Finally we reach the last of author Kurt Vonnegut’s eight rules for writing a short story. It’s not a pretty finish in terms of how neatly his rules jibe with writing memoirs. Perhaps you’ll agree with me that Rule 8 is not a good fit:
Rule 8: Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To hell 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.
Vonnegut must be amused by his own irreverence. I don’t see an advantage to writing even a work of fiction with the possibility in mind that the reader may not finish the book. “To hell with suspense???? Many fans of the mystery novel would disagree! In our situation here, we’re writing a true story about our real life. I think we must unfold the events with some order and not focus on cramming the early chapters with all of the important information. Vonnegut has a point that a reader who fails to finish a work of fiction can concoct an ending that may be just as satisfying as the ending the author crafted. But this is one rule that does not apply to your memoir, which is nonfiction and, therefore, by definition leads to only one conclusion: the actual one. I’ve had fun reviewing Vonnegut’s eight rules and hope you did, too.