8 Creative Writing Tips from Kurt Vonnegut

by ScreenCraft Staff on August 17, 2014

Kurt Vonnegut's stories and prose are so memorably witty.  If you haven't read such classics as Cat’s CradleBreakfast Of Champions, and Slaughterhouse Five, you have pleasant surprises awaiting you!  And his advice on writing is just as memorable as his stories. Here are Vonnegut's 8 basics of  "Creative Writing 101:"

  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.

Vonnegut goes on to praise Flannery O’Connor as the greatest writer of his generation, saying, "She broke practically every one of my rules but the first. Great writers tend to do that."

What's your favorite bit of writing or screenwriting advice?  Who's your favorite writer?  Let us know in the comments below or on Twitter.


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