Inside the Fiction Factory – Part 29


In my novel The Kill Chain, Jacob Anderson prefers to listen to electronic music. In keeping with most writers I wonder what it would be like to see a film of my book and what the soundtrack would be. As The Kill Chain is a cybercrime thriller I imagine it would consist of electronic instrumentals, which is handy as that is what my main character is into.

I recently watched a documentary about Synthwave. There is an entry in Wikipedia on it so I’m not going to go into detail here, but essentially it revolves around electronic movie soundtracks from the 1980’s, particularly those in the sci-fi, horror and action genres. It got me thinking, that despite this focus on the 1980’s, when you watch any TV drama these days, a large proportion rely on synthesisers to produce the soundtrack along with many of the sound effects you hear. TV advertising is equally dominated by synth music. Even if you don’t listen to electronica, I suspect a day doesn’t go by when you hear something from this genre. I think it’s fair to say it’s gone mainstream.

I don’t know if this is coincidental or not, but among other genres of music, I’m a big fan of electronica. The term apparently refers to music more orientated to listening rather than dancing, but there is so much crossover these days I’m not hung up on definitions of what is and isn’t included here. So like my main character, Jacob Anderson, I too listen to synth-based music. Not only that, I have a collection of Korg synthesisers. These are all hardware, because despite being steeped in cyber technology and IT, I much prefer physical synthesisers to their software versions that reside on a laptop. I just prefer playing with hardware and operating the synths manually.

When it came to writing The Kill Chain, it seemed the obvious thing for Jacob to listen to. I stopped short of him being a musician (I play guitar and piano) as this is fiction and I don’t want to write myself completely into a novel. The fact that movie thrillers tend to have electronic soundtracks, also led me in that direction.

I am working on my own soundtrack for the novel. This is one of the things I do to relax. There is no pressure on me to make my music public. It’s a creative hobby without the worry of people liking or disliking what I produce. It’s fun, and I get a real buzz out of it. It’s different from writing, where I have self-imposed deadlines, and indeed publisher deadlines to contend with. I love writing, but it is work and requires discipline and a routine. Playing with synthesisers is great. Nowadays these are small enough and indeed cheap enough to put it in my reach. At one time, the hardware was incredibly expensive. Today, you can still spend a fortune, but there are units to purchase that produce fantastic sounds for a fraction of the cost of the hardware from the seventies and eighties.

I would like to release some of my efforts in future, but right now I’m not ready. I’m still learning how to use the hardware and realise its full potential. I have no problem coming up with musical ideas; the challenge is piecing together the vast array of sounds that the kit can produce while mastering the technical aspects of the synths themselves. I don’t let them interfere with my writing schedule and protected time. That can be challenging, as some days I feel I would like nothing better than to switch on the synths and spend my time experimenting with various soundscapes. A blank page can have that effect, but my writing time is just that, my writing time. That comes first before everything else.

As I noted above, most writers dream of seeing their book as a movie. I dream of my book as a movie that I also wrote the soundtrack for. Got to aim high.

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