Saturday, September 10, 2016

Vonnegut's Basics


The 8 basics below were taken from the preface to Vonnegut's short story collection, Bagombo Snuff Box.

Kurt Vonnegut (1922 - 2007) wrote a number of memorable novels, such as Cat's Cradle, God Bless You Mr. Rosewater, Breakfast Of Champions, Sirens of Titan and Slaughterhouse Five, among others, often focusing on the matter of chance in a person's life. Vonnegut plays with happenstance both dark and funny in classic and counter-culture scenarios with prose that is clear and concise.

With customary wit, Vonnegut gives the 8 basics of Creative Writing:

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.

Vonnegut also maintained that "The greatest American short story writer of my generation was Flannery O'Connor (1925-1964). She broke practically every one of my rules but the first. Great writers tend to do that."

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