More rules, you say. Yes, and they are probably also wrong. What is true is that editors like to find excuses to reject, and it's better not to give them any. On the other hand, they aren't always right.
That's a great line, but there's still description there. Not a lot of physical description, but there is behavioral description. So it seems clear to me that its only physical description you're referring to when you say "I'm not interested in descriptions of people and things"? Am I correct in that assumption?
It is possible to write first person in the narrator's voice. If the narrator uses bad English, than that's what the author should use. There is a children's book out that does this and has raised the ire of parents.
Agreed. They're pretty terrible as rules too, since there's so many exceptions to them. 3-5 are okay rules, but number 6? That's a throwaway rule if there ever was one. Makes me think this whole list was intended to be a joke. His explanation of 8 is good, but not every story is "Hills Like White Elephants". And not every story should be. If you think 10 is a good rule then you have no right to talk about the short attention spans of young people.
Conrad is awesome. If I hadn't been told English was his second language in school, I would never have guessed it from reading his work.
Number 10 is my favorite. I can't tell you the last book (since my last Elmore) I got through where I didn't have to skip whole paragraphs of description. I hate it. It's so rarely part of the story. I like a little, enough to set a scene, tell me where I am, but that's it.
Them's fightin' words around here. Dismissing Leonard as someone who writes "for people who don't like to read," is as close-minded as claiming writing stopped evolving 100 or 200 years ago, take your pick.
Read even "well written" contemporary and see how sentence constructions have changed from the time of Dickens or Twain or Dreiser. English is a growing and evolving language. Fewer books are written from the omnipotent authorial perspective; more are written throuhg the eyes and perceptions of the characters. These characters would think much as they speak, and what they observe and how they observe it can say more about them than a whole page of physical description. To have a character think, "He doesn't know what he's talking about," then say, "He don't know shit," can remove a reader from Gardner's vivid fictional dream quicker than anything.
Martin Amis wrote a book called The War Against Cliche in which he claimed Elmore Leonard had invented a new tense, and he credits him with finding a way of ''slowing down and suspending the English sentence,'' thereby opening up ''a lag in time'' through which he ''easily slides, gaining entry to his players' hidden minds.''
Elmore Leonard himself has been hiding behind a kind of "Aw shucks" persona that Americans seem to love and other than those ten rules never really talks about his writing in depth. He makes the joke that he doesn't know what themes are in his books until Scott Frank adapts them into screenplays and people seem to accept that.
I guess I find it okay that readers accept it - they like what they like - but sometimes I think writers should see through this and realize what Elmore Leonard is really doing. It's funny, a few people have reconsidered since Martin Amis wrote his essay (the others in the book are about Saul Bellow, James Joyce, Don Delillo, Philip Larkin, John Updike and so on) but I guess everybody appreciates a smarty-pants British guy ;).
Leonard's rules are not the same thing as his books. The rules are silly because you just don't demand that other people write the way you think they should. He can write his books any way he pleases, but he cannot tell me how to write mine.
Got caught on the "He don't know shit" example above. It strikes me that you wouldn't want or need to go delving into the character's mind. A piece of dialog like that says it all.