THE FREEDOM AND THE RESTRAINTS OF WRITING FANTASY NOIR
Written by R. S. Belcher
I want to thank Steve for giving me this opportunity to guest post on HorrorTalk and share a little about my new novel, The Night Dahlia, being released by Tor Books on April 3rd. Night Dahlia is the second book in the Nightwise series, which is firmly placed in the genre of Noir Fantasy. I wanted to share some thoughts on the nature of Noir Fantasy and the advantages and restraints of writing in this particular genre.
Noir takes its name from a French pulp magazine of the mid-40s, and certain crime movies of the 1940s and '50s. Noir's protagonists are typically not your standard heroic fare. They are victims, normal people in the wrong place at the wrong time, or law breakers, street hustlers and other common criminals.
Fantasy tends to present its readers with protagonists possessed of the qualities we look for in our heroes, an intrinsic good, a sense of honor and duty, a desire to see justice done and evil punished. Sure they may have foibles but at their core, we know they are pretty decent people. Even in Urban Fantasy with its cast of anti-heroes and noble monsters, under the leather and the unshaven facade, the protagonists still want to do good and have the heart of a hero beating under the skin of a beast.
One of the things I really enjoy about writing Noir Fantasy is getting to create protagonists who bear little resemblance to the traditional "good guy." Laytham Ballard, the main character in Nightwise and the Night Dahlia is a criminal, a dirty ex-cop, a liar, manipulator, thief and worse. While he longs desperately to be the hero of the piece, he usually ends up being the villain.
Writing Laytham is refreshing. He's very much the kind of character that inhabits Noir Fantasy, and some of his reason for getting mixed up in the plots I throw him into include greed, hubris, and revenge. In Nightwise, Ballard repays an old debt to a dying friend by hunting down and getting bloody revenge on the man who killed his friend's wife. In the Night Dahlia, Ballard's search for a missing fae princess is motivated more by selfish need than anything resembling altruism.
The primary constraint I find in writing a Noir Fantasy is that sometimes it can get pretty dark, and pretty cynical. Again, that's the nature of the world. The world Laytham Ballard lives in is like our own, there is good out there but you have to search pretty hard to find it, and even harder to keep it alive. Sometimes you want a Tarantino movie and other times you want something a little less dark. Not quite a Disney flick, but something with a little more light in it. Fortunately for me, I write another Urban Fantasy series that scratches that itch for me called "The Brotherhood of the Wheel". The "Brotherhood" series is still dark – it's got elements of urban legend and horror in it – but its heroes are a lot more on the side of the angels than Laytham Ballard. The "Brotherhood of the Wheel" series and the "Nightwise" series take place in the same universe, albeit different corners, so hopefully readers can experience some horror and suspense in "Brotherhood" and come check out "Nightwise" for a walk down the dangerous streets of Noir Fantasy.
HorrorTalk would like to thank R.S. Belcher for providing this with this thoughtful post. Make sure to pick up his latest, The Night Dahlia, by clicking one of the links below!