Saturday, March 24, 2012

Elmo Leonard's Writing Insights, for You Writers!

Thought I would post this Elmo Leonard's pithy, though insightful, quotes for writers in this space. 

I find that these are the rules I keep breaking. I don't know if it's inbuilt fault mechanism, or the problem with my education and upbringing, which is partly to blame. In childhood I was - sort of deliberately - kept away from reading books by strict puritan parents. They thought reading would corrupt my mind and compromise my Christianity. For them reading the book meant reading the Bible. All this in a family which gave Malayalam three of its stalwart writers! Imagine! In school the library was in a small room having musty dust-laden books, which were under lock and key most of the time. The library was a namesake library. All the books I read were clandestinely passed on my kind friends and those were bootleg books. Books would be seized if seen by teachers and parents and the possessor questioned on his/her intentions. Punishment would be meted out, which included writing, "I will not bring story books to school" a thousand times. A bit on the hyperbole side, but situations such as these have occurred. Such was my childhood. Imagine, that too!

Never open a book with the weather (We all are tempted to do that, aren't we?)

Avoid prologues (I wrote a detailed prologue for my current novel, which I am ditching into the dump.)

Never use verbs other than "said" to carry on dialogue (Yes, I use a lot of "said wistfully" and all that crap. It's also out.)

Never use an adverb to modify the verb "said" (same as above.)

Keep your exclamation points under control! (Now that's not done! I love exclamations! You too have to go dear!)

Never use the words "suddenly" or "all hell broke loose" (well, I have used them in my "wet-behind-the-ears" years.)

Use Dialect sparingly (my present novel is full of them. Pronto, will go and delete most of them. Too much dialect bores and results in turgid prose.)

Avoid detailed description of characters (Yes, I avoid them. I let the characters emerge in the narrative.)

Same for places and things (Yes, I avoid. You too avoid! Places and things can be described cursorily so that readers' imagination takes over and completes the picture.)

Leave out the parts readers tend to skip (In Dostoevsky's The Idiot [which I am reading at present] there are a lot of unwanted dialogues and it's a pain to read. Will do that.)

Thanks Leonard and thanks Amanda Patterson for sharing the original.

I am @johnwriter on Twitter and John.Matthew on Facebook. I blog here.

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