Kurt Vonnegut: 8 Rules For Writing Fiction

March 2, 2009

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.

Even if you’re not a writer, these are good rules to simply judge a book by.

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2 Responses to “Kurt Vonnegut: 8 Rules For Writing Fiction”

  1. uninvoked Says:

    Haha. I was telling my best friend about this when going over Uninvoked one last time. I’m too nice to my characters. I have a scene where the two MCs are taking a carriage ride to the castle after one disaster (on their way to another) and nothing happens to them. They go through a checkpoint without trouble. They have a lovely conversation, and they arrive just in time for the next disaster.

    No one ever gave them permission for that. Who said they could have an entire carriage ride without trouble? It must be fixed. The carriage is going to break down.

  2. DocDelete Says:

    By God, that Kurt had it nailed. I’ve wasted so much time reading novels that fail to adhere to this simple principles – hey, but that’s me, I like to be entertained, not bamboozled 😉


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