The distant cousin of the Song Fic, this is the practice of annotating a Fan Fic with music cues in such a way that, if followed, produces the rough equivalent of a motion picture's soundtrack for that fic. Very often these are the same pieces of music that inspired the author as he or she was writing. Regardless, they are intended to provide extra atmosphere and drama to the written material.
The cues themselves can range from inobtrusive citations styled like pullquotes and set off from the story text proper, to elaborate instructions as to where to start playing on the track and for how long, often delivered by the narrative voice as part of the story. More recently, embedded links directly to the music videos have started to replace more intrusive text cues.
Some authors may provide soundtrack listings in separate files, but these qualify more as supplemental material than examples of this trope.
One key element which defines a Virtual Soundtrack is that it is optional. You can ignore a Virtual Soundtrack cue without losing anything in the story, unlike the Song Fic, where you must wade through the lyrics to extract the story. Also, if the music is part of the action — for instance, in the description of a concert — it does qualify as this trope. (Although a listing of all the pieces played at the concert would be a good candidate for supplemental material.)
This trope is usually limited to larger pieces of fan fiction, on the order of a novellette or longer. However, while it is most prevalent in fan fiction, examples can rarely show up in other text-based media (original stories, online roleplays) as well.
- Each story of the Doctor Who fanfic series Someone You'd Admire has a short excerpt of the lyrics of a song, and in a few cases, links to the music videos of said songs.
- The "pullquote" version is a common feature in stories produced by Eyrie Productions Unlimited, although it is by no means universal. It is particularly prevalent in the Future Imperfect era of Undocumented Features, especially works written mainly by Gryphon.
- Chapter six of Eric Hallstrom's epic Ranma And Akane: A Love Story begins with the explicit note, "By popular demand, the majority of this episode should be read to Fortuna Imperatrix Mundi from Carl Orff's Carmina Burana" and offers a (long-defunct) link to an MP3 of the piece. When the great battle in Hell begins, the narration pauses to specifically inform the reader to start playing it, and much later bookends the action with the note "You can turn it off now."
- RAALS verges on this trope elsewhere, as well, with a large number of songs, often from British/Irish/Scottish folk music tradition, that are sung throughout the story by the various characters. MP3 links were provided for these as well. This only edges up to the trope because the song lyrics are provided whole within the story, and are part of the story rather than supplemental atmosphere. In this regard, RAALS is much like a musical rendered in text.
- Bubblegum Disaster by dialNforNinja includes soundtracked sections.
- The parody lemon megacrossover Lemon Sherbet by John Biles.
- Genma's Daughter and its sequel Notes from Julliard, both by Deborah Goldsmith, drift into this trope with in-story violin performances of specific classical pieces that a dedicated reader can locate easily enough; in addition, Goldsmith provides recommendations for (and sometimes links to) specific performances which inspired her work.
- In the Warrior Cats trollfic StarKitsProphcy, in the final chapter, the author's note recommends that the reader listen to Romeo and Juliet Overture by Tchaikovsky.
- The Homestuck fanadventure Promstuck occasionally links to music to depict what is playing in-canon at the time.
- The Gate fanfic Here We Go Again!, frequently features musical recommendations in the form of "X's Album of Awesome". From the OST's of media like Halo 3: ODST or Fury (2014), to certain artists like The Lonely Island, Tears for Fears and even Johnny Cash.
- Higher Flier, or My Little Blackbird by Admiral-Tigerclaw.
- The My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fan-comic A Brony's Blue advises listening to the author's chosen songs to "view the story to its fullest quality".
- The Halo fanfiction The Life usually mentions music being played on one of the squad member's loudspeakers.
- A Posse Ad Esse provides one song for each chapter in the "Music" section of the LiveJournal entry.
- The Ib fan-Light Novel Purple manages to incorporate songs and pictures to the story.
- Total Drama Island, by Gilbert and Sullivan comes with a virtual soundtrack that would last several hours if played in its entirety. All of the verses, except for those very few that are spoken rather than sung in the operettas (or those drawn from Thespis, for which most of the music has been lost) come with links to MIDI files so that interested parties can hear the tunes. In contrast to the lyrics, which can't be skipped without defeating the whole point of the crossover, the music is strictly optional and is included mainly for people who think that Gilbert is incomplete without Sullivan.
- Concept Road has several YouTube musical cues with links that are provided within the story. The AO3 version of the story has working hyperlinks.
- The Attack on Titan High School A.U. fic 1994 is full of in-story shout outs to late 80s and early 90s hits and not-quite-hits, including a scene where one character sings along to The Indians' "Look Up to the Sky."
- It's actually very common for Webidolchiu 94, but the most notable example of a virtual soundtrack is for Eternal Flowers, where she suggests a song or two to listen to for the chapter, to set the mood. In one Omake, the author also revealed each character's Leitmotif.
