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Writing tips from Kurt Vonnegut

Discussion in 'Writers' Room' started by Mari, Apr 17, 2007.

  1. Mari

    Mari New Member

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    What to Expect the First Year
    In the flurry of coverage following his death, I was reminded of this advice for writing a short story:

    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 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.

    And while I happen to think that's good advice, it might be fun to judge whether he followed it himself.
     
  2. GreenKnight

    GreenKnight New Member

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    All excellent points made by Kurt there! I like the point 6 about sadism especially. Rather like David Mitchell's revelation of the secret of fiction:

    "It's very, very simple. You create characters that the reader likes and doesn't want bad things to happen to, and then you make bad things happen to them."

    Or as someone else once put it, "Get your protagonist up a tree and throw rocks at him." Anyone remember who said that? I can't.
     
  3. A.F.R.

    A.F.R. kickbox

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    Tip of the day

    Here is one more tip:

    "If you can't annoy somebody with what you write, I think there's little point in writing."

    -Kingsley Amis
     
  4. RobertM

    RobertM New Member

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    There is NO way I can explain this all here in a short post...but...Adventure Books made a video a few months ago based on Allan Guthrie's whitepaper, 'Cutting Out The Pleonasms'.

    A 'pleonasm' is a word or phrase which can be cut from a sentence without changing the meaning of the sentence. But Guthrie doesn't stop with that.

    Guthrie is an editor for Point Blank Press in Edinburgh. When we read his paper, which includes a detailed, no-holds-barred list on how to fix your writing, we asked him to cooperate on making the video. He agreed.

    What to do: Go to the link shown below. The video list on the page is very short, you'll see it.

    Copy/paste/print the paper version first. You can't miss it. THEN view the video and use the paper version as a guide.

    We have received dozens of messages from writers thanking us for the video. In fact, I used the process to improve my last book. It's the best cut-through-the-baloney-in-your-writing lesson you'll ever view - guaranteed.

    AB Videos
     
  5. Rien

    Rien New Member

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    A writer must simultaneously believe the following two things:
    1. The story I am now working on is the greatest work of genius ever written in English.
    2. The story I am now working on is worthless drivel.
    ...Of course, believing two contradictory facts at the same time is sometimes referred to as madness, but that, too, can be an asset to a writer.

    --Orson Scott Card
     
  6. pooh_bah

    pooh_bah New Member

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    Wow, I agree with many of these writing tips. Except for maybe the Vonnegut take on suspense. A bit of suspense can be good. You can keep the reader in the loop about certain things and still keep him/ her in suspense.
    I think any set of rules should be flexible though. If you adhere to them too strictly, maybe there's a chance your work will become too inhibited.
    A little bit of chaos in the mix never hurt anyone - although it may make your work less commercial.
     
  7. Connor

    Connor New Member

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    Cat's Cradle by, Kurt Vonnegut
    I believe that was Sergio Donati:

    "In the first act you hang your main character up in a tree.
    In the second act you throw stones at him.
    In the third act he falls down.
    If he is alive, it's a comedy.
    If he's dead, it's a drama."
     
  8. SpoonInSpoon

    SpoonInSpoon New Member

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    Currently Reading:
    What Is The What - Dave Eggers
    It would guess that this quote goes hand in hand with music.

    You've got to believe in what you're doing, but only will you ultimatley become a great writer when you gain that respect for other works.

    Great quote.
     
  9. WoundedThorns

    WoundedThorns New Member

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    Frank McCourt's "Angela's Ashes"
    I think he did follow them - especially being a sadist. I automatically think back to Deadeye Dick and Mother Night.
     

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