Writing Wednesday: Kurt Vonnegut’s Secrets of Short Story Writing

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If it seems difficult to fit all your ideas into one novel, then writing a short story feels like an impossible hurdle. However, if you are celebrating National Short Story Month or taking part in the Story-a-Day Challenge, you will need to conquer these fears and find a way to sum up your story in an even tighter framework than normal.

Thankfully, there is some great advice out there to help you navigate the world of short story writing. And don’t just take our word for it – renowned author (and short story aficionado) Kurt Vonnegut wrote eloquently on the subject in his book Bagombo Snuff Box, providing these eight secrets to writing effective short fiction:

  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
  7. Write to please just one person
  8. Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible

Vonnegut’s advice is pretty relevant for any type of writing, for that matter. But, what is key in writing a short story is the time (or, if you are thinking in terms of word count, space) you have to tell your tale. In no genre is it more important than in the short story to be concise and not play around with unnecessary words or punctuation. So, when diving into your next (or first!) short story, remember the cardinal rule: K.I.S.S.

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