Kurt Vonnegut’s 8 Tips on Writing a Short Story

Kurt Vonnegut on Writing a Short Story

  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.
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Ray Bradbury on Writing ~ Inspiring

Stephen King’s 20 Tips for Writing

1. First write for yourself, and then worry about the audience. “When you write a story, you’re telling yourself the story. When you rewrite, your main job is taking out all the things that are not the story.”

2. Don’t use passive voice. “Timid writers like passive verbs for the same reason that timid lovers like passive partners. The passive voice is safe.”

3. Avoid adverbs. “The adverb is not your friend.”

4. Avoid adverbs, especially after “he said” and “she said.”

5. But don’t obsess over perfect grammar. “The object of fiction isn’t grammatical correctness but to make the reader welcome and then tell a story.”

6. The magic is in you. “I’m convinced that fear is at the root of most bad writing.”

7. Read, read, read. ”If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write.”

8. Don’t worry about making other people happy. “If you intend to write as truthfully as you can, your days as a member of polite society are numbered, anyway.”

9. Turn off the TV. “TV—while working out or anywhere else—really is about the last thing an aspiring writer needs.”

10. You have three months. “The first draft of a book—even a long one—should take no more than three months, the length of a season.”

11. There are two secrets to success. “I stayed physical healthy, and I stayed married.”

12. Write one word at a time. “Whether it’s a vignette of a single page or an epic trilogy like ‘The Lord of the Rings,’ the work is always accomplished one word at a time.”

13. Eliminate distraction. “There’s should be no telephone in your writing room, certainly no TV or videogames for you to fool around with.”

14. Stick to your own style. “One cannot imitate a writer’s approach to a particular genre, no matter how simple what that writer is doing may seem.”

15. Dig. “Stories are relics, part of an undiscovered pre-existing world. The writer’s job is to use the tools in his or her toolbox to get as much of each one out of the ground intact as possible.”

16. Take a break. “You’ll find reading your book over after a six-week layoff to be a strange, often exhilarating experience.”

17. Leave out the boring parts and kill your darlings. “(kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings.)”

18. The research shouldn’t overshadow the story. “Remember that word back. That’s where the research belongs: as far in the background and the back story as you can get it.”

19. You become a writer simply by reading and writing. “You learn best by reading a lot and writing a lot, and the most valuable lessons of all are the ones you teach yourself.”

20. Writing is about getting happy. “Writing isn’t about making money, getting famous, getting dates, getting laid or making friends. Writing is magic, as much as the water of life as any other creative art. The water is free. So drink.”

Thank you. Stephen King!

Trust Fund Baby ~ 48 A Satire

Chapter 48

Louie asked a friend who called a friend to drive me home. I slept until the next morning and was awaken by Mother’s shrill cockatoo voice. “Martin, Martin, Martin if you don’t wake up I’ll come in and sing to you until you wake up.”

My head, my eyes, and my ears did not need her singing anything a cappella, let alone my nervous system. I made a mental note, if the situation were right, to ask Oscar if he ever heard Mother shrieking in delight and wanted his opinion on her voice quality. 

Mother spoke again, “Martin, hurry, you need a hearty breakfast for work.”

I called back, “I cancelled work today, Mother.”

She said, “Dear. You can’t cancel, not going to work may affect your trust fund. We want to keep that ten million in the family. Father and I can’t help what Mother Houston put in the trust fund terms.”

“Mother, I don’t care what the old bat put in the trust fund terms. I am not going in today. I need the entire day to get ready to pick up my fiancé and bring her here for dinner tonight so Father and you can meet her.”

“Well, Martin, why didn’t you say so. I will call Pettibone and tell him it’s okay.”

“What if he says it isn’t, Mother?”

“I will grab hold of his nuts and twist them off,” said Mother in a way that raised goosebumps on every available space of my skin. 

“Now, shower and get dressed. I want to hear more about your fiancé at breakfast. I’m going to toss Father’s Wall Street Journal in the trash. I’ll let him make the young bitch secretary he’s been sleeping with fetch him one.

