22 March 2024

Getting Ideas From Characters

Elmore Leonard has been the subject of many fine posts here at SleuthSayers. Just search through the blog for posts by David Edgerley Gates, Dixon Hill, Fran Rizer, Brian Thornton and many others who quoted Elmore or touched on his work.

Found this on YouTube – Elmore Leonard: The Story Writing Process and want everyone who hadn't seen it to see it. I found it fascinating how he'd get the beginning of an idea about a character and develop a story, bring in other characters, seeing who was good and who was bad and that became the plot. He explains how he would take a individual and see what happens to him, what he can get into and what he'll do about it.

Something's gotta happen in the opening scene, he explains. And he went on from there.

He'd follow the main character, adding subplots as the character went along until it was time to shut it down. He said it was the best way to end some of his books, ending it abruptly because the story's over.

The examples he mentions are from of his novels, two of my favorite Elmore Leonard books.

The former secret service agent turned photographer is LaBRAVA

The high diver is from TISHOMINGO BLUES.

Two Elmore Leonard quotes come to mind:

“Characters are much more important to me in my book than plot.

When I write a book I'm the only person I have to please.”

Link to YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ub_09NgFjrA&t=14s

That's all for now,



  1. Interesting post, O'Neil. Sorry I'm late to the party.

    I've always loved Leonard's crime novels and stories, and I've read most of them. I agree with you on LaBrava!

    I also liked his Westerns.

  2. This is O'Neil. John, I love his westerns. As I've said before, "The Tonto Woman" is one of my all time favorite short stories.

  3. O'Neil, nice article. I think I have all of Elmore's novels and most of his short story collections. He does write strong characters.


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