Kurt Vonnegut’s 8 Rules for Writing – New York Writers’ Intensive


In the vein of character development… i’ve always loved Vonnegut’s suggestion that every character should want something..even if it’s only a glass of water. It ties into the human need to need. Everyone wants something. Once you know what your character wants, you know how they should behave, their purpose, and what drives them toward the end of your story. The want for nothing is a spiritual endeavor but for a good flawed character..make them greedy with wants.

One thought on “Kurt Vonnegut’s 8 Rules for Writing – New York Writers’ Intensive

  1. I love that advice. It’s the key to everything. Anytime the writing is stuck, I sit down with my characters and ask them what they want, and then I ask myself: how and for how long can I withhold it? That’s basically the story. A character is defined by what they want, how they go about getting it, and what they do when they’re denied it. Once I know them that well, it informs every choice I make for the narrative, and every choice makes narrative sense. Things start to flow again.

    Also, I love your phrasing, “greedy with wants.” Writing advice so often feels like math–(character + want – have) / react = plot?–but it’s so important to remember that that *wanting* needs to be a tangible thing, not just a fact plunked into the right place. We talk about fueling the writing, and fuel is fire.


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