Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Elmore Leonard Writes His Last Death Scene

He tipped his hat, looked upward with a tear in his eye.  "I do believe that men meet their moment with dignity and grace."  He didn't say much after that. - Not Elmore Leonard

One of the greats of modern American literature passed away this morning.  Elmore Leonard, who started off with Westerns moving up to modern-day Crime Thrillers, had been ill for awhile it all finally caught up with him.

Hate to say it was the movies that got my attention.  His works seem to translate well into film and it was the series of caper flicks post-Tarantino (Hollywood loves to beat a genre to death) - Get Shorty, Jackie Brown (off of Rum Punch), and Out of Sight - that led me to finding his print works on the shelves and diving in.

I've got a personal love for Out of Sight, both movie and book, and if anyone says anything bad about either I will hunt you down.

In terms of writing, Leonard is one of the go-to mentors who provided a decent list of rules.


  1.  Never open a book with weather (note: his take that to anyone going with "It was a dark and stormy night").
  2.  Avoid prologues.
  3.  Never use a verb other than "said" to carry dialogue.
  4.  Never use an adverb to modify the verb "said”…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.

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