So, my first post. What shall we talk about? Why I made the blog? That’ll do for starters.
Simple really. I have a fantasy noir manuscript that I’m hoping to place somewhere. I’ve got myself an agent, who is incredibly enthusiastic, and fingers crossed, if the stars are aligned and I sacrifice enough goats, my book will be out there, in the wild.
So maybe we should start with ‘What is Noir?’ Good question. For many people I suspect it falls into the ‘I know it when I see it’ category.
It probably looks like this:
And that’s a good point to start. Noir has many themes and motifs; the cynical protagonist (often a PI or similar), the femme fatal,the darkness surrounding everything. Often a nefarious plot of some kind. It doesn’t have to have any of those things, of course (except the darkness perhaps), but they do seem to crop up. Yet, that’s in film. What about in literature?
Well, you still have the darkness–there’s usually plenty of grit,often a hidden underbelly of society. The protagonist (Our Hero) is generally a loner, outside of society for some reason. In my particular area – that is fantasy noir – that reason is often to do with his ‘otherness’. In my hero’s case, it’s that he’s a mage, and sadly, magic is banned. He’s also an atheist in a society that values piety. It makes him quite grumpy
Underlying a lot of noir though, when you look closely, is that through these often broken protagonists and deeply flawed heroes, we get a moral commentary, or at least exploration, of aspects of society. Now, I certainly didn’t intend to write a moral commentary (I’ll be talking about the evolution of story etc in another post), but I did certainly set out to explore certain aspects of society. Part of the reason I write – apart from it’s that or go mad from the characters in my head – is to inhabit someone else’s skin for a while, walk a mile in their shoes. I am not my characters by any stretch – my hero may be an atheist, but I’m not for instance. But to explore a dystopia from his place….the greatest value of fiction, in my view at least, is this. It gives you a way into someone else’s viewpoint, a way to see the other sides, other people’s motivations. To see why, in perfect detail, say how a decent man could turn into a terrorist, what it feels like to be invisible due to the colour of your skin, how it feels to be seen as just an object or a stereotype, not a person. Of course, you need a rollicking good story to go with it, but if you can get that new viewpoint too, without preaching, it’s one heck of a bonus.
Noir’s strength, or rather the reason I personally love it, is that it explores the worst parts of humanity – while simultaneously showing us the best parts. That even deeply flawed humans can make the right choice, can be part of the society that rejects them.
In the end, even noir is about hope. Even if it’s a dark and twisted kind of hope.
Or as Rick would have it: Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.