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bear by san

March 2017

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writing literature vonnegut

the leaded window opened to move the dancing candleflame

Copycatted via scarlettina, but worth quoting:

Some writing advice by Kurt Vonnegut Jr. on the subject of short stories, from Bagombo Snuff Box:

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.



*which is to say, create or resolve tension. --Bear

Comments

Mus have missed this set. Sounds like Tim Powers follows the Vonnegut school of avoiding cockroach editing.
It seems that I've been (trying to) use Vonnegut's rules quite a bit, lately, without even knowing it.
They're good rules.
Hell yes. I think something from McKee's "Story" finally sunk in. Gee, I only had to read it three frakkin' times... ;)

A little off-topic but . . .

Next time you put a touching animal story in the middle of one of your short story collections, please put a warning in the front of the book. When I bawl like a baby before I go to sleep I wake up all puffy-eyed and bleary the next day.

Geeze, Bear, were you channeling Albert Payson Terhune? THAT was unexpected.

Good story, though. I am just particularly vulnerable to weeping over first-person critter stories I guess.

Re: A little off-topic but . . .

Like: DANGER, THIS COLLECTION CONTAINS A MAUDLIN FLYING DOG STORY?

You really want to cry like a baby? That's a true story in most of its details, except the flying part. Liam was a dog my mother bred, and had to take back from an owner who could no longer care for him.

He lived out his days in Vermont, climbing trees to get to squirrels, and died at a ripe old age. And despite his first year or two of life, he was a gracious and gentle creature.

Re: A little off-topic but . . .

*sob*

more vonnegut quotes

"I love you sons of bitches. You’re all I read any more. You're the only ones who’ll talk all about the really terrific changes going on, the only ones crazy enough to know that life is a space voyage, and not a short one, either, but one that’ll last for billions of years. You’re the only ones with guts enough to really care about the future, who really notice what machines do to us, what wars do to us, what cities do to us, what big, simple ideas do to us, what tremendous misunderstanding, mistakes, accidents, catastrophes do to us. You're the only ones zany enough to agonize over time and distance without limit, over mysteries that will never die, over the fact that we are right now determining whether the space voyage for the next billion years or so is going to be Heaven or Hell." * Eliot Rosewater to a group of science fiction writers (1965)

"I have been a soreheaded occupant of a file drawer labeled “Science Fiction” ... and I would like out, particularly since so many serious critics regularly mistake the drawer for a urinal." (1974)

"If you really want to hurt your parents, and you don’t have nerve enough to be a homosexual, the least you can do is go into the arts." (1996)

Re: more vonnegut quotes

You notice the NY Times couldn't resist the chance to sneer at SF in Vonnegut's obit?

"Some critics said he had invented a new literary type, infusing the science-fiction form with humor and moral relevance and elevating it to serious literature."

Because everybody knows science fiction never did anything serious like that before or since, and that he would have been more worthy of respect if he'd written mimetic novels about the internal angst of middle-aged white male professors in some Northeastern university town.

Damn it, couldn't they at least resist the yearning to p*ss on the poor bastard in his GRAVE?

Re: more vonnegut quotes

Considering he pissed on Yale and Harvard, I am not really surprised.

Yeah, gee, Heinlein, Bradley and a host of others never wrote with humor or moral relevance...

Re: more vonnegut quotes

I really wanted that line to be "He was an exemplar of the best of science fiction, infused with humor and moral relevance" or something else in that vein.
Bear! Your post made the 'Popular' page on del.icio.us tonight.
Huh. Lookit that!
More accurately, it's the post of whoever S.T. cribbed it from before I cribbed it from her....
Oops, it's slipped of the Most Pop page already. But it was there. I swear! The Pop page just turns over pretty quickly. Naught may endure but Mutability, etc.
My friends stay up late....

Oh, well, Cory linked it. No wonder!