Vonnegut’s 8 Rules in Writing a Short Story

There were many things to love about last year. One of which was that I was influenced to start reading Mr. Vonnegut’s books. I read these rules when I was trying to find more books to read of his. (My book pusher is understandably MIA.  So there, panahon na para tumayo sa sarili. 🙂 )

His books are amazing satiric mixtures of science-fiction, philosophy, adventure, stupid characters, and stupid things that characters do and say. Let’s just say that I’ve had my fair share of “what the f*ck is she doing?” looks from people in various places in Makati when I was reading some of his books.

And as you know, I am a creature of “aliw”. 🙂 And these rules amused me a lot.

Here are Vonnegut’s 8 Rules in Writing a Short 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.

These are found in his book, Bagombo Snuff Box: Uncollected Short Fiction, of which I am trying to find a copy of.  (Help please? So much for being independent. haha!)

I have only read 3 books of his, and I consider myself a fan. When someone asks for a funny book/author to read — I say “read something from Vonnegut”, perhaps because I just finished his book –Cat’s Cradle. And I think, it’s one of my most enjoyable reads– ever. Below is an excerpt from Cat’s Cradle that made me laugh by myself for a while in Food Choices in Makati. (Still makes me laugh every time I read it. haha!)  This is the “bokonomistic” view of the adage “give to Caesar, the things that are Caesar’s”.

Time to hunt for books! 🙂


On Blogging

I’ve been trying to write some self-reflection crap on this blog for the last 4 days, and I’ve been failing miserably. 🙂  So YAY! for Vonnegut because he got me to update this blog in a roundabout fashion. And I find myself writing more!

It’s not like there’s nothing going on in my life. If you look at the things I usually do– I have pretty much a full spectrum of things that I can write about. But the thing is, I’ve never really enjoyed blogging/telling people what I’ve been doing, where I’ve been, or what I’ve been eating. I personally think that I’m a failure in blogging things like that.

I’ve been blogging for almost 10 years now, and  I have no illusions about being a good writer, or being artistic, or even being remotely funny, or imparting some kind of life-changing knowledge, or whatever. I really don’t. Blogging has gotten me into weird and wonderful situations throughout the years, and I will never regret anything that resulted from anything that I have written in any of my blogs. As I wrote in a blog post long ago, regret is for the uninitiated. 😉

So that said, I’m going to take one of Vonnegut’s rules in short story writing and apply it to blogging. #7 says: Write to please just one person.

And I choose myself.

Now whether that will result in anything like getting a few more thousand hits, I dunno. I really just want to enjoy what I write. And enjoy the process of my “writing”, if that’s what you call this.

Maybe reading that On Writing book will help. 🙂


Got the list of rules here.

PS. And that said, this blog isn’t going to get updated unless something makes me “aliw”. Time to look for things to make me “aliw” then. 🙂


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