27 March 2012

Tales from the slush pile

We've been diligently wading through the slush pile. Thank you for sending us your stories! We appreciate it! :) But I do have a little advice... First and foremost: Please read at least one issue of Electric Spec. We do have a certain style, if you will. We do not publish stories with no dialogue. We do not publish stories in which nothing happens. I'm sure there is a market for such stories, but Electric Spec is not it.

That being said, writing an awesome story is very difficult. IMHO, here are some things a story should have to approach awesome:

  • No major grammar or spelling issues.
  • Dialogue tags can only be said/says or asked/asks. I'm not kidding.
  • You must have a protagonist with some kind of external problem who acts to remedy said problem. He/she/it does not have to be successful, but they have to ACT. Note: this is the external plot.
  • Your protagonist must also have some kind of internal emotional motivation that you convey to the reader. The events of the story should change this in some way (although a lack of change can work--as long as it's deliberate.) This is the character arc. Note: the internal character arc and the external plot need to be inter-woven. Note, too, the author's job is to manipulate the readers' emotions. Your primary tool here are the emotions of the characters.
  • Your opening (this means the first 250 words) should address your story problem. In other words, your opening is your set up.
  • Your opening (this means the first 250 words) should speak to your ending. Generally, this will be an echo of the same theme, or the theme's opposite. As an example, if your opening shows the reader thousands of clones, the ending should show how the protagonist is just one of many (defeat) OR he is special, one-in-a-million (victory).
  • You should be able to summarize the story's big idea or theme in one simple sentence. I'll come back to this below.
  • You should consider utilizing a symbol in your story to make it richer and illuminate the theme. If I was going to give this list a symbol, it would be some kind of light. :)
  • You should use similes and metaphors in your descriptions.
  • Your suggestion here?

A story I learned a lot from is Connie Willis' "The Last of the Winnebagos." (That's another tip: study awesome stories.) This story takes place in a dystopian future where a virus has killed off all dogs and the Humane Society has extensive police powers. Ostensively, the story is about a Winnebago hitting a jackal on the highway, a photojournalist trying to get some pictures and the Humane Society investigating the jackal's death. But what it's really about is the journalist sacrificing someTHING he loves dearly to save another human.

So, as you prepare to send us your story, how does it stack up to the list?


sex scenes at starbucks, said...

This editor is not as militant with said/asked. :) Actually I much prefer tagless dialogue or have it tagged with action. Too many "said"s in a row grate on my nerves.

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