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Nine Points

October 19, 2012

Kurt Vonnegut., a US writer now deceased, held in great respect by novelists everywhere was one of the first to teach creative writing in the nineteen sixties. I knew one of his students, later herself a published novelist, and I hand on to you the advice he gave to her.

And do read his Slaughter House Five, as an example of how never to get stuck in one place, but how to move with aplomb round space and time, to great benefit to theme and story
1. Respect your reader, in such a way that he or she will not feel the time or money spent reading you is wasted.
2. Give the reader at least one character he or she can relate to.
3. Let every character want something, if only a glass of water.
4. Let every character speak from their own point of view, not yours.
5. Every sentence must do one of two things: reveal character or place or move the story on.
6. Start as close to the end as possible. Feed out your back story with ingenuity
7. Be a sadist. No matter how sweet or innocent your leading character is, make awful things happen to them so they can prove themselves.
7. Write as if to one person. If you open a window on the world, your story will only get pneumonia.
8. Give your reader as much information as you can as soon as possible. They trust you to give it to them. Hold nothing back.
9. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the book by themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.

Flannery O’Brien (a mid twentieth century short story writer) he would add, broke every rule in the book, as great writers tend to do.

Fay Weldon


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  1. New blog? I shall look forward to reading!

  2. Good luck with your new blog, Fay, I’m sure you’ll have a substantial following.

  3. Ben Thomson permalink

    Slaughter House Five is one of my favourites – The advice is sound – thanks for sharing.

  4. Sue Cox permalink

    Great advice – thank you for sharing it!

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