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How to write a great story, according to Kurt Vonnegut

Kurt Vonnegut is one of the most well-known 20th century literary writers in America although he might not be much known outside the country. According to this Wikipedia entry he majored in chemistry and both his father and grandfather studied in MIT.

So what does Kurt Vonnegut have to tell you about writing a great story? This article in Brain Pickings lists 8 of his tips, such as:

  1. Write for just a single person. As a writer you cannot please everybody. So imagine one of your most preferred reader personas and weave the entire story for that person. What would that person like to read? What sort of feelings that person has and how he reacts to certain situations? What would be his understanding of certain turn of events in the story? Keep your story focused on the whimsical fancies of that single person.
  2. Create favourite characters your readers can root for. They don’t have to be necessarily good or bad but instill such qualities in them that your readers can relate to them.
  3. Start with the end in mind. Then everything in the story leads to that climax. It’s like knowing well in advance where you have to goand then taking every step in order to reach there.
  4. Be ruthless with your characters. Just because you like them, just because you are writing about them, don’t be lenient with them. Make the most terrible things happen to them so that the readers can know what all the characters can deal with. This is how champions are created.
  5. Respect your readers and their time. Always keep in mind that when they are reading your story, and after they have read your story, they shouldn’t feel as if they have wasted their time.
  6. Every sentence of your story is important. It should either take the plot forward or reveal the character of the person you’re writing about. This automatically means there should be no needless sentences and words in your story.
  7. Cut to the chase. This might be contrary to what many suspense writers believe in, but do away with the unknown as soon as possible.
  8. Every character must have a desire no matter how big or small that desire is. Without a desire the character has no meaning.

These tips are what he believed about creating a great story and you may have your own opinion. In fact, writers, ideally, should not learn from other writers. They should always chart their own path.