Saturday, August 24, 2013

Day 230 of the 365 Days of Blogging

The author, Dane F. Baylis


Elmore Leonard, 1925 - 2013, was known as a prolific crime novelist and as the writer who hated literature. He had incredible depth and knowledge and was always being quoted by neophytes and veterans alike. Here are a couple of my favorite Leonard quotes and what they mean to me as a writer:
"The main thing I set out to do is tell the point of view of the antagonist as much as the good guy. And that's the big difference between the way I write and the way most mysteries are written."
Too many new writers spend all their time building up this imperfectly perfect protagonist at the expense of pitting them against one dimensional bad guys. Their good guys are valiant knights; intrepid astronauts; white hat wearing, palomino riding, guitar strumming cow hands who only shoot to wound. Guys who are so pure you smell lilacs when they pee. Then the door gets kicked in by a creature so vile you spend two hundred pages wishing they'd get hit by a bus and put them out of your misery.
Come on, nobody just does shit! There has to be a reason, a motivation, a goal (no matter how nefarious and twisted), or all you've done is described a pop-up target at the local police range. You know. See the bad guy, shoot the damned bad guy. Five points, end of story. Without some kind of humanization, Hannibal Lechter would have been no more interesting then the masturbator in the cell next to him.
"Write the book the way it's supposed to be written, then give it to somebody to put in the commas and shit."
You're a writer, right? Writers tell stories, right? Then get to it. There are any number of schools offering MFA's in Creative Writing that are turning out students so bound up over the absolute proper structure of sentence, paragraph, and story, they need the equivalent of a literary high-colonic to get anything out.
Screw that noise. Tell the damned story first. Then hire (or marry) a damned good editor and go from there. The structure isn't what great authors are known for, that's what their agents, editors, publishers, et al., are known for. Great writers write great stories! To quote another writer, Ernest Hemingway:
"I write ninety-three pages of shit for every page of masterpiece. At the end of the day I try to make sure the shit goes in the waste basket."
Unfortunately, Elmore is gone, but he has left a body of work spanning his eighty-seven year life that are not only great reads, they are great lessons on what constitutes some damned fine writing. You can either learn from the guys who made it work, or spend all your time worrying about its vs. it's, whose vs. who's, and their vs. they're. Or you can feel lucky that somewhere down the line there's someone like the Editor and Wife who can argue some sense into your syntax.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------, love, write. There may be no tomorrow!
Want to follow or subscribe to this blog? There are gadgets for that on the right side of the page. You can leave comments in the form below. I can be reached directly at . You can also find links to some of the sites I visit from time to time on the right. I'm also looking for submissions to the Your Work/Your Love page. Authors retain all rights.
Dane F. Baylis

No comments:

Post a Comment