Eight Rules for Writing Fiction

Found on Merinda‘s blog:

  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.

Kurt Vonnegut, Bagombo Snuff Box: Uncollected Short Fiction

I’m not sure I agree with the last one entirely, I like suspense in a story. I’m reading "Pope Joan" by Donna Woolfolk Cross, and she’s providing lots of nice story twists. I can see where the bigger picture is going, but the details are interesting. My problem is stopping tinkering with the story when it’s done. There’s always a slightly better turn of phrase. My mystery story is officially marked as done and I’m working on a science fiction one. And I’m fine with being mean to my characters!

One thought on “Eight Rules for Writing Fiction”

  1. For the last point i do not agree. I believe that “Good Books are for good readers”. And it is not only the duty of a book to reveal each and every information to the reader, but the reader’s interest must also let him/her understand it, and if reader does not understand, he doesn’t deserve to read. We can see the real world example, almost all good authors never explain much but leave the things either to reader’s imagination or suspense.

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