10 Signs You’re Living in a Noir Novel

Dashiell Hammett's The Maltese Falcon

When it comes to my favorite forms of genre fiction (and I have as many favorites as there are genres, maybe more), noir ranks on the higher end of the spectrum. There’s something about the grittiness of the protagonists, the salty banter, and the pure pathos that gets my motor running, so to speak (because I am a car, secretly. Sincerely, Herbie T. Lovebug, esq.).

As gripping as noir can be, it’s also prrrretty far away from anything resembling real life. Unless…what if you woke up one morning to discover that you’d been transported from your own humdrum existence into the fast-talking world of a noir novel? It would be pretty easy to figure out—after all, you don’t usually wake up wearing a fedora. But in case you’re unsure, I’ve put together a list of signs that your life just went black and white:

1. You Only Own Trench Coats
Normally, your closet is replete with options. Not today. Now that you’re in Noir-land, your options are your shoddy trench coat, your formal-shoddy trench coat, and, finally, your new shoddy trench coat. Also, you own not even one umbrella.

2. Pathetic Fallacy Is a Way of Life
In Noir-land, the weather matches your mood. In other words: It’s always raining. For some reason this encourages you to try to do mostly inadvisable things, like walk slowly in said rain and continually try to light unfiltered cigarettes.

3. Things Seems a Lot Less…Colorful
This ain’t the movies, so things aren’t black and white, but they’re definitely a lot less bright than they used to be. You pay particularly close attention to the neon signs that suddenly seem to cast their light on everything. I hope your heart is in good shape, because there will be a lot of people stepping unexpectedly from the shadows to greet you. Have fun with that.

4. You Can’t Meet Enough Mysterious Strangers
You used to have a close-knit circle of friends. Now when you go out on the town, it’s usually solo, and you’re guaranteed to meet roughly 80 suspicious strangers. Except for the bartender. He’s basically your bestie (see Item 7).

5. You’ve Got a Terrible Secret
Everybody’s got baggage. You’ve got a cement block tied to your ankle. In real life you know that being honest is the best policy, but Noir-You seems intent on just sighing and/or stoically carrying the awful burden that is your former life as a crooked kitten salesman.

6. The Person You’re Into Has a Terrible Secret
You and your beloved spend a lot of time staring moodily at each other and praying secret truths aren’t revealed. It would be hot if you weren’t also, you know, secretly plotting to kill each other.

7. You’ve Maybe Got a Drinking Problem
I’m not saying you’re a drunk, but I would like to put it out there that the bartender’s having a special room reserved for you to sleep it off in might not be the most healthy sign. But hey, no judgment.

8. You Use Excellent Slang
Your modern-day vernacular has been replaced with a slew of awesome if seldom used terms. A woman with nice legs? I believe you mean gams and/or stems and/or so-long sticks. (The last one I made up/is the best.)

9. You Have a Tendency Toward Monologue
For a person who spends so much time on your own, you’ve got an uncanny ability to quietly, ponderously, and at great length think through your own motivations and agendas. Why buy a journal when you can smolder vacantly for several hours?

10. You’ve Got a Pretty Cool Job
Look, you’re either a cop, or you used to be a cop, or you’re a private eye, or you’re a writer, or you’re, as we’ve discussed, a former kitten salesman—either way, your job is pretty cool.

Is your life a noir novel?

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