Kurt Vonnegut’s rules of writing.

There are thousands upon thousands of pieces of advice I can share on the blog. Many of these have been repeated countless times and I feel like I shouldn’t be the tenth person to tell you these. But these rules, written by Kurt Vonnegut held real value for me and I hope they turn out to be just as valuable to you.


Kurt_Vonnegut_at_CWRU (Photo credit: david_terrar)

  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 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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~ by Sander on August 24, 2012.

77 Responses to “Kurt Vonnegut’s rules of writing.”

  1. love this as an aspiring writer. congrats on being freshly pressed

  2. good one

  3. I particularly agree with #s 4 and 6.

  4. lovely piece of writing , i have only just started any feedback be great x

  5. Reblogged this on To Flaneur.

  6. Thanks for posting this. I love Kurt Vonnegut (I even have a tattoo to prove it). Most recently, I read his collection of (fictional) interviews with dead people “God Bless You, Dr. Kevorkian” which he wrote for a radio station in NYC. It is yet another demonstration of his fantastic, simple, readable, witty and ethically-laden writing style.

  7. Spot on advice for writers.

  8. Many thanks!

  9. I don’t completely agree with #8, as a reader or a writer (I like a surprise or two), but the rest are worth posting on your bulletin board. Great post! 🙂

  10. Rule number 7 would have to be my favorite. Congrats on being freshly pressed!

  11. “Be a sadist. No matter sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them—in order that the reader may see what they are made of.”

    wow. true of life as well, i guess 🙂 x

  12. I bookmarked these rules a while back and return to them often. If you like Vonnegut, you might want to check out his “Art of Fiction” interview in the Paris Review:



  13. I don’t agree with 6 or 8 but it’s a thought-provoking list….thanks for sharing it and congrats on being freshly pressed:)

  14. Wow, that’s a lot of good advices…especially for frustrated ones like me. 😀

  15. This is fantastic. I so do love that man’s mind. I have a particular soft spot for number six. Can’t realize how good the goods are until you’ve seen some particularly terrible bad.

  16. Thanks for the post!

    • To have advice available for people to use is a gift that only a few have especially if the advice is construed to the use of a vice as in a sociol sense of interpretation

  17. Well, I can’t agree with the last one. I’ve tried that, and my readers don’t like it. But the rest is very good advice. Kurt had a pretty simple writing style, but very interesting plot lines. I’ve always enjoyed his work.

  18. Reblogged this on This beautiful life.

  19. I completely disagree with the last rule. If I can figure out the end – I won’t read the book or will stop watching the movie. I want to be surprised. I don’t want to know from the first page what will happen on the last page.

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