Kurt Vonnegut on Writing (Three Quotes)

“Every scene, every dialogue should advance the narrative and then if possible there should be a surprise ending.” (about the most important aspect of the craft of fiction)

“Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.” (one of Vonnegut’s rules for fictional composition)

“The obvious alternative [to writing to please a small group of supporters] is, of course, something to please the AtlanticHarpers, or the New Yorker. To do this would be to turn out something after the fashion of somebody-or-other, and I might be able to do it. I say might. It amounts to signing on with any of a dozen schools born ten, twenty, thirty years ago. The kicks are based largely on having passed off a creditable counterfeit. And, of course, if you appear in the Atlantic or Harpers or the New Yorker, by God you must be a writer, because everybody says so. This is poor competition for the fat checks from the slicks. For want of anything more tempting, I’ll stick with money.” (taken from a letter that Vonnegut wrote in 1951)

(from Look at the Birdie, Delacorte Press, 2009)


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