Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Kurt Vonnegut: Eight Rules for Fiction Writing

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. Now 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 heck 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.


Anonymous said...

You read so many writers-on-writing books you forget the really good advice.

Susan Woodring said...

I love this--thank you for posting it!

The Recalcitrant Scrivener said...

This is actually pretty good advice, considering that similar lists are overwhelmingly simplistic, and border on the moronic. But remember, advice is just advice, not a set of rules.

See The Recalcitrant Scrivener: Essays on Book Publishing in the Age of the Web for more, available on Amazon Kindle.

Corey Redekop said...

I live for #6. Best. Advice. Ever.

pooblisht awther said...

Nice to see a list that leaves off the empty "show, don't tell" platitude. Or is it "tell, don't show?" I never figured that one out.

Extremely Average said...

That was a great list. I am going to save this and every time I feel like my writing is getting lost, give it a look.


Charmaine Clancy said...

Great list!

Love from Kaz said...

I have just started playing with an idea for a new novel. I am going to print this list out and stick it above my writing desk, to keep me on track.


Liv225 said...

Glad you posted this! Love Vonnegut's work since I've read Cat's Cradle. This list is really great help! :)

Peggy Bechko said...

What a great list. Kurt hits it spot on. There's meat to this list instead of empty rhetoric.

Lou Briggs said...

He also said that Flannery O'Connor broke every single one of those rules, except the first one.

Vonnegut - what a God.