Why You Need A (Killer) Soundtrack:
Drive, Hotline Miami, Nightcrawler, all share similar story motifs: men committing violence to achieve their goals/dreams. While this isn’t radically out there (given violence is common in fantasy/science fiction), all three also share a similar audio motif: New Retro Wave. The dark beats of modern synthesizers, repeated loops, minimum vocals, all lend to the tense, violent, and hair-string tension in these stories. All three have been praised for their soundtrack. I would wholly agree. Each expertly uses a mostly NRW soundtrack to provide an auditory experience. While Drive and Nightcrawler are closer to thrillers, you can take away from this and translate it onto the page.
You need a killer soundtrack. I’m not just talking about getting into the mood when writing. Whenever I write a scene, I usually have some song I’ve selected or remembered to help create the aesthetic of that scene/setting location. Aesthetic is the equivalent of tone from film to text. The sounds you describe in exposition/description give your setting/story it’s own tone. You need to immerse yourself in the mindset/attitude of the era, culture, and what it would be like.
If you’re writing a story about gangbangers in the 1990s, you probably should listen to gangsta rap, westcoast g-funk, east coast underground, in order to get the feel/tone of that setting. If you’re listening to bubblegum pop or hair metal when writing/creating that story, you might not like what you read.
Good writing allows you simulate your world using verisimilitude and sleight of hand. Whether it’s about crack dealers trying to get out of the game in 1980s L.A. to become a professional rapper, a sociopathic getaway driver in the mid 2000s, or a knight trying to kill his god in a 15th century Byzantine inspired setting, the music you curate for your novel’s playlist has to match the tone you are going for. It’s vital to understand this when writing any kind of story.