Jane Hammons gave us some time.

Q (Nicolle Elizabeth): Jane what is up with the Noir Group here at ye olde Fictionaut?

We are a dark bunch here in the Noir Group, losers you might even say, people who love losers. Love to write about them anyway. I mean, really, who is more fun to write about than a loser? Angst, woe, bad intentions–not to mention crimes and interesting ways to die. I had no idea I was in such bad, er, good, company at Fictionaut until Michael J. Solender posted the great Otto Penzler’s HuffPo article in a General Forum. Suddenly James Lloyd Davis, Bill Yarrow, Carol Reid, George LeCas and I came creeping out from under our rocks in a frenzied exchange of links and information. It occurred to me that we probably needed a group. And apparently some other folks needed one, too, because all of a sudden there are 21 members (I’m sure there are more lurking, but not joining, for their own perverse reasons).

Great essay on the homepage. I am indeed a loser. Can you give us advice on how to better write un-loveable characters? What is a great literary example of a loser who conversely is a loveable character, such as myself.

Otto Penzler says it best and also makes an important distinction between noir and the Private Eye (hey, PI’s–get your own group!). There can be overlap, but a Private Investigator or detective does not a noir story make.The un-loveable character might not be for everyone. I’d really like to hear what others have to say about creating these losers. But I usually hear a voice–the narrator’s or the character’s–first. I need to know who I’m dealing with before I turn her loose. Setting, usually some element of the landscape, is often important. The character has to work with or against some natural force that shapes the story. I suspect writers of noir are people who don’t look away from the uglier sights in life, not so much because we are miscreant, but because we are interested in the motivation, frailty, damage–the psychology involved. I think you have to be willing (eager?) to listen to that little dark piece of your own heart to create these characters. You can’t redeem them, you know. You have to let them fall. As for literary examples, I know a lot of people would go back to characters in novels by  Dashiell Hammett or Raymond Chandler because they are accepted into the canon called literary, but I just finished Megan Abbott’s Bury Me Deep (loosely inspired by a true case). Marion Seeley is a character you might love to be horrified by: but loveable, she ain’t.

Q: Oh, how’s it going in general at the group are people giving/getting helpful feedback etc?

I know I’m enjoying the fact that I can find these dark stories all in one place. Before I was encouraged to start the group, I would happen upon them in the reading I was doing at Fictionaut. Now I go to the Noir Group as I would a magazine or anthology. Generally, the feedback at Fictionaut is supportive, and that is no different in this group. We might like brutal stories, but we are not brutes! A number of the stories at Noir have been published (Ian Ayris just took his wonderful story “Chained” down as it will be published in Yellow Mama), so I read with plot development–something I struggle with–in mind. I’m naturally more voice driven. If you don’t have a tight plot, you might have some dark fiction, but you probably don’t have noir.

Q:  Did you know that the Mimosa was invented in MacchuPichu?

I suspect you are a liar.

Q: Please talk about your current projects, and of course why everyone should read the new Norton Anthology but your own writing and reading and editing here as well. Give us more advice we need your wisdom.

Well, like a billion other people I’m working on a novel. Crime fiction, not noir. But I take breaks and write or revise short stories and essays. I just finished an essay about writing The Devil’s Inkwell, which has a character who goes to Jonestown in it. Fielding McGehee III, who manages the web site Alternative Considerations of Jonestown and Peoples Temple read the story here at Fictionaut and contacted me about it. Jonestown is not a subject many explore in fiction, so he was interested in why and how I had created that character. I write about what interests me; usually that begins with some aspect of history. I’m eagerly awaiting the Hint Fiction Norton Anthology.  A Norton Anthology for crying out loud! After years of lugging those things around, this is a big deal to me. My story in that collection couldn’t be more different than my noir stories: no plot, just a hint. All of the stories are 25 words or fewer–as it says in the title. Honestly, I would have said 25 words or less even though I know it isn’t grammatically correct. So much for my editing.

Nicolle Elizabeth checks in with Fictionaut Groups every Friday.

  1. michael j. solender

    I am indebted to Jane for grabbing the noirists by their collars and herding us into our pen. Some very dark and cozy tales abound at Noir and I for one am thrilled to see all the lurkers come out to play. For those looking for some finer published examples, I’d suggest you’ll do no better than the venerable Jim Thompson, his stories cut to the core of the most base and vile elements lurking in seemingly normal folks and reveal them for what they are truly capable of. The Killer Inside Me being amongst his best.

  2. jesusangelgarcia

    Is badbadbad noir, Jane?

    Last night I watched Fritz Lang’s Woman in the Window. I like the old films, but I don’t think I’ve ever read a classic (or contemporary) “noir” novel. I’ve also never read “pulp,” though a few books are propped up around the homestead. The covers are inspirational.

    Hmmm… I guess I’ll join the group and try to get around to reading something over there. Yes, I will.

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