Rules For Writing Fiction

I’d put this off and I don’t know why. On Friday in Creative Writing I’d gotten this sheet, and I thought I’d share what’s on it.

It was quite interesting to me. In short, it is some “rules” for writing fiction.

If a writer of prose knows enough of what he is writing about he may omit things that he knows and the reader, if the writer is writing truly enough, will have a feeling of those things as strongly as though the writer had stated them. The dignity of movement of an ice-berg is due to only one-eighth of it being above water. A writer who omits things because he does not know them only makes hollow places in this writing.

– Ernest Hemingway.

Kurt Vonnegut’s Rules For Writing 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. 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. Writer 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.

Now, I don’t personally agree with point 4 completely – I know that Edgar Allen Poe had once said that every word in a story must be necessary to be there, and each word must build up to the climax of the story, but in order to describe something, you should take a small amount of time out to describe it. Of course, meaningless physical description is pointless – I’d once read a fanfic where the writer would painstakingly describe every piece of clothing a character decides to wear, the brand, the color, how they folded their sleeves even – but to some degree, a description of places and setting in accordance with the story, both for emotive, symbolic or dynamic purposes, are useful.

I like how point 8 negates Hemingway a little. Not completely, just a little. I suppose you can always imply from point 8 that “as much as possible” isn’t “everything”, but just as much as it is necessary.

I think I’ve fucked up point 5 many, many times – flashbacks from a start point doesn’t count. I’m guilty of starting many an epic long story from the beginning of beginning. Still, I’d like to think I’m building up artistic flair in my writing.

Yes Cheryl, I will work on the writing project.

But apart from that, I really sincerely believe in points 1 – 3, and point 6 sounds like a lot of fun. Point 7 is probably something I will have to slowly develop, because I haven’t really thought about it.

I shall try my hardest to create a good ice-berg. One day it’ll be large enough to sink the Titanic again.