The Invisibility of Elmore Leonard

September 15, 2013

As part of the Twelfth Planet Press writing stream at CrimeScene, I will be running a workshop on “The Invisibility of Elmore Leonard”:

When Elmore Leonard died in August this year, tributes flowed, and his ten rules for writing were cited all over the net. The influence of his gritty and humorous short stories and novels, many of which were made into films and television series (such as 3:10 to Yuma, Get Shorty and Justified), can be found throughout crime fiction and beyond. Alongside his enticing villains and outlaws, Leonard was famous for bringing a Hemingwayesque restraint to genre fiction: distracting description was minimised and tight dialogue carried the drama. His was the art of getting out of the way. His ten rules advised writers to avoid weather, prologues, said-bookisms, adverbs, exclamation points, dialect, description, and “hooptedoodle”—that is, “obvious writing” that readers might notice or skip. Yet their repetition often ignores the qualifications and exceptions in his original article, his awareness of the singularity of his style. We will take a look at his writing and his rules, ask about their value and place, and attempt to write some Elmore Leonard dialogue of our own.

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