Detective Noir Writing Prompts and Story Ideas (2024)

detective noir writing prompts

Looking for enticing detective noir writing prompts and story ideas? You’ve come to the right place! You can use the prompts below as inspirations for film noir scripts, novels or short stories.

Read on for prompts like a detective who’s so obsessed with a key witness he fabricates serious threats against her well-being so that he can whisk her away to presumed safety, to a desperate detective who agrees to provide sexual favors for a key witness in exchange for some intel!

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Detective Noir Fiction

Detective noir fiction, a branch of noir fiction, are existentially dark stories about characters who are deeply damaged and ethically dubious. It typically explores dark themes and subject matters and features a disturbing mixture of sex and violence.

Ultimately, the flawed characters‘ greed, desire, envy, and sense of alienation will drive them into a downward spiral as their ideas and plots invariably fail. As they grow more and more involved in a web from which they are unable to escape, their unrelenting passion will drive them to steal, cheat, lie, and even kill. 

How do you write a detective noir?

To help you write a detective noir, heed what Megan Abbot has to say about this genre:

In noir, everyone is fallen, and right and wrong are not clearly defined and maybe not even attainable.

Megan Abbott on the Difference Between Hardboiled and Noir”Literary Hub. 2018-06-26. Retrieved 2019-10-05.

James Ellroy wrote this in regards to the genre:

The thrill of noir is the rush of moral forfeit and the abandonment to titillation. The social importance of noir is its grounding in the big themes of race, class, gender, and systemic corruption. The overarching and lasting appeal of noir is that it makes doom fun.

Ellroy, James; Penzler, Otto, eds. (2010). The Best American Noir of the Century. Mariner Books. pp. x–xiii. ISBN 978-0547577449.

To sum it up:

When writing a noir fiction, make sure that it centers around a mystery, surrounded by characters who have major character flaws, who are desperate and self-destructive. Add a sensuous femme fatale or two, and wrap everything up in a gritty setting and an overflowing dose of grim outlook towards life.

Detective Noir Writing Prompts

If you’re you amped up already, then let’s dive in for some intriguing detective noir story ideas!

I hope the ideas below are original. However, undoubtedly with the popularity of this trope, something similar could have existed out there already. But sometimes the smallest details matter, and make all the difference!

Here they are, enjoy.

Please note that the genders in these starters are just placeholders and are not meant to enforce any hurtful stereotypes nor offend anyone.

Detective Noir Prompts

Here are some more compelling detective noir story ideas that will bend and tickle the mind.

1. Following a horse-riding accident, a tired housewife of three kids begins having flashbacks of memories from her past life. She’s convinced that there’s something in her life that is concealed from her, and that her husband has something to do with it. (Originally appeared in my post Spy Writing Prompts.)

2. A private detective recruits (or manipulates, or blackmails) his sister to seduce and gain information from a high profile target. But when her loyalty shifts, the rules of the game change and everything might just burn down to ashes.

3. When a boy finds out his father’s affair with the nanny, he threatens to expose the secret to his mother. The father and the nanny scheme to scare the boy into silence. But when the ploy goes wrong and the boy ends up dead, it’s up for the boy’s detective uncle to investigate the case. But he may have his own inner demon that will only murk the case even further.

4. A detective whose father was also a detective in the same organization, learns a secret that may not only tarnish his father’s stellar reputation in the agency but also endangers his life. What sacrifices is he willing to make in order to keep the status quo?

5. A man has been routinely visiting a mental hospital patient who’s not his relative nor his acquaintance. As it turns out, she was the key witness of a crime he solved years ago who allegedly insisted on being placed in the hospital. But was he the one who schemed to put her there? Or did she admit herself there to keep away from him?

6. A hotelier with a dark, perverted kink holds one of his subordinates hostage in one of the hotel rooms. When a detective comes to investigate the disappearance, the hotelier strikes a deal with him.

7. A stewardess who has an affair with one of the flight’s passengers during her shift enters a chaotic world of intrigue and worldwide goose chase when he plants a microchip containing priceless information into the back of her neck.

8. Hired to spy on a wealthy heiress of a fashion empire, a private detective enters a web of lies and perverted lust with the heiress at the center of it all. But the detective might just have a secret of his own. He’s the son of a seamstress who worked at the fashion empire decades ago, whose affair with the heiress’ dad almost cost his empire everything.

9. In exchange for a precious bit of intel, an informant clandestinely asks for sexual favors from the female detective who’s investigating the case. Desperate for recognition, the detective relents, but at what cost? Furthermore, what if she begins to enjoy it, and what if her loyalty begins to shift?

10. A genius detective with unconventional investigative techniques has to resort to manipulating evidence when their loved one is accused of a crime. (Also appeared in my post 50+ Most Intriguing Villain Origin Story Ideas (2023))

11. A detective rescues a homeless woman from the streets and brings her into his home. She cleans up nicely, and they soon enter an intense relationship. But she had a hidden agenda, and that is to take his mind off the case he’s currently working on, which could incriminate the woman’s real lover.

Picture Prompts

A picture speaks a thousand words, so here are some intriguing detective noir story ideas inspired by a picture. Please click on each picture to learn more about it.

1. A detective becomes obsessed with a key witness to the point of fabricating and masterminding serious threats against her well-being, so that he has a reason to whisk her away to presumed safety.

(Please click on the image for more information about it.)

2. When the sheriff of a small town comes across his old flame, sparks begin to fly again. It doesn’t even matter that the woman is already married. Is it a coincidence that the husband is found dead shortly after their affair starts? Or what if the husband and wife couple double-crosses and schemes to kill the sheriff in order to steal something in his possession?

(Click on the image for more information about it.)


There! Some grim, detective noir story ideas that hopefully will spark your imagination!

If you need more story ideas and prompts, please browse our Story Ideas & Writing Prompts category!

Have any question or feedback? Feel free to contact me here. Until next time!

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