- Fate/Far Side has music from the Nasuverse visual novels and anime to accompany each scene.
- Perpetrated by Discworld fic author A.A. Pessimal in several fics. The crossover fic with The Big Bang Theory, The Many Worlds Interpretation has its own soundtrack which can be found on the author's You Tube account. The Good Omens fic All The Best Tunes? on his A03 account takes the Virtual Soundtrack to extreme levels - justified, as Aziraphale and Crowley are sponsoring rival musical talents in the 1940's to 1970's. Crowley kick-starts Black Sabbath, the Angel gets people like Cliff Richard and Van Morrison, both claim responsibility for The Beatles, and Crowley whispers possible lyrics in the ear of Mick Jagger. Even the Four MotorcycleRiders of the Apocalypse get in on the act - War, Pestilence, Famine and Death get their preferred musical genres. note
- There is now a soundtrack to ''Gap Year Adventures'', involving lots of otherwise obscure South African/Afrikaans music used as incidental detail. Some of it is actually quite listenable.
- Aikurou Babysits has a link to Lulickma's "PoPoPo-N Is Dead"
- Kiryuuin Chronicles has this at different points. In chapter 12, it has a link to "AdラLib" (from the original Kill la Kill soundtrack) by Hiroyuki Sawano Tidbit and Chapter 10 has Obokuri-Eeumi playing.
- Cellar Secrets:
- Concerning a Drifter:
- Chapter 11: Sold your soul
- Chapter 12: A Victim's Past Wish (from the original soundtrack, not the Evolution soundtrack)
- Chapter 17: World of Scattering Flowers
- Chapter 19: Deep Blue by Jia Peng Fang
- Chapter 20: Balcony by Exist Strategy
- Chapter 22: Pale by Exist Strategy
- Chapter 23: Constantine's Theme by Thomas Newman
- Chapter 30: Jeaha, Elegy of Moonlight
- As The Wind Blows
- The Undertale Fanfic Visiontale, posted on Archive of Our Own, uses music annotations to enhance the atmosphere of iconic moments from the game and particularly important events exclusive to the story.
- In the Danganronpa fanfic Extra Life, at two occasions the author's note suggests that the reader listens to (or imagines) a specified song at a particular moment.
- Each chapter of Their Bond has at least one song recommended to be read alongside it.
- The title of each chapter of Paragon (Kim Possible) come from the song the chapter is associated with.
- Each chapter of Chemistry is Titled After the Song that acts as its soundtrack.
- The Bolt Chronicles: Given the sizable number of music references in the stories, a virtual music underscore is frequently implied. This is especially true in fics that involve dancing such as The Wedding Reception and The Funkmeister, or ones where the characters are listening to music such as The Car, The Mall, The Walk, The Cameo, The Blood Brother, The Paris Trip, The Ship, The Survivor, The Rings, The Seer, The Spaceship, and The Coffee Shop.
- The AO3 mirror of Beyond the Borders has pullquote-style links to appropriate mood music, borrowed from various sources, mostly video games.
- The Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers Period Fic The Rod Squad, a Script Fic made to look like an episode of a TV series, mentions music whenever the Rescue Rangers, now named the Rod Squad, boogie somewhere in their dune buggy. Peter Frampton's Frampton Comes Alive plays when they boogie to baseball manager Charles O. Finley's office. When they boogie to the gritty inner city to meet Dale's girlfriend Foxy Glove, Seals and Croft play, and the Average White Band can be heard upon their arrival. The fic's theme tune is unspecified and only described as "chukka-chukka". You should now be able to tell that this fic takes place in The '70s.
- Foreshadows: The Ghosts of Zero is an eBook from Baen which includes an archive holding two hours of original music to which the text of the eBook links. The blurb about the book at Baen's website explicitly calls it an "illustrated anthology and soundtrack album in one."
- Jodi Picoult's Sing You Home is a rare example of a full book using this. To go along with the book, there is a 10 song CD recorded by Picoult's friend Ellen Wilber, and there are suggestions on when to play each song in the book.
- Jacek Dukaj's short novel Linia oporu sometimes has the narration mention what song is playing on the "soundtrack" at the moment (presumably played by the protagonist's Augmented Reality system, or maybe just in his thoughts). It's fitting since the protagonist is a 20 Minutes into the Future young man who spends nearly all of his time in virtual simulations and movies, and thinks in their terms.
- As of season 3, the players of The Massive Multi-Fandom RPG sometimes include YouTube links to appropriate music snippets for whatever they are doing at the moment.
- In We Are All Pokémon Trainers players often use music to set the mood of the scene they're doing for better atmosphere.
- City of Lost Characters: The GM underscores key moments (such as boss battles or the beginning of a new day) with YouTube links to appropriate songs.