Elmore Leonard on writing

Elmore_LeonardThe great mystery writer, Elmore Leonard, died last week, may he rest in peace — because his books certainly had to keep him awake most of his nights when he was alive.

I observe the passing of a great writer with respect, but I’m sorry, I look at his writing rules with dissatisfaction. In case you missed them, here are the basics. Those rules worked fine for Leonard who wrote action-packed, dialogue-heavy thrillers like Get Shorty. Those same rules do not apply to emotionally-laden romance or women’s fiction or any fiction that uses setting to add tension.



Just to test this theory, I opened the first Mary Stewart book at hand, The Crystal Cave, and read the page it opened to: “The loom clacked again. She was feeding in the green thread, and I could see that
Crystal caveshe was making a mistake, but it looked pretty, so I said nothing, watching her and staying close, till at length the curtain at the door way was pushed aside, and the two men came in.”

There’s tension in that paragraph, character and historical information, and a great lead-in to the drama that follows. It paints a picture and a feeling at the same time. Why would anyone want to eliminate description?

I will admit that a paragraph describing the Seine at midnight might show off a writer’s ability to write metaphors and be perfectly useless for story purposes, but to lop off all description is ludicrous. Because this is my blog, I get to pull out one of my own scenes as an example. Granted, I usually wrap description around the action and dialogue, but how does one describe a protagonist without including setting?

NotoriousAtherton200x300

From Notorious Atherton: “Eleanora Marone Ballwin Adams precisely folded the edges of her linen handkerchief, applied the heated flatiron until a crisp crease formed, then repeated the process with a lengthwise fold. The fresh scent of newly dried linen and crisp starch blended refreshingly with the dash of rose scent she’d added to the wash water.

Adding the square of linen to her meager stack, Nora decided the iron was cool enough, and removed a newssheet clipping from her apron pocket. Laying it out, she pressed it very gently, so it looked crisp and new again.

Princess Elena Marone of Mirenze to visit London read the headline.”

Would you have preferred I just said “Eleanora ironed the newssheet?” If so, why? And if you prefer the description, what did you take away from it? Why do you want this information?

I’ll happily give a free e-book of Notorious Atherton to the best answer.

And while you’re pondering my question above, I’ll take on Leonard’s rule “don’t start a book with the weather.”

“Lightning flashed from the metallic cloud hovering over Miami, and purple rain poured like ink through the gutters.” Would you put that book down? And no, it isn’t a book. I just made it up. Now I guess I need to write it! Try it, it's fun. Write your own weather opening.

95 thoughts on “Elmore Leonard on writing”

  1. I’m with you–flat fast moving prose may do it for thrillers (and is probably why I never read Elmore Leonard, or a lot of other crime/thriller writers), but it’s lousy for books intended to have emotional resonance.
    I suppose the weather prohibition goes back to “it was a dark and stormy night”” *G*, but good description help bring the characters and stories alive, make them more vivid in our minds, and how can that be a bad thing?
    As for Eleanora and her ironing–you managed to make it interesting, while in the real world, I can’t remember the last decade in which I ironed. *G*

    Reply
  2. I’m with you–flat fast moving prose may do it for thrillers (and is probably why I never read Elmore Leonard, or a lot of other crime/thriller writers), but it’s lousy for books intended to have emotional resonance.
    I suppose the weather prohibition goes back to “it was a dark and stormy night”” *G*, but good description help bring the characters and stories alive, make them more vivid in our minds, and how can that be a bad thing?
    As for Eleanora and her ironing–you managed to make it interesting, while in the real world, I can’t remember the last decade in which I ironed. *G*

    Reply
  3. I’m with you–flat fast moving prose may do it for thrillers (and is probably why I never read Elmore Leonard, or a lot of other crime/thriller writers), but it’s lousy for books intended to have emotional resonance.
    I suppose the weather prohibition goes back to “it was a dark and stormy night”” *G*, but good description help bring the characters and stories alive, make them more vivid in our minds, and how can that be a bad thing?
    As for Eleanora and her ironing–you managed to make it interesting, while in the real world, I can’t remember the last decade in which I ironed. *G*

    Reply
  4. I’m with you–flat fast moving prose may do it for thrillers (and is probably why I never read Elmore Leonard, or a lot of other crime/thriller writers), but it’s lousy for books intended to have emotional resonance.
    I suppose the weather prohibition goes back to “it was a dark and stormy night”” *G*, but good description help bring the characters and stories alive, make them more vivid in our minds, and how can that be a bad thing?
    As for Eleanora and her ironing–you managed to make it interesting, while in the real world, I can’t remember the last decade in which I ironed. *G*

    Reply
  5. I’m with you–flat fast moving prose may do it for thrillers (and is probably why I never read Elmore Leonard, or a lot of other crime/thriller writers), but it’s lousy for books intended to have emotional resonance.
    I suppose the weather prohibition goes back to “it was a dark and stormy night”” *G*, but good description help bring the characters and stories alive, make them more vivid in our minds, and how can that be a bad thing?
    As for Eleanora and her ironing–you managed to make it interesting, while in the real world, I can’t remember the last decade in which I ironed. *G*

    Reply
  6. When it comes to writing advice, I think I’ll stick with W. Somerset Maugham:
    “There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.”

    Reply
  7. When it comes to writing advice, I think I’ll stick with W. Somerset Maugham:
    “There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.”

    Reply
  8. When it comes to writing advice, I think I’ll stick with W. Somerset Maugham:
    “There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.”

    Reply
  9. When it comes to writing advice, I think I’ll stick with W. Somerset Maugham:
    “There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.”

    Reply
  10. When it comes to writing advice, I think I’ll stick with W. Somerset Maugham:
    “There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.”

