Monday, December 01, 2008

Standing on the Edge of Definition

The definition of noir can be pretty fleeting. There is no universal standard, other than it is dark. I still like Dennis Lehane's definition that noir is working class tragedy, and as I continue to write I find what I'm interested in is that tragedy. It's funny that you need to spend a couple of years writing before you realize what it is you want to write.

So, does that mean the hard boiled stuff of tough guys and dames and guns is over for me? Hell no! That stuff is still fun to write, but more and more the stories that appear before me on the computer screen are tales of muted desperation and remorse instead of escapism. Basically I'm veering dangerously close to that literary divide the snobbish jackass literarti made up so they can sneer at genre fiction. I hope like hell I never cross it; fuck those idiots. Where I want to be is in the twilight where intelligent, open-minded readers appreciate character and plot equally. Yes, there are stories that are tilted more toward character and ones that lean heavily toward plot, but I don't thing the two are mutually exclusive. Some will tell you that you can only lean one way or the other - bullshit, that's two-dimensional thinking. Where would you place The Great Gatsby on that scale, or They Shoot Horses Don't They? or The Last Good Kiss?

So, we as a group will continue to fail in our efforts to grasp a concrete universal definition of that phantom we call our genre, but for me, it's a little more solidified. At least I can live with it.


pattinase (abbott) said...

I'm finding with this second novel I'm trying to write that I am far less interested in crime and far more interested in criminals if that makes sense.

Steve Allan said...

Exactly. I'm still interested in criminal behavior, but I'm focused on motivation. I don't want some mindless criminal who does shit just because.

Lyman Feero said...

For far too long genre writers have been led to believe their stories have to be plot heavy.

My freshman year at UMaine I took creative writing. I was a complete horror junky back then. I wrote a piece that was more like an internal stream of consciousness than a story. It was based on motivations and man was it bloody and violent. The professor went apeshit in a good way. She asked for permission to share it with all of her writing classes. She said it had the most powerful voice of anything she'd read.

Did I set out to impress? No. I just had this character in my head, sick thoughts and all.

I think sometimes we forget that a story simply exists. Regardless of the rules that created it, it is either a good story or it will tank. If as a writer you remain true to the motivation behind writing the piece the story will shine on its own merits.

That twilight you mention, Steve, is the best place to be. Welcome.

MRMacrum said...

Interesting post, interesting comments.