Following Kurt Vonnegut to Write a Great Story
I love Kurt Vonnegut with a passion of a thousand fires and was devastated when he passed away five years ago. He wrote some of the best short and long fiction that I have ever read including Player Piano as well as some amazing advice for writers, all of which I positively love. One of his best pieces of advice came in the form of eight tips for writers, which I read about once a year to keep it somewhat fresh in my mind.
1. Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.
This is first and foremost for me, because I sometimes will write a story and then go back and rewrite the whole thing because I just imagine a person reading it and wondering why they just bothered wasting their time doing so. I ask myself what is making it such a waste of time and sometimes scrap the entire story if it feels totally useless.
2. Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.
I always make sure to look at the story that I am writing and think about the struggle of the character and ask myself — are we looking at this person caring what is happening to them? If not, where am I going wrong?
4. Every sentence must do one of two things — reveal character or advance the action.
I love this tip but it is not always the easiest one to follow. Sometimes I just want to toss in a sentence that doesn’t necessarily do either one of these but sets the scene.
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.
This is one of my favorites because some people just don’t get it. If your characters have nothing bad to face or overcome, then what happens to them? They just go to their jobs every day and then go home and play Tetris? That is a story that nobody is going to ever want to read.
I think that these eight bits of advice are glorious. It is worth your while to look it over a few times. If you’re anything like me, you will want to return to it again and again.