Kurt Vonnegut: Creative Writing

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Kurt Vonnegut is one of the most beloved fiction writers of all time. His darkly comic novels became classics of the counterculture, making him a literary idol to students in the 1960s and ’70s, said the New York Times upon his death in April 2007. His amazingly creative books, part sci-fi, part gallows humor, part social commentary, also were loved by mainstream readers. With his customary wisdom and wit, Vonnegut put forth eight 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. Slaughterhouse-FiveEvery 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.