Boing Boing has a post with Vonnegut’s rules for short stories from his collection Bagombo Snuff Box. His rules are also good to keep in mind while doing any type of creative writing. Rule #3 is certainly the basis of writing plays. I am particularly drawn to Rule #7. Particularly in the theater when your audience is so close at hand you want to satisfy them all. Yet good shows really do allow an audience to hate it as much as love it.
Vonnegut’s Rules for Short Stories:
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.