Friday, 21 December 2012

Writing advice from the greats: Kurt Vonnegut

Remember the good old days when authors could exist in virtual anonymity? Back in those antediluvian times there was no need to strut the Facebook catwalk shaking our pert titles, or sashay our tight mini-blogs on Twitter. I, for one, never wanted to see authors, or chat with them, or discover their politics, religion, or taste in sex toys. If I liked them I wanted one thing only: more of their books.

Kurt Vonnegut
What always fascinated me, though, was what authors had to say about writing. Somerset Maugham famously claimed that there are three rules for writing the novel, but no one knows what they are. True, maybe, yet some of the guidelines passed along by famous authors can help us write the stories we want to write, and that readers want to read. Among the most helpful I've read are Kurt Vonnegut's 8 great writing tips.
  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.
Next up: Great writing advice from John Steinbeck.

Liane Spicer