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Popcorn & Prejudice: A Movie Blog

Seattle Times writer Moira Macdonald muses on moviegoing. Email Moira: mmacdonald@seattletimes.com.

August 20, 2013 at 9:14 AM

R.I.P., Elmore Leonard

The great crime novelist Elmore Leonard, who died early this morning at the age of 87, had a great impact on the world of movies. Among the many films based on his work: “Get Shorty,” “Out of Sight,” “Jackie Brown,” “Be Cool,” “3:10 to Yuma,” the TV series “Justified,” the not-yet-released “Life of Crime,” and many more. But he was of course best known in the book world, as a prolific writer who began penning Westerns in the 1950s and routinely turned out a book a year. I’ve always loved his “10 Rules for Writing,” published in the New York Times in 2001; you can read the entire piece here, in which he elaborates a bit (but just a bit) on each of these rules, but here it is in short form:

  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 word “said”
  5. Keep your exclamation points under control.
  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.

Here’s hoping he’s resting easy in crime-thriller heaven, where the prose is always taut.

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