Kurt Vonnegut’s eight rules for writing 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 chaKurt Vonnegutracter 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.

— Vonnegut, Kurt Vonnegut, Bagombo Snuff Box: Uncollected Short Fiction (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons 1999), 9-10.

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5 Comments

Filed under Writing Tips

5 responses to “Kurt Vonnegut’s eight rules for writing fiction

  1. This advice is golden! I’m a big fan of Kurt Vonnegut and I certainly identify with what he has to say.

  2. I’m a fan of Kurt Vonnegut of course
    …that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages
    I’m still laughing!!

  3. Tim Barzyk

    Just finished my first Vonnegut book, Breakfast of Champions, and will of course be back for more. This is great advice, simple yet profound. Vonnegut has such a strong voice that his writing helped me find my own.

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