Story-telling lost a great when Elmore Leonard died.
But the literature world won’t.
Or ‘litter-a-ture’ and ‘the members-only club’ as Elmore Leonard called the word-snooterati.
Elmore Leonard didn’t care about awards and hob-nobbery. He wrote about realistic worlds where his fast pace, sharp dialogue, prose-poor, and wrong grammar captivated readers who loved being entertained, escaping, learning, and transporting through his stories – real people who weren’t seeking literary merit.
“Most writers don’t write for a living,” he said. “They write for tenure. Or for the New York Times. Or to get invited to conferences. When you write to make the rent or send your kids to school, you learn how to write without a lot of nonsense.”
Elmore Leonard found a no nonsense audience.
His career spanned 60 years and 40 novels – 19 becoming motion pictures and 7 made into TV series. 3:10 To Yuma was his baby. So was Big Bounce and 52-Pickup. Major stars and major producers recognized Elmore Leonard’s simplistic genius.
Part of his genius is that he told both sides of the story. Protagonist and Antagonist.
Elmore Leonard’s discipline was patience, perseverance, and praising others – he read more than he wrote. He also had 10 rules of writing.
Never open a book with weather.
Never use a verb other than “said” to carry dialogue.
Never use an adverb to modify the verb “said”…he admonished gravely.
Keep your exclamation points under control. You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose.
Never use the words “suddenly” or “all hell broke loose.”
Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly.
Avoid detailed descriptions of characters.
Don’t go into great detail describing places and things.
Try to leave out boring parts, the parts that readers tend to skip.
Then there’s his 11th.
“Write the book the way it should be written, then give it to somebody to put in the commas and shit.”
RIP Elmore Leonard
Master crime writer and story-telling genius.