Why I’m an orphan for the second time in my life

When it comes to my personal life, I may be very protective of some aspects, but I never forget to talk about my father, who passed away when I was 11 at the tender age of 34. You don’t have to be a shrink or Einstein to understand how it can impact someone’s life. It certainly did have a huge impact on me.
Growing up, I wasn’t really a bookworm. I was more interested in movies and VHS tapes (Yes, rewinding tapes before giving them back to the video club, something the youngest ones  will never understand). My brother and I were squatting the local Video Club as often as possible. And we rented so many movies. Big budgets, B-Movies, horror, Kung-Fu, Sci-Fi, comedies, spaghetti western… We saw them all!

Then, came Quentin Tarantino.
Every time I read an interview of him, I felt like he was the big brother I never had. He influenced me a lot as a writer and we share a lot of common influences, those movies we both saw when we were younger.

When Get Shorty came out, I went to see it because I loved the basic idea (some mafiosi making movies in Hollywood) and was always curious to see what the director, Barry Sonnenfeld, could come up with.

Anyway, this was my first contact with Elmore Leonard’s work. Then I realized my hero, Tarantino, had been a huge fan of Leonard. So I started to dig. And I discovered a treasure.

Characters bigger than life. Incredible stories full of loveable idiots. Tales about the small things, the big things. Tales about cops, robbers, mafia, soldiers, farmers, …
I became a fan. A huge fan.

Among my all time favorites are: Out of Sight, The Switch, Rum Punch, Get Shorty (of course) and Mr Majestyk.

I read or saw a lot of Leonard’s work. As I’m writing One Hit Wonder/Hollywood Killer now, I realize with every page how much I owe to Elmore Leonard.

He left this world on August 20th.

That’s when I became an orphan for the second time.
But he left something of great value to me. His body of work, of course.
And the 10 rules of writing:

1. Never open a book with weather.
2. Avoid prologues.
3. Never use a verb other than “said” to carry dialogue.
4. Never use an adverb to modify the verb “said”…he admonished gravely.
5. Keep your exclamation points under control. You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose. 
6. Never use the words “suddenly” or “all hell broke loose.”
7. Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly.
8. Avoid detailed descriptions of characters.
9. Don’t go into great detail describing places and things.
10. Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.

My most important rule is one that sums up the 10.

If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.” 

– Elmore Leonard.

Long Live Elmore Leonard! 🙂

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