Many years ago I was lucky enough to see Kurt Vonnegut speak live. This was in the East Village a few years before his death. He showed up to some kind of writer's night. I can't remember what the event for was any longer, and I realize now-- as I didn't then-- what an honor that was-- someone like Mr. Vonnegut showing up to something so casual and non-glitzy and 100% not paid like that event in a blackbox theater without airconditioning. Back then with the innocence or arrogance of extreme youth, I just thought, "Hey, this is New York City, and seeing great writers in the flesh is just one of those things that happens here." Unfortunately, I can't claim to remember much of the speech either. His garb that night-- black robes and a mortar board hat-- far overshadowed the speech he gave, or re-gave rather, claiming to have just given a commencement address and not having had time to write a new speech. He addressed his small, bemused East Village audience thus: "Dear students, professors and graduates of Duke University..." The only other bit of the speech I can recall was this one bit that's stuck with me my whole life: "Don't worry so much about being famous. Just be nice to your neighbor. That's an achievement enough."
It wasn't a revolutionary idea or anything, but it made a strong impression on me at the time. You know, hearing what Kurt Vonnegut, world-famous author,
valued most, and it wasn't the adulation and fame and best-sellers or anything. Instead it was personal relationships. So when I found some writing advice attributed to Mr. Vonnegut on another blog
-- first, just as he always does-- he made me laugh. And then he made me think. I hope you find his advice as fun, funny and helpful as I have.
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 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.