February 9th, by Oren Ashkenazi Despite passing away inKurt Vonnegut remains a giant in the American speculative fiction tradition. In addition to his many novels, Vonnegut was fond of the short story. He published multiple collections, and in his book Bagombo Snuff Boxhe wrote down eight rules for writing short stories.
In addition to his many novels, Vonnegut was fond of the short story. He published multiple collections, and in his book Bagombo Snuff Boxhe wrote down eight rules for writing short stories.
Much has been made of these rules, but how helpful are they? The First Rule Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted. What exactly does it mean for a reader to not feel their time was wasted?
The Second Rule Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for. Oh my goodness, where has this rule been all my life? I was worried after that first rule, but item 2 is making a strong comeback. Characters the audience can root for are really important in storytelling, and yet all too often they are in short supply.
They have admirable traits that automatically make us cheer for them against their enemies. Who cares which power hungry family wins? The second rule is very useful. The Third Rule Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water. The second clause is a little iffy, but the first is absolute gold.
Every character should want something.
That is to say, they should have a motivation. This is especially true in short stories, where space is limited and each character must pull more than their own weight. Ideally, authors will take this rule one step further: That can work, but it also becomes contrived fast.
It keeps the story on task and makes sure the conflict matters. The third rule is useful. The Fourth Rule Every sentence must do one of two things — reveal character or advance the action. At the same time, there are other essential functions a sentence can performlike giving critical exposition.
Though maybe that counts as revealing character or advancing the action?
Taken literally, it seems overly restrictive: There are only two kinds of sentences your story can have, and anything else is a waste.
With the low word count of a short story, every sentence has to get as much done as possible. If all a sentence does is describe some unimportant flowersit should be revised until it accomplishes more, but that interpretation is hardly obvious.
The Fifth Rule Start as close to the end as possible. A huge number of stories start too early, and then have nothing to do but kill time until the plot arrives. This can even happen to blockbuster films. Did you know that the original cut of Star Wars featured several scenes of Luke puttering around his moisture farm, doing nothing of importance?
That avoids the temptation to include all the backstory and setting description that sounds so cool in your head but will bore most readers. Similarly, some stories benefit from a longer buildup. This is particularly true of horror storieswhere a slow escalation of fear can work wonders, but it extends to other genres as well.
Just remember that it comes with a strong caveat. The Sixth Rule 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.Kurt Vonnegut.
Newspaper reporters and technical writers are trained to reveal almost nothing about themselves in their writings. The Bible opens with a sentence well within the writing skills of a lively fourteen-year-old: "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth." 4.
Have guts to cut. For really detailed advice. For a. How Useful Are Kurt Vonnegut’s Eight Rules of Writing? February 9th, by Oren Ashkenazi Despite passing away in , Kurt Vonnegut remains a giant in the American speculative fiction tradition.
Kurt Vonnegut, author of such classics as Slaughterhouse Five and Breakfast of Champions, stands today as one of the 20th century’s most important American writers.
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Kurt Vonnegut’s 8 Tips on How to Write a Great Story The year of reading more and writing better is well underway with writing advice the likes of David Ogilvy’s 10 no-bullshit tips, Henry Miller’s 11 commandments, Jack Kerouac’s 30 beliefs and techniques, John Steinbeck’s 6 pointers.
Better writing. No matter what you are working on. Grammarly's free writing app makes sure everything you type is easy to read, effective, and mistake-free. Vonnegut was managing editor of the school newspaper at Cornell and was influenced by that to write in a crisp, declarative style, much like.
Vonnegut was managing editor of the school newspaper at Cornell and was influenced by that to write in a crisp, declarative style, much like Hemingway learned to do as a news reporter in his early days.
Vonnegut never makes literary references in his writing, but as has been said here he seemed to.