When I was younger, I always wanted to be a writer. And a lawyer, and a famous person, and a cat, but all of these vocations are peripheral to my point. I wrote [shitty] poetry, trite and possibly plagiarized short stories, and almost crapped myself with excitement when my high school started offering a Creative Writing seminar in the 10th grade. I spent tons of time reading in an attempt to expand my mind, but often had trouble coming up with truly original and interesting creative content of my own. Obviously, I still enjoy writing (re: I have a blog and you’re reading it, how’s that for a one sentence story), but still don’t possess the skill or finesse to create a read-worthy piece of fiction. Should I ever embark on an adventure to create, I will surely follow the advice of Kurt Vonnegut:
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.
The greatest American short story writer of my generation was Flannery O’Connor (1925-1964). She broke practically every one of my rules but the first. Great writers tend to do that.
He makes it sound so easy; it’s not. I’ll weigh my options before writing the best-screenplay-never-wrote:
For some creative writing inspiration, check out One Word: a single word will come up on the screen and you’ll have 60 seconds to write about it. Free write and free your mind.