Kurt Vonnegut’s Rules for Short Stories
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."
“Behind a remarkable scholar one finds a mediocre man, and behind a mediocre artist quite often a very remarkable man.”
—F. Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, §137 (edited excerpt).
“I make a list of titles after I’ve finished the story or the book — sometimes as many as a hundred. Then I start eliminating them, sometimes all of them.” — Ernest Hemingway
“The title comes afterwards, usually with considerable difficulty. … A working title often changes.” — Heinrich Böll
“I have never been a title man. I don’t give a damn what it is called. I would call it [East of Eden] Valley to the Sea, which is a quotation from absolutely nothing but has two great words and a direction.” — John Steinbeck
“Titles as a rule do not matter much. Very good authors break down when it comes to the effort of choosing a title.” — D.H. Lawrence
“When I need a title I’ll usually reread the poetry of Hart Crane. I take a copy of Crane’s work with me when I travel. A phrase will catch my eye and seem right for what I’m writing. But there’s no system to it.” — Tennessee Williams
“I have a peculiar idea about titles. They should never be obviously provocative, nor say anything about murder. They should be rather indirect and neutral, but the form of words should be a little unusual. … As to publishers, I wonder if they know anything about titles.” — Raymond Chandler
Because you and me
cannot for too much longer be
I will go to the sea
where they will see
a man without swimming trunks.
On Thursday, the day that the Dow Jones index closed at an all-time high of 17,068 points, AbeBooks.com sold a first edition of Karl Marx’s Das Kapital for
Keep your feet on the ground
and your dreams in your mouth
for make believe is made in the clouds.