Monday, November 5, 2007

Elmore Leonard

Prompted by the publication of Elmore Leonard's 10 Rules of Writing, J. Kingston Pierce of The Rap Sheet put some questions to the master, including:

JKP: As one your “rules,” you say writers should avoid giving detailed descriptions of characters and places. But there can be great satisfaction in composing a thoughtful, semi-poetic word picture of a locale or player in fiction. Shouldn’t there be a balance struck between what the reader wants and what the writer needs in order to feel satisfied with the quality of the completed work?

EL: I say in the opening paragraph [of Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules of Writing], “If you have a facility for language and imagery and the sound of your voice pleases you ...” go ahead, skip the rules.

JKP: Are you really arguing against the length or concentration of descriptions, rather than their punchiness? If one can describe a character over the course of a book through a series of telling details, is it then wrong to have more fully described that person?

EL: The length, the style, have nothing to do with it. Descriptions by writers trying to write can be tedious. The reader can already have a picture of the character and the writer’s description ruins it.
Read the entire interview.

--Marshal Zeringue