NPR’s Breaking News site reported that popular crime writer Elmore Leonard died this morning at his home near Detroit. He had been hospitalized recently with a stroke. The report includes a 2010 interview with Leonard by Noah Adams who visited Leonard at his home. The author of 43 novels was acclaimed by his large number of fans as one of the best crime writers today. When Adams asked about his skill at writing spot-on dialogue, Leonard said, “Well, when people ask me about my dialogue, I say ‘Well, don’t you hear people talking?’ That’s all I do. I hear a certain type of individual. I decide this is what he should be, whatever it is, and then I hear him. Well, I don’t hear anybody that I can’t make talk.”
In 2007 Leonard’s 10 Rules of Writing appeared in USA Today:
- Never open a book with weather.
- Avoid prologues.
- Never use a verb other than “said” to carry dialogue.
- Never use an adverb to modify the verb “said.”
- Keep your exclamation points under control.
- Never us the words “suddenly” or “all hell broke loose.”
- Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly.
- Avoid detailed descriptions of characters.
- Don’t go into great detail describing places and things.
- Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.