Thursday, March 22, 2007

Kurt Vonnegut on Writing

Listen!  AmericanState.org has a page up on Kurt Vonnegut's 8 Rules for Writing Fiction.

When I was younger I read as much Vonnegut as I could get my hands on.  My first girlfriend got me into him, having done a report on Cat's Cradle her freshman year.  I borrowed the book when she was done.  Later that year in a sociology class I had to read Player Piano.  From then on I read everything I could find:  Slaughterhouse Five, Sirens of Titan, Bluebeard, Harrison Bergeron, Welcome to the Monkey House... you name it. Great stuff.

If you're never read him, I highly recommend...well, most of it.  I was going to write something down but I kept changing my mind.  Cat's Cradle, Player Piano, Harrison Bergeron, Sirens of Titan, Slaughterhouse Five.  Pick one.  Then read it and pick another, and repeat. 

He spoke at my college about how to write fiction.  Things I remember:

  • He said "Throw away the first N pages of what you've written.  You've said nothing."  I can't remember what N was.
  • In a demonstration of why the traditional "plot curve" (build, climax, denouement) was useless, he graphed Hamlet as a flat horizontal line.
  • He graphed something as a line which went straight up, but I can't remember what it was.  I remember that he used Kafka's Metamorphosis as an example of a line that went straight down.

I was told later that he'd previously gone out drinking with the whatever college activities student group it was that was hosting the event.

Po tee wheet.

 

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