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Thu, Mar. 24th, 2005, 05:08 am
djseverus_snape: A Ramble On The Differences Between Noir and Darkfic

Let me begin by saying that I offer the following observation to be framed in the HP fandom. I really don't get out much so I can't tell you what goes on elsewhere.

In the Potter canon, Good triumphs over Evil - certainly it makes sacrifices, suffers loss, and walks off with a black eye, but it does win, because Good is written to be intrinsically more powerful than Evil (Lily's love of Harry trumps Voldemort's most powerful killing spell, etc.).

Now in the fandom we like to turn things on their heads - so we create the Darkfic. The compass of the darkfic is the inversion of that which drives canon. In the Darkfic, Evil triumphs over Good, because it is craftier (see the general love of all things Slytherin), edgier, sexier, better-dressed, and all around more indie. Plots of darkfics are exactly the opposite of what you would find in the book: Harry fails, the Death Eaters win, Voldemort stiffs The Boy who Lived. The difficulty with darkfic is that it picks up where it should rightly end - with the victory. In canon, once victory is acheived, JKR will cue the end-of-term dinner and close the book. But in Darkfic, the author is required to establish the story on a foundation of presupposed victory. (An author could do as JKR does and just have Harry snuff it in the end instead, but that might generate too many "WTF?!" reviews.)

We begin at the end - the forces of Evil have triumphed - that is how we know we are reading/writing a Darkfic. But from a story point of view this is not a good thing. We can either watch the author spin ever-widening circles of angst for eighteen chapters, follow a "good" character's degradation to a point at which they will not only carry the Dark Lord's child but they will even let him name it Tom Marvolo Riddle, Jr., or we can see a DE post-game get-together complete with back slaps, orgies, and a bit of karaoke by Lucius.

By starting at the end, we have no useful direction in which to take the story, except the beginning, and that is too complicated a thought to be addressed in an LJ entry.

Now the Noirfic (same name, different language) is a different animal altogether.

Good and Evil still exist in Noir, but they are constructs rather than actual forces. They are ideas formulated by flawed humanity. In Noir, nothing is really good or bad. Everything becomes subjective. The stories will have opposing sides with one felt to be wicked but this is based solely on the biases of the main characters or narrator. For example, one might have a story in which the Death Eaters do a bad, bad thing, and then the Order of the Phoenix retaliates in equal measure. If our perspective is that of Evan Rosier, we might declare the Dark Lord's cause good and right, and Dumbledore's cowardly and low. In Noir, morality has no real meaning aside from being a handy touchstone to illustrate character divisions.

As we have seen, the appeal of Darkfic lies in the Saturnalian twist of Evil rising over Good. Noir fics focus on something yet again - by discarding the grand images of right and wrong.

We are left with not morality, but politics, not heroism, but survival, and in place of the epic, we have realism.

A Noir fic should be a gritty, realistic affair (yes, even in a universe where men go about on magic brooms). Its center is not in the struggle between Light and Dark, but between man and society, man and his own flaws, the individual and the world. The hero of the Noir fic is the reluctant everyman trundling along, trailing baggage and weakness behind. He follows his course not guided by moral impetus, but by an instinct to persevere. It's a world of "you win some, you lose some", where bravery is based not in a certainty of what is right but rather a gut reaction against perceived wrongs.

In a universe where justice is faceless, mindless, and soulless, the divide is noticeably absent and bad things happen. The nobility of the Noir hero is in his need to see the quest through simply because it seemed like the thing to do at the time.

It's a little bit like life, really. Funny, that.

Thu, Mar. 24th, 2005 05:29 am (UTC)

Wow! This is such an awesome look at Darkfic. I always knew there was something wrong with the way I've been writing it. LOL. Noir sounds much much much cool. And Hardcore!

PS: New Journal. Friending at you now.

Sat, Mar. 26th, 2005 04:13 am (UTC)

Good to see you back! Now get writing!!!
(Deleted comment)

Sat, Mar. 26th, 2005 04:19 am (UTC)

I'm glad you're getting some ideas from the Noir style. It's about time we got down to the real edge of canon, right down to the grey, flaky stubble on Alastor Moody's craggy chin.

