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Kurt Vonnegut – Writing 101

To see if I paid any attention to these suggestions, go to:

Kurt Vonnegut – Writing 101

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 – so that the reader might 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 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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Writing for the affluent and vacuous?

It sounds like the perfect paint-by-the-numbers list if your audience is comprised of:

1. Addicts—always wanting more of exactly the same.
2. Narcissists—always wanting everybody to either cater to them or be just like them.
3. Folks with short attention spans—get to the point before I forget what we’re on about.
4. Dullards—concentrate strictly on character and plot, screw the rest of it, forget the poetry of the language, personal insights, intensity of mood, physical description, synchronicity—all that stuff they miss all the time anyway. Why should one attempt to expand horizons than are as maintained as chemically zonked suburban lawns?
5. The bored and boring, demanding to be entertained.

On the other hand, it does sound like a recipe for financial success, assuming, of course, one has some characters and a plot near at hand.


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You make some excellent points Paul. It's difficult to know if he meant this as serious advice based on his experience, or if this was his cynicism voicing itself, or if he was just flat out joking! I certainly sense a shift in attention span to the shorter end of the sacle as the demand for instant gratification drives us ever closer to self-anihilation. Still, as my dear old dad, WWII veteran (and what kind of terrifying world must that have been to live through?) used to say, "You have  to laugh to keep from crying."

By the way, I checked some reviews and have added "Imprint" to my reading list.
All the best

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the kindness of strangers...

You are too kind, Luke.

I hope you enjoy Imprint, should you arrive there.

As for Vonnegut, I suspedct he had enough of the Tao about him to walk and chew gum at the same time.