Thursday, April 12, 2007

Kurt Vonnegut

Woke up to the news that Kurt Vonnegut has died. I have but one Vonnegut book on my shelves - Timequake, the novel that signalled his retirement as a novelist - although I've read more than that single tome including, as has just about everyone else with a brain, Slaughterhouse Five. Just over a week ago York-based crime writer John Baker posted Vonnegut's not entirely flawless eight rules for writing on his blog and they're worth repeating here. RIP KV, your cynicism, pessimism and scepticism ruled. Enjoy the Thanosphere.

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.


bazza27 said...

I read Breakfast of Champions but not Slaughterhouse Five, can I claim half a brain?

Dave W said...

What is this, Swap Shop? You can have the full brain for reading Kurt, with the caveat expressed by the man himself: "Just because some of us can read and write and do a little math, that doesn't mean we deserve to conquer the Universe". A good quote but not as good as my favourite: "Those who believe in telekinetics, raise my hand".