Image

From SNOOPY’S GUIDE TO THE WRITING LIFE

Contribution by Elmore Leonard

Snoopy has come up with an especially clever name with “Good Authority,” one that makes the story work.

I once named a character Frank Matisse, but he acted older than his age; and for some reason he wouldn’t talk as much as I wanted him to. I changed his name to Jack Delany and couldn’t shut him up.

Because I use a lot of dialogue in my stories, the characters must be able to talk in interesting ways. So I audition them in opening scenes to see which ones will have important roles in the plot. If a character doesn’t speak the way I want him to, and changing his name doesn’t work, he could be demoted to a less important role.

The best kind of character is one who starts out in a minor role – sometimes without even having a name – and talks his way into the plot. He says a few words, and I see this guy has an interesting personality and I look for more ways to use him in the story.

I write my stories in scenes and always from a particular character’s point of view. Then I may rewrite the same scene from a different character’s point of view and find that it works better. After I finish a book, I continue to think about my characters and wonder what they’re up to.

The most important advice I would suggest to beginning writers: Try to leave out the parts that readers skip.

ELMORE LEONARD is the bestselling author of nearly forty books, including Get Shorty, La Brava, Cuba Libre, and Stick, many of which have been made into films.

SNOOPY’S GUIDE TO THE WRITING LIFE is available at Amazon.com(The books is out of print, but used copies are available for around $7.50 plus shipping.)

Illustration: Peanuts comic strip by Charles Schultz