“When people ask me about my dialogue, I say, 'Don't you hear people talking?' That's all I do. I hear a certain type of individual, I decide this is what he should be, whatever it is, and then I hear him. Well, I don't hear anybody that I can't make talk.” – Elmore Leonard
Whenever I’m seeking inspiration on “How” to write, I like to turn to Leonard, who was, indeed, a master at the process, especially in the way he had his characters converse.
Novelist, short story writer, and screenwriter, Leonard started down the writing path in the 1950s as the author of such iconic Westerns as 3:10 to Yuma. But he really hit his stride and style with Crime and Suspense Thrillers like Get Shorty and Out of Sight, and many others that had double success – first in written form and then as adaptations for the screen. A remarkable 17 of his novels became either movies or television series (one of my favorites which, unfortunately, ended this year was the gritty “Justified).”
Many producers who took Leonard’s work to the movies said his dialogue was so good that they didn’t have to change a word – just write the background scene to fit around it. Shortly before his death in 2013, Leonard was asked the secret to writing good dialogue. “I think the best advice I give is to try not to overwrite; try not to make it sound too good,” he said. “Just use your own voice. Use your own style of putting it down.”
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