Book Recipes: How to Write a Noir Detective Thriller

Time for another book recipe! This time I’ll be looking at Noir fiction. Put on your trench coats and fedoras and let’s get started!

 

Ingredients:

  • One hard-boiled, alcoholic private eye
  • One dame who done him wrong
  • A spectacularly grimy city, with skyscrapers
  • Entire vats of cynicism
  • An informant named either ‘Jimmy’ or ‘Benny’
  • Guns named after women
  • A sinister crime boss
  • Absolutely no happy endings
  • Trenchcoats

 

Method:

  1. Put your PI in a grimy office and have him monologue about things. It can’t be about anything happy or banal, and must be filled with questionable metaphors.
  2. In walks our femme fatale for the evening! They flirt.
  3. She wants him to investigate a murder, for reasons that are slightly dodgy.
  4. Our PI investigates the scene of the crime. There are Clues. All the important ones have been missed by the police, who are incompetent, corrupt, or both.
  5. Time to visit the informant and find out what he knows. He’ll tell you, because he’s a coward.
  6. Oh no! A Clue has led you to a place where criminals hang out! Time to treat your life with utter disdain and sneak in in the most brazen way possible. Hi-jinks ensue.

  1. The boss wants to see you. This is never good. You should monologue some more so the reader gets it.
  2. The sinister crime boss warns the PI to drop the case, stay away from the femme fatale, or similar. It’s a very tense conversation, and always done in front of hired goons.
  3. Ignore him! There’s still eleven steps to go.
  4. Meet up with the femme fatale again and flirt some more. Something she says doesn’t quite add up, but she’s hot, so it doesn’t matter.
  5. A gunfight! Join in.
  6. You have a Clue that contradicts the evidence of the first Clue, in a way that is too intricate and complex to articulate in a sarcastic twenty-step overview! WHAT CAN IT MEEEEAN?
  7. Something bad happens to slow down the investigation! It could be a break-in, a beat-up informant, or maybe even another murder. Monologue about it.
  8. The femme fatale and the PI have a tender/romantic/sexy moment together. Allow a brief sliver of hope, but get ready to crush it later.
  9. So close to finding out the truth! The PI just needs one more edge piece and the puzzle will be solved…
  10. …but oh no, he’s arrested! It’s highly suspicious.
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Hmmm… (image: gifimage.net)
  1. The crime boss appears again, and offers the PI one last chance. Ignore him, he’s not the protagonist.
  2. Break out of jail! Have a chase scene! Punch a guy! Cram the last few pages with action.
  3. Turns out the femme fatale was behind it all along! What an absolute shocker.
  4. Finish off with a big gunfight. The PI survives, but the femme fatale, the crime boss, and that last sliver of hope definitely don’t. Walk off into the rain, bitterly.

THE END. Serve with plenty of liquor.

 

Tips:

  • Always write in first person. If it doesn’t sound like a bitter drunk is telling you the story while slumped over a barstool, start again.
  • Not sure where to set it? It doesn’t really matter. Near future dystopia, Roaring Twenties, nursery rhymes – anywhere can be a noir setting if you put a depressing enough spin on it!
  • Never ever call women ‘women’. Only ever refer to them as dames, broads, doll, toots, or tomatoes. (That last one is not made up.)
AO_Girl_Tomato
What hath science wrought?? (image: annoyingorangefanon.wikia.com)
  • All your gangsters need to have nicknames. They don’t have to make sense, though.
  • Always make sure your main character has a cool name. He’s got to beat up bad guys and solve murders, and he can’t really do that if he’s got a name like Gerald.
  • Cram it full of questionable metaphors. If you get stuck, elaborate, and then put ‘if ya know what I mean’ on the end of the sentence. Readers will assume you are wise-cracking and witty, instead of thinking that you fell down the rabbit hole with a thesaurus in your hand. If ya know what I mean.
giphy community
YEAH YOU DO. (image: giphy.com)
  • Contractions and slang make your main character sound tough. ‘You’ is always ‘ya’, don’t hesitate to use no double negative, and always go for ‘gotta’ over ‘got to’. Proper grammar is for wusses.

 

And here’s one I prepared earlier…

 

They say this city used to be the kinda town where everyone knew each other. A guy couldn’t go a block without seein’ someone he knew. A little old lady with an apple pie. Maybe some kids, playin’ on the sidewalk. Musta been nice.

These days, it ain’t so pretty. Sure, there’s a few familiar faces. But they ain’t exactly friendly. Ya see ’em steppin’ out of alleys with a gat pointed at your belly and ya think ‘Gee, didn’t ya rob me last week?’

