Tuesday, February 23, 2010

More on Writing Advice, Rules, Etc.

I don't think anyone thinks there are actual writing "rules" that, if followed, can lead to "success." But maybe some people do. I don't know.

"Rules" are made to be "broken," of course.

One of Elmore Leonard's "rules" is to never use a verb other than "said" for dialogue.

Does anyone adhere to that? Not even an "answered" or "continued" or (gasp) "insisted"? I don't think so. The "rule" here is a reminder to not get carried away with language attributed to speech and the way people talk.

"I didn't know you liked Cher," she purred.

Does anyone's voice ever sound like purring? You get the idea...

I've been reading a few more posts and articles about writing advice and rules, as well as various comments. Proclaiming "rules" can really get people riled up.

I also came across this tidbit from Richard Ford: "Don't have children." Which reminds me of John Malkovich in Woody Allen's Shadows and Fog: "Family is the death of the artist."

More on the Ford quote from The New Yorker's book blog:

"I delight in Richard Ford's terrifically sourpuss 'Don't have children,' because I've read his books and this rule strikes me as being so Richard Ford. He is met by Helen Dunmore's 'If you fear that taking care of your children and household will damage your writing, think of JG Ballard,' which strikes me as being so Helen Dunmore."

I don't know much about JG Ballard (or Helen Dunmore), but I guess he had kids and still managed to write and have a career.

I'll end with this quote from Francis Ford Coppola:

"My advice to aspiring filmmakers is to get married and have a family. It's motivation and inspiration."

Wait, I'll end with this about Richard Ford: I met him at Squaw Valley a few years ago. He has a great voice. He rides motorcycles. One afternoon we watched people bungie jumping. "Those people are crazy," he said.


Jason Jordan said...

I agree with your thoughts about dialogue. "Said" is nice because it's nearly invisible, because it gets the job done without drawing unnecessary attention to itself. Occasionally I use "ask" or "continue," but not much. And yes, I think many writers' families have influenced and inspired their work

Andrew Roe said...

Hey Jason. Thanks for commenting. Yeah, I used to spend way too much time trying to come up with clever ways to say "said" or "walked" or "looked." I think I'm over it.