Friday, January 23, 2009

Take that, Elmore Leonard.

In his "book" (if can call a hardback with one sentence per page a book) "10 Rules of Writing," Elmore Leonard states emphatically:

Never use any word other than "said" to attribute dialogue.

Although I'm sure he would quibble with my use of the word "emphatically." Because it's an adverb.

Anyway, my son brings home this flyer from school recently that flies in the face of the great Mr. Leonard's advice. So who's right? The multi-million selling book author with 50 years of writing under his belt, or my son's fourth grade teacher?

Personally, I like a good dialogue attributer now and then. But then, maybe that's why I'm not published.

Round one to you, Mr. Leonard.


Josh Gibbs said...

I was just talking to someone the other day about how poets and writers used to have a lot of pull with the education system. Frost spoke at universities in front of the masses. He lunched and taught right along side professors. Twain consorted with philosophy professors at Harvard.

Now, you have a disconnect. I can see where your son's teacher is going with this - teach them to have a more extensive vocabulary. But the problem is that it reinforces against best practices from our accomplished authors, such as Leonard.

Bill Cokas said...

Personally, I think those kinds of words are helpful, despite the current prevailing wisdom. The thought behind Elmore Leonard's advice is "if the dialogue doesn't convey how it is spoken without the help of a modifier, then it isn't written descriptively enough." In other words, those words are crutches. Bottom line: those words may not land you an agent or a book contract, but for the vast majority of people who aren't angling for that, it makes for more interesting writing.

Josh Gibbs said...

Interesting way to look at it. I guess I am always trying to make the money. And maybe that is why contemporary writers have less pull now. They are looking for a profit. It just took time for the education system to view it that way.