Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Writing Advice from George Pelecanos

It's commonplace for an established writer to publish a book or an article about writing. But sometimes a writer will insert such advice into a story for the unsuspecting reader to discover. When I come across such gems, I feel as if the writer is reaching out directly to me. In an earlier post, I mentioned some advice from Michael Connelly in Echo Park. Now comes words of wisdom from George Pelecanos.

If George Pelecanos gives advice on writing, I'm on it. I'll take every word and tattoo it into my brain. Pelecanos doesn't need to say a lot about writing, because his advice, like his stories, gets right to the essence, like a stiletto into the heart. Here is a gem from Shame the Devil (2000). The advice is given by a surprising source, a cold-blooded killer, Frank Farrow, who, only 35 pages earlier, had executed four men, killed a cop and run over a five year-old boy.

"He had enjoyed the man's book but felt in the end that the writer had been holding back, had not gone far enough into that black rotted place that surely would have existed in his lead character's mind.

In the end, the writer had been afraid. In general, thought Farrow, that was the flaw in most people, a timidity that separated them from those who were strong. They used their idea of Goodness and Love as an excuse for living a life of weakness. People were afraid to go to that black place and use it when the time came, or even admit that it was there."

Shame the Devil, George Pelecanos, Dell, 2000., page 61.

That brief passage tells a lot about the character, Farrow, but it also tells a lot about Pelecanos and his writing. He is not afraid to go to that dark place that exists in every person. It sets his stories apart with strong characters and difficult topics.

So what about you? Have you stumbled across gems of advice you'd like to share?


Michele Emrath said...

Ooooh! I know I have but I will have to mark them down from now on. Can you post a link to the Echo Park one you mentioned? I love Michael Connelly, but I don't want to flip through every page to find it. : P


Mark Troy said...

Thanks for asking, Michele. I put the link in the post above. Should have done it from the start.