I've heard Elmore Leonard talk about his rules before, but,
because rules have never helped creativity and because his
own work seems remarkably free of them, I'd assumed he was
being playful in a "Never eat at a dive called Mom's" way.
But the New York Times piece (which probably shouldn't be
reproduced in total, by the way, especially with the Times
currently being hit for not compensating writers for Internet
use of their work) suggests that he may be serious. Too
Even worse, his rules contain bad advice. The weather thing
is plain silly. Writers begin their books or stories the way
they want to. Sometimes they begin with the weather. Someone
already mentioned "Red Wind," but you can also check out
James Lee Burke, Ross Macdonald, and a dozen others. Try
writing a book based in Chicago in the winter or New Orleans
in the summer without addressing the weather up front. If you
need a rule: don't begin a story with a dull description of
the weather, or a dull description of anything.
I'm also weary of the "said" thing. The fact is "said"
doesn't always work. The reason some writers give for
sticking to "said" is its invisibility. The reader's eye
supposedly skips over it. That's true in most cases. But it
becomes glaringly visible when it's misused. "Why do you
think he said that?" he said.
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