Kurt Vonnegut’s 8 tips for writing short story

I came across this sage advice when I was preparing for a story-coaching session with a short story writer who is a Kurt Vonnegut fan.

I think point 7 is my favourite, with 8 coming a close second.

The writing in the clip is a little blurry,  but there’s something so great about his droll tone that I felt compelled to share it. (With thanks to who ever it was that first gifted this to the internet.)


  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.