Sunday, April 15, 2007

Kurt Vonnegut's Rules for Writing Fiction

I'd seen these before, but since his death, the list has been all over the internet. Here it is, so I can find it again, easily.

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.
-- Kurt Vonnegut
I normally don't like "rules" of writing, but taken as suggestions, these make a lot of sense.


  1. Louise Simonson5/13/2007 1:21 PM

    Shelly--Never ran across this list before but LOVE it. And it makes me feel smart since I already write by some of these "rules" myself. ;D Thanks!

  2. You're welcome, Louise. His "rules" are among the best I've seen.