I’ve been talking about how changing your routine can be a good thing when it comes to writing. We all get set in our ways, but it’s a good idea to shake things up now and then. I talked about how a class on themes helped me to lock down something that was wrong with one of my books. Another class taught by a county medical examiner, helped me to realize I had a few things wrong about my murder investigation in another book.
The other day my English professor in my grad school class posted the following from Kurt Vonnegut:
Vonnegut’s 8 Rules for Writing Fiction
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 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.
These are all things a lot of us know. but do we do them? Are me maybe just a little lazy about No. 4? Could we use some work when it comes to 5 and 6? You never know when or how you’re going to have one of those writing epiphanies that can be game changing.
Right now on my Write Workshop loop we are doing a 4000 word challenge. It’s a 16 day challenge meant to kick you in your butt and get the words on the page. While we’re in this phase we don’t really have to worry about what I have above, except I think it helps, even during the creative process, to have a character you can root for, and to throw rocks at them.
I realized as I begin a new project that I don’t have enough conflict for one of my characters so I’ll probably spend a good part of today thinking of ways I can make him miserable.
If you’d like to help me brainstorm on ways I can throw rocks, feel free. The set up is he’s a Marine, helping out at the UN, who falls for a fashion designer. They’re from two different worlds and he thinks hers is insane. Feel free to play along here.
Or tell me one thing in the past year that you heard that sort of made you stop and think about your writing. You never know, your experience might help someone else, so please share.