It’s a tough blow to lose Kurt Vonnegut and Don Ho and have to pay taxes all in the same week and we’re still in recovery. We’re leaving for Barcelona tomorrow, so posting will be very sporadic this week, but we hope to have some coverage from the Salon. Accent on “hope”.

Speaking of Vonnegut, his eight tips for writing a story have been making the rounds — hopefully these are actually from the great man, and not like that “Wear sunscreen” thing he was credited with, but they are sound guidelines in any case.

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.


  1. I saw him give a lecture in the City a long time ago where he went through these point by point. His pick for best plot/story ever: Hamlet.

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