A question came up in one of the groups about writing I belong to about what characterizes the noir genre. Lots of answers, lots of takes, but here’s what I said:
The thing I’ve always noticed when reading either hardboiled or noir is atmosphere and mood. The hardboiled character acts cynical and tough with an edgy voice, but he’s usually a good guy. But he can do some pretty bad stuff to reach the goal of setting something right, and he usually lives and works on the mean streets. In noir, the character can be either good or bad in the beginning, can live anywhere, but is usually a sad mess which only gets worse as time goes by and he or she ends up dead or even more of a mess. And the voice is entirely different in noir, more nuanced, and not as sure of itself as in hardboiled.
It is hard to describe. One of those things–you know it when you see (read) it. So, the best way to know what it’s all about is to read lots and lots of it.
This discussion got me to thinking about all the many subgenres in the mystery field. I decided to list as many as I could think of. Can you add any?
- Amateur Sleuth
- Female Amateur Sleuth
- Romantic Suspense
- Private Eye
- Female Private Eye
- Locked Room Puzzle
- Police Procedural
- Urban Fantasy
- True Crime
What have I missed? And how do you decide what your subgenre is while either reading it or writing it? You just have to read a lot in the genre itself. After awhile, it’s pretty easy to peg what you’re reading. Then, if you want to write mysteries, think about the ones you liked best to read. That would probably be the one to write in, don’t you think?