Elizabeth: Friday Writing Sprints – The Film Noir Edition

film_noir_titlesrLast weekend I paid a visit to a local salvage yard.  The outside grounds were filled with all kinds of recycled building supplies – windows, doors, sinks, etc. – while the inside was a cross between a hardware store and garage sale on steroids.  Looking for some antique door knobs, a set of cane dining room chairs, some go-go boots, or a reel-to-reel tape player?  Look no further.

I had high hopes of unearthing a treasure, but didn’t find anything I couldn’t live without (sadly, the 6-foot ornate 1910 balusters, like something Lord Elgin might have souvenired from Greece, were already marked ‘sold’).   There was, however, a giant display rack full of old VHS tapes including dozens and dozens of old black and white movies from the 30s, 40s, and 50s, topped with a battered old black falcon that had seen better days.  The film noir find seemed in keeping with the dark dreary weather we’ve been having off and on recently and the local Noir City festival starting on Friday, scheduled to include a variety of films covering “50 years of hold-ups, heists, and schemes gone awry.”

The old VHS movie titles and covers with their gritty images, shadows, darkness, and the ever popular private eye and femme fatal, inspired a list of film-noir themed words that I thought would be perfect for a round of Random Word Improv.

Care to join me?

Whether you’re marching for women’s rights, recovering from the plague, writing up a storm, or filling your creative well, a few minutes of Random Word Improv are a great way to have a little fun and get some words on the page.  I’ll be giving today’s words a try somewhere in between working, watching inauguration coverage, and trying not to get washed away in the latest storm heading this way.    Feel free to join in anytime.


For any of you new to Random Word Improv, here’s how we play:

  1. Pick as many words from the list as you want
  2. Write the first line(s) of a story (or a whole mini-story) incorporating your words
  3. Post your results in the comments section.

All right, let’s get started. Here are today’s randomly selected film-noir words– can’t wait to see what stories you find hidden in the list.

gritty                     crime                    cynic                      heist

virtue                    tragic                     shadow                murder

seduction            rain                        betrayal               suspicion

fatal                       night                     victim                    jealousy

Are you ready?  Go!

*whistling aimlessly while you are off being creative*

Back already?  Can’t wait to read what you’ve come up with.

Happy writing to all.

10 thoughts on “Elizabeth: Friday Writing Sprints – The Film Noir Edition

  1. I wrote a quick story based on a news piece I saw this morning that just warmed my heart, which is not that easy to do. 🙂 I wanted to paste in the pictures, but I couldn’t get them copied from the link I had, so please go there to check it out for yourself. The story is about how women in a village near the Wildlife SOS Elephant Conservation and Care Centre in the city of Mathura, India, knit sweaters for the elephants after the center’s staff warned that low temperatures could hurt the elephants. (They are susceptible to pneumonia and arthritis, among other conditions.) The conservation center takes in rescued elephants who have suffered chronic neglect and beatings from cruel handlers. You want to see photos of elephants in sweaters and jammies? Go here.

    And here’s my story, so far from noir—the pictures are all so sunny!:

    The location wasn’t much. Rain hadn’t fallen on this ground for a while, and a gritty residue covered my shoes and the cuffs of my pants. And just about everything else, including the victims of this crime.

    They weren’t likely to survive the night—a tragic reminder that seduction and betrayal could prove fatal. The cold would finish them off. A murder as certain as if someone had held a gun to their heads. Which many someones had.

    Call me a cynic. I had a suspicion that the virtue of the so-called rescuers was shadowed by a heist. How else could they get so much yarn?

  2. Detective Tony Preciado looked around at the sun-drenched beach and wondered why people thought crime was something that happened in cities. Sure, cities like the Big Apple had more crime victims, but to think that the shadow of crime, and particularly the darkest shadow of murder, never darkened the shores of this (and every other) vacation destination took a degree of innocence that a cynical 20-year veteran like Preciado could only barely remember ever having experienced.

    If anything, the way the tourists let their guard down while on vacation left them even more vulnerable than they would have been back on the mean streets of whatever stateside city they called home. Catch a savvy New Yorker letting some pretty girl seduce him into a back alley at night? Not likely. But slip an extra couple of shots into a businessman looking to forget the real world for a while, and suddenly you’ve got a fish who practically reeled himself in. By the time this guy had even the start of a suspicion that he’d made a mistake (one final, tragic, fatal mistake) more serious than the betrayal of his marriage vows (for Det. Preciado had already noted the wedding band tan line on the man’s left ring finger), it was too late.

  3. Finally got a chance to play with this week’s words. Enjoy.


    The door slammed shut behind my latest client and I resisted the urge to throw something after him. There might be a hundred stories in this dark, gritty city, but did every damned one of them have to involve a cheating spouse?

