Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Eight Rules

These are ubiquitous. You see them all over the Web. But they're worth repeating.

Kurt Vonnegut's Eight Rules for Writing A Novel. They sure sound like Vonnegut. If you're at all intrested in writing you've probably already read them. But think about them for a minute. Even though they're couched in Vonnegut's well-known cranky, humorous style, they make a lot of sense. And since this is my blog, not Vonnegut's, I'm adding my two cents worth from time to time, in italics.

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. (You'd think the goes without saying. You'd be wrong. I read one recently where the nicest thing you could say about the main character was she was scornfully stubborn. She had a lot of worse traits, and even that was not the book's biggest problem. Literally the worst book I've read in my 56 years.)

3. Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water. (Similar to a rule I came up with as an amateur actor - Every part in every play is a love story. The trick is figuring out what your character is in love with, and playing it with that intensity.)

4. Every sentence must do one of two things -- reveal character or advance the action.

5. Start as close to the end as possible. (At first blush this sounds silly. But think about it. It makes total sense.)

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. (I have a friend who keeps falling in love with his characters and protects them by not letting anything bad happen to them. Makes for dull reading.)

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. (Like the song says, "You can't please everyone so you've got to please yourself.)

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.

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