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Although prolific crime author and screenwriter Elmore Leonard didn’t have a direct connection to comic books, it’s clear from the number of tweets about his death today at age 87 that he influenced a number of comics writers. Of course, labeling Leonard a “crime author” undoubtedly does him a disservice, as he wasn’t restricted by genre; his earliest works were Westerns, like his 1952 short story “Three-Ten to Yuma,” which has been adapted twice for the big screen.
However, he was an undeniable master of the crime thriller — from The Big Bounce to Get Shorty to “Fire in the Hole,” which served as the basis for the television drama Justified — and of the written word, celebrated for his ear for dialogue and knack for gritty realism. It’s fitting then that making the rounds this morning is a link to a 2001 New York Times piece in which Leonard recounts 10 rules for writing that can undoubtedly benefit everyone from aspiring author to crusty veteran (in 2007, they were published as the 96-page Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules of Writing).
They don’t all apply to comics, naturally — Leonard was a prose author who had prose in mind — but some points should be taken to heart: among them, “Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly” and “Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.”
“My most important rule is one that sums up the 10,” he concluded. “If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.”
Leonard was working on his 46th novel at the time of his death.