What is Noir?
Officially#1: It’s a colour. Officially#2: It’s a literary genre. The latter merges with the former through a state of mind: A dark approach to storytelling. That’s what is Noir!
One example of Noir in image form is in this picture:
This picture is a Noir cliché. The cigarette smoking and smoking-hot femme fatale featured frequently in the original decade Noir came from.
In the nineteen fifties, she-killers graced the pages of many Noir novels. She often carried a stiletto or a nice six-shooter. Men loved her. They mysteriously died around her. Bullet holes were found in bloodied suits that were soaked in rain-drenched streets and dark alleyways.
Women weren’t always noir’s villains. Men had their share of being nasty too. If it wasn’t a nice pair of legs in that chair, it’d be man in a hat. If he wasn’t sitting in a chair, he’d be standing in a dark doorway or stairwell. Sometimes a body would be lying at his feet.
But noir needn’t be a 50’s cliché. As I mentioned before, noir came from a state of mind. Anything that has a dark element to it can be considered as Noir and brought to the present.
Dystopias form the backdrop for much of the modern Noir (Neo-Noir) content we read today.
Broken worlds and decaying cities offer much to a writer when it comes to adding a bit of Noir to their stories. It’s not just about how these places came to be dystopias in the first place but how humans would exist within them. How would the characters survive without the order a convenient lifestyle around them?
Survival. That’s what it’d be about.
It’s not hard to see a murderer appearing somewhere here. I can imagine one taking a seat after sleying his last kill while picking bloody chunks off the end of a sharpened length of pilfered electrical conduit.
Our killer hunted his prey diligently. He tracked him for three days. The man had something our killer needed. Fresh water.
Policing no longer exists here, at least not in its usual form. Bounty hunters serve as equalisers while everyone else fights to survive. Currency is anything that can be traded to prolong life.
It’s Neo-Noir heaven.
Not all evil is external. Some of it develops in the mind.
Fear is a fine Noir generator. Sometimes the fears are merely a manifestation of colliding beliefs and disproportionate expectations. Fear can take our character from a bright psychological place to a insidiously dark one.
We can mix in some depression and anxiety too. How wonderful it is to hand them to a character so they can consider suicidal thoughts or self-harm. We can take a reader right down the rabbit hole and see where the self-destruction can go.
As the viewer/reader, we wonder what will happen next. Will the evil devour her? Will it eat her up from the inside?
Now we’re talking Noir. It’s psychological Noir all over!
What is Noir here?
Can’t you see?
I thought you had a grasp of it by now.
Okay, let’s do this one last time…
Shadowy figures, dubious characters, doubtful pathways and sinister intentions are Noir’s Home Sweet Home. They are it’s comfy cushion, it’s soft blankey, it’s single-malt scotch and a warm winter’s fire all rolled into one. It loves living here. It enjoys making readers eyes bleed. It churns out disturbing narratives while drawing deeply on a fat cigar and laughing about it. It’s true evil.
It’s like a trainwreck you shouldn’t watch.
It’s like someone licking the edge of a razor blade.
It’s a needle penetrating an eyeball.
You want to turn away from it but can’t. You don’t want to see it happen but can’t stand to miss out on seeing it either. You want to scream DON’T GO THERE but you know the character is doomed. They die and you see it. You feel their pain. You suffocate with them.
That’s good Noir.
SEETHINGS was written with all of these Noir elements in mind (and a few more.)
There are darkened pathways to creep along. There are vile creatures that close in on helpless victims. There is torture and a twist or two you’ll never believe could be written into a novel.
And it all comes down to one small thing causing all this to happen: Survival.
It’s about a human need to find peace and save the mind from total destruction.
Psychological torment is modern day’s dark, unseen war. Today, there are psychological wars everywhere; in the workplace, in our relationships and those that attack the self from within. Respect for the self is hard to achieve when the world constantly tells us that we’re not good enough for it
It’s all about fear and fear motivates. Enough of it can turn us into animals, striking out like a rabid, wild creature trying to escape torture.
When that happens, you have SEETHINGS.
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Michael Forman – Author
Listen to me read this post to you: