Friday, October 12, 2007

weekend approacheth on little cat feet

(everything approacheth on little cat feet with me)

And since it's weekend those of us who write should be writing. Right, folks? Ok, well, I'm going to try, especially because my good friend Will has been harassing me a lot. (Will, are you reading this? I'm glad for the harassment, if you are--don't give me any breaks, please, because then I get lazy.)

So I'm going to leave a little thought that someone (I think it was Lisa...was it you, Lisa?) sent me long, long ago: Kurt Vonnegut's 8 rules for fiction writing. I shamelessly reproduce them here because they make a lot of sense. I, for example, really want a glass of water.

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 (New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons 1999), 9-10.

15 comments:

Lisa said...

Yes, that was me (blushing). I can't help it. I love a set of rules with the KV flair. And -- tomorrow, up until the point that I'll leave to go to Kim Reid's book signing of No Place Safe: A Family Memoir, I will be alone and writing. Hooray! May the POV gods show me the way :)

moonrat said...

they've given me a hint, at least. well, via angelle.

hmm, cheesy puns to be made. i'll refrain.

Church Lady said...

I love these. I've seen them in a few places, but always read them with fresh eyes. My favorite is the one about your character wanting something.
A critique circle friend said that you have to let bad things happen to your characters. I've always remembered that.

jalexissmith said...

october approacheth on little cat feet as well, ratatat!

Bernita said...

"little cat's feet..."
is such a perfect image...

Lisa said...

Speaking of letting bad things happen to your characters, I took a half day workshop from a screenwriter and I loved how he broke down the three act structure:

I. Put your character in a tree
II. Throw rocks at her
III. Bring her back down

angelle said...

my dear, i will be writing this weekend too. um, in between apple picking and sunday's must-not-miss cowboys vs. patriots football game (le sigh, i know).

hmm. maybe tonight then. i want to 1) finish story i was working on on tues so you can read it and 2) get another 10+ pages of the novel under my belt since my class begins on MONDAY.

angelle said...

oh okay #3 - i am GOING to at least read part of your novel. i swear, i may even have to put umberto eco aside for you.

Kaytie M. Lee said...

I'm intrigued by number five, "Start as close to the end as possible."

This is what I'm going to be thinking of all weekend, because I've been wondering where the beginning of my story really is.

Hm...

angelle said...

also.. set of rules... my novel begins at the end. sort of.

i also think #8 is debatable. not that i personally don't believe it, but i think it can go either way.

writtenwyrdd said...

Great advice, especially #8. I hadn't heard them before, and wish I had.

writtenwyrdd said...

Reading the comments after the firstpost: I think #8 is great because it dares one to challenge the "rules" which, of course, aren't really. You can do it either way, but I like feeling brilliant because I figured out the plot. I know, cheap date, sort of.

Kristin said...

I never read this list before, so thanks for posting it. My biggest problem is the one about starting your book as close to the ending as possible. I am learning how to do this, but it does take a lot of attempts before you can start crafting stories with this rule in mind.

eleKtrofly said...

this is good.

i felt really commited to write fiction this weekend, saturday nite without a stitch-- perhaps sunday will find more motivation.

moonrat said...

i hear ya--i ended up spending all day saturday cleaning my house. sigh. it DID need to get done, but now i'm a little embarrassed to report back...