    Reply
  11. Utterly agree, Lil!
    There were a lot of ridiculous Victorian novels that started with weather, so I assume Leonard was reacting to those. So maybe he set the rules for contemporary fiction?

    Reply
  12. Utterly agree, Lil!
    There were a lot of ridiculous Victorian novels that started with weather, so I assume Leonard was reacting to those. So maybe he set the rules for contemporary fiction?

    Reply
  13. Utterly agree, Lil!
    There were a lot of ridiculous Victorian novels that started with weather, so I assume Leonard was reacting to those. So maybe he set the rules for contemporary fiction?

    Reply
  14. Utterly agree, Lil!
    There were a lot of ridiculous Victorian novels that started with weather, so I assume Leonard was reacting to those. So maybe he set the rules for contemporary fiction?

    Reply
  15. Utterly agree, Lil!
    There were a lot of ridiculous Victorian novels that started with weather, so I assume Leonard was reacting to those. So maybe he set the rules for contemporary fiction?

    Reply
  16. I’ve been checking at work to see if any one would try to write a weather opening. I am definitely afraid of being foolish, but it does seem like fun after a day of researching.
    Sal’s great coat billowed as the wind from the sea rose again. He looked up as a cloud skittered across the quarter moon. He could no longer make out the shape of the boat in the cove, but he could taste the salt of sea as a wave crashed on the rocks on his right.
    Description is a funny thing. Too much is well, too much. But the right details about time and place and things adds so much to fiction. Without thinking, words become images. Maybe the reason description isn’t so necessary for contemporary fiction is the setting, especially urban spaces, is known. We know about hotels but not inns, restaurants but not formal dinners, and dives but not balls.

    Reply
  17. I’ve been checking at work to see if any one would try to write a weather opening. I am definitely afraid of being foolish, but it does seem like fun after a day of researching.
    Sal’s great coat billowed as the wind from the sea rose again. He looked up as a cloud skittered across the quarter moon. He could no longer make out the shape of the boat in the cove, but he could taste the salt of sea as a wave crashed on the rocks on his right.
    Description is a funny thing. Too much is well, too much. But the right details about time and place and things adds so much to fiction. Without thinking, words become images. Maybe the reason description isn’t so necessary for contemporary fiction is the setting, especially urban spaces, is known. We know about hotels but not inns, restaurants but not formal dinners, and dives but not balls.

    Reply
  18. I’ve been checking at work to see if any one would try to write a weather opening. I am definitely afraid of being foolish, but it does seem like fun after a day of researching.
    Sal’s great coat billowed as the wind from the sea rose again. He looked up as a cloud skittered across the quarter moon. He could no longer make out the shape of the boat in the cove, but he could taste the salt of sea as a wave crashed on the rocks on his right.
    Description is a funny thing. Too much is well, too much. But the right details about time and place and things adds so much to fiction. Without thinking, words become images. Maybe the reason description isn’t so necessary for contemporary fiction is the setting, especially urban spaces, is known. We know about hotels but not inns, restaurants but not formal dinners, and dives but not balls.

    Reply
  19. I’ve been checking at work to see if any one would try to write a weather opening. I am definitely afraid of being foolish, but it does seem like fun after a day of researching.
    Sal’s great coat billowed as the wind from the sea rose again. He looked up as a cloud skittered across the quarter moon. He could no longer make out the shape of the boat in the cove, but he could taste the salt of sea as a wave crashed on the rocks on his right.
    Description is a funny thing. Too much is well, too much. But the right details about time and place and things adds so much to fiction. Without thinking, words become images. Maybe the reason description isn’t so necessary for contemporary fiction is the setting, especially urban spaces, is known. We know about hotels but not inns, restaurants but not formal dinners, and dives but not balls.

    Reply
  20. I’ve been checking at work to see if any one would try to write a weather opening. I am definitely afraid of being foolish, but it does seem like fun after a day of researching.
    Sal’s great coat billowed as the wind from the sea rose again. He looked up as a cloud skittered across the quarter moon. He could no longer make out the shape of the boat in the cove, but he could taste the salt of sea as a wave crashed on the rocks on his right.
    Description is a funny thing. Too much is well, too much. But the right details about time and place and things adds so much to fiction. Without thinking, words become images. Maybe the reason description isn’t so necessary for contemporary fiction is the setting, especially urban spaces, is known. We know about hotels but not inns, restaurants but not formal dinners, and dives but not balls.

    Reply
  21. Funny thing, because I’ve heard the “weather rule” before, and to me, it’s nonsense. If you need the weather, start with the weather.
    I can only imagine the reaction against it stems from two places: one, writers using weather as a form of shorthand for setting and atmosphere until it became inane; and two, readers no longer having the tolerance for long slow openings to establish setting–at least, so I’m led to believe.
    To me, whether I use weather or not is a matter of how it affects the scene. The POV character–if he’s outside–is going to notice the weather. If rain is pouring down his neck or his fingers are freezing, he’s going to notice it more. Whether he reacts to it with a sigh, a head-shake, or a string of profanities will tell the reader a lot about him. If he’s inside and it’s interfering with his plans, that also may say something.
    On the other hand, if the weather isn’t going to affect the character’s attitude, plans, outlook, or comfort; and it doesn’t strongly alter the setting to the point where leaving it out would give an inadequate picture, it’s probably not what attorneys call “a material fact.”
    On a more personal note, I tend to pare my descriptions down a bit, and go for simple rather than lush; but I’ve always been amazed by what writers like Ellis Peters can do with words. Some of her passages in the Brother Cadfael books are impossibly rich, yet they never feel false.

