Elmore Leonard Sure Could Write

21 Aug

Get Shorty, Freaky Deaky, Out of Sight, Be Cool, Stick, Killshot. Could there be any cooler book titles? The guy who wrote about Chili Palmer, Nestor Soto, Cundo Rey, Teddy Magyk, and Richie Nix – could there be any cooler names? – died yesterday. His name was Elmore Leonard and he was writing stories for most of his 87 years.  Just like the titles of his books, his writing went straight to the point. No extra words, no meaningless flourishes, no redundancies. An economy of style – that was his thing.

WWW.GetShorty.8.21.13I love his books. Especially Get Shorty. But I don’t really think it’s the book that I remember or what it’s about. It’s the characters. How they talked. The things they said and how they said them. I could never forget Chili’s saying the words, “Look at me.”  I could actually hear Chili talk. The sound of his voice, his inflection, his whole style.

The dialogue Elmore Leonard wrote told me everything I needed to know about his characters and their stories. In an article he wrote for the NY TimesEasy on the Adverbs, Exclamation Points and Especially Hooptedoodle, he listed his 10 rules of writing. This is Rule #10:

“Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip … Think of what you skip reading a novel: thick paragraphs of prose you can see have too many words in them. What the writer is doing, he’s writing, perpetrating hooptedoodle … I’ll bet you don’t skip dialogue.”


Elmore Leonard’s rules on writing: NY Times, July 16, 2001

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