Sunday, August 15, 2010

My friend Elmore

I recently finished the novel Glitz by Elmore Leonard. I think this is over number 12 for me (of his crime books, I haven't read many of his early westerns, 3:10 to Yuma for instance). It was an early eighties vintage tale of bad guys, doing bad things and the women who watch them do it. Atlantic City, Puerto Rico, and the human psyche. One thing I enjoyed was the seeming randomness of events and the banality of the bad guys. No evil geniuses masterminding the end of the world, just bad people doing bad things for stupid reasons.

Like all 'EL' books, it was a satisfying read. If you read 'how to write better' books, you'll find that he is often singled out as an example for pacing, and snappy dialogue. And it's true. The thing to keep in mind is, there's only one Elmore and trying to ape his style is a bad idea. So go for the flow, be cool, don't plagiarize the actual verbage.

EL was also the person who I think gave the most sublime writing advise.

His ten rules of writing go something like this:

1. Never open with weather.
2. Avoid prologues.
3. Never use a verb other than said to carry a dialogue.
4. Never use an adverb to modify the verb 'said'.
5. Keep your exclamation marks under control.
6. Never use the word 'suddenly'.
7. Use regional dialects and patois sparingly.
8. Avoid detailed descriptions of characters.
9. Ditto, places and things.
10. Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.

Clearly number 10 is my favorite, and the one I try hardest to follow.

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