Quotes On Writing From Elmore Leonard

5 QUOTES ON WRITING FROM ELMORE LEONARD
Categories: Brian Klems’ The Writer’s Dig.
August 20, 2013

We’re saddened to hear about the passing of literary legend Elmore Leonard (I absolutely loved his book Get Shorty when I read it in high school). He was a great writer and will be remembered through his wonderful work for years and years to come. In honor of Leonard’s passing, we’ve pulled five memorable quotes on writing from our Writer’s Digest interviews archive, as we were fortunate to get to speak with him several times over the years. Here they are.

“… The writer has to have patience, the perseverance to just sit there alone and grind It out. And if it’s not worth doing that, then he doesn’t want to write. …” (1982)

“A writer has to read. Read all the time. Decide who you like then study that author’s style. Take the author’s book or story and break it down to see how he put it together.” (1982)

“The main thing I set out to do is tell the point of view of the antagonist as much as the good guy. And that’s the big difference between the way I write and the way most mysteries are written.” (1982)

“It is the most satisfying thing I can think of, to write a scene and have it come out the way I want. Or be surprised and have it come out even better than I thought.” (1997)

“Write the book the way it should be written, then give it to somebody to put in the commas and shit.” (my favorite) (1997)

* Special thanks to Writer’s Digest intern Priyanka Mehta for scouring the archives to find these gems.

“Black Moment”

by
Donald L. Vasicek

Award-Winning Writer/Filmmaker Donald L. Vasicek/Turkey Creek Canyon in Colorado

The black moment in fiction writing is the moment in the short story, the novel, or the screenplay where the main character is challenged to overcome what has been his/her
Problem throughout the story. He/she either confronts it and beats it, or it defeats him/her.

How does your main character defeat and overcome this fear? Just before the villain (in fiction, a villain represents pure evil with no redeeming characteristics) or the antagonist (represents the opposition to the main character’s goal – can be a person, persons, or any of a million or more inanimate things, objects, or places) is about to defeat your main character, your main character should experience an epiphany. An epiphany is the sudden realization of something your main character has been trying to see throughout the story. This discovery will either push your main character over the top and your main character wins, or it causes your main character to withdraw into defeat.

In your story, you should have your main character striving to accomplish a goal. This goal should be set at about page 10 in the screenplay, and early on in a short story or novel, where you establish the goal of the main character. I call it the dramatic premise. The dramatic premise of the story sets in place what the main character will set out to achieve in the story.

In “To Kill a Mockingbird”, Harper Lee’s scintillating novel, the main character, Scout Finch, is challenged to learn about poking fun at a mentally-challenged neighbor. Her father, Atticus Finch, played by Gregory Peck in the movie, sets out to defend an African American man from being convicted of rape in a Southern and deeply racist community. Friends and Scout make fun of their mentally-challenged neighbor named Arthur (Boo) Radley even though Atticus tries to teach Scout how to be sympathetic regarding prejudice.

In the highly-charged story, Boo ends up saving Scout and her friends from the rape victim and her father, who are out for revenge, whom Atticus proved were lying during the trial. Even though Scout has a black cook, and she and her friends sit in the “colored balcony” at the trial, it isn’t until the rape victim’s father attacks Scout and her friend (the black moment in the story) and Boo saves them, that Scout realizes what life must be like for Boo.

She experiences an epiphany because of the attack. And she wins because she acquires the realization that that Boo is a human being and that hatred and prejudice should not sully her faith in human goodness.

Scout’s goal throughout the story is to learn and grow with respect to prejudice. And she accomplishes it through the black moment when she and her friend are attacked and Boo saves them. She experiences an epiphany at this point in time that causes her to learn and grow and to overcome the ignorance that held her back from becoming objective about the human condition.

Donald L. Vasicek
The Zen of Writing
http://www.donvasicek.com
dvasicek@earthlink.net

How to Write Compelling Fiction

To write compelling fiction, the writer must think in terms of a beginning, a middle, and an end with a defining theme. A main character (protagonist) with a goal must drive the story/plot. Each other character should be a subplot which crisscrosses the plot. They must reflect the theme, and in some way, interact with the main character. The character who opposes the main character can be a antagonist or a villain (represents pure evil with no redeeming characteristics). This character must be seeking the same goal as the main character, but for a different outcome. The stronger the antagonist or villain is, the more powerful the main character becomes and the more compelling the story becomes. In the interaction between the main character and the antagonist, the main character must show a transformation arc, which terminates at the end of the story where he/she has an epiphany that completes their transformation.

Booth Western Arts Culture Museum Appearance