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Getting Started with Noir Writing Prompts

Noir writing prompts are not uncommon. Since it has many recurring themes and elements, playing with writing prompts in noir is relatively easier.

There is a strange fascination writers have with writing prompts especially when it comes to genres like crime, fantasy, heist, and noir. The reason for this fascination is largely obvious. With so many possibilities in each and every genre and style of storytelling, writers find it hard to choose something specific.

Having a large number of options is generally the starting point of indecision. Even a single genre like fantasy offers endless possibilities for writers to start with.

Value of Noir Writing Prompts

The beauty of writing prompts is that they give writers a point to begin. Sometimes, this is all a writer needs to tell a story.

Figuring out the starting point is often the greatest challenge for a writer. For one, the first few lines often decide whether a reader will stick with the story or chuck it away. From a book to a film, the first few lines of dialogues or prose can decide the fate of a story. Here are two examples of stories making a great start. One is from a book and the other is the opening scene of a movie.

The beginning of A Tale of Two Cities
Lord of War Opening Scene

While writing noir, prompts can provide great value. This is because most examples of noir fiction have common plot elements and themes. Thus, coming up with an original starting point is very challenging. Noir writing prompts are a simple solution to this problem.

In this piece, we will discuss a few noir writing prompts that can set writers up for telling a story. Instead of a unreliable noir plot generator, writers can rely on these original prompts.

#1 Los Angeles Must Die

There is a sudden spike in the number of homeless people being murdered. Tom Watts, an LAPD officer, takes an interest but he’s instead told to provide protection to a senator receiving death threats on Twitter. After a day of standing guard to the senator, Watts receives a call. There has been another murder near a homeless shelter. This time, the body of a tech billionaire turns up in ragged clothes soaked in blood.

Los Angeles is the home of noir fiction in many ways. From Ellroy’s classics to movies like Chinatown and Blade Runner, many examples of noir books and movies are based in LA.

Thus, one of the writing prompts had to be from LA.

In this particular writing prompts, there are multiple themes you can explore. There is a serious problem of rising number of homeless people in LA. This is the city which is hours away from one of the most vibrant parts of the world, Silicon Valley. The co-existence of people who have everything and those with nothing makes for a perfect setting for a noir story.

Good noir writers know how to develop the right story structure. A large part of this involves establishing a labyrinth which the protagonist has to overcome. In writing prompts like this one, noir writers can leverage the elaborate nature of the challenge to explore the character and push darker noir themes.

The desperate economic situation of homeless people makes for a suitable societal problem which conveys a level of decadence commonly found in noir fiction.

#2 Where Blood Runs Deep

In the near future, a vigilante protects the city of Delhi as the police cannot deal with criminals with access to advanced technology. However, an ill-fated incident turns the vigilante against the city. A retired police officer is brought onboard to help stop the former protector of Delhi from unleashing his fury.

In many crime movies, criminals tend to have better weapons than the police. What if, in the near future, they also gained access to far superior technology?

Of the many noir writing prompts you can find online, this is special because it explores a relatively explored part of crime fiction – tech noir. The popularity of Altered Carbon and Minority Report shows that there is a real audience for tech noir.

As far as noir writing prompts go, this one also works because of the presence of a vigilante. Vigilantes are generally uncommon in noir fiction. The presence of one makes this one of the more unique noir writing prompts.

From the transformation of the vigilante to the challenge of stopping him, there are many possibilities writers can explore here. Writers can bring in various other elements into the mix since this is a story set in the future. Writers who are not Indian and don’t know anything about Delhi, shifting the plot to a city they know is the right decision. While writing noir, it is better for writers to choose a setting they’re familiar with.

There are many angles to explore here. In the end, the ball is in the writer’s court. Any angle to this prompt can become the central device of the story if they writer decides to make it happen.

#3 That Night in ‘47

In the fall of 1947 as India gains its freedom, the illegitimate daughter of a popular Congress political leader in Varanasi is accused of murdering her son. Her former lover, a WWII veteran, comes to her rescue as the local media drags her character through the mud.

Historical fiction, especially in an Indian context, is very rare. This is why noir writing prompts set in an Indian historical context are very unique.

Every noir story is driven by a character who doesn’t believe what the rest of the world does. While the world is trying to arrive at consensus, the protagonist only seeks the truth. These elements are fundamental to noir storytelling.

This particular writing prompt delves into the same themes. At a time when a leader is popular and protected by public perception, it takes courage for someone to stand against him. 1947 India is a phenomenal setting because a lot of things are about to change for the 390 million people in the country. A period where change is the only constant is the perfect setting for a noir film.

Final Words – Noir Writing Prompts

In this piece, we cover three unique noir writing prompts which present a good point to start a story. Writers are free to use them as a starting point for their own novel or short story.

In the end, ideas are cheap and execution is everything. These scenarios are interesting, but they mean nothing if writers don’t put in the work needed to take it to the next level.

Also read: What is Speculative Fiction?
Also read: Indian Fantasy Novels: The Best Fantasy Fiction From India

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