Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Elmore Leonard

So, Elmore is dead.  I know it happens to us all, but it is sad when one of the truly originals departs this life.  I'm not going to go into detail about his life - there are plenty of obituaries being written right now covering all he wrote and what he stood for.  Besides, his ten rules of writing included a stricture on going into irrelevant descriptive detail - what he called the "hooptedoodle".  It struck a chord with me when I came across it, because i have always found it difficult to write those 600 page blockbusters.  My books have, if nothing else, been sparing in detail.  Perhaps too sparing.
His other rule I like is number 10 - "Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip".  You know what they are, don't you?  How many times have you reached a point in a fast-moving story where the author veers off and describes the countryside, or gives you a potted history of the soon-to-be-murdered character who is being pursued by the serial killer.  Who cares about it?  You skip it, and get on with the story, don't you?  So, in the best spirit of Elmore Leonard, let me finally and succinctly say - "Elmore Leonard is dead".

His rules, for those of you who have not seen them.

  1.  Never open a book with weather.
  2.  Avoid prologues.
  3.  Never use a verb other than "said" to carry dialogue.
  4.  Never use an adverb to modify the verb "said” …such as, he admonished gravely.
  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."
  7.  Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly.
  8.  Avoid detailed descriptions of characters.
  9.  Don't go into great detail describing places and things.
  10.  Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.