"There is more treasure in books than in all the pirate's loot on Treasure Island." - Walt Disney

Friday, June 24, 2016

The Write Support and Vonnegut's 8 Rules

I'm preparing to lead a writer's workshop tomorrow called "The Write Support." The purpose is for writers to come together for a full day of support. We'll have time for lessons, critiques, reviews, editing, selling/buying each others work, marketing, and more.

For some reason, Kurt Vonnegut's "8 Rules for Creative Writing" are rolling around in my mind. Maybe I saw his name recently, or overheard someone else mention them? Either way, I thought I would share them here in case you have never read them before.

Kurt Vonnegut: 8 Basics of Creative Writing
Kurt Vonnegut created some of the most outrageously memorable novels of our time, such as Cat's CradleBreakfast Of Champions, and Slaughterhouse Five. His work is a mesh of contradictions: both science fiction and literary, dark and funny, classic and counter-culture, warm-blooded and very cool. And it's all completely unique.
With his customary wisdom and wit, Vonnegut put forth 8 basics of what he calls Creative Writing 101:
  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.
The greatest American short story writer of my generation was Flannery O'Connor (1925-1964). She broke practically every one of my rules but the first. Great writers tend to do that.
From the preface to Vonnegut's short story collection Bagombo Snuff Box.
Which one do you feel is the most significant? I'm partial to #5. Do you agree with these? How do you feel they compare to Elmore Leonard's rules?


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I like the one about starting near the end. I remember reading somewhere that one should write a killer beginning, a killer ending, and then make sure they are as close together as possible.

Elizabeth Varadan, Author said...

I like a#4, but #5 kinda intrigues me.

Susan Kane said...

I agree with you, #5. I've had some trouble reading Vonnegut's books. One I like, the other I throw across the room.