    Reply
  22. Funny thing, because I’ve heard the “weather rule” before, and to me, it’s nonsense. If you need the weather, start with the weather.
    I can only imagine the reaction against it stems from two places: one, writers using weather as a form of shorthand for setting and atmosphere until it became inane; and two, readers no longer having the tolerance for long slow openings to establish setting–at least, so I’m led to believe.
    To me, whether I use weather or not is a matter of how it affects the scene. The POV character–if he’s outside–is going to notice the weather. If rain is pouring down his neck or his fingers are freezing, he’s going to notice it more. Whether he reacts to it with a sigh, a head-shake, or a string of profanities will tell the reader a lot about him. If he’s inside and it’s interfering with his plans, that also may say something.
    On the other hand, if the weather isn’t going to affect the character’s attitude, plans, outlook, or comfort; and it doesn’t strongly alter the setting to the point where leaving it out would give an inadequate picture, it’s probably not what attorneys call “a material fact.”
    On a more personal note, I tend to pare my descriptions down a bit, and go for simple rather than lush; but I’ve always been amazed by what writers like Ellis Peters can do with words. Some of her passages in the Brother Cadfael books are impossibly rich, yet they never feel false.

    Reply
  23. Funny thing, because I’ve heard the “weather rule” before, and to me, it’s nonsense. If you need the weather, start with the weather.
    I can only imagine the reaction against it stems from two places: one, writers using weather as a form of shorthand for setting and atmosphere until it became inane; and two, readers no longer having the tolerance for long slow openings to establish setting–at least, so I’m led to believe.
    To me, whether I use weather or not is a matter of how it affects the scene. The POV character–if he’s outside–is going to notice the weather. If rain is pouring down his neck or his fingers are freezing, he’s going to notice it more. Whether he reacts to it with a sigh, a head-shake, or a string of profanities will tell the reader a lot about him. If he’s inside and it’s interfering with his plans, that also may say something.
    On the other hand, if the weather isn’t going to affect the character’s attitude, plans, outlook, or comfort; and it doesn’t strongly alter the setting to the point where leaving it out would give an inadequate picture, it’s probably not what attorneys call “a material fact.”
    On a more personal note, I tend to pare my descriptions down a bit, and go for simple rather than lush; but I’ve always been amazed by what writers like Ellis Peters can do with words. Some of her passages in the Brother Cadfael books are impossibly rich, yet they never feel false.

    Reply
  24. Funny thing, because I’ve heard the “weather rule” before, and to me, it’s nonsense. If you need the weather, start with the weather.
    I can only imagine the reaction against it stems from two places: one, writers using weather as a form of shorthand for setting and atmosphere until it became inane; and two, readers no longer having the tolerance for long slow openings to establish setting–at least, so I’m led to believe.
    To me, whether I use weather or not is a matter of how it affects the scene. The POV character–if he’s outside–is going to notice the weather. If rain is pouring down his neck or his fingers are freezing, he’s going to notice it more. Whether he reacts to it with a sigh, a head-shake, or a string of profanities will tell the reader a lot about him. If he’s inside and it’s interfering with his plans, that also may say something.
    On the other hand, if the weather isn’t going to affect the character’s attitude, plans, outlook, or comfort; and it doesn’t strongly alter the setting to the point where leaving it out would give an inadequate picture, it’s probably not what attorneys call “a material fact.”
    On a more personal note, I tend to pare my descriptions down a bit, and go for simple rather than lush; but I’ve always been amazed by what writers like Ellis Peters can do with words. Some of her passages in the Brother Cadfael books are impossibly rich, yet they never feel false.

    Reply
  25. Funny thing, because I’ve heard the “weather rule” before, and to me, it’s nonsense. If you need the weather, start with the weather.
    I can only imagine the reaction against it stems from two places: one, writers using weather as a form of shorthand for setting and atmosphere until it became inane; and two, readers no longer having the tolerance for long slow openings to establish setting–at least, so I’m led to believe.
    To me, whether I use weather or not is a matter of how it affects the scene. The POV character–if he’s outside–is going to notice the weather. If rain is pouring down his neck or his fingers are freezing, he’s going to notice it more. Whether he reacts to it with a sigh, a head-shake, or a string of profanities will tell the reader a lot about him. If he’s inside and it’s interfering with his plans, that also may say something.
    On the other hand, if the weather isn’t going to affect the character’s attitude, plans, outlook, or comfort; and it doesn’t strongly alter the setting to the point where leaving it out would give an inadequate picture, it’s probably not what attorneys call “a material fact.”
    On a more personal note, I tend to pare my descriptions down a bit, and go for simple rather than lush; but I’ve always been amazed by what writers like Ellis Peters can do with words. Some of her passages in the Brother Cadfael books are impossibly rich, yet they never feel false.

    Reply
  26. Yes, yes, yes Lucy! We may not need scenes that say “The storm tossed the tree branches” because yeah, storms do that. But make it pertinent to the character, as Shannon did.
    And Ellis Peters writes the kind of book that a reader is supposed to get lost in, like a movie. We sink into that world and need all that vivid description to see it.
    A lot may depend on whether you’re a visual reader. Leonard was obviously into audio.

    Reply
  27. Yes, yes, yes Lucy! We may not need scenes that say “The storm tossed the tree branches” because yeah, storms do that. But make it pertinent to the character, as Shannon did.
    And Ellis Peters writes the kind of book that a reader is supposed to get lost in, like a movie. We sink into that world and need all that vivid description to see it.
    A lot may depend on whether you’re a visual reader. Leonard was obviously into audio.

