Thursday, 20 August 2009

Vonnegut Advice: Short Stories

I haven’t posted for a while, for a variety of reasons too dull to recount. But I happened across this advice from the late, great Kurt Vonnegut on the rules for writing short stories. According to Kurt, the way to write a good short story is to stick to the following eight points:

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.

7. Write to please just one person.

8. Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible.

‘To hell with suspense,’ he says. Not sure I agree with that last one. Listen to what he says and decide for yourself.


Eryl Shields said...

Thanks for this, Paul; it's the kind of thing (except, perhaps, the last!) you do by feel but it helps to have someone, especially someone like Vonnegut, spell it out.

Paul said...

You're right, Eryl, except I'd add that short story writing is often like feeling your way in the dark. Expert advice from authors like Vonnegut is helpful in shining a little light - but the beam of light is narrow, and it's coming from THEIR direction!