The above is a page from my actual libretto for the musical, for your eyes only—this has never been shown publicly.
And now, I'll let you in on how I got to the above through the usage of my ultimate, never-fail, No.1 WRITING SECRET:
"Find The Pain (a.k.a. Secret Diary)"
I write most often sitting in bed, and that was the case with Portraits. In fact, I wrote it all in one go, because, quite quickly (Thomson is rather...uncomplicated), I found the pain.
Thomson desperately wants to change the world, but he feels stifled by what others want from him (anyone relate?). This is his "pain."
Fun fact: In a victorious character, their pain is what makes them a hero in the end. But in a tragic character like Thomson, or even a character who fails, like Stockill, their pain is what destroys them.
Thusly, Thomson is so eager for an opportunity to make people "see" through his photographs that he himself becomes blind. He is ridiculously unaware of the truth of what he is being asked to do in the Asylum, and so he unwittingly contributes to the evil and loses the person he loves forever.
How did I find the pain that let Thomson's truth be understood in just a very few very simple words? THIS is how: I'll have the character (Thomson in this case, but I've done the same with many others) write a diary entry to themselves about their deepest desires and fears, something they think no one else will ever read. It can be quite shocking what they'll reveal when they think no one's looking. Then, I'll have a tea break, come back to my notebook, and pick out the bits that really ring true, as well as the ones that I think will "sing well." These will become my anchors. I will also scan the page for hidden, unintentional rhymes, because it's incredible how lucky you can often get. After that, all I need to do is flesh it out, fill in the blanks, but it's almost easy once I know exactly what that character wants and how they feel not having what they want (and why would anyone need to do something so absurd as sing a song if they already had what they wanted?).
I've used this technique to what I'd like to think is reasonable success with Dr. Stockill in his song "Nothing." It saved me in fact because, while I'm fortunate not to experience a creative blockage very often, Stockill is just so bloody repressed that it was taking ages to get the truth out of him in what I knew needed to be his "this is what I'm all about" song, and if the audience didn't get some truth, he'd be just another stock, one-note, take-over-the-world villain. Stockill is a lot more than that, but how to let the audience know, and why should they care?
So, I sat up with the Doctor one night, gave him a blank red notebook and a pen, closed my eyes, and just let him write as long as he wanted. When I looked down, I saw that he had written about his sister, and that every time he killed an Inmate, he thought of her. That's where the pinnacle of the song came from, the dark destination the whole thing is racing toward ("but every time I close my eyes I'm thinking only of the first one"). This leads us to the punchline of the song, but I'll save that for another Behind The Music, when I'll share my techniques Find The Punchline and Write Backward amongst others...
I hope these ramblings were useful to you if you're a writer, or perhaps entertaining if you aren't. And I hope you love Thomson and his dream as much as I do. You know what...I think he might be right about a few things after all.