8 Tips for Writers from Kurt Vonnegut

Kurt Vonnegut is one of the most important American writers of the 20th Century. His classic novels include Breakfast of Champions and Slaughterhouse Five, the sorta-autobiographical tale of the Allied bombing of Dresden in 1945. (Vonnegut was a prisoner of war/forced laborer in the city at the time.)

The eight tips below were shared by Vonnegut to help writers of short stories. However, they apply anyone wrestling to create engaging fiction:

8 Tips for Writers from Kurt Vonnegut

  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.”


Kurt Vonnegut, 1922-2007

Photo: Washington Post

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