One of the most important things a story needs is character. We editors are in disagreement about if character is the most important thing or the second-most important thing, but it's definitely important. Your story must have a character that acts. It's also important that the character drives the story, rather than having the character serve the story. This is accomplished by creating a fully-fleshed out person, complete with loves, hates, desires, passions, goals, flaws, and every other quality a person has. Of course, readers will not see all these qualities on the page, but we should get the impression that they're there somewhere in the background.
I admit I cheat when creating characters. I often base my characters on people I know. Surprisingly, these templates never seem to recognize themselves. Personally, I think it's because we create imaginary 'characters' out of the real people in our lives--which may or may not agree with how the people see themselves.
Uh oh. I'm getting a little too philosophical? Cynical?
Which brings me to my second topic: voice. Voice can be a tricky concept to understand. Partly because there are two different meanings. Meaning one: each character should have a unique voice. Each character should show his voice via his/her/its unique combo of syntax, diction, vocab, personality, etc.
Meaning two: the author's voice. Author voice is the author's individual writing style, created by their unique combo of syntax, diction, punctuation, character development, dialogue, etc. Some authors showcase a different voice for different works. For example Charlaine Harris's Sookie Stackhouse series is