    Reply
  28. Yes, yes, yes Lucy! We may not need scenes that say “The storm tossed the tree branches” because yeah, storms do that. But make it pertinent to the character, as Shannon did.
    And Ellis Peters writes the kind of book that a reader is supposed to get lost in, like a movie. We sink into that world and need all that vivid description to see it.
    A lot may depend on whether you’re a visual reader. Leonard was obviously into audio.

    Reply
  29. Yes, yes, yes Lucy! We may not need scenes that say “The storm tossed the tree branches” because yeah, storms do that. But make it pertinent to the character, as Shannon did.
    And Ellis Peters writes the kind of book that a reader is supposed to get lost in, like a movie. We sink into that world and need all that vivid description to see it.
    A lot may depend on whether you’re a visual reader. Leonard was obviously into audio.

    Reply
  30. Yes, yes, yes Lucy! We may not need scenes that say “The storm tossed the tree branches” because yeah, storms do that. But make it pertinent to the character, as Shannon did.
    And Ellis Peters writes the kind of book that a reader is supposed to get lost in, like a movie. We sink into that world and need all that vivid description to see it.
    A lot may depend on whether you’re a visual reader. Leonard was obviously into audio.

    Reply
  31. Pat I loved that paragraph about ironing the hankie — I could smell the scent of freshly ironed linen, and that for me is partly what I want in my reading experience — to sink into the place and time. A small gorgeous moment, that shows far more that ironing a hankie.
    I’ve never actually read Elmore Leonard — I might, just out of interest.
    I think, however, some writers make “rules” to counteract the things they see overwhelmingly in new writers, long complicated, metaphorical paragraphs that have no real purpose in the story, except to show off the writer’s “writerliness.”

    Reply
  32. Pat I loved that paragraph about ironing the hankie — I could smell the scent of freshly ironed linen, and that for me is partly what I want in my reading experience — to sink into the place and time. A small gorgeous moment, that shows far more that ironing a hankie.
    I’ve never actually read Elmore Leonard — I might, just out of interest.
    I think, however, some writers make “rules” to counteract the things they see overwhelmingly in new writers, long complicated, metaphorical paragraphs that have no real purpose in the story, except to show off the writer’s “writerliness.”

    Reply
  33. Pat I loved that paragraph about ironing the hankie — I could smell the scent of freshly ironed linen, and that for me is partly what I want in my reading experience — to sink into the place and time. A small gorgeous moment, that shows far more that ironing a hankie.
    I’ve never actually read Elmore Leonard — I might, just out of interest.
    I think, however, some writers make “rules” to counteract the things they see overwhelmingly in new writers, long complicated, metaphorical paragraphs that have no real purpose in the story, except to show off the writer’s “writerliness.”

    Reply
  34. Pat I loved that paragraph about ironing the hankie — I could smell the scent of freshly ironed linen, and that for me is partly what I want in my reading experience — to sink into the place and time. A small gorgeous moment, that shows far more that ironing a hankie.
    I’ve never actually read Elmore Leonard — I might, just out of interest.
    I think, however, some writers make “rules” to counteract the things they see overwhelmingly in new writers, long complicated, metaphorical paragraphs that have no real purpose in the story, except to show off the writer’s “writerliness.”

    Reply
  35. Pat I loved that paragraph about ironing the hankie — I could smell the scent of freshly ironed linen, and that for me is partly what I want in my reading experience — to sink into the place and time. A small gorgeous moment, that shows far more that ironing a hankie.
    I’ve never actually read Elmore Leonard — I might, just out of interest.
    I think, however, some writers make “rules” to counteract the things they see overwhelmingly in new writers, long complicated, metaphorical paragraphs that have no real purpose in the story, except to show off the writer’s “writerliness.”

    Reply
  36. Thank you, Anne! I agree that it’s easy to make up “rules” for things that irritate us. ooo, maybe we could make up our own rules! “Thou shalt learn the rule of the apostrophe, for it is good and useful.”

    Reply
  37. Thank you, Anne! I agree that it’s easy to make up “rules” for things that irritate us. ooo, maybe we could make up our own rules! “Thou shalt learn the rule of the apostrophe, for it is good and useful.”

    Reply
  38. Thank you, Anne! I agree that it’s easy to make up “rules” for things that irritate us. ooo, maybe we could make up our own rules! “Thou shalt learn the rule of the apostrophe, for it is good and useful.”

    Reply
  39. Thank you, Anne! I agree that it’s easy to make up “rules” for things that irritate us. ooo, maybe we could make up our own rules! “Thou shalt learn the rule of the apostrophe, for it is good and useful.”

    Reply
  40. Thank you, Anne! I agree that it’s easy to make up “rules” for things that irritate us. ooo, maybe we could make up our own rules! “Thou shalt learn the rule of the apostrophe, for it is good and useful.”

    Reply
  41. Elmore Leonard is the sort of writer whose work yields great movies or graphic novels, because his dialog is snappy and the actors and production designers can fill in the details he leaves out such that you get a world you can see. On the page, I found him sometimes confusing; I’d lose track of which character was speaking.
    I have great admiration for Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler and the other pulp-oriented stylists of the 20s-40s, but it’s not my preference as a reader. I don’t care nearly as much about the specific actions as I do about the why & wherefore of it all, and that you don’t get from anemic scene setting.

    Reply
  42. Elmore Leonard is the sort of writer whose work yields great movies or graphic novels, because his dialog is snappy and the actors and production designers can fill in the details he leaves out such that you get a world you can see. On the page, I found him sometimes confusing; I’d lose track of which character was speaking.
    I have great admiration for Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler and the other pulp-oriented stylists of the 20s-40s, but it’s not my preference as a reader. I don’t care nearly as much about the specific actions as I do about the why & wherefore of it all, and that you don’t get from anemic scene setting.

