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Favourite soundtracks for writing

Whenever I sit down to write at my desk, there’s a standard list of soundtracks I always go to. In no particular order, I’ve listed these below.

Monument Valley Original Game Soundtrack (by Stafford Bawler, et al.)

Recommended by Shawn Blanc and I fully agree. I put the Monument Valley soundtrack on mostly when writing non-fiction since I find the mood it evokes to be quite nonintrusive. It helps me focus, get my writing done and doesn’t get in the way.

Angels in America (by Thomas Newman)

I’m a sucker for any music by Thomas Newman. The man is a genius (anyone who can keep a dry eye during Finding Nemo will probably disagree with me). His score for the HBO mini series “Angels in America” is evocative of broad sweeping landscapes and rich theatre. I love how a number of key themes are interwoven again and again in different styles and structures throughout.

Oxenfree (by scntfc)

I would hazard this soundtrack is an acquired taste and you would’ve had to play the game to understand this one. Oxenfree was a surprisingly addictive story-adventure game I played last year. The loopy time travel story was written with such style. The teenagers’ dialogue was very well written and the voice acting was great. Putting the soundtrack on whilst writing mysterious pseudo-scientific parts of my story went well together.

The Cider House Rules (by Rachel Portman)

A classic book & movie about growing up, finding your own path in life and how we view the people we look up to in our youth. The soundtrack carried such warmth that it helped set the mood for the warmer, family-oriented parts of my story.

Alan Wake (by Petri Alanko)

A soundtrack written for a game inspired by the stories of Stephen King. What’s not to like? The mysterious and broad sweeping score to the highly entertaining game from Remedy was a great companion during the more intense parts of my story.

Heavy Rain (by Normand Corbeil)

Can we spot a pattern here? I do find game soundtracks extremely useful in my writing, since they’re almost designed to get “out of the way” as you play a game. Although I would contest that with this soundtrack. The melodramatic (yet entertaining) PS3 game Heavy Rain features some of the most (in hindsight) hilarious scenes in gaming history (Press X to Shaun link). But the dramatic soundtrack helped to set the tone extremely well.

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (by John Williams)

A classic movie with a classic John Williams soundtrack. Need I say more? An uplifting feeling of adventure and excitement permeates throughout. If you’re writing a fun action scene, the motorcycle scherzo will definitely inspire you!

Mass Effect 2 (by Jack Wall et al.)

The last one on this list. The Mass Effect games were great (particularly if you did some manual labour and fixed the ending using mods). No soundtrack captured the spirit of these three games (I’m choosing to ignore Andromeda) as well as the soundtrack to the second game. Composed by Jack Wall & others, the mood evoked is one of technological grandeur. The last run of the album (starting with Crash Landing and smoothly moving into the Suicide Run) has to be the greatest piece of music ever written to accompany an action scene.

Honourable mentions

Whilst I could go on, the ones that almost made the list were: Jade Empire (by Jack Wall), The Expanse (by Clinton Shorter), Journey (by Austin Wintory), Dragon Age: Origins (by Inon Zur) & Baldur’s Gate (by Michael Hoenig).

I hope you found this list useful. Sound off in the comments below: What’s your favourite music to write to?

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Writing

Human By Design: Opening page

Hello everyone, today I thought I’d share the opening of my story-in-progress: “Human By Design” (title subject to change, which it has already. Multiple times.)

A previous edit was sent in to a critique-website earlier, so who knows… I might share that at a later point as well. For now, here are the first few paragraphs of my story. I’ve struggled to create a flowing opening by having a main character who has no name at the start of the story… so, here goes:

He had no memory from before waking up inside the tank. A bespectacled face peered at him through the water, which flashed red at set intervals. A worried smile played across her features as the water flushed from the tank. With a soft hiss the glass panel in front of him slid open and he fell forwards into her arms. He shivered against the cold air as she helped him further out of the tank. She inhaled, the sound sharp in his ear.
“It feels so good to hold you. I know you don’t know who I am,” she placed her hand on his shoulder as she pulled back. “I’m your mother, in a manner of speaking.”
Her hand felt cold and trembled as it grazed his naked skin. The red lights were still flashing and he noticed the sound of an alarm now, like a deep throbbing pulse to accompany the light.
She pointed down the hallway behind her, “You have to go now son, quick, I’ll try to give you time.”
He opened his mouth as if to speak but she shook her head, then she cocked it sideways and ran her hand through his hair and peered into his eyes. “Blinking seems OK, you understand what I’m saying… The memory engrams were integrated then,” she muttered under her breath. Then she pecked him on the cheek. “Go now,” she whispered in his ear.
He nodded and ran in the direction she pointed. The alarm shifted in pitch. He could hear voices, loud and sharp. Were they coming for him?
“Go!” his mother repeated.
He ran and stopped as soon as he heard several loud bangs behind him. A woman screamed and then fell silent.
His heart pounding in his ears, he ran faster. Pushing through a door, he felt snow crunch underneath his bare feet. His shivering became more intense as his teeth began to chatter. Small branches hit him as he crashed through the bare trees, but he kept going, not knowing where. With no light to guide him this far from the building he let his eyes adjust to the night. The moon slid in and out of view behind clouds above, providing scant illumination to guide him. A gust of biting wind blew across his skin and he stifled a sharp cry. Something roared in the distance below him and he came to a sudden halt as the ground dropped away in front of him. His feet dug into the soil at this sudden ledge and he tried to look down into the darkness. The deep rumbling of the water below became louder as he peered into the darkness. He discerned vague shapes, rocks maybe, but a sudden feeling of vertigo that tingled in his lower belly made him stumble backwards.
He crept along the cliff, mist swirling around his bare feet, testing the ground, looking for a way down. A loud bang rang through the air and sudden pain shot through his arm. He saw dark blood stream from a gaping hole in his upper left arm. Shocked, he stopped and stared, the pain barely registering.
“Let me get a good last look at you,” a slender figure emerged from the trees, her gun trained at his chest. Her slim figure slid through the night with ease, her face obscured by black cloth. He noticed a shock of red hair that escaped from beneath her cap.
His heart thudded in his ears as his eyes darted from left to right in a frantic moment of horror. She moved closer and aimed her gun at his chest. Seeing no way out, he did the only thing I could think of and he let himself fall backwards into the cold embrace of the night. The rocks rushed past him as another gunshot rang out. Everything went black.
Black and cold.

