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?

7 Reasons Why You're Experiencing Writer's Block

Have you ever heard of a surgeon saying they couldn't operate because they had medical block or an auto repair technician wait for inspiration before fixing a car? The creative field, particularly writing, seems to be the only one in which blocks can occur. Although, there are some that truly believe in this phenomenon, I'm of the mind that writer's block is caused by external factors.

Once you figure out specifically what's wrong, you can then address the issue and write again.

Here are 7 reasons why writer's block might be kicking in:

  1. Distractions. Facebook, the news, your dog, or a new book. Anything can be a distraction and supersede your writing time. Don't let it!

  2. You're Hungry/Thirsty. If I'm hungry or thirsty I can't write. Try to have a meal an hour or two before you start to write. Keep water, coffee, or the drink of your choice by your computer.

  3. Your Environment. If busy cafes are too distracting then don't write in them. Similarly, some people do better if there is a lot of background activity going on. Find out what works best. Also consider temperature, humidity, etc.

  4. You're Burned Out. This isn't the same as being blocked creatively, but rather you're exhausted. You need rest. Let your manuscript sit a while, get some sleep, and then dive back in. Sometimes, you may need to take a few days off. That's okay. It's just like a job. Vacation time is important.

  5. You're Mentally Scattered. What I'm referring to are racing thoughts. They could be because of emotional worry or need. Or, you have too many ideas for a plot. Calm down, pace yourself, and just let the words flow.

  6. Perfectionism. You are obsessed with making it sound good the first time. If it doesn't, you either rewrite what you've written or give up altogether. Stop! Instead, just write and keep what comes out. Editing comes later.

  7. Fear. What if this has already been done? What if everyone hates it? What if they hate me? These fears happen to everyone, but the goal is to fight through them and keep writing.

Can you think of any more not shown? How do you deal with writer's block?

5 Horror Writing Prompts

"So where do the ideas—the salable ideas—come from? They come from my nightmares. Not the night-time variety, as a rule, but the ones that hide just beyond the doorway that separates the conscious from the unconscious."

- Stephen King

Horror often gets a bad rap because people assume that it's only purpose is to terrify and shock readers. While that is true, that's not the primary focus. The point of horror is to allow a safe reflection of our own primal fears. We watch a slasher film, become terrified, but we also remember to lock the doors at night. It's important to keep this in mind when crafting your own terrifying tale.

Here's a few horror prompts to start with:


Your character takes a short cut through a nearby cemetery to make it home before dark. On the way they hear a voice calling for help. Upon arriving at the source of the sound, they see that a grave has been dug up part way and a coffin is nailed shut. Someone inside is crying.


After an intense battle with a strange disease, your character accepts the fact that they will die. However, it just so happens that a cure is discovered in the nick of time. What's the cure? Blood. Lots and lots of it.


A group of characters are on a ghost tour in one of the supposedly most haunted places on Earth. In truth, no one in the group actually believes in ghosts - until they start to disappear one by one.


A child psychiatrist has a particularly disturbing patient who won't stop drawing everyone around them in macabre death scenes; from drownings to suicides. While certainly bizarre, the strange hobby isn't exactly harmful - that is until the drawings suddenly play out in reality.


Your character whips out their phone, takes a selfie, and then opens the picture gallery to admire what could be their next profile pic. That's when they see it; dozens and dozens of photos they don't remember taking. Each more disturbing than the last.

Did you know that I have a book of even more horror prompts? 1,001 of them to be exact! There are a host of different categories, from serial killers to cults. They are also completely different than the five prompts above.

Available in print, ebook, and soon to be audio. Check it out here!