14 April 2007

Vonnegut's Rules for Short Stories

Here's some lovely advice on writing short stories, from Kurt Vonnegut's collection "Bagombo Snuff Box", though I got mine here:

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.

Vaya con Dios, Mr. Vonnegut. You will be missed.


thethinker said...

I love his short story "Harrison Bergeron". Those are some great rules that I should definitely start putting to use.

myrtle beached whale said...

Kurt was a huge loss. He was one of my favorite authors of all time. His intelligent humor is unequalled. I just reread a couple of his books and it took me back to my early adulthood, when I first read them.