asker

guardian-of-the-arc asked: In the article for giving advice on writing, Elmore Leonard said, "Never use the words "suddenly" or "all hell broke loose". Do you agree that writers should not use the word "suddenly"?

I am the person who wrote:

8 The main rule of writing is that if you do it with enough assurance and confidence, you’re allowed to do whatever you like. (That may be a rule for life as well as for writing. But it’s definitely true for writing.) So write your story as it needs to be written. Write it ­honestly, and tell it as best you can. I’m not sure that there are any other rules. Not ones that matter.

Do it well enough and you’re allowed to do whatever you like. I meant it. I mean it.

Am I in favour of not using a word? Absolutely not. Suddenly is a word, and it means something, and it’s a tool in the writer’s toolshed. I don’t like any arbitrary rules that reduce the number of tools available to me. And if it’s good enough for the translators of the King James Bible, I’ll keep using it…

O daughter of my people, gird thee with sackcloth, and wallow thyself in ashes: make thee mourning, as for an only son, most bitter lamentation: for the spoiler shall suddenly come upon us. *

I don’t take Elmore Leonard’s comments as a proscription against the use of a word. What I take from that is show, don’t tell.  If you write something happening suddenly, you don’t have to say suddenly. For that matter, if you write a scene that breaks everyone’s hearts, you do not have to say “they were very sad”.

And also, Elmore Leonard’s rules aren’t my rules. For a start, I like describing weather, and I’m not going to stop just because he doesn’t like reading weather…

*Jeremiah 6:26. It’s biblical for “Spoilers, Sweetie.”

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