Emerging Writers. Tips for Your Successful Story. "So it Goes."
Words of Advice from Kurt Vonnegut.
During our first Emerging Writer Contest, over here at Hummingbird, we were discussing perhaps Kurt Vonnegut's most famous expression, "So it goes." Used throughout Slaughterhouse-Five, a seemingly both appropriate and inappropriate summation after each death is recorded. Indeed, "It is what it is."
It's just a fantastic expression. So much said with such economy! True literary craft. This led us to do a little research--we wanted to get some insight into what makes a really great writer great? We learned that deservedly, Vonnegut is viewed by readers and writers alike as one of the greatest American writers of all time. From Slaughterhouse-Five to Breakfast of Champions, KV had it going on--stoicism, insight, understanding of the human condition, and perhaps most of all, humor. Since we at HB place so much stock in the written word, we want to share with you the eight essential ingredients of a successful story, as stated by 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 hell 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.
Words to live by. So it goes.