The Shapes of Stories and How to Write Them

by Lorne Mitchell on 02/08/2012

A good friend and regular reader, Anthony, sent me the link to a great anonymous blog a few weeks ago – Farnam Street.

Yesterday, they pointed to a brilliant set of rules on how to write a short story by Kurt Vonnegut:

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.

There is another video which is even more worth watching on the Shape of Stories:

It got me thinking about how we all love stories, the ups and downs of life, the drama unfolding, the game(s), the chase, the great ending!

Please share any insights or thoughts you have on this great subject below!

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1 ed rivis August 3, 2012 at 20:52

Powerful advice. I can write non-fiction okay, but feel that a really good fiction story would be a lot more difficult. I’ll have to keep the above list handy when I finally decide to get started!! 🙂

Thanks

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