Author Elmore Leonard has died, aged 87. Known for Get Shorty, Out Of Sight, Rum Punch (aka Jackie Brown), the original 3:10 To Yuma and Justified, he worked in genres I don’t generally touch on here, despite Justified being my favourite thing on TV at the moment. Its mix of a smart, charming and totally badass hero with Mr. Leonard’s mostly dense villains gives regular doses of bad guys amusingly underestimating the good guys. A fight you know you can win can be a lot of fun.
Mr. Leonard also provided the following rules for work in his style:
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.
There are times and places to bend most of those rules. But not Rule 10.