Advice to Short Story Writers

When it came to giving advice to writers, Kurt Vonnegut, author of Slaughterhouse Five and some short story collections among others was never dull. He once tried to warn people away from using semicolons by characterizing them as “transvestite hermaphrodites representing absolutely nothing.”

There is no shortage of advice if you want to craft a short story. I know because I am about to embark on a collection of short stories before I dive into the sequel of The Tribute Of Babylon. I have condensed what I found into seven maxims below. I hope I have also managed to do this in my published work as well as the forthcoming collection.


  1. Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for. (I went for four!)
  2. Every character should want something, even if it is only a feeling.
  3. Every sentence must do one of two things–reveal character or advance the action.
  4. Start as close to the action as possible.
  5. Be a sadist. No matter how virtuous the leading characters, make awful things happen to them, let the reader see what they are made of.
  6. Write to please just one person.
  7. Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. That way they get to know the characters intimately and will root for them.

But for every rule there is an exception. One great short story writer was Flannery O’Connor, author of two novels and about 32 short stories, so she was doing something right. Great writers tend to do that. So maybe I shouldn’t follow these maxims too closely

If you have KindleUnlimited you could go here and read them for free and let me know if I have succeeded or failed in following these guidlines!

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