Monday, 4 October 2010

When writing merely becomes an exercise in self-indulgence.

Something pretty obvious struck me the other day.  That is, the overwhelming preponderance of first person narratives in the noir/crime scene - compared to other genres, anyway.  And then I thought of a little discussion we had on the blog last week, that of how much we give of ourselves to our writing.  And then I read Patti Abbott's piece about cliches in crime/noir wrtiing - top of her list 'the alcoholic detective'.

Take a look at Patti's piece here

Personal issues seem to form a great part of the mc in noir/crime writing.  Adding this to the preponderance for a first person narrative, I wondered at what point  the writer tips over, without realising, into self-indulgence.  I only say this because I read a book a couple of weeks back by a famous author in the field - who shall remain anonymous - someone who has written over a dozen books.  And half-way through this particular book, I felt as if the plot had fallen by the wayside and the line between the mc and the author had become blurred.  At some point, I felt the narrative had turned from a work of fiction into a self-indulgent soliloqy.

For me, it was page after page of self-analysis, the mc (author) presenting their inner world, none of it relevant to the plot.  When the nature of, espeically noir writing, leans often towards the mimicking of reality warts and all, delivered in the vernacular, the temptation to unconsciously introduce one's own reality might be too much of a temptation to resist.

So can we tell, as a writer, when we've stepped over that line?  And as readers, what is the give-away?


  1. I think we can Ian . . . but only after we've posted it somewhere and want to run and hide. I really think though the basis of the kind of book you described can attained only one way. When the writer has grown "To big to be edited" and his/her stuff gets published no matter how badly written or over written or gigantic the tomes get. The instant we get too huge to be taken to task by a great editor marks the demise of our talent.

  2. So when the author's name seels a book before it is written? Never read any of her books, but from what I've heard, Martina Cole has got like that over here. Her books becoming more and more formulaic, yet bucket-loads of pre-orders purely on the author's name. And I suspect the publishers, being, at bottom, a business, would be quite happy with that. Perhaps long gone are the days where the quality of the writing was a publishers main concern. Perhaps it never was. Although I must say, from my contact with several independent publishers, the quality of the writing seems to be paramount. Long live the independent publisher! That's what I say.

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