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What makes Elmore Leonard`s work so easily adaptable? : Conversation question • Writing Forum | WritersDigest.com

What makes Elmore Leonard`s work so easily adaptable?

Every month in Writer's Digest's InkWell section, we pose a question related to the writing life. Tell us your thoughts.
Shaun01
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What makes Elmore Leonard`s work so easily adaptable?

Postby Shaun01 » Sat Mar 29, 2014 5:21 am

It is no secret that Elmore Leonard saw many of his works turned into films: 3:10 to Yuma, Jackie Brown, Get Shorty, Be Cool, Justified etc.
I am writing a research paper on his work and why it is favored for film, regardless whether the adaptations where successful or not. My current focus is on dialogue, for which Leonard was praised quite often, and his cinematic writing style. Any thoughts and theories on these two elements would be very much appreciated.

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Re: What makes Elmore Leonard`s work so easily adaptable?

Postby tom9 » Sat Mar 29, 2014 8:23 am

One thing to note about Elmore Leonard: He wrote his work himself.

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Re: What makes Elmore Leonard`s work so easily adaptable?

Postby James A. Ritchie » Sat Mar 29, 2014 10:24 am

The same thing that makes any other writer's work highly adaptable, which is good dialogue, good story, and good characters, but a movie needs a lot more than this. It also needs a very good director, good casting, good cinematography, good screenwriting, etc. Quite honestly, cinematic writing style has little to nothing to do with it. This is what makes the book good, not the movie.

Great dialogue, however, is almost always a key part of any movie. There are dialogue writers in Hollywood who make millions doing nothing except rewriting the dialogue in screenplays others have written.

The key to Leonard's books into movies is, I think, exceptional dialogue and fascinating characters. His characters are always original, offbeat, outside of the mainstream. His books have been turned into movies for a lot of years, and one of my favorites has always been Hombre, with Paul Newman and Richard Boone. I was only fourteen or fifteen when it came out, but I still remember the tagline for the movie trailer. "Hombre means man. Paul Newman is Hombre." This is a great one to compare novel and movie.

Of course, it doesn't matter how great the novel is, the director, casting, and a number of other things completely outside the writer's control, can make it or break it. Leonard was always very fortunate in these areas.

And, of course, as they say, the number one thing that makes any novel highly adaptable to film is how many copies the novel sold. The more who read the book, the more money will be put into the movie, the better the director you'll get, and the bigger name actors who are willing to star in it. A bit cynical, but there's a lot of truth in it.

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Re: What makes Elmore Leonard`s work so easily adaptable?

Postby mammamaia » Sat Mar 29, 2014 11:35 am

aside from the writing style and dialogue, his characters and settings alone were prime film fodder...
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Re: What makes Elmore Leonard`s work so easily adaptable?

Postby MookyMcD » Sat Mar 29, 2014 12:36 pm

Pretty much everything in his stories occurs "onstage." There isn't much in the way of internal monologue or subjective thought. He describes people doing things and saying things. That's pretty easy to put on film (tell the actors "do this, then say this.").

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Re: What makes Elmore Leonard`s work so easily adaptable?

Postby Shaun01 » Sun Mar 30, 2014 5:46 am


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mammamaia
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Re: What makes Elmore Leonard`s work so easily adaptable?

Postby mammamaia » Sun Mar 30, 2014 11:48 am

if you really want to be impressed with how much grist leonard provided to the film industry's mill, take a look at this list:

http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0001465/?ref_=nv_sr_1#writer
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Re: What makes Elmore Leonard`s work so easily adaptable?

Postby James A. Ritchie » Sun Mar 30, 2014 2:04 pm



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