Kurt Vonnegut’s Eight Rules for Writing Fiction

Kurt Vonnegut's Eight Rules for Writing FictionIconic author Kurt Vonnegut’s Eight Rules for Writing Fiction are practical, humourous and endearing; much like the man himself.

An American writer of satire and speculative fiction, Vonnegut’s writing included Cat’s Cradle (1963), Slaughterhouse-Five (1969), and Breakfast of Champions (1973). His novella’s and short stories inspired sci-fi blockbusters of mixed quality such as Blade Runner and two Total Recall‘s.

Honorary president of the American Humanist Association,  Vonnegut was a pacifist following his wartime experiences.  As a prisoner of war, he survived the Allied firebombing of Dresden which caused massive civilian casualties. He placed trauma of the event  directly onto the protagonist of Slaughterhouse 5. A lifelong supporter of the American Civil Liberties Union, he was often critical of society.

Kurt Vonnegut’s Eight Rules for Writing Fiction encapsulate his unique outlook and human-centred thinking:

  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. Now 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.

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