Thursday, October 30, 2008

Make Every Sentence Count

“Every sentence should do one of two things -- reveal character or advance action.” -- from Eight Basis of Creative Writing by Kurt Vonnegut. (Also can be found as “Eight Rules for Writing Fiction.”)
I keep this quote on an index card by my keyboard. That way I’m reminded everyday of what it says about writing fiction. When I need to trim a story to meet the requirements of a certain market, or just want to tighten the flow, this is the first thing I consider. I remember adding a quirky character to one short story that I finally deleted after suffering a bit of angst over her demise. It was one of those bits that an author falls in love with, but that doesn’t add anything meaningful to a story. During one of the rewrites, I looked at my card and realized the sentence in question neither added to characterization nor advanced the story. I hated to let the character go, but finally relented. The sentence is in a file waiting for a story it fits into. Oh, and by the way, the other seven items on this list also offer good advice.

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