As a devotee of Western films and crime novels, I am naturally an admirer of Elmore Leonard, who spent his career infusing those genres with lean prose, colorful characters and dialogue with a distinctive cadence.
Leonard passed away last week at the age of 87. In tribute, here’s Leonard’s “10 Rules of Writing” featured in a 2001 New York Times article and a collage of film posters from the many movies based on his work.
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”…he admonished gravely.
5) Keep your exclamation points under control. You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose.
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.
(Note: The majority of these posters come from impawards.com, whose collection is absolutely worth wasting an hour or two on.)