I've been on a recent Chandler kick, and have been making mental notes about what I can take away from him to use in my own writing:

1. Keep It Lean. Chandler doesn't waste a word, and his books are never overlong, yet he creates incredibly vivid and complicated worlds.

2. Make Dialogue Count. Every bit of Chandler dialogue either serves as necessary exposition or character development. There's no wasted small talk. Or long speechifying.

3. Set A Scene. Chandler, I am realizing, is a very cinematic writer. He seems to have instinctively understood that good writing and good camerawork are somewhat the same thing — open with a wide context-establishing shot, then focus in on the action. He never makes you guess where and when things are taking place.

4. Create Characters With More Than One Dimension. I think almost every major or secondary character in every Chandler story is holding something back. Chandler is gifted at making readers aware of this without beating them over the head with it, planting a seed of unease in us as we dive deeper into each tale.

5. Create Chemistry Between Characters. Be it two males talking, or Philip Marlowe sizing up a dame, Chandler always creates interesting tension between any two characters who come into contact with one another. Some like each other before they're sure of one another; some dislike one another but aren't sure that means that they aren't good people in the end.

What else would you add to this list?

Views: 313

Reply to This

Replies to This Discussion

May I suggest reading George V. Higgins' The Friends of Eddie Coyle? Almost all dialogue, not a word wasted. Higgins conveys character through dialogue like no one else ... even Elmore Leonard was a fan of his.
Elmore's website just list The Friends of Eddie Coyle as one of Leonard's favorite books.
This is a link to Chandler's famous essay published in The Atlantic Monthly (now The Atlantic) on writing crime novels: The Simple Art of Murder:
I believe he is making the point that a good story should be about "redemption."

For my money, Chandler is the king of "show, don't tell." I can't give a specific example at the moment (flat on my back, prisoner of several cats), but I would add:


6. Never explain. If you have to explain, you've either put something in that isn't necessary, or left something out that is essential.

Excellent point about explaining, Minerva. When I wonder if I need to explain something, I fall back on the mantra, "What Would The Wire Do?' Simon et al explained very little, and improved the show greatly by (not) doing so. The Wire would have been just another TV show if they had made sure everyone got everything. It's viewers had to commit to catching and hanging on as best they could. Not the key to mass market success, but certainly for quality.


CrimeSpace Google Search

© 2023   Created by Daniel Hatadi.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service