Masterly Advice


For everyone who plans to write good fiction (or who already does but hasn’t quite figured out why it’s good), here’s some sage advice from a truly wise person:

Kurt Vonnegut

Eight rules for writing fiction:

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. Now 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, Kurt Vonnegut, Bagombo Snuff Box: Uncollected Short Fiction (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons 1999), 9-10.

I’ve been struggling to get back into the fiction-writing vibe, having spent several years living with a professional writer who finally moved out to get married, leaving me with meditation, blogging and the overall spiritual pursuit. I can feel the call of creativity returning, however, and this is the sort of information that inspires me to dive back in.

I hope it does something similar for you.


4 thoughts on “Masterly Advice

  1. Gregor says:

    Mr. Vonnegut, the man.

    One of my favorite authors. I had to good fortune to see him give a speech in a very small / intimate setting. One of the highlights of my life.

    Great tips on fiction writing.



  2. ian says:

    Just thank you as well!
    Vonnegurt has been one of my heroes for a long while, i love how he can so easily slide between the surreal, interesting and funny, to the heart wrenching in a paragraph!

  3. Fixer says:

    Thanks Mr. H. Hopefully it’ll kick me in the ass to finish the one I started 2 years ago.

  4. adreampuppet says:

    Gregor, Ian and Fixer — Sorry to have been absent while you all were offering comments — and thanks for those. Good to see you all.

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