One of my favorite ways to play with characterization is to assign my main character a ringtone.
In my Mayhem Series, Shawnee Daniels started with “You Oughta Know” by Alanis Morissette. Two books later, she switched to ZZ Ward’s “Put the Gun Down.” And now, she has “Ironic” also by Alanis.
Even without any other information, I bet you’ve already formed a visual of who she is, based on her ringtones.
If you guessed snarky and badass, you’re right. 😉
In my Grafton County Series, I used ringtones to show my main character’s emotional wellbeing. Sage Quintano has no designated ringtone for herself, but she constantly changes her Sheriff husband’s ringtone as a form of silent communication. She’s done it so many times, I doubt I could list them all, but let’s go through a few to show what she’s saying to her husband.
- “Here Comes Goodbye” by Rascal Flatts
Considering this is a psychological thriller series, not romance, Sage used this ringtone to indicate fear.
- “How Am I Supposed to Live Without You” by Michael Bolton
This ringtone showed Sage’s gut-wrenching devastation when their child was abducted.
- “Just Once” by James Ingram
This ringtone showed Sage’s sadness about a rough patch in their marriage.
- “Tonight I Wanna Cry” by Keith Urban
This ringtone indicates Sage’s sadness, too.
- “Live Like You Were Dying” by Tim McGraw
Though this is an uplifting song, Sage used the ringtone to show a ticking clock on her life.
- “If I Die Young” by The Band Perry
Sage used this ringtone to show fear.
- “Let it Hurt” by Rascal Flatts
This one still gets me every time. Sage used this ringtone to show her devastation over an incident involving Ruger, one of her beloved dogs. Don’t worry. He survived. 😉
- “All of Me” by John Legend
Sage used this ringtone to show her husband she’s feeling frisky.
- “Only Women Bleed” by Alice Cooper
Sage used this ringtone to show her fear while being stalked by a killer. The killer also sent her this song, so it worked two-fold.
- “Hurt” by Christina Aguilera
If you know, you know. This song shows soul-crushing sadness, and Sage used it to portray exactly that.
- “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me” by Elton John
Sage used this ringtone to show panic. If her husband didn’t hurry, she may die.
To add validity to this post, I ran a search to see how other writers might use ringtones. Couldn’t find what I was looking for, but Forbes had an interesting article.
Research indicates that people do judge mobile users based on their ringtone. In 2005, U.K.-based carrier Tesco Mobile surveyed 1,000 customers and discovered that 21% of them thought having a standard ringtone was “uncool.” The survey also concluded that people who use their own recorded voice as a ringtone are self-obsessed, and that users who constantly change their rings might be flighty and unreliable.
No rocket science, that. But there’s no doubt that ringtones have become big business because people want to say something personal about themselves. So we wondered, what does your ringtone say about you?
If your phone plays a classic rock tune, you’re showing your age, but you get points for figuring out how to change the ringer, Gramps.
If your phone is still playing “Jingle Bell Rock” in July, you’re not going to impress people with your productivity.
If your ringtone is a current hip-hop or R&B hit, you’re young at heart, but you’re not particularly original. Hip-hop ringtones accounted for more than half of the $300 million U.S. market in 2004.
If your phone plays the sound of an old mechanical phone bell, you’re not as funny as you think you are.
If your phone plays the theme song to a television show, you’re not going to impress anyone with your intellectual acumen. Perhaps a Mozart or Beethoven ringer would do some damage control.
If your phone never leaves vibrate or silent mode, you may be the kind of important person who can’t afford to waste time answering a phone call right now. Or maybe you just think you’re that important. However, you may also be considerate and respectful, the kind of person we’d like sitting behind us in a movie theater.
Unfortunately, we tend to get saddled with seatmates whose phones play the popular “Crazy Frog,” the clucking chicken, or any number of other annoying animal noises. If you’re one of these folks, you may be a sociopath.
Hope this post gives you some fun ideas on ways to use ringtones for your characters!
Have you ever used ringtones in your writing? Please explain how/why.
Do you change your own ringtone? Share the song!
If you had to choose one song to describe you, what would it be?