elle em en oh pea (ellecc) wrote,
elle em en oh pea
ellecc

Vonnegut's Eight Rules for Fiction Writing

I wish all writers were not only familiar with these rules, but followed them, because they're wonderful. Hell, I wish that even I could follow them.

From Vonnegut's Bagombo Snuff Box: Uncollected Short Fiction...
  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 hell 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.

To me, number four is the most important of all of these. It's not the easiest to follow, but if you go through a story and cut out everything that doesn't further the action or the characterizations, you'll end up with a much better (albeit shorter) story, in most cases.

Number five is my favorite after that. Get right into the action. Mix your exposition in with dialogue -- show it, don't tell it. Don't give us five pages about Bella's history -- build it into the story in a meaningful way. The readers will appreciate it and they'll become hooked on the story more quickly.

Number seven is a tough one in our fandom. I think a lot of authors lose sight of this along the way... negative (and even positive) reviews can really influence how an author views her work. After a while, you just want to please everyone, and you don't want to lose readers. When I wrote FitV, I wrote it for two people: myself and my ficwife/beta. I figured that as long as the two of us were happy with what happened (and she had to remind me of this more than once), then some others would be, too, even if not everyone liked it. If you start trying to please your audience, they will notice.

Three cheers for Kurt :)
Tags: babble, writing
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