    Reply
  43. Elmore Leonard is the sort of writer whose work yields great movies or graphic novels, because his dialog is snappy and the actors and production designers can fill in the details he leaves out such that you get a world you can see. On the page, I found him sometimes confusing; I’d lose track of which character was speaking.
    I have great admiration for Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler and the other pulp-oriented stylists of the 20s-40s, but it’s not my preference as a reader. I don’t care nearly as much about the specific actions as I do about the why & wherefore of it all, and that you don’t get from anemic scene setting.

    Reply
  44. Elmore Leonard is the sort of writer whose work yields great movies or graphic novels, because his dialog is snappy and the actors and production designers can fill in the details he leaves out such that you get a world you can see. On the page, I found him sometimes confusing; I’d lose track of which character was speaking.
    I have great admiration for Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler and the other pulp-oriented stylists of the 20s-40s, but it’s not my preference as a reader. I don’t care nearly as much about the specific actions as I do about the why & wherefore of it all, and that you don’t get from anemic scene setting.

    Reply
  45. Elmore Leonard is the sort of writer whose work yields great movies or graphic novels, because his dialog is snappy and the actors and production designers can fill in the details he leaves out such that you get a world you can see. On the page, I found him sometimes confusing; I’d lose track of which character was speaking.
    I have great admiration for Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler and the other pulp-oriented stylists of the 20s-40s, but it’s not my preference as a reader. I don’t care nearly as much about the specific actions as I do about the why & wherefore of it all, and that you don’t get from anemic scene setting.

    Reply
  46. I’m not advocating speed in historical romances but I’m reading a book at the moment where the hero is waiting for the heroine to meet him at the train station to catch a particular train – for which he has the tickets.
    He is seated, morosely listing all the reasons why she won’t turn up and the guard blows the whistle – still no heroine. He continues to sulk and then low and behold – she arrives. The author then spends half a page trying to get his attention, after which they have a discussion as to why she’s there – and they STILL manage to catch the train, which I would have thought to be halfway through the next county by that time. I spent minutes shouting at the book ‘Get on the dratted train!!!’. Very frustrating and it spoiled the flow of the story.

    Reply
  47. I’m not advocating speed in historical romances but I’m reading a book at the moment where the hero is waiting for the heroine to meet him at the train station to catch a particular train – for which he has the tickets.
    He is seated, morosely listing all the reasons why she won’t turn up and the guard blows the whistle – still no heroine. He continues to sulk and then low and behold – she arrives. The author then spends half a page trying to get his attention, after which they have a discussion as to why she’s there – and they STILL manage to catch the train, which I would have thought to be halfway through the next county by that time. I spent minutes shouting at the book ‘Get on the dratted train!!!’. Very frustrating and it spoiled the flow of the story.

    Reply
  48. I’m not advocating speed in historical romances but I’m reading a book at the moment where the hero is waiting for the heroine to meet him at the train station to catch a particular train – for which he has the tickets.
    He is seated, morosely listing all the reasons why she won’t turn up and the guard blows the whistle – still no heroine. He continues to sulk and then low and behold – she arrives. The author then spends half a page trying to get his attention, after which they have a discussion as to why she’s there – and they STILL manage to catch the train, which I would have thought to be halfway through the next county by that time. I spent minutes shouting at the book ‘Get on the dratted train!!!’. Very frustrating and it spoiled the flow of the story.

    Reply
  49. I’m not advocating speed in historical romances but I’m reading a book at the moment where the hero is waiting for the heroine to meet him at the train station to catch a particular train – for which he has the tickets.
    He is seated, morosely listing all the reasons why she won’t turn up and the guard blows the whistle – still no heroine. He continues to sulk and then low and behold – she arrives. The author then spends half a page trying to get his attention, after which they have a discussion as to why she’s there – and they STILL manage to catch the train, which I would have thought to be halfway through the next county by that time. I spent minutes shouting at the book ‘Get on the dratted train!!!’. Very frustrating and it spoiled the flow of the story.

    Reply
  50. I’m not advocating speed in historical romances but I’m reading a book at the moment where the hero is waiting for the heroine to meet him at the train station to catch a particular train – for which he has the tickets.
    He is seated, morosely listing all the reasons why she won’t turn up and the guard blows the whistle – still no heroine. He continues to sulk and then low and behold – she arrives. The author then spends half a page trying to get his attention, after which they have a discussion as to why she’s there – and they STILL manage to catch the train, which I would have thought to be halfway through the next county by that time. I spent minutes shouting at the book ‘Get on the dratted train!!!’. Very frustrating and it spoiled the flow of the story.

    Reply
  51. I never could enjoy Elmore Leonard’s novels, not so much because of the style – which worked fine for his kind of novel – but because I found it hard to relate to or care about his characters. I tried several times and concluded nope, he’s not for me. This although I read mysteries and thrillers frequently.
    I do think a little description goes a long way, and readers today are a lot more impatient to get on with the action. The leisurely style of a Balzac novel would not be tolerated by many.
    In any case, every voice is different, and what works for one could be dead wrong for another writer.
    In general, I guess description needs to be chosen with care and contribute to the plot or characterization in some way, – the handkerchief ironing scene is fine in that respect, but going on at great length about the weather, if it’s not relevant to the plot, would not be.

