Thursday, October 23, 2008

Noir Days

Rick’s post got my wheels turning. I agree, our books definitely reflect current culture. Each one of us writes novels that reflect some social or cultural ill, even if it’s in the past. And lately, I’ve been wondering about this, particularly in regards to the thriller sub-genre. A shock wave went through American (and other countries’) writers after 9/11. The worst happened, and no one stopped the bad guys. It was a Tom Clancy novel where the terrorists achieved their aim.

I’ve read some excellent novels that reflected post 9/11 attitudes, and that’s a great discussion on its own. But where do we take our fictional heroes when corruption, greed, political and fiscal short-sightedness are rampant—and apparently paying off? Many mendacious politicians and self-serving CEOs seem to be escaping justice.

Jump in and tell me what you think, but perhaps the road to believable fiction (and we all know that it has to be believable, as opposed to merely true) leads us writers back to human nature. The characters, both good and bad, that grab our hearts. I read an essay by a famous author (yikes, I think it was Thomas Harris, but correct me if I’m wrong) who stressed that fictional villains have to be as well-drawn as the good guys.

So we’ve got plenty of fascinating characters to feed our inspiration. The problem is finding a plot that isn’t staring from the pages of the morning paper. Hmm, or maybe that’s a good place to start. Art imitating life, or life imitating art?

1 comment:

NL Gassert said...

I love looking at the paper for inspiration. I always, always search for those small “what were they thinking?” items that feature everyday people gone bad (and stupid). Or in Charles’s words, I look for a Joe Shmoe villain. Then I couple that with some big conspiracy idea I find in Newsweek or on 60 Minutes. Voila, Joe Shmoe with ambitious dreams of taking over the world, nothing is scarier.