Let me know what you think of it in the comments below!

Writing

NaNoWriMo is (nearly) upon us!

NaNoWriMo logo

In this part of the world, there’s still a few hours to go before NaNoWriMo has officially begun. Again.

I’ve participated twice so far and managed to reach the finish line once. Two years ago I gave up only six-thousand words into my story. Why? No solid backbone that I could write to, I just started somewhere and discovered I’m more of a planner than a pantser.

So this year I have my vague outline ready, I’ve managed to drag two colleagues along for the journey so we can support each other and I’ve got some rough character sketches in place.

Now I just need to find that iron will to stick to it. 1667 words a day is not the end of the world, after all.

Good luck to everyone participating this year! May we all have a blast and reach the finish line with our sanity intact!

Writing

Confessions of an absent blogger coming back to writing

See, I've been writing!

Summer has mostly left the Netherlands. With the day job taking over and the darker evenings, I automatically shift into a more indoor lifestyle. Which also explains my absence on my own website for the past six weeks, my apologies! That’s not to say my summer has been unproductive. I’ve actually done more writing than I have in a long time (and not in Scrivener this time, but more old-school…), both on my first/second draft manuscript and on a new story. I’ve also spent my summer reading a selection of great YA novels. A small selection of amazing books: Last Seen Leaving, Something Like Summer & How to repair a mechanical heart. If you’re looking for some great books to read over the next few colder months, these come strongly recommended.

As my alpha readers are making their way through my manuscript, I’ve already started to delve a bit deeper into the self-editing process. Before I’m going to try and submit this manuscript to anyone, I want to make sure it’s absolutely the best it can possibly be. As such two articles stood out: Incorporating Deep POV into our writing & the ARISE tip from Revolutionise Your Writing with These 4 Editing Hacks. I’ve been a longtime reader of both The Creative Penn & Romance University, but these two recent articles have provided me with some breakthrough tips on how to further refine my writing.

I’ve also revamped my website a bit further by signing up for Instagram and setting up a mailing list. Sure, it’s all a bit empty right now, but things can only grow from there. Exciting times ahead as I’ve started to prep for NaNoWriMo, which is only a month-and-a-few-weeks away. I ‘m planning to go in with a well-structured plot and will be trying out the first-person perspective this time round. Can’t wait!

Writing

Writing away #1 – World-building

In the Writing Away series of posts on my blog, I’ll be writing about random tidbits that come into my head during the writing process. Today, world-building.

Why I don’t want to focus on the dystopia aspect

As I’m going through my manuscript and editing my first draft, it’s interesting to see where the story has gone, as opposed to where I thought it would go. The first few chapters are full of random bits and bobs that are all very interesting, but are never mentioned in the story again.

This prompted me to think about the world-building aspect of my setting. I haven’t done a terrible amount of it, to be perfectly honest, but knew that I wanted to set the story in the future after a global disaster.

Which, I know, isn’t very original or inspiring these days. So my twist would be to not focus on how bleak and grey everything is, but instead to focus on a thriving medieval-ish society with remnants of modern technology scattered throughout.

By showcasing a vibrant society that is doing just fine, I wanted to circumvent the slightly worn-out trope of “society is in shambles, here comes the one hero to fix things”. As great as the Hunger Games books were in my opinion, I was personally beginning to feel the fatigue when I was reading the Divergent series.

So how does the world work?

In my opinion the amount of world-building I need to do (as a minimum) is everything related to “how the world works”. From plumbing down to electricity or this world’s economical system. How is the law enforced? What are the customs that survived this cataclysmic event?

Not that all this information would necessarily end up in my story, but for me writing it, it’s important to be consistent and somewhat believable (insofar as a futuristic medieval society can be believable).

It’s raised some interesting questions as I wrote a large group of people into living in an underground bunker, for example… we’ll see how it all works out. I hope to be moving towards alpha-readers over the next few months, so we’ll see what feedback I receive.