straight down the line

For the Love of Noir.

And by “love” I mean “love/hate”, since this style of writing is definitely take some getting used to on my part. Film noir is gripping and gritty and never provides an assurance of a “happy ending”, a quality that I normally like to include in my writing but from here on out am going to have to nix. Thankfully this week required us to immerse ourselves even more in the concepts and style of film noir, and reading various works will help me continuously develop my skills to write in this ominous sort of style and get my readers’ heart pounding in tune with the same suspense, uncertainty, and thrill.

Last week, I learned about the basics of noir and how specifics about theme, setting The research I did last week provided me with a good basis for what to expect from this weeks readings, The Postman Always Rings Twice, The Killers, and The Shadow. 

The Postman had familiar themes, tropes, and characters, many of which I am slowly but surely becoming familiar and comfortable with. And since Postman was quite lengthy, I figured to do it the proper justice it deserves and write a lengthy summary of just a few of its very noir-y aspects.

  • City Noir: Story set on the outskirts of Santa Monica, not too far away from Los Angeles.
  • Presence of Water: Frank and Cora take a trip to he sea when it seems like they are going to get their happily ever after and Nick might not recover from his “injury”. Later on however, when they return and the waves are much more rough, it ends up foreshadowing Cora’s demise.
  • Mysterious Stranger: Frank seems a roving vagabond of sorts who supposedly is simply seeking adventure and desires to go where his feet take him. But as the story goes on, there’s something frighteningly Freudian about his nature that makes the reader question his true motives, wonder who this “man on the run” really is.
  • Femme Fatale: When Frank first sees Cora, he is immediately entranced, and in that moment there was really no turning back, for Frank or the rising action of the story.
  • Tempus Perdu: French for “Lost Time”, it is a mood of an “irretrievable past, pre-determined fate, and all-enveloping hopelessness”. Cora is in utter despair that she will never be able to escape her relationship with Nick, so much so that she uses her skills as femme fatale to seduce Frank into helping her get rid of him.

It took me a lot to get through Postman, since I was pretty disgusted by Frank and Cora’s almost animalistic relationship. I disliked that Frank was so obsessed with getting rid of Nick to gain Cora that in the end, he ended up losing her. And I disliked even more that, right at the end, it hinted that she might have been predestined to that fateful end all along. At first read, the character that took up all my focus and intrigue was Frank, and that he was the protagonist, or anti-protagonist if you will. But then I took a second look at the story, and realized that maybe Cora was the one I should have been focusing on all along! Perhaps it was because I just saw Gone Girl last weekend, but what if Cora was the ultimate of ultimate femme fatales who used Frank as the pawn to get rid of Nick and will get rid of him just the same? What if she was secretly a “strong, independent woman who don’t need no man”?!??!  [Stay tuned for my alternative ending ;) …]. Once I started to think of the story in this way, I thought of a new trope common to film noir, one that I’d entitle, “Things Aren’t Always as They Seem …”. Yes, ellipsis intentionally included :).

Unnecessary and overly-excited side note: Isn’t it such an amazing feeling when you get a lightbulb, DS106ers?!! :D

Now for The Killers and The Shadow. The respective characters of Ole Anderson and Dubrille embody the theme of pessimism, hopelessness, darkness and despair. I am once again consciously making note of this theme so I can start integrating into my own writing and practice writing not-so-happy endings, so apologies if I’m getting a bit obnoxious and repetitive.

Both pieces also helped me get a better idea of what a film noir story should sound like. Dialogue is short and sharp, with a bit more classy lingo and not much disclosure of characters’ backstory so as to keep readers guessing that much more. Monologues aren’t very common unless someone is disclosing who actually dunnit, the method to their madness, or some open-ended speech at the very end of the story that makes you wonder whether or not they even survived their predetermined destiny. A lot is left up to the reader to decide and there are certainly unanswered questions, which makes for an anti-climactic yet interactive read.

Although film noir isn’t my favorite style of writing and I’ve definitely been combating some writers’ roadblocks, reading a few different pieces throughout this somewhat intense second week really helped me get a better grasp on theme, setting, common film noir tropes and characterization. This will better help me begin to develop characters and stories of my own.

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