Contented Reader

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Writing advice from Kurt Vonnegut

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Novels & Stories 1950 – 1962

Kurt Vonnegut

Library of America

I’ve been rereading these books since college, which I suppose makes me a typical American.  It’s good that the Library of America has brought out two nice-quality hardcover collections, both of which I own.  Both of which, incidentally, were gifts to me from people I care about.  This one came from my very close friend.  The other one, the one that includes Cat’s Cradle and Slaughterhouse-Five, was a gift from my girlfriend.  Aren’t I a lucky woman?

Here’s a section from the appendix of this collection, Vonnegut’s advice to writers.

Now lend me your ears.  Here is Creative Writing 101:

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 a complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.

Written by Contented Reader

July 24, 2012 at 7:16 am

Posted in Quotations