Elmore Leonard, who died today at his home in Michigan, did more, says The New York Times, “than merely validate the popular crime thriller; he stripped the form of its worn-out affectations, reinventing it for a new generation and elevating it to a higher literary shelf”. He also wrote cracking dialogue for his low-life characters. The Times reports:
“The bad guys are the fun guys,” Mr. Leonard acknowledged in a 1983 interview. “The only people I have trouble with are the so-called normal types. Their language isn’t very colorful, and they don’t talk with any certain sound.”
In a 2001 essay in the Times Leonard laid out his ten rules for writing, which he said helped him “remain invisible when I’m writing a book” .(He did admit there could be exceptions.) “If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it,” he added.
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”.
5. Keep your exclamation points under control.
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