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8 tips to improve your writing from Kurt Vonnegut

Fig. 1 “Be a sadist.” Kurt Vonnegut.

Which I interpret as conflict, as creating a mess and seeing how the characters behave and what lessons they learn or do not learn as a result.

Unable to retain more than one piece of advice in my head for long I’ve created this octahedron with the eight tips Kurt Vonnegut gives. This way I toss this over my desk as I write every so often, at least every time I reach for a sip of coffee. I can then check whether or not I am doing as required.

2) “Give your readers at least one character they can route for.” Kurt Vonnegut.

This is all about creating believable characters: the good, the bad and the ugly. With a mixture of traits, and most having something likeable.

3) “Don’t waste the time of a stranger.” Kurt Vonnegut.

Which I take to mean avoid the dull and the obvious in settings, choice of words and phraseology. Take risks. Surprise and thrill them. It can be how you see the every day in a quirky and original way, and not simply having wacky characters and locations.

4) “Every sentence must reveal character of advance the action.”

Kurt Vonnegut. No more indulgent ‘jazz writing.’ Think like a professional writer and make the words count towards something.

5. “Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible.” Kurt Vonnegut.  

Never play that game of ‘twist in a tail.’ Writing stories is not the same as telling a joke and writing a sketch. Hitchcock used to talk about telling the audience there’s a bomb, then spending the story waiting for it to go off.

6. “Every character should want something. Even if it’s just a drink of water.” Kurt Vonnegut.

Which I take to mean avoid having characters as props to the protagonist: they too want something from life. Show what it is and have it in conflict.

7. “Start as close as possible to the end.” Kurt Vonnegut.

Which I interpret as meaning getting as close to the climax. Don’t hang back, and certainly avoid constant backfill and back story that with each draft takes you away from the big idea and the big events of the story.

From 2BlogI

8) “Write to please just one person.” Kurt Vonnegut.

Please one and you please many. Try to write for many and you’ll either get in a terrible tangle or produce mud.

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