12 November 2014

Writing Advice from Leonard and Busiek

In 2001, Elmore Leonard published an essay in the New York Times’s “Writers on Writing” series headlined “Easy on the Adverbs, Exclamation Points and Especially Hooptedoodle”.

Leonard offered advice like:
3. Never use a verb other than ”said” to carry dialogue.

The line of dialogue belongs to the character; the verb is the writer sticking his nose in.
Eventually that article was the seed of Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules of Writing.

Last August, when Leonard died, the comics scripter Brian Michael Bendis featured that on his Tumblr site. In the way that Tumblr works, the scripter Kurt Busiek quoted it on his but added these comments:
I disagree with almost all of Elmore Leonard’s rules for writing, largely because any time someone says “never do X,” I immediately try to think of times it works.

But all of his rules are worth thinking about, and can be extremely useful in thinking about whether to use them. If you decide not to use a rule because you’re aware of the hurdle Leonard’s warning of but have overcome that hurdle another way, then the rule was still useful, because it got you to think about how to avoid the problem.

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