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. Now 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.

Looking for thoughts, especially regarding #8.

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I am normally totally opposed the writers making rules for other writers, but these work for me. And I like Jude's # 10 also.

And yes, as a reader, I get irritated when I'm being manipulated for the sake of dragging out the climactic conclusion.

Funny thing about # 8: I have a reader in my writers group who loves to propose future developments in my novels.
Thanks, I.J.

So do you ever follow that reader's proposals?
Not really. But sometimes such suggestions tell me that a character needs more active participation than I had planned.
Good. It means the story engaged their imagination.
Well, # 6 fits ISLAND OF EXILES to a T. But when you write a series, you cannot beat up on your protagonist in every book. For that matter, even if you don't write a series, you might find other ways to test the character. There is, for example, temptation. Or a difficult choice. Or dealing with a loss. Or with guilt.
I followed KP's link to Twain's review. Oh to have Clemmen's wit unleashed today. I also thought those19th century writing guidelines still had "legs."
Speaking of Vonnegut I saw an article recently comparing recent sales of the three most famous authors to pass away during the past year, and Kurt's outselling William Styron and Norman Mailer by about 10 to 1 as I recall.
I'll take sales now over posthumous sales any time.
Thoughts, re: Rule # 8...
Yes, I agree. Don't make your readers feel stupid by withholding important facts. That does not, however, negate the possibility of surprise. If the reader has all relevent facts, the writer can still use those facts in an unexpected manner without insulting the reader, as long as the 'twisted' ending is well within the realm of possibility, given the story up till that point. In fact, these are the most eloquently crafted stories, in my opinion.

Mr. Vonnegut's own stories may not speak well to this rule, but I think it's still a good one. One must keep in mind, however, that all 'rules' pertaining to art are really mere 'guidelines'. We all break the rules regularly, or we would not be able to call ourselves artists.
Donna Carrick
Sound like good rules--except rule eight, but Papa Kurt wrote these rules years ago when people weren't so impatient to get on with the story, and editors and agents weren't looking for excuses to reject a manuscript.

The rest are fine.

Jack Bludis
Rule #8 may be why I like Elmore Leonard so much. There's no great surprise at the end, the whole book hasn't been leading up to the moment when *something* is revealed. You get to read along as the characters live the story, knowing what they know - they don't know what's coming and niether do you. Is that, to heck with suspense? I don't know, but I wish more books were like that...
I think that's it, John. To heck with contrived suspense.


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