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Dark Thoughts About Noire

Well, not that dark, but how could I resist that as a headline, really? I clearly couldn't.

But I have been imbibing a ton of Noire entertainment this last month or so, a combination of research, timing, and interest. It all started with the new novel of course, which is my modern-day noire tale centered around sex tapes. I knew from the first that I wanted to model the story on a classic detective story, a la the Maltese Falcon or The Big Sleep. Except that, instead of a private eye, my hero would be someone who can help hide your leaked sex videos and pics for you - for a price. 

So I started reading books and watching movies for inspiration. I re-watched The Maltese Falcon. I read Red Harvest. Red Harvest if freaking crazy - over the top bloody and just an awesome descent into chaos. I watched The Killing for the first time (not the AMC show, the movie), along with Gilda, which is also a nutty movie. I was trying to get the vibe and rhythms of it all into my mind so I could use them as I wrote. 

One thing I figured out as I started writing though is that I didn't want a traditional Noire protagonist. First of all, my guy's not a cop or private eye or even really a criminal. He's basically a computer nerd who's good at photoshop. The whole sex-video thing puts him in the fringe, and I definitely have him living a sort of gray-market lifestyle, but he's not automatically a tough guy. Also, most Noire stories tend not to give much or any background on their main character. I want to give some more back story to my man, although as I write I definitely feel the Noire-inspired urge to hold the background and get on with the action. I think I'll end up going back and inserting more when I do my re-writes. 

The book was well under way by the time the great L.A. Noire video game came out a few weeks ago. It's a cop story, set in 1940s post-war L.A., full of murder, corruption, and double-dealing. I really, really like the game and it does a lot of interesting things. We just recorded a Moving Pixels Podcast about it over the weekend, which should go up in a couple of weeks. One thing we talked about was the arc of the main character, Phelps, and how he grows less and less likable as the game moves on. Spoiler here, but towards the end, you actually end up playing a different character, which is a brilliant move that lets the player still feel heroic even as Phelps' arc continues its dark course. 

I clearly don't want to go that way with my protagonist. In typical Noire fashion, my guy is far, far from perfect. But while Noire detectives are often self-deprecating, I don't think they're ever quite as full of uncertainty and worry as my guy is turning out to be. I'm having fun making him full of angst on the inside but cool and aggressive on the outside. The things he says to people are usually either pretty tough or pretty snappy. I wonder if undercutting that with the interior thoughts is a good thing or a bad thing, but right now I think it's a good thing. It's certainly an interesting thing.

My writing pace slowed down over the last three weeks, partly because I was sick and partly because I've taken on a video game writing project which is both exciting and pays money, so it jumped to the front of the line. I'd originally hoped to have the first draft done by the end of this month, but I don't see that as too likely. Still, I think the end of July is a real possibility, maybe even mid-July if things pick up like they seem to be.

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Reader Comments (1)

thank you for your sharing
September 22, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterdell inspiron 1720 akku

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