    Reply
  52. I never could enjoy Elmore Leonard’s novels, not so much because of the style – which worked fine for his kind of novel – but because I found it hard to relate to or care about his characters. I tried several times and concluded nope, he’s not for me. This although I read mysteries and thrillers frequently.
    I do think a little description goes a long way, and readers today are a lot more impatient to get on with the action. The leisurely style of a Balzac novel would not be tolerated by many.
    In any case, every voice is different, and what works for one could be dead wrong for another writer.
    In general, I guess description needs to be chosen with care and contribute to the plot or characterization in some way, – the handkerchief ironing scene is fine in that respect, but going on at great length about the weather, if it’s not relevant to the plot, would not be.

    Reply
  53. I never could enjoy Elmore Leonard’s novels, not so much because of the style – which worked fine for his kind of novel – but because I found it hard to relate to or care about his characters. I tried several times and concluded nope, he’s not for me. This although I read mysteries and thrillers frequently.
    I do think a little description goes a long way, and readers today are a lot more impatient to get on with the action. The leisurely style of a Balzac novel would not be tolerated by many.
    In any case, every voice is different, and what works for one could be dead wrong for another writer.
    In general, I guess description needs to be chosen with care and contribute to the plot or characterization in some way, – the handkerchief ironing scene is fine in that respect, but going on at great length about the weather, if it’s not relevant to the plot, would not be.

    Reply
  54. I never could enjoy Elmore Leonard’s novels, not so much because of the style – which worked fine for his kind of novel – but because I found it hard to relate to or care about his characters. I tried several times and concluded nope, he’s not for me. This although I read mysteries and thrillers frequently.
    I do think a little description goes a long way, and readers today are a lot more impatient to get on with the action. The leisurely style of a Balzac novel would not be tolerated by many.
    In any case, every voice is different, and what works for one could be dead wrong for another writer.
    In general, I guess description needs to be chosen with care and contribute to the plot or characterization in some way, – the handkerchief ironing scene is fine in that respect, but going on at great length about the weather, if it’s not relevant to the plot, would not be.

    Reply
  55. I never could enjoy Elmore Leonard’s novels, not so much because of the style – which worked fine for his kind of novel – but because I found it hard to relate to or care about his characters. I tried several times and concluded nope, he’s not for me. This although I read mysteries and thrillers frequently.
    I do think a little description goes a long way, and readers today are a lot more impatient to get on with the action. The leisurely style of a Balzac novel would not be tolerated by many.
    In any case, every voice is different, and what works for one could be dead wrong for another writer.
    In general, I guess description needs to be chosen with care and contribute to the plot or characterization in some way, – the handkerchief ironing scene is fine in that respect, but going on at great length about the weather, if it’s not relevant to the plot, would not be.

    Reply
  56. Yum…I closed my eyes and smelled that hot linen. 🙂
    I read Leonard’s rules on writing, and my first reaction was that he was putting us on, having a joke with tongue firmly in cheek, and a smirk on his face. I wonder if he’d been asked how to write by an interviewer, and this was his passive-aggressive response.
    Sparse and lean or lush and descriptive – I’ve read and enjoyed both, but I think the success of either depends on the writer’s talent, style and voice.

    Reply
  57. Yum…I closed my eyes and smelled that hot linen. 🙂
    I read Leonard’s rules on writing, and my first reaction was that he was putting us on, having a joke with tongue firmly in cheek, and a smirk on his face. I wonder if he’d been asked how to write by an interviewer, and this was his passive-aggressive response.
    Sparse and lean or lush and descriptive – I’ve read and enjoyed both, but I think the success of either depends on the writer’s talent, style and voice.

    Reply
  58. Yum…I closed my eyes and smelled that hot linen. 🙂
    I read Leonard’s rules on writing, and my first reaction was that he was putting us on, having a joke with tongue firmly in cheek, and a smirk on his face. I wonder if he’d been asked how to write by an interviewer, and this was his passive-aggressive response.
    Sparse and lean or lush and descriptive – I’ve read and enjoyed both, but I think the success of either depends on the writer’s talent, style and voice.

    Reply
  59. Yum…I closed my eyes and smelled that hot linen. 🙂
    I read Leonard’s rules on writing, and my first reaction was that he was putting us on, having a joke with tongue firmly in cheek, and a smirk on his face. I wonder if he’d been asked how to write by an interviewer, and this was his passive-aggressive response.
    Sparse and lean or lush and descriptive – I’ve read and enjoyed both, but I think the success of either depends on the writer’s talent, style and voice.

    Reply
  60. Yum…I closed my eyes and smelled that hot linen. 🙂
    I read Leonard’s rules on writing, and my first reaction was that he was putting us on, having a joke with tongue firmly in cheek, and a smirk on his face. I wonder if he’d been asked how to write by an interviewer, and this was his passive-aggressive response.
    Sparse and lean or lush and descriptive – I’ve read and enjoyed both, but I think the success of either depends on the writer’s talent, style and voice.

    Reply
  61. I believe that just like choosing an ice cream, (not everyone likes vanilla), writers would write best in a style with which they feel comfortable. Mr Leonard wrote books which were wildly popular with people who wanted to read those books. I also believe he wrote his rules tongue in cheek, otherwise how do you explain the last one?
    I prefer the description. It gives me a sense of place and time. I enjoy sinking into a story that provides me with an atmosphere. The description gives me a way to transport to a place and time, and become closer to the characters. But, that is just me.

    Reply
  62. I believe that just like choosing an ice cream, (not everyone likes vanilla), writers would write best in a style with which they feel comfortable. Mr Leonard wrote books which were wildly popular with people who wanted to read those books. I also believe he wrote his rules tongue in cheek, otherwise how do you explain the last one?
    I prefer the description. It gives me a sense of place and time. I enjoy sinking into a story that provides me with an atmosphere. The description gives me a way to transport to a place and time, and become closer to the characters. But, that is just me.

