kurt vonnegut

Vonnegut's 8 Basics of Fiction Writing

While Kurt Vonnegut was primarily known for Slaughterhouse Five, he also created a host of other, equally memorable and powerful works. Sometimes extremely dark, while other times outrageously funny his pieces always delved into the human condition.

From his short collection, Bagombo Snuff Box, here are 8 basics for fiction 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.

I especially love #3 and #4. Each moment in your story must be purposeful and with cause. It took me such a long time to work on feeding readers information in an organic way rather than taking them by the hand. It's something I still have to check myself on.

Which of these fiction basics stood out to you the most? Were there any you disagree with?