Re: RARA-AVIS: Re: Books I couldn't finish

From: Kerry J. Schooley (
Date: 08 Feb 2005

At 07:38 AM 08/02/2005 -0500, you wrote:
>All the dialogue throws some readers off. A lot of people have the same
>reaction to K. C. Constantine's books.

Extended passages of description and exposition are what I think Elmore Leonard means by "the stuff nobody reads" that he leaves out of his own writing. I think of Leonard chiefly as a strong stylist, creating scenes
(usually with lots of sharp dialogue) that leave the reader to determine what characters think by what they say and do. As for description, I like to get just enough to keep me on track as I fill in with details of my own. That helps bond me to the reading experience. It becomes a co-op project between me and the author. It's the application of that old saw "show, don't tell."

My feeling is that this is why so many of Leonard's books translate so readily into film and television scripts, which of course also depend upon scenes. Leonard's popularity suggests to me that writing in scenes is one way that the development of film and television technologies has affected writing in the last half of the twentieth century.

My point is that I think "show, don't tell" is almost a characteristic of hard boil, and frequently, if perhaps a little less so, of noir.

Yet, basic as "show, don't tell" is, my own reading experience tells me that many publishers and editors (not all) seem to prefer to tell. It also strikes me that a lot of novels are fleshed out with "show AND tell": present the scene then tell the reader what is to be drawn from it. Filler, in other words, to get to that magic 300 page count. Assuming these editors and publishers know their markets, these preferences would be true of readers too.

Am I all screwed up, or just describing two different readers of books: those who watch telly, and those who don't?

Best Kerry

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