    Reply
  63. I believe that just like choosing an ice cream, (not everyone likes vanilla), writers would write best in a style with which they feel comfortable. Mr Leonard wrote books which were wildly popular with people who wanted to read those books. I also believe he wrote his rules tongue in cheek, otherwise how do you explain the last one?
    I prefer the description. It gives me a sense of place and time. I enjoy sinking into a story that provides me with an atmosphere. The description gives me a way to transport to a place and time, and become closer to the characters. But, that is just me.

    Reply
  64. I believe that just like choosing an ice cream, (not everyone likes vanilla), writers would write best in a style with which they feel comfortable. Mr Leonard wrote books which were wildly popular with people who wanted to read those books. I also believe he wrote his rules tongue in cheek, otherwise how do you explain the last one?
    I prefer the description. It gives me a sense of place and time. I enjoy sinking into a story that provides me with an atmosphere. The description gives me a way to transport to a place and time, and become closer to the characters. But, that is just me.

    Reply
  65. I believe that just like choosing an ice cream, (not everyone likes vanilla), writers would write best in a style with which they feel comfortable. Mr Leonard wrote books which were wildly popular with people who wanted to read those books. I also believe he wrote his rules tongue in cheek, otherwise how do you explain the last one?
    I prefer the description. It gives me a sense of place and time. I enjoy sinking into a story that provides me with an atmosphere. The description gives me a way to transport to a place and time, and become closer to the characters. But, that is just me.

    Reply
  66. oh, Cynth, I totally relate! Except I’m someone who operates on hyper, and there are people exactly like those slow pokes in the world, so I’m sure the time flow worked for the author, but it would make me crazy, too.
    I think Leonard wrote for the problem-solving side of the book. I doubt that he cared for the characters the way romance readers do. A lot of people don’t like reading about emotions. It takes all kinds.
    I’m sure his last rule was tongue-in-cheek, but since he followed all the others to some extent, I figure he was using them as guidelines of some sort.
    And thank you for reinforcing my faith in the intelligent readership of romances!

    Reply
  67. oh, Cynth, I totally relate! Except I’m someone who operates on hyper, and there are people exactly like those slow pokes in the world, so I’m sure the time flow worked for the author, but it would make me crazy, too.
    I think Leonard wrote for the problem-solving side of the book. I doubt that he cared for the characters the way romance readers do. A lot of people don’t like reading about emotions. It takes all kinds.
    I’m sure his last rule was tongue-in-cheek, but since he followed all the others to some extent, I figure he was using them as guidelines of some sort.
    And thank you for reinforcing my faith in the intelligent readership of romances!

    Reply
  68. oh, Cynth, I totally relate! Except I’m someone who operates on hyper, and there are people exactly like those slow pokes in the world, so I’m sure the time flow worked for the author, but it would make me crazy, too.
    I think Leonard wrote for the problem-solving side of the book. I doubt that he cared for the characters the way romance readers do. A lot of people don’t like reading about emotions. It takes all kinds.
    I’m sure his last rule was tongue-in-cheek, but since he followed all the others to some extent, I figure he was using them as guidelines of some sort.
    And thank you for reinforcing my faith in the intelligent readership of romances!

    Reply
  69. oh, Cynth, I totally relate! Except I’m someone who operates on hyper, and there are people exactly like those slow pokes in the world, so I’m sure the time flow worked for the author, but it would make me crazy, too.
    I think Leonard wrote for the problem-solving side of the book. I doubt that he cared for the characters the way romance readers do. A lot of people don’t like reading about emotions. It takes all kinds.
    I’m sure his last rule was tongue-in-cheek, but since he followed all the others to some extent, I figure he was using them as guidelines of some sort.
    And thank you for reinforcing my faith in the intelligent readership of romances!

    Reply
  70. oh, Cynth, I totally relate! Except I’m someone who operates on hyper, and there are people exactly like those slow pokes in the world, so I’m sure the time flow worked for the author, but it would make me crazy, too.
    I think Leonard wrote for the problem-solving side of the book. I doubt that he cared for the characters the way romance readers do. A lot of people don’t like reading about emotions. It takes all kinds.
    I’m sure his last rule was tongue-in-cheek, but since he followed all the others to some extent, I figure he was using them as guidelines of some sort.
    And thank you for reinforcing my faith in the intelligent readership of romances!

    Reply
  71. It was a dark and stormy day. A tropical depression was traveling slowly up the coastline, eroding beaches and bringing flooding to streets and streams. “No one in their right mind would venture out in this,” said Babs, as she observed her neighbor’s black Lexus backing out. “I still think he’s in the witness protection program or something.”
    “I still think he’s Batman,” said the cat. “And I believe Elmore Leonard wrote mostly for the movies that would be made from his books. We both figured that by the time she had reached the end of Deathly Hallows, Rowling was writing for the special effects.”
    “If you think about it Jane Austen did not spend a lot of time on description either. Like the lady above said, when you are writing contemporary scenes everyone knows the gestalt. When you are writing historical you have to give some context.”
    “True,” said the cat. “Think about phone booths.”

    Reply
  72. It was a dark and stormy day. A tropical depression was traveling slowly up the coastline, eroding beaches and bringing flooding to streets and streams. “No one in their right mind would venture out in this,” said Babs, as she observed her neighbor’s black Lexus backing out. “I still think he’s in the witness protection program or something.”
    “I still think he’s Batman,” said the cat. “And I believe Elmore Leonard wrote mostly for the movies that would be made from his books. We both figured that by the time she had reached the end of Deathly Hallows, Rowling was writing for the special effects.”
    “If you think about it Jane Austen did not spend a lot of time on description either. Like the lady above said, when you are writing contemporary scenes everyone knows the gestalt. When you are writing historical you have to give some context.”
    “True,” said the cat. “Think about phone booths.”

