Sunday, June 21, 2009

My New Noir

What is your ideal audience as a writer? Do you have someone in mind? I always hoped that the guys I was in a band with at 15 would enjoy my writing. Neither of them went to university, but they both read, were intelligent, and knew bullshit when they heard it. A good test that - to have a genuine reader in mind. Skip forward all these years and I've written plenty of stuff that would pass their muster, but plenty of stuff that wouldn't. I can do pretension as much as the next guy. Yet, I'm wondering if, in trying to be a better writer (see the last post I made), I've become a different writer than I started out wanting to be. There's always been a tension, I think, between me writing as a realist, and writing as a fantasist. Graham Greene used to divide his novels into two, referring to some as "entertainments", which tended to mean more action and less Catholicism. There's always been a suspicion of genre writing in this country, whilst its always found an audience. Martin Amis never repeated his lovely little noir experiment, "Night Train," for instance; my favourite McEwan is the cold war pastiche "The Innocent." Its not necessarily his greatest book, but his most realised. And noir, of course, can do "deep" thoughts, it just doesn't make such a big deal about it. Speaking with a friend last night, I talked about the difference between "plot" and "story" - the plot can be something of a framework, one of those archetypes - perhaps something "high concept". The "story" is different - it is why the book matters. You can get an idea for a plot, but you can only write the book when you've identified the story. So, I've had an idea, something from a news item, that's made me think, yeah, that's a good starting point for the plot, but beginning to write something of it yesterday, I'm immediately having to find the story. There is, I recall, not that much difference between me writing some kind of new noir, and writing something more personal. The things that matter in the book are just the same. My reader, my ideal reader is not supposed to tell the difference. Write it well, and that will be enough.

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