Thu, Mar. 24th, 2005 05:58 am (UTC)

I would like to see Lucius sing a karaoke version of Runaway Train in canon.
PS: I agree.

Sat, Mar. 26th, 2005 04:22 am (UTC)

Poor Lucius! Life's mysteries seem so faded.

Fri, Mar. 25th, 2005 06:20 am (UTC)

Very interesting.

Fri, Mar. 25th, 2005 08:17 am (UTC)
marprelate: *applauds*

Here via daily_snitch. I love this definition, although I've rarely seen the term 'noir' used for fanfic (I must be a newbier newbie than I thought!) So I see Darkfic is a sort of perverse 'holiday humour' exercise, where somthing manifestly unreal takes place with the consciousness of taking liberties with the canon. Noir is less 'playful' and more likely to beat the system by existing in narrative cracks, or places where the light doesn't reach. I'm not sure how much leeway HP gives us character-wise to do this, since even the ambiguities of the characters are so well mapped-out and well accounted-for, but I think in terms of time and place there is vast scope to noirise. Didn't they used to shoot noir films in shadow to hide the cheapness of the sets? So perhaps areas where canon is flimsy and/or unexplained are fertile grounds for noir, as opposed to darkfic which is, as you said, an unsubtle inversion of what is already known.

Would love to read the extension of your statement that darkfic has nowhere to go but the beginning. I don't read Darkfic but reading your analysis was tremendous fun. Thanks so much!

Sat, Mar. 26th, 2005 04:29 am (UTC)
djseverus_snape: Re: *applauds*

Didn't they used to shoot noir films in shadow to hide the cheapness of the sets?

I'm sure they did. In fact, I think we should take a page from the book of Noir film and spotlight plot and character. Excise the superficial - let's focus on what's real!

Fri, Mar. 25th, 2005 08:25 am (UTC)

Okay, so what I write is noir :D

Thanks for the clarification!!!

Actually I think the whole Potterverse is pretty darn noir. The Designated Bad Guys are incompetent and loony, and the Designated Good Guys range from well-meaning and incompetent to cruel and capricious to scary manipulative asshatdom.

Fri, Mar. 25th, 2005 01:19 pm (UTC)

As I was reading the 'noir' definition I was thinking Snape. The man is built noir. Dark, mean, iredeemable pretty much, yet doing what needs to be done. I link noir with James Ellroy in my head (and Tom Waits...) and this pretty much nails it - shades of grey and no-one is who or what they seem.

Sat, Mar. 26th, 2005 04:43 am (UTC)

Snape is without a doubt a Noir hero. I'm glad you enjoyed the ramble/discussion.

Sat, Mar. 26th, 2005 04:40 am (UTC)

Actually I think the whole Potterverse is pretty darn noir.

I definitely agree that the Potterverse has many Noir aspects but JKR seems to favour taking a more metaphysical and moralistic slant with the story. Though I don't believe we will ever see 'true' Noir in canon, it does make things much easier for those of us that wish to re-explore her creation in such a light.

Fri, Mar. 25th, 2005 10:41 am (UTC)

great rant! gave me lots to think about :)

Sat, Mar. 26th, 2005 04:44 am (UTC)

Happy you liked it.

Sat, Mar. 26th, 2005 05:39 am (UTC)

The darker the better, luv. I am proud to be part of another generation of darkfic. Us old timers grew up with noir styles and its about time the dark HP was exploited. I'll be back after finishing my next Hagrid tale.
-Mr. Slymme

Wed, Mar. 30th, 2005 01:37 am (UTC)

You old timers! Had to write by candlelight, dark dark dark.

Wed, Apr. 20th, 2005 05:17 pm (UTC)

Thank you for the definition! I was looking for something else to read, and your community awoke my interest. I'm a fan of Noir fiction in general, and it's interesting to see how these elements work in Potterverse.