    Reply
  73. It was a dark and stormy day. A tropical depression was traveling slowly up the coastline, eroding beaches and bringing flooding to streets and streams. “No one in their right mind would venture out in this,” said Babs, as she observed her neighbor’s black Lexus backing out. “I still think he’s in the witness protection program or something.”
    “I still think he’s Batman,” said the cat. “And I believe Elmore Leonard wrote mostly for the movies that would be made from his books. We both figured that by the time she had reached the end of Deathly Hallows, Rowling was writing for the special effects.”
    “If you think about it Jane Austen did not spend a lot of time on description either. Like the lady above said, when you are writing contemporary scenes everyone knows the gestalt. When you are writing historical you have to give some context.”
    “True,” said the cat. “Think about phone booths.”

    Reply
  74. It was a dark and stormy day. A tropical depression was traveling slowly up the coastline, eroding beaches and bringing flooding to streets and streams. “No one in their right mind would venture out in this,” said Babs, as she observed her neighbor’s black Lexus backing out. “I still think he’s in the witness protection program or something.”
    “I still think he’s Batman,” said the cat. “And I believe Elmore Leonard wrote mostly for the movies that would be made from his books. We both figured that by the time she had reached the end of Deathly Hallows, Rowling was writing for the special effects.”
    “If you think about it Jane Austen did not spend a lot of time on description either. Like the lady above said, when you are writing contemporary scenes everyone knows the gestalt. When you are writing historical you have to give some context.”
    “True,” said the cat. “Think about phone booths.”

    Reply
  75. It was a dark and stormy day. A tropical depression was traveling slowly up the coastline, eroding beaches and bringing flooding to streets and streams. “No one in their right mind would venture out in this,” said Babs, as she observed her neighbor’s black Lexus backing out. “I still think he’s in the witness protection program or something.”
    “I still think he’s Batman,” said the cat. “And I believe Elmore Leonard wrote mostly for the movies that would be made from his books. We both figured that by the time she had reached the end of Deathly Hallows, Rowling was writing for the special effects.”
    “If you think about it Jane Austen did not spend a lot of time on description either. Like the lady above said, when you are writing contemporary scenes everyone knows the gestalt. When you are writing historical you have to give some context.”
    “True,” said the cat. “Think about phone booths.”

    Reply
  76. Stormy weather filled the room as the waitress placed my coffee before me on the table. Well crap, you know I’d rather read..Stormy Weather hovered in the background as the jukebox tuned the sultry sounds toward the café diners. My coffee appeared before me as a harried waitress stretched across the lunch menu to pour the steaming coal black liquid in my empty cup. Course I’d like to know if the waitress looked like FLO and if she had an ironed hankerchief in her pocket, whether her Mama was maning the grill and if BACON perfumed the tightly packed café. Okay done now…Love my romance..Give me description everything and tell me about the weather that day, the day before and the day after and if you want to throw in an extra about the weather in my next romance..I’m reading.

    Reply
  77. Stormy weather filled the room as the waitress placed my coffee before me on the table. Well crap, you know I’d rather read..Stormy Weather hovered in the background as the jukebox tuned the sultry sounds toward the café diners. My coffee appeared before me as a harried waitress stretched across the lunch menu to pour the steaming coal black liquid in my empty cup. Course I’d like to know if the waitress looked like FLO and if she had an ironed hankerchief in her pocket, whether her Mama was maning the grill and if BACON perfumed the tightly packed café. Okay done now…Love my romance..Give me description everything and tell me about the weather that day, the day before and the day after and if you want to throw in an extra about the weather in my next romance..I’m reading.

    Reply
  78. Stormy weather filled the room as the waitress placed my coffee before me on the table. Well crap, you know I’d rather read..Stormy Weather hovered in the background as the jukebox tuned the sultry sounds toward the café diners. My coffee appeared before me as a harried waitress stretched across the lunch menu to pour the steaming coal black liquid in my empty cup. Course I’d like to know if the waitress looked like FLO and if she had an ironed hankerchief in her pocket, whether her Mama was maning the grill and if BACON perfumed the tightly packed café. Okay done now…Love my romance..Give me description everything and tell me about the weather that day, the day before and the day after and if you want to throw in an extra about the weather in my next romance..I’m reading.

    Reply
  79. Stormy weather filled the room as the waitress placed my coffee before me on the table. Well crap, you know I’d rather read..Stormy Weather hovered in the background as the jukebox tuned the sultry sounds toward the café diners. My coffee appeared before me as a harried waitress stretched across the lunch menu to pour the steaming coal black liquid in my empty cup. Course I’d like to know if the waitress looked like FLO and if she had an ironed hankerchief in her pocket, whether her Mama was maning the grill and if BACON perfumed the tightly packed café. Okay done now…Love my romance..Give me description everything and tell me about the weather that day, the day before and the day after and if you want to throw in an extra about the weather in my next romance..I’m reading.

    Reply
  80. Stormy weather filled the room as the waitress placed my coffee before me on the table. Well crap, you know I’d rather read..Stormy Weather hovered in the background as the jukebox tuned the sultry sounds toward the café diners. My coffee appeared before me as a harried waitress stretched across the lunch menu to pour the steaming coal black liquid in my empty cup. Course I’d like to know if the waitress looked like FLO and if she had an ironed hankerchief in her pocket, whether her Mama was maning the grill and if BACON perfumed the tightly packed café. Okay done now…Love my romance..Give me description everything and tell me about the weather that day, the day before and the day after and if you want to throw in an extra about the weather in my next romance..I’m reading.

    Reply

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