What I learned this week – July 29, 2011

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Kurt Vonnegut

Eight 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. Now 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.

— Vonnegut, Kurt, Bagombo Snuff Box: Uncollected Short Fiction (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons 1999), 9-10.

But I’m not complaining! You know why? Because the cardinal rule of dealing with negativity is: Don’t complain about negativity.

—Nathan Bradford, How to Deal With Negativity

It’s a shame my children are grown, because now, I finally have an instructional video on how to properly read them a fairy tale. Actually, if they had had the Internet when my kids were little (we had dialup…) I could have simply played this to them. Mounted an iPad on their crib (oops… no Flash… – mounted an Android Tablet on their crib) and let them watch to their heart’s desire.

Pretty good, huh. Still, though, I think it needs more cowbell.

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Gratuitous Pulp Paperback Cover