Not me, though. Nobody robs Mac Hunter. Even in this city, where sleepin’ in the gutter is a step up, nobody’s dumb enough to rob the best PI in town. Besides, they all know I’m broke.

Feet on the desk, I pour myself another glass of hooch. Business is slow, slower than a snail with a gammy leg. I oughtta be drummin’ up a case, but to hell with that. It’s rainin’. Always rains in this godforsaken city.

I light up a Camel. Yellow light stripes through the Venetian blinds, like a zebra, only one with really straight stripes that’s been turned ass over teakettle. Electricity broke two weeks ago and the landlord won’t do a damn thing about it. Says I oughtta be grateful for a place of my own. Hell. He oughtta be grateful he answers to Jimmy “Spoonface” Giuliani. If ol’ Spoonface wasn’t in the picture, he wouldn’t be so quick to run his mouth off.

There’s a knock at the door. Hell. Landlord, again.

“Velma! Get the door!” I yell, before I remember that Velma walked out last week. Said a secretary wanted payin’ in more’n just stale whiskey. She’ll be back. She sticks to me like gum that’s been covered in glue, and then dunked in molasses, and then glue, again. Never could say no to a man with a pack a day habit and a gun in his pocket.

But then the door opens, and trouble walks in. Turns out, trouble is a redhead.

Legs for days and all the way up to her waist, if ya know what I mean. Poured into a dress as black as a black cat in a coal cellar at midnight and with all the lights off. Curls like spiral staircases twirling up to the top of her head, and I couldn’t think of a man who wouldn’t slug a guy to climb ’em. Fur coat. Shiny gloves. A ring that coulda bought half the city, but that ain’t sayin’ much.

“Well?” she says, in a voice like November, “aren’t you going to give me a seat, Mr Hunter?”

Aw, hell. I tip an ashtray and a few empty bottles of hooch off of a chair. She shakes her head, mutters ‘November?’ and sits herself down. It’s like watching a bottle of oak-cask whiskey uncork itself and wriggle towards your hand.

She frowns. “Oak-cask whiskey?”

“Never mind. What can I do you for, Miss…”

“Valentine.”

“I betcha are.”

Mrs Lola Valentine.”

“He’s a lucky fella.”

She fits a cigarette into a long holder. Before I know it I’m lightin’ it for her, like some chubby little drone buzzin’ after the queen bee. Only, with cigarettes and a lighter in my fuzzy bee paws. Note to self: do bees have paws? Probably oughtta look that one up.

She gives me a strange look and takes a drag. “He’s a dead fella, Mr Hunter.”

Damn. Now I remember. Her dear departed husband musta been Frank “Steps” Valentine. Rich. Old. In the Mayor’s pocket and not the one at the back, if ya know what I mean. Shot in the back of the head not two weeks gone. Coroner ruled it a suicide. They always do.

“I know my husband’s death wasn’t a suicide,” she says, fixin’ me with a look that pinned me like a butterfly on a collector’s board. Only, a manly butterfly, with trenchcoat wings, a fedora, and a gat named Ginger in his hand. Antenna.

“Now, Mrs Valentine…”

“You know it too. I heard the tone of your monologue. I want you to find out who killed him. I’ll pay you well, of course.”

She knew I could do with the money. But “Steps” Valentine played a dangerous game, and I don’t mean no game that could be played with the lovely Lola. All kindsa scum had muscled in on Valentine’s racket and his body was barely cold. Eddie “Llama” McMurphy had his slice of the rum-runners. Vincenzo “Beaker” Gorlami was movin’ in on the girlie shows. And worst of all, Boris “the Holly Bush” Krazinsky was havin’ dinner with the Mayor every night, and you betcha he was gettin’ two scoops of ice cream with desert, if ya know what I mean.

But ‘danger’ is my middle name. No, really. It says ‘Mac Danger Hunter’ on my birth certificate.

“And if I don’t take the case?”

“Then, Mr Hunter,” she says, givin’ me a smile that drains all the metaphors right outta me, “I’ll take it to a gumshoe that doesn’t monologue out loud.”

 

Let me know what you’d like me to look at next – and as always, take this recipe with a pinch of salt.

Alice-In-Wonderland-I-See-What-You-Did-There
Heh heh heh. (image: replycandy.com)
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Game of Thrones Season Seven: Prediction Tally

Time for a brief intermission before I go back to talking about Mary Sues. Know why?

So Game of Thrones series seven has come to an end and I’m still reeling. Before the series started I made ten predictions (plus one wild card) about how the series would go. Let’s see how my fortune-telling skills measure up.

