I recently read a collection of short stories Bagombo Snuff Box by Kurt Vonnegut. Although the book was released in 1999, it contains the author’s early short stories, published in magazines in the 1950s and ’60s. It was not an easy or a fast book to read but it was powerful and it made an impression.Besides old stories it also includes a new introduction by the author, where he lists his famous 8 rules of writing fiction:
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.
He also admits that most famous writers break most of his rules sometimes, except maybe the rule #1. As one critic called Vonnegut “the Mark Twain of our times,” I think it might be good idea for us, the non-famous writers, to try to abide by those rules. At least until we are famous.