Column by Ryan Peverly
I remember the first time I came across the name Elmore Leonard.
It wasn’t on the cover of one of his forty-five novels, nor was it in the credits of one of the umpteen feature films that have been adapted from his work. It was on some shoddy internet forum I frequented as a teenager.
People shared short stories with each other on this forum. Some fiction, some creative nonfiction, all just really, really shitty. These stories had exclamation points in every paragraph. These stories had words like “exclaimed” and “opined” as tags for dialogue, and adverbs like “loudly” and “proudly” modifying those tags.
Somewhere in this gigantic clusterfuck of shameful writing, someone whose snarky username has long been forgotten commented on one of these stories. The reply, the verbatim also long forgotten, said something about Elmore Leonard thinking that exclamation points were shit, anything other than “said” as a dialogue tag was shit, adverbs to modify those tags were shit, and that if he were there, on the forum, Elmore Leonard would tell the author to go fuck himself or herself.
I don’t know if Elmore Leonard would have said that. I like to think he would have, but he seemed like a kind, encouraging, stand-up dude. He really did hate exclamation points and anything other than “said” as a dialogue tag and any adverbs modifying those tags, though. That part was damn true, and that’s great advice for any writer out there.
Another piece of great advice for any writer out there: READ ELMORE LEONARD. He’s one of the greatest novelists of not only our time, but all time.
Here’s 10 books from the late, great author they called “Dutch” to get you started.
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