    Jealous husbands; suspicious wives; that’s all it was day in and day out. Would a caper or a heist be too much to ask for every now and then, just to break the monotony?

    I need a drink.

    I shoved the set of photos on my desk back into the file folder and tossed the whole mess into the desk drawer. Considering how much time I spent dealing with other people’s crap I should have been a proctologist. At least the pay would have been better.

    I was reaching for my coat, ready to call it a night and head for Joe’s bar when I heard the slam of a car door just outside the window, followed by the click of heels on the rainy pavement, then a knock.

    I opened the door and there she was in the shadowy hallway. Black spike heeled pumps, a skirt so slim a pencil would have trouble finding room in it, and dark blond hair teased, no tormented, to an alarming height. A flesh and blood femme fatal.

    The evening suddenly became a lot more interesting.

    “I’m looking for a private eye,” she said in a voice like well-aged whiskey with a honey chaser.

    “Well you’ve found one.” I waved her to a seat. “What can I do for you?”

    She perched carefully on the edge of the battered leather chair in front of the desk and twisted a handkerchief in her hand like a tragic heroine. “I’m in trouble and I don’t know where else to turn.” A single tear from one of her big blue eyes slid down her porcelain cheek.

    What is it with dames and tears? “Save the waterworks, sweetheart,” I said, cynic that I am. “Just tell me the problem. Is it a seduction gone wrong? Spousal betrayal? Murder?” I was kind of hoping for that last one. Not that I’m a big fan of crime, but it would be a nice change of pace.

    She leaned forward, giving me a clear view straight down her blouse. Leopard print bra. Nice. I could feel the blood starting to leave my brain and dragged my glance back to her face and away from temptation in time to hear her say, “I need you to steal something for me.”

    A heist and a femme fatal? Maybe the detective business isn’t so bad after all.

  4. What a fun idea! And what a fun trip — I just love junkyards and places of discard. Well, inspired by your words and a need for a little warmth during our cold snap, here’s my little bit.

    Seduction on a rainy night sounds great in theory, but it’s hard to feel anything through two sets of trench coats while writhing in a dark doorway. Don’s kisses were not thrilling me anyway, and my virtue (such as it was) was safe. I was just about to give up on any improvement and push him away, when a gun shot exploded in our ears, and he pushed me away instead, and ducked. Coward.

    I pulled my piece from my shoulder holster, wondering if the Tefolo of my trench was going to be any use against antique ammunition. Someone ran past us. I kicked Don in the ribs. “Go get him, you big lug. I’ll see if I can find the victim.” Don’s big brown eyes shone in betrayal but he knew his duty. I was the one who had the best trauma training. He ran after the suspect, and I slowly made my way down the dark alley. I had a sneaking suspicion that the victim was not to be trusted.

    Heavy-breathing. Someone was alive in here, and making a lot of noise about it. I aimed the light of my fone at the lump behind the dumpster, and was shocked to see my ex, Rudy, grasping his bloody left arm and trying to staunch the bleeding.

    I knelt and formed a tourniquet out of my silk scarf. “Imagine meeting you in a dark alley, Rudy. Some heist gone wrong again?”

    A shadow crossed his face, but he didn’t let out a whimper as I tightened the knot. “Murder, Dolly. Pure and simple. Tonight will be fatal if you don’t run out of here right now. He’ll back to finish me in a minute, I’m sure.”

    “Drama queen.” I punched Rudy in his good arm. “Get up. There’s got to be a way out of here.“

    “Ah, Dolly. Gritty as always. I mean it, kid. Scram. Climb the walls or do whatever you do, but get out of here. We’re talking the betrayal of the Boss, and I want you still alive to mourn my tragic death.”

    Men. All talk. My fone was equipped with the latest crime-fighting equipment, including a small scrambler which I used to goof up the electronic lock in the door behind Rudy. The door swung silently open, like a well-trained butler. I pushed Rudy through, and re-locked the door behind us. I grabbed him by his scarf, and gave him a sound kiss to remind him where he was in this pecking order. He whimpered slightly, and tried to feel my boob, but the damn trench coat was in the way for the second time tonight.

    “That wasn’t an invitation, buddy. You owe me. You’d better remember who saved your bacon next time I need a favor. “

    “Such a cynic, Dolly. As if I could ever forget the many, many times you’ve saved my bacon.” This time, he kissed me, and I remembered that the pecking order went both ways. Dangerous man. I melted just a little bit, before I remembered that he was still bleeding, and this time all over my trench coat. I sighed. “Better find a front door to this joint, and a doctor for you.”

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