Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Breaking Elmore's Rules

Max Allan Collins has a great post on his blog about Elmore Leonard's rules.
http://www.maxallancollins.com/blog/2012/02/07/breaking-elmore-leonards-rules/

8 comments:

Ron Scheer said...

I enjoyed this. I often think of Elmore's "rules." Like Orwell's and E. B. White's, they should be broken whenever clarity is otherwise compromised. In interviews, Leonard recommends beginning a scene with dialogue, which supposedly draws the reader in more immediately. I've tried this and had a well-respected editor say, "Don't do that." Can't tell you, though, how often I've wanted to use "suddenly" and stifled the urge. Thanks for the link.

Manuel Royal said...

"The best advice I can offer writers is not to listen to advice from other writers." Well, a writer said that on his website, so I'd better follow it.

I've read those "rules" before (from Elmore Leonard); I always figured they were meant as guidelines, not absolutes. You could follow each one with " -- unless it works. In which case, enjoy."

sandra seamans said...

I think every writer has a set of rules that works for them and if you want to be a pale imitation, you'd do well to follow them. I enjoy reading how other writers work, Manuel, and sometimes I've found a good bit of advice that work well for me. I don't believe there are any perfect rules that lead to a perfect story - only what works in the framework of the story you're writing at the moment.


I've started many stories with a bit of dialouge, Ron. Many times when I go back to edit I find a better way to start the story, but there are times that a bit of dialouge works perfectly for the story. And yes, I've had the same reaction with suddenly :)

pattinase (abbott) said...

I like the rules and I like Collins' reasons for breaking them.

sandra seamans said...

Collins has a well thought out approach to the rules, Patti. The one rule of Leonard's that I absolutely hate is not starting with the weather. I've read to many great stories that have broke that one and I can't imagine the stories starting any other way. "Winter's Bone" is one of the best examples.

Al Tucher said...

I have always liked Leonard's rules because he validates my own choices. I don't like writing descriptions, because it doesn't come easily to me, and frankly, descriptions are one of those things I skip when I read.

On the other hand, I have started more stories with dialogue than with anything else. It may have cost me, because as Ron says, some editors hate it. So be it.

Oscar said...

I'm still reading essays by authors on writing from The Writer's Book, Practical Advice by Experts in Every Field of Writing, and my general conclusion is Write the Way You Want Following Rules of Grammar or Don't.
Mr. Leonard is a terrific writer.

sandra seamans said...

Yes, the rules are a good guideline to follow, Al, but you can't just willy-nilly use them if they don't work for your story or genre. Stories are like children, they all need something different.

Indeed he is, Oscar.