Kurt Vonnegut’s 8 Rules of Writing

All as pertinent today as when he wrote them. Plus a couple of my own thoughts on each. Let me know yours!

1. Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.

I take this to mean give them a satisfying story. so e.g. no ending with “and then he woke up as it was all a dream.”

2. Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.

Did @LordGrimdark (Joe Abercrombie in e.g. The Blade Itself) break this rule? I don’t think so. We still root for them even if we know they’re bad, but we do have to connect with the character

3. “Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.”

And one might add even if what they want is not what’s good for them or what will really help

4. Every sentence must do one of two things—reveal character or advance the action.

And in his lectures, @BrandSanderson added “or worldbuilding. And preferably all 3”

5. Start as close to the end as possible.

I think true of novels, but even truer of short stories. And perhaps the reason so many people seem to dislike prologues (though I myself like them). Start where it starts.

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.

@GRRMspeaking took this to heart. Occasionally, though, I think we should also let them win.

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.

Drafting that person is you. If you please others when editing, never lose what you liked about it

8. Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To hell 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.

This is the only one I am unsure of. I believe in twists and suspense. They must make sense once revealed but I don’t think they should be predictable. Do you agree with all of his rules? Or any other tweeks you would like to add?

Let me know!

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