Mother is in a truly rare foul mood. I said, “Mother, is today Oscar’s day off?”

“Yes, and I’m not happy about it. There are several things that need his personal attention.”

I now understood her bad temper. Perhaps I’ll mention a bit of abstinence is good for the body and the soul at breakfast. It’s going to be a tricky situation when I sit with them. Mother will grill me as if she’s been appointed as a special prosecutor by the President. Father will move his glasses down to the tip of his bulbous nose and stare at me over the glasses. He’ll occasionally search the room, move his shoes around under the table, tilt his plate and shake loose his linen napkin hoping the Wall Street Journal will shake loose. I wonder if the Wall Street Journal was his primary reader in grade school. 

Twenty-five minutes later the three of us were sitting at the dining table. We sat silently waiting for someone to make the entry into conversation. I thought of possible conversation starters, “Mother, have you considered using a dildo today?” or “Father, do you take your Viagra with your morning orange juice or do you wait until you go to your office?” I didn’t think these openers would lead to anything productive.

Fortunately, Mother broke the ice, “Martin, I’ve made two decisions for you. I know you’ll approve. You and J will have your room on the second floor next to our bedroom. We’ll all live as a happy family.”

“What’s the second decision, Mother?” I asked convinced now she was certifiable or I had no balls if I went along with her decision.

“I will make an appointment for you both to go to the fertility clinic to donate an egg and sperm so a surrogate mother can carry my heir. I’m sure J will be happy with this news, then she won’t have to deal with morning sickness, unsightly weight gain, water retention, stretch marks, and labor pains. Birthing is a messy experience and only suitable for those not in our class.”

We won’t make it past the salad tonight if Mother tosses these comments at J. Mother might not live to see sunrise. If J whacked her, we’d be on the lamb. I can see the headlines, FILTHY RICH WHITE BOY AND HIS BLACK VENUS ELUDE AUTHORITIES. 

I made a life’s decision at that moment. I do not want to live any longer in this house. I have to find something to do besides faking it as a shrink. If I keep on living like I am living I am going to end up like Mother or Father or worse, a combination of both of them. 

“Well, Martin, you agree with my decisions for your life, don’t you?”

“Frankly, Mother I could give a damn what you think.” I watched a rerun of Gone With the Wind last week. I wanted to use something like Clark Gable’s line to Scarlet O’Hara but hadn’t found the right opportunity until now.

 “Father, speak to our son. Did you hear what he said to me?”

Father looked up from his iPhone, “What did you say, Mother? I was texting my secretary and asking her to pick up a Wall Street Journal for me. Mine is missing today. I also asked her to have my medication ready for me. I have a stressful job at the office.”

Mother huffed and she puffed until her pasty white face turned red, “Martin, perhaps I was a bit too aggressive. It seems work is helping you to mature. Of course, I will let J and you pick out your room in the mansion and choose your own fertility clinic.”

“Thank you, Mother. You are the most thoughtful person I have ever known,” I said “NOT” in my mind. Oscar once told me never to get in a pissing contest with a skunk because you always lose. Now, I’m not calling Mother a skunk, that would be insulting. She is more like a vulture picking meat off dead carcasses. 

“Martin, Father and I were married in June. I think being a June bride sets a nice tone. I’ll order up good weather and we’ll have the reception on the south Lawn. I’ll hire the city symphony to play. Victor will supervise the cooking for the five hundred people we’ll invite. I assume J will have an equal number, maybe more with Dante coming out of hiding. It will be a celebration of the arts. Oh, Father, I am so excited.”

“Did you hide my Wall Street Journal?”

“I did.”

“Can I have it back, please,” said Father.

Mother said, “Father, you know I can’t have my massage today. I’ll give it back to you if you take your blue pill for breakfast and meet me in the bedroom in thirty minutes.”

“Mother, this is blackmail.”

“I hate that term. Can we use the term, ‘whitemail?”

“I’ve got to run,” I said. I really need to get away from this family.