Kurt Vonnegut was certainly never dull…especially when giving advice to other writers. Here are his eight essential tips for a short story that I keep in mind every time my fingers stroke the keys, or my pen hits the clean white page…
- Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.
- Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.
- Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.
- Every sentence must do one of two things – reveal character or advance the action.
- Start as close to the end as possible.
- Be a sadist. No matter who sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them – in order that the reader may see what they are made of.
- 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.
- 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.
For more great articles by Kurt visit Open Culture page. I’m heading for “How to Write with Style” next!
An excerpt from AUTOBIOGRAPHY by Benjamin Robert Hayden
About this time (October 1816) I met John Keats at Leigh Hunt’s, and was amazingly interested by him prematurity of intellectual and poetical power.
I read one or two of his sonnets and formed a very high idea of his genius. After a short time I liked him so much that a general invitation on my part followed, and we became extremely intimate. He visited my painting-room at all times, and at all times was welcome.
He was below the middle size, with a low forehead and an eye that had an inward look, perfectly divine, like a Delphian priestess who saw visions. The greatest calamity for Keats was his being brought before the world by a set who had so much the habit of puffing each other that every one connected with it suffered in public estimation. Hence every one was inclined to disbelieve his genius. …
One evening (November 19, 1816) after a most eager interchange of thoughts I received from Keats his sonnet, beginning “Great spirits now on earth are sojourning.” I thanked him, and he wrote, “Your letter has filled me with a proud pleasure, and shall be kept by me as a stimulus to exertion. I begin to fix my eye on one horizon. The idea of your sending it to Wordsworth puts me out of breath. You know with what reverence I would send my well wishes to him.”
As I was walking one day with him in the Kilburn meadows, he said: “Haydon, what a pity it is there is not a human dusthole.”
TLS: When did Keats become a great writer? Ask Gigante
Hear sexy Tom Hiddleston read Bright Star here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6vlIXu9C3Hw
The Empty Wine Bottle and the Bourgeois Poet
Cool article on a writer’s life via The Wit of the Staircase, Theresa Duncan.
I still #am writing but alas
have lagged behind in NaNoWriMo word counts…
But my story still surges on, which is
ultimately, the most important thing to me.
I am thankful for taking on the challenge.
It has inspired me to write, write, and write more
instead of waiting for another day
(you know, the “tomorrow zone”)
Today = Writing
image: The Wit Continuum
Planning through the past few weeks for Na No Wri Mo, National Novel Writing Month, this November. Feels great to finally have the time to focus. For me it’s now or never with stories I have. One in particular has been begging to be written, so I’m focused, I’m ready…
So if any of you fellow readers and writers have signed up and are all-in for the challenge this year let me know.
Join me as a buddy, pen name MichelleG-83, if you’d like.