Go into the arts. I’m not kidding. The arts are not a way to make a living. They are a very human way of making life more bearable. Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven’s sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possibly can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something.
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. Now 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.
Kurt Vonnegut wrote this letter on November 5th, 2006, to Xavier High School in New York City. The students were given an assignment by their English teacher to write a persuasive letter to their favorite author, and ask him or her to visit the school. Five of the students chose to write to Vonnegut.
Although he never made the trip, he wrote a wonderful letter, and was the only author to reply.
When I used to teach creative writing, I would tell the students to make their characters want something right away—even if it’s only a glass of water. Characters paralyzed by the meaningless of modern life still have to drink water from time to time.