[Write on Wednesday] Tell A Noir Story

inspired by the fact that I’m reading at a Noir event tonight, I’m challenging you to write an atmosphere laden, tragedy-laced noir story today.

The Prompt

Write A Noir Story

Tips

Otto Penzler, owner of Mysterious Books and editor of the annual Best American Mystery Stories anthology, has this to say about noir.

“Most mystery fiction focusses on the detective, and noir fiction focusses on the villain…The people in noir fiction are dark and doomed—they are losers, they are pessimistic, they are hopeless. If you have a private eye, the private eye is a hero; and he’s going to solve the crime and the bad guy will be caught. That’s a happy ending, but that’s not a noir ending.”

  • Now I don’t think it’s entirely true that a noir story can’t have a happy ending. It just has to be an imperfectly-happy ending.
  • Your hero might escape, but it’s by doing something terrible. Or he leaves a trail of devastation in his wake. Or the bad guys still achieve their ends.
  • Your hero and their love interest can achieve a measure of personal happiness at the end, but it’s not an uncomplicated, Disney-esque happy ending.
  • Noir stories tend to be heavy in atmosphere and imagery, and have a distinctive narrative voice.
  • The villain’s motivation is something you can explore more in a noir story than in a traditional mystery.
  • Life is never simple or sweet in a noir story.
  • There should be a crime, attempted crime, or mystery in the story.
  • Explore the seedier side of life, and don’t forget to use all your senses, and exploit all of your characters’ passions.
  • Read yesterday’s Reading Room post, for my thoughts on Dashiell Hammet’s noir story “Nightmare Town”.

Go!

Day 21 – News Flash

The Prompt

Write A Story As A News Report

This could be a TV report with a panel of pundits yelling at each other, a reporter on the street, the voice of a producer in your anchor’s ear…

Or, this could be a traditional newspaper report.

Remember to tell a story, though! Then tell us all about it in the comments.

Day 20 – I’m Gonna Sit Right Down

The Prompt

Write A Story In The Form Of A Series of Letters

Tips

  • You could do social media updates, conference call, letters, records.
  • In this story remember that each party in the story has an agenda, conflicts.
    You could tell three different sides of a story
  • Your format will affect the type of language that the characters use: in letters things might be more formal, in texts it’ll be more brief.

Remember to leave a comment to let us know how you got on!

Day 19 – Direct To Camera

May is far from over! Don’t give up now. And if you’ve just discovered StoryADay May, it’s not too late to jump in. Here’s today’s prompt, and you can find a new episode of the podcast here: Is It Time To Quit? (spoiler: no!)

The Prompt

Tell A Story ‘Direct To Camera’

This is probably going to be in first person.

Write as if you’re writing to your best friend, or talking directly to a police officer, or relaying this to a room of strangers.

if all else fails, stand in front of your phone and tell the story. Tell a real story or a fairy story. See what this does to your writing.

Leave a comment and tell us how it went today!

Day 18 – It’s A Bit One-Sided

The Prompt

Write a story today in which the reader only hears one side of the conversation

This could be a telephone conversation, a text conversation, a series of social media updates, a series of letters, whatever.

Examples

Bob Newhart telephone does this in telephone calls

Watch Neil Gaiman read his story Orange here or read it here

[Reading Room] Paradox by Naomi Kritzer

I was blogging and podcasting a lot, last month, about short story forms, and how short stories do not have to read like mini novels.

And the month before that was all about Flash Fiction.

Today, I’m recommending that you take a look at this story Paradox, by Naomi Kritzer.

It is both flash fiction and a non-narrative story. And it’s great.

It starts,

This is the original timeline.

This is a great example of how you can make every word count, and how short fiction is a wonderful place to practice that.

That single word, “original” does all the heavy lifting. It tells you a lot about what kind of story this is going to be: confusing, time-travel-y, chatty. It conveys genre, style, and tone.

Five words. That’s all it took her to set the reader’s expectations.

(Note to self: write to the author and ask her what the original first line looked like. I’m betting it wasn’t this. Second note to self: rewriting is key!)

It is written in the first person (sometimes first person, plural) and we never find out the character’s name or gender. It plays deliciously, hilariously, with all the time travel tropes and questions out there, and talks, knowingly, to the reader.

This is no mini-novel.

And it leaves us with a flippant question at the end, the deeper question it asks is not about time-travel at all.

Recommended!

Read it online or listen here.