Alec Nevala-Lee

Thoughts on art, creativity, and the writing life.

Vonnegut on plot

with 2 comments

I guarantee you that no modern story scheme, even plotlessness, will give a reader genuine satisfaction, unless one of those old-fashioned plots is smuggled in somewhere. I don’t praise plots as accurate representations of life, but as ways to keep readers reading. When I used to teach creative writing, I would tell the students to make their characters want something right away—even if it’s only a glass of water. Characters paralyzed by the meaninglessness of modern life still have to drink water from time to time. One of my students wrote a story about a nun who got a piece of dental floss stuck between her lower left molars, and who couldn’t get it out all day long. I thought that was wonderful. The story dealt with issues a lot more important than dental floss, but what kept readers going was anxiety about when the dental floss would finally be removed. Nobody could read that story without fishing around in his mouth with a finger.

Kurt Vonnegut, to the Paris Review

Written by nevalalee

January 23, 2011 at 1:19 am

2 Responses

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  1. I’m hoping he wants a housecleaner.

    Glenfinial

    January 23, 2011 at 12:57 pm

  2. You should see my desk…

    nevalalee

    January 23, 2011 at 1:13 pm


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