 

  1. Stark family reunion

I’m counting this one as it’s been confirmed that Jon isn’t a Stark. As I suspected this season held the reunion of the surviving Stark children and, despite the fact that Bran is a tree now, it was pretty great. This one was fairly obvious though, so I won’t gloat too much.

 

  1. Daenerys will lose a dragon

MY HEART.

giphy tears
I’ve just got something in my eye… (image: giphy.com)

This didn’t happen in the way I expected as my money was on Euron Greyjoy and his magical horn (stop sniggering). But I wasn’t disappointed, mainly because of THAT ENDING. My God.

 

  1. Jaime will break with Cersei

I feel like I can’t really take too much credit for getting this one right as it has already happened in the books. However, I’m still smug. I have to say I’m surprised it still happened after Cersei told Jaime she’s pregnant, but this one’s been a long time coming.

 

  1. Jorah will die of greyscale

Unexpectedly not! What a nice reprieve for everyone’s favourite chocolatey-voiced third wheel. I don’t think he’s got much to look forward to, though. Aside from watching Jon and Dany mooning over each other he’s got an army of zombies to contend with.

 

  1. The Wall will be compromised

’Nuff said.

 

  1. Sam will find an important secret about the White Walkers in the Great Library, but die before he can deliver the information to Jon

I was really expecting Sam to die this season, but I’m so glad that he didn’t. Game of Thrones is at the point where it needs to start trimming down the cast so all that delicious final-series drama can be properly savoured. I’m really glad that Sam wasn’t on this season’s hit list as I’ve got a real soft spot for his and Gilly’s little family.

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I just want them to settle down on a little farm and make jam together. (image: wikiofthrones.com)

That said, he did discover quite a few important secrets in the Great Library – the dragonglass mines on Dragonstone, and, thanks to Gilly, the proof that Jon is the legitimate heir to the Iron Throne. All these secrets will come to fruition next season. I can’t imagine Jon’s Aunty Girlfriend is going to be all that pleased.

 

  1. Littlefinger will die

…and it was GREAT. Sansa came into her own, the Starks all banded together and everything was awesome. I did think it was all a little on the convenient side, though. The Starks had no real proof of their accusations against Littlefinger and he didn’t really try and defend himself. I’ve no doubt that if this scene had happened in the books it would’ve played out very differently. But I’m willing to forgive all of that because LOOK AT HOW BADASS SANSA IS:

SHE’S COME SO FAR YOU GUYS SHE’S GROWN SO MUCH AND LEARNED FROM HER MISTAKES AND I’M SO PROUD

 

  1. Bran will possess a wight

Unfortunately this one didn’t happen, which is a shame because it would’ve been really cool. Perhaps in season eight. I did appreciate the insights we got into how wights work though. The showrunners went for the classic ‘Dracula’ monster structure: kill off the creator and all its minions (createes? Not sure if there’s a word) will die too. They’ve written in an easy kill-switch, but hopefully this will lead to a killer duel with the Night’s King. We’ve never really seen him fight, just stand around being scary, so I’m hoping this will mean we’ll get an opportunity to see what he can do.

 

  1. Daenerys will begin exhibiting signs of her father’s madness

Daenerys set two people on fire when she didn’t need to: Randall Tarly and his son, Dickon.

giphy snigger
Heh heh heh.  (image: giphy.com)

This was a hallmark of her father, the Mad King, who took a weird and creepy pleasure in killing his enemies by setting them on fire in various horrible ways. While this could have simply been a demonstration of her power, the show then included a scene where Varys and Tyrion discussed the implications of their own role in witnessing these kinds of executions.

This is quite clearly intended as foreshadowing. The writers want viewers to make the connection between Dany’s actions and her father’s, and consider the implications this may have for her rule. I’m not surprised that this comparison is being drawn. As I mentioned in my original post, Daenerys hasn’t really suffered a storyline-changing setback. All the other characters have. While you could put the loss of Viserion in this category, I’m not sure it would really count, as it hasn’t really dented her resolve to ascend the Iron Throne. She hasn’t had to radically re-assess her goals and beliefs in the way that many other characters have done so far. I think this means she’s in for a strong dose of the Targaryen madness, and I doubt she’s going to take the Iron Throne at all.

 

  1. Cleganebowl

There was no hype. Maybe next season, though.

 

WILD CARD: Jorah’s greyscale has already been passed to Daenerys. She and her court get infected by the disease

Haha yeah, this didn’t happen. I’m glad, though – this would’ve been a lame way for the series to end.

 

SMUGNESS LEVELS: 6/10 

giphy smug
Gloating all day every day. (image: giphy.com)

 

And there you have it! Sixty percent of the time, it worked every time. Probably not quite fortune-teller standard just yet, but there’s always season eight.