of some giant building in New York, killing five people. The man on the TV said the bomb had ended the belief that Americans were safe from attack.
His mom had taken him and Ariel to see Aladdin for a second time at the dollar theater because they had both liked it so much. The movie’s hit song, “A Whole New World,” had just made its way into the number one spot on the charts. Zane sang the title to himself. “A whole new world …” He didn’t sing very well, but Zane had liked the movie. He liked all stories about creatures with special powers, and he thought that the genie was really funny.
Zane was glad that no one else was upstairs with him that day as he sang because after Balthazar gave Zane one of his one-eyed knowing looks, his reptilian skin made its first transition from subtle greens and browns to a spectacular bright orange. Zane grinned. He didn’t know what orange meant with other chameleons, but Zane felt sure that it meant that Balthazar was very happy.
Then Zane took a deep breath. Forcing back his fear, he made himself remember that time last summer. That time he had been so scared. Every so often Zane’s dad made him go outside and play with whoever was around, and he had been playing hide and seek with neighbor boys he didn’t really like because they did more mean things than most. On this day, Zane had taken great pains to conceal himself particularly well because he especially did not like to be “it” with these guys.
As the one boy came close to the bushes in which Zane was so carefully hidden, Zane had noticed his bare foot was still sticking out onto the orange-brown soil. He dare not move it now. So he had thought hard about his foot muscles and did his best to flatten the foot tight against the ground, and to hold it very still. While he did this thing, the skin on his foot had started to burn and itch too. Zane looked at it, alarmed at first, and saw that his foot was blushing. At least, it had turned a shade of red orange brown that mimicked the dirt. And that had been his first inkling that he could do more than make his body’s shape twist and warp a little more than most people could. Zane had watched his orange brown foot in fascination while the neighbor boy ran on by.
Afterwards, Zane worried that he had imagined it. But then every so often after that, Zane’s skin would surprise him, just like his muscles had already sometimes surprised him with what they could do. After awhile, he could feel a color change coming, this kind of burning feeling, and he knew what to expect. So he finally figured that he needed a teacher. A wise teacher. Like Balthazar.
Zane watched the chameleon’s orange skin with fascination.
“Can I learn to do that when I want to, wise one?” he asked.
He tried hard to make the feeling inside that he felt when his skin did this all by itself. He concentrated hard on his arm. At first nothing happened. Then, yes. He felt the feeling. He made the feeling. His skin on his arm went from its normal light tan to a tan orange.
“You and I are going to be great friends,” Zane told the chameleon quietly. “You are going to help teach me ways to fight the bullies in this world. And you are the only one who is going to get to know just how really strange I am.”
Zane could have sworn that Balthazar turned even brighter in delight.
You can buy seven year old Zane’s favorite song at Amazon.com.