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Saturday, October 5, 2013

My blog for 10/5/2013 Rules of Writing

Due to his recent death, a lot has been on line regarding Elmore Leonard, who wrote crazy books set in Florida.  He was an excellent writer and will be missed by those like my husband who thought of him as wonderful entertainment and very knowledgeable at the same time.  I came across his rules of writing I thought I'd share with you:

1.  Never open a book with weather.  If it's only to create atmosphere, and not a character's reaction to the weather, you don't want to go on too long.  The reader is apt to leaf ahead looking for people.  There are exceptions.  If you happen to be Barry Lopez, who has more ways to describe ice and snow than an Eskimo, you can do all the weather reporting you want.

How do you feel about this?  I understand that the weather helps the reader understand the time and place where the story starts, and being not nearly the writer as Elmore Leonard, I've been known to throw a lot of weather into many of my scenes.  As a starting though, not so much.  But it was just dumb luck on my part.  A mistake I easily could have taken.  Now I can see that it won't.

2.  Avoid prologues.  They can be annoying, especially a prologue following an introduction that comes after a foreword.  A prologue in a novel is backstory, and you can drop it in anywhere you want.

I am guilty of doing this.  I like to put my murder in the first scene, and it's not always an appropriate start.  I've been told publishers do not like prologues in general--maybe because they feel it's too much information too early so the mystery is not as mysterious as it could have been.  Of course, I don't do forwards because of my genre.  I think non fiction would be more likely to have them.
I don't want the reader to know what the whole story is about, nor do I want them to know too much about one or more characters that may be in a forward.  I believe in backstory however.  A hint at the motive of the murder, or a reaction of the players is something I do want.  So because of his fame, perhaps Elmore Leonard's suggestion is something I should try more often.  What do you think?

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