Vonnegut’s Rules of Writing Creative Fiction.
December 5, 2013
Kurt Vonnegut – the creative genius who gave us such memorable books as Slaughterhouse 5, Cat’s Cradle, Breakfast of Champions, God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater, Player Piano, and Slapstick – was a man without a pure genre.
His work was funny.
Sometimes it was downright outrageous.
It was dark.
It explored the landscape of man’s mind.
It explored landscapes where man might never go or want to go.
He wrote science fiction.
He wrote literary fiction.
And Vonnegut didn’t see any difference between the two.
Got a story?
It can be told in the future.
It can be told in the past.
It can be told now.
It’s the story that counts, not the time period for which it was written.
Some critics said Vonnegut wrote classics.
Others labeled him as counter-culture.
His prose was warm-blooded.
It was cool.
He became the pied piper of a whole generation of readers who were known as rebels, iconoclasts, mavericks, druggies, hippies, beatniks, and flower children.
Many tried to write as he did.
They didn’t last long.
There was only one Kurt Vonnegut.
He was an American original.
In the preface of his short story collection, Begombo Snuff Box, he gave his own eight basics of creative writing.
- 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 last 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 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.
- 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.
Vonnegut also said the he believed the “greatest American short story writer of my generation was Flannery O’Connor. She broke practically every one of my rules but the first. Great writers tend to do that.
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