Vonnegut’s Tips on Writing a Great Story

Vonnegut has been one of my favorite writers since I was a child, his non-linear and fantastical stories always captured my imagination and his straightforward cadence and sobering realizations wizened me, as did Kilgore Trout. After leaving Indiana, I realized how the Midwest had shaped both of us (Vonnegut was also a Hoosier).

Kurt Vonnegut’s 8 Tips on How to Write a Great 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 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.


One response to “Vonnegut’s Tips on Writing a Great Story”

  1. Vonnegut is definitely growing on me, and I think these tips really highlight why – he just had such an interesting approach to writing and storytelling!


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