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. -- Kurt Vonnegut
Friday, April 13, 2007
Vonnegut's Eight Rules of Writing Fiction
Acclaimed author Kurt Vonnegut died this week, and is being much remembered and appreciated by numerous people at numerous blogs. [Check out James Moran's tribute to the great man for a good example.] I always think it's a shame we often wait until after somebody dies to express our appreciaton for them, but I guess that's human nature - you only miss something when it's gone. Over at Jane Espenson's excellent screenwriting blog, she's quoted an extract from Vonnegut's Bagombo Snuff Box: Uncollected Short Fiction (New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons 1999). In it the author outlined eight rules for writing fiction. Frankly, they're good guidelines for almost any kind of storytelling, although I might quibble with number 8.