Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Elmore Leonard's 10 Rules of Good Writing

When my teenage son picked up Elmore Leonard's 10 Rules of Good Writing, it fell open to Rule 3: "Never use a verb other than 'said' to carry dialogue."

"I wish my teachers could read this," my son said. "They tell us not to use 'said.' They think other words make us sound better, like we have a bigger vocabulary."

Which is precisely Elmore Leonard's point: Good writing is not about the writer (and the way he sounds or the size of her vocabulary), but about the story.

The writer must remain invisible.

Leonard explains Rule 3: "The line of dialogue belongs to the character. The verb is the writer sticking his nose in ... '(S)aid' is far less intrusive than 'grumbled,' 'gasped,' or 'cautioned."'

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