Kurt Vonnegut on The Shapes of Stories

Moving People to Action

Kurt Vonnegut Kurt Vonnegut, photo from nndb

Kurt Vonnegut is an American writer (1922-2007) famous for his satire and humour in the face of desperate circumstances.  He has a wonderful theory on “the shapes of stories” – which he presents in the 4 minute video available below.

Vonnegut’s 8 Rules for Telling a Story

In his book Bagombo Snuff Box: Uncollected Short Fiction, Vonnegut listed eight rules for 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…

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