I pretty much only watch TV shows on DVD, which puts me about a year behind popular culture. I am really into season one of Justified right now -- watching the credits for the first episode, I realized why it appealed to me so much. The show is based on a short story called “Fire in the Hole” by Elmore Leonard. (You can find it in When The Women Come Out To Dance: Stories.) Elmore Leonard is well known for his special blend of humor and noir, but I think that I most enjoy his ability to create eccentric characters with unique voices.
My dad has always been really into Elmore Leonard, so I used to pick up his books around the house when I didn’t have anything else to read. He’s a prolific author, so there’s plenty to check out. Take a look at his ten rules for writing fiction, including this zinger, which is at the heart of his snappy dialogue:
4) Never use an adverb to modify the verb "said" ... he admonished gravely. To use an adverb this way (or almost any way) is a mortal sin. The writer is now exposing himself in earnest, using a word that distracts and can interrupt the rhythm of the exchange. I have a character in one of my books tell how she used to write historical romances “full of rape and adverbs”.
If you’re already a fan of Elmore Leonard, you’ll probably like these other authors of darkly comic capers with eccentric characters:
- Carl Hiaasen
- Donald Westlake, specifically the John Dortmunder series
- George V. Higgins
- Joe Gores
- Timothy Watts
- Robert Ferrigno
Nicole Pasini has worked on library programs and collections for teens, children, and adults, and she is perpetually one to one and a half years behind in all her TV watching.