[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


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”.


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