Kurt Vonnegut’s Tips for Writing Fiction

November 13, 2010 § Leave a comment

Preparing for a presentation?  Looking to be the next great American novelist?  Or simply writing for self fulfillment.  Either way, Kurt Vonnegut has a few tips for your characters, your sentences, and how you treat your readers. It’s and oldie but goodie, shared by reader Zan.

In his book Bagombo Snuff Box: Uncollected Short Fiction, Vonnegut listed eight rules for writing a short story:

1.  Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.

2.  Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.

3.  Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.

4.  Every sentence must do one of two things-reveal character or advance the action.

5.  Start as close to the end as possible.

6.  Be a Sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them-in order that the reader may see what they are made of.

7.  Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.

8.  Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To hell with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.

Vonnegut qualifies the list by adding that Flannery O’Connor broke all these rules except the first, and that great writers tend to do that.

via Kurt Vonnegut’s Tips for Writing Fiction.

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