Fiction that explores the monsters and strangers among us.

Monday, April 4, 2011

1st Person Noir

Comments: Noir fiction is often written in the first person. First person creates an immediacy that's compelling. It hints at the survival of the main character because he or she lived to tell the tale. Unless, of course, the tale is being told by a ghost. One of the downsides to 1st person is you don't know who the speaker is until another character happens to mention it. Or the main character has a reason to reveal it, for example, in a phone call. "Detective Larson? This is Mike Tankerton." The introductory scene needs to occur early in the first chapter. Our opening scene doesn't present this opportunity, so it will have to happen in the next paragraph or two after this scene.

The first person character doesn't necessarily have to be the main character. A sidekick can tell the tale. You may want to use a sidekick if your main character speaks in grunts and groans, like Rocky Balboa. Or if your character isn't the brightest light bulb in the cast. Or so brilliant, like Sherlock Holmes, he or she has no need to write a story, leaving that task to lesser minds with a literary bent.

Look for the way I adapted and polished the copy for first person. My editing challenge is to eliminate at least one-half of the uses of "I." Overusing the word "I" creates a feeling of self-focus that can kill your story. You don't need an over-sized ego in the first person. If your main character has a big ego, tell the tale in third person. In first person, scratch out their "I"s. Enjoy.

1st Person Noir
I couldn’t remember how the Walther PK380 ended up in my left overcoat pocket, but it was pressing hard against my side. I shifted my weight around on the bus seat to relieve the pain. As I stared out the window at the Magnificent Mile passing by, I counted how many shots I had fired. One, two, three, four, five. Four bullets left. I leaned my head against the window to rest, but the pain burned. I leaned the other way.

Outside, the darkness closed in like an assault team as the night sky sunk to the level of skyscrapers. Clouds boiled and rolled like flood waters from a deluge. As the CTA bus made its way down Michigan Avenue toward the river and Wacker Drive, I watched for Tomlinson’s men. A large flowered red umbrella blew inside out in the November wind that also lifted the owner’s black skirt near Ontario Street. A man in a tan London Fog stopped to gawk at her.

My right hand rested over the backpack like a protecting mother eagle. I smiled at the thought because the job went over like a diving eagle swiping the catch off a fisherman’s hook. The backpack was worth the five shots fired in anger. Six counting one from their side.

I glanced out the black window again. Neon lights painted a cityscape abstracted by the rain drops. The girl with the upside-down umbrella and flapping skirt was gone like all the other women in my life.

Blood dripped now from under my coat and over the back of my left hand. I let it run between my fingers. If they didn’t raise the bridge, I had a chance. But up ahead I could see the bridge lights blinking in the rain.

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