1. Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.

2. Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.

3. Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.

4. Every sentence must do one of two things -- reveal character or advance the action.

5. Start as close to the end as possible.

6. Be a sadist. Now matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them -- in order that the reader may see what they are made of.

7. Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.

8. Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To heck with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.

Looking for thoughts, especially regarding #8.

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John,

I agree with you about reading along and living the characters, but I don't think Elmore Leonard gives "as much information as possible." He gives as much action and "living along" as possible. As to, "to heck with contrived suspense," I'd say "to heck with *obviously* contrived suspense. " In the best stories and novels, the suspense comes from the actions, reactions, anticipation, and fear of the characters. (Jude, take note.)

I just discovered Cormac McCarthy, the best writer I've found in about 30 years. He does this even better than Leonard.

Jack

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