Just thought I’d offer up a moment of silence for the brilliant Kurt Vonnegut who passed away today at the age of 85. If you’ve never read any of his work, you should. It’s good stuff! We should mourn the loss of such a literary treasure.
For me, Kurt Vonnegut has alway been there and he’s had a profund impact on writing. Not necessarily the tone or the texture or even the subject matter, but the clarity of vision and his mastery of words. He took science fiction and made it cut through the clutter and noise of a genre. In doing so, he created literature. A most impressive feat, wouldn’t you say?
Remembering him for his wry wit and common sense, I present the following list of his eight rules of writing a short story for your enjoyment and edification.
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.