RARA-AVIS: Re:How to write noir

From: Steve Lewis (stevelewis62@cox.net)
Date: 04 Mar 2009

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    Jack Bludis said The person writing it must feel it: a sense of the lead character's present situation being all screwed up, the belief--even the subconscious belief on the part of the lead character--that no matter what he or she does, things will get worse and worse and worse. And that every effort to get out of the situation will only make it worse than it was before.

    In the general plot of other novels and stories, things get worse and worse until at the end it seems impossible to escape or succeed, but the lead does escape, succeed, or reach an otherwise satisfying ending ... with some hope out there.

    In the noir story or novel, there is no salvation, no light at the end of the tunnel, no success possible, If there is, it isn't noir.

    That's not how you do it, but that's how the best noir writers have done it. There ain't no noir template.


    We've been discussing this on my blog. See http://mysteryfile.com/blog/?p=1038 .

    I think what we've been saying there, as a general consensus thus far, is that Noir is far more subtle than "no salvation, no light at the the end of the tunnel."

    There ARE happy endings in almost every Noir film made in the 40s and 50s you can think of.

    The kicker? The sense that the happiness is only fleeting and illusionary and can easily slip away. You think you've beaten fate, but is it only a Pyrrhic victory?

    Hope springs eternal. But a question that lingers in the mind of viewers of Noir films, though, is: Will it last?

    Could this, and worse, happen to me? And if it does, will I be as lucky next time?

    It's the general dark brooding atmosphere that makes Noir what it is, isn't it? But the feeling that the walls of life closing in don't need to be there all the time. There can be bits of screwball comedy in Noir films -- as well as happy endings -- and they can still be Noir.

    The sense of doom and the bad karma of fate can be pushed off to the side for a while, even long enough for the protagonists to give each other a big hug and a kiss at the end, but as soon as the closing credits have played, the feeling that the world is not always on your side begins to ease its way back in.

    THE BIG CLOCK (the 1948 version) is a good example of a Noir film with elements of Screwball Comedy in it. See my review at http://mysteryfile.com/blog/?p=1043 , along with the comments posted so far.

    A happy ending, lots of comedy business going on, and it's still Noir.



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