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?

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6. Write crazy-good similes.

As to 1-5 don't all the novelists we still read half a century after their deaths do all of these things?
"Cherchez la femme!"
She should be beautiful, sexy and sultry and rotten to the core. :)
He brings us the big city setting, with its rootless population. The kind of place where you don't know your neighbours but you suspect they have a gun.

A move away from the small town locations where everyone is known, and they're all suspects.

A nice post, Jim
Yep. Through p.o.v. Very few writers have done the first person voice as well as Chandler--he was a stone master. He was also one of the inventors, along with Hammett, of the hardboiled/noir PI story. AND he was a great documenter of 1930's-40's American culture, seen through a scratched and dirty lens. Pound tells us there are only two kinds of writers worth admiring: masters and inventors. Chandler was both (although Pound wouldn't have thought so). The other stuff is all fine, but any decent writer can do scene, dialogue and character.
Not character.
Any decent writer can do character, yes.
Everyone is coming up with such wonderful answers.

Mood: especially malaise. He could not only describe the seamy side of city life, but also evoke the glamor and indolence of the wealthy and their unease---the ominous shadows lurking at its golden borders. :) I haven't read any Chandler in years, but I can still recall the "feeling" they evoked.
It was about eleven o'clock in the morning, mid October, with the sun not shining and a look of hard wet rain in the clearness of the foothills. I was wearing my powder blue suit, with dark blue shirt, tie and display handkerchief, black brogues, black wool socks with dark blue clocks on them. I was neat, clean, shaved, and sober, and I didn't care who knew it. I was everything the well-dressed detective ought to be. I was calling on four million dollars.

That, ladies and germs, is voice. Philip Marlowe lives forever!
Jeez, I have a hard time with that outfit, even given the time that has passed. A man in a powder blue suit doesn't inspire confidence.
I have a hard time with that outfit

That was back when a man in any kind or color of suit inspired confidence! :D
I.J., you have be worth four million to appreciate powder blue suits.


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