Elmore Leonard on Writing

Reply Tue 26 Jul, 2022 06:35 am

1. Never open a book with weather:

If it’s only to create atmosphere, and not a character’s reaction to the weather, you don’t want to go on too long. The reader is apt to leaf ahead looking for people.

2. Avoid prologues:
They can be annoying, especially a prologue following an introduction that comes after a foreword.

3. Never use a verb other than “said” to carry dialogue:
The line of dialogue belongs to the character; the verb is the writer sticking his nose in. But said is far less intrusive than grumbled, gasped, cautioned, lied.

4. Never use an adverb to modify the verb “said”:
… he admonished gravely. To use an adverb this way (or almost any way) is a mortal sin. The writer is now exposing himself in earnest, using a word that distracts and can interrupt the rhythm of the exchange.

5. Keep your exclamation points under control:
You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose.

6. Never use the words “suddenly” or “all hell broke loose”:
This rule doesn’t require an explanation. I have noticed that writers who use “suddenly” tend to exercise less control in the application of exclamation points.

7. Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly:
Once you start spelling words in dialogue phonetically and loading the page with apostrophes, you won’t be able to stop.

8. Avoid detailed descriptions of characters:
In Ernest Hemingway’s “Hills Like White Elephants” what do the “American and the girl with him” look like? “She had taken off her hat and put it on the table.” That’s the only reference to a physical description in the story, and yet we see the couple and know them by their tones of voice, with not one adverb in sight.

9. Don’t go into great detail describing places and things:
You don’t want descriptions that bring the action, the flow of the story, to a standstill.

10. Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.
My most important rule is one that sums up the 10: If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.
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Reply Tue 26 Jul, 2022 10:45 am
I read all of his stuff. I never realized he was following rules. That probably means they worked.
Reply Tue 26 Jul, 2022 11:27 am
I like his advice.
Reply Tue 26 Jul, 2022 07:48 pm
he was one of my favs in the dead authors category. up there with dickens and steinbeck and mcmurtry.
I used to hate all scifi becaue very few of those really understood science and the ones that did qere too flowery. Lately though ive taken up enjoying Kim Stanley Robinso. he writes EcoSCi FI with action and he is pretty much knowledgeable.
Reply Tue 26 Jul, 2022 10:39 pm
I didn't know until recently that 3:10 to Yuma and Hombre are his. I liked those two as movies, but had a bone to pick for 3:10. Early in, Glenn Ford shoots one of his own men to get at the lawman. But as the story unfolds he becomes more and more admirable. Doesn't make sense. Aside from that it's a great story.
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Reply Fri 29 Jul, 2022 12:50 pm
We once had a tiny cell of writers on a2k, who shared their stories and camaraderie, until they mostly drifted away. Asherman and I traded off stories until he discovered my roots in the Peace Movement. Then he became angry and soon left a2k. He didn't leave just because of me, but I was a factor.

Endymion was a talented young fellow from Britain. It's my understanding, however faulty, that he left because I am so old and he didn't want to witness my ultimate demise.

Cavfancier of course died.

There was a woman whose name eludes me that wanted to write along with me, sort of inspiring one another to turn out deathless prose.

I recall others, but no need to go on. I thought over the past few weeks it might be possible to get some of it back. I will keep trying for a time.
Reply Fri 29 Jul, 2022 08:46 pm
We called the woman I mentioned drom. Her full name on here was something like drom etve
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