Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Vonnegut's Creative Writing 101

From the introduction to his book of short stories, Bagombo Snuff Box:

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 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.


He then says great writers tend to break all the rules except the first one.

8 comments:

Anita said...

Wow. There's so much to really like here. So, if you were writing to please just one person, who would it be?

Paul Michael Murphy said...

I was trying to figure that out.

MG Higgins said...

All of these resonate, but 3 especially. I often fail to give every character a goal.

Anita said...

Politically correct, you're supposed to say The Wife, but I'm not sure I'd say mine was The Husband.

Tracy Edward Wymer said...

It's funny how when you read a lot you can tell which writers know the rules and break them and which ones break the rules because they're too lazy, and obtuse, to learn them.

Ray Veen said...

Great stuff. I'm copying it to my 'writing better' file.

So you know, I'm starting to read.

Paul Michael Murphy said...

Thanks for reading, Ray.

Anita said...

I think you should get rid of a couple people from your Blog List.