22 Lúnasa 2013

rialacha Leonard agus scéalta Sean-Ghaeilge

Fuair an t-úrscéalaí Elmore Leonard (Get Shorty, Pagan Babies, The Hot Kid, etc.) bás Dé Máirt. D'fhoilsigh sé a chuid rialacha scríbhneoireachta sa bhliain 2007. Phléigh mé iad i dteachtaireacht a chuir mé chuig Old-Irish-L cúpla bliain ó shin. 

1. Never open a book with weather.

The only instance of weather at the beginning of a story I can think of is largely an editorial artifact.  One story in Strachan's _Stories from the Táin_ begins "Féotar íarum i Cúil Sibrille.  Ferais snechtae mór forru co fernu fer 7 co drochu carpat."  (Then they spent the night in S.C. It snowed on them heavily, up to men's waists and the wheels of chariots.)  In the first place, this episode is part of the ongoing narrative in the Táin.  It's not set off in the MS as the beginning of a distinct chapter. Secondly, the snow is presented as a simple fact that explains why they got a slow start the following morning, not a long riff on the color of the sky, the shape of the clouds, the feel of the wind, and so on.

2. Avoid prologues.

Any real prologues in the tales?

3. Never use a verb other than “said” to carry dialogue.

No problem there.  Dialogue is almost always reported with the neutral and nearly invisble little word "ol", not with OI equivalents of "whimpered, shrieked, whispered, insisted, etc."

4. Never use an adverb to modify the verb “said” . . .

Check.  "Ol" is never modified.  Adverbs are not a common feature of OI.

5. Keep your exclamation points under control.

Exclamation points?  What?

6. Never use the words “suddenly” or “all hell broke loose.”

Hmmm.  I can't think of any instances of "suddenly" -- an adverb -- in the tales.  It's not that events don't happen suddenly in the tales, but the reader can see that without the adverb.

7. Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly.

OI is generally, and probably accurately, described as free of dialect.

8. Avoid detailed descriptions of characters.

Here, OI fails spectacularly.  We've all read the endless, static descriptions of warriors: their hair color and style, their clothing, armour, weapons, etc. etc.  On the other hand, aside from these formulaic set pieces, which it is easy to skip over, we don't hear much about the look of major characters such as Fergus, Conchobar, Cathbad as the action is unrolling.  We simply form of picture of them from their words and deeds.

9. Don’t go into great detail describing places and things.

Again, the tales tend toward formulas and hyperbole in descriptions of places/things such as hostels, chariots, chess boards.  Once they get that out of the way they don't burden the narrative with constant description ("the gentle green slope leading up to the entrance to the fortress"). The reader can fill in the picture for herself.

10. Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.

That would be above all the description of the sleeping compartments and their occupants in "The Destruction of Da Derga's Hostel"!  In the book _Scéalaíocht Ár Sinsear_ Kim McCone and Pádraig Ó Fiannachta give Modern Irish translations of nine tales including "Toghail Bruíne DaDerga".  In their translation they simply leave out most of that tedious block of paragraphs, noting "Leanann tuairisc fhada ar iomdhaí agus na laochra iontu...."

What we have in OI narrative is lots of action and dialogue and very little authorial intervention / interpretation. Elmore Leonard would be pleased.


  1. Mír thráthúil uait! Is cosúil go mbíonn suim ag mórán blagadóirí i rialacha na scríbhneoireachta mar is é a dhála sin agamsa é.

    Caithfidh mé a admháil, áfach, nach bhfuil faic leis an bhfear céanna léíte agam. Cé hiad na leabhair leis ba mhó a mholfása?

  2. Níor scríobh sé drochurscéal riamh. Thosaigh sé le westerns tamall maith ó shin (rud a thaitníonn leis na Gearmánaigh, mura bhfuil dul amú orm). Ansin chuaigh sé le húrscéalta “bleachtaireachta”, cé nach bhfuil mé cinnte gurb é sin an focal ceart. Tá a lán acu stand-alone, ach tá Chili Palmer sa dá cheann seo, atá ar fheabhas:

    Get Shorty

    Stay Cool

  3. An-suimiúil go deo.

    Aontaím go hiomlán leis maidir le húsáid an focal 'suddenly'. Is cuimhin liom go raibh an focal sin le feiceáil go mion minic in 'The Da Vinci Code'. Bealach leisciúil ag an scríbhneoir cuma a chur ar an scéal go raibh fuinneamh ann, nuair a bhí an t-aicsean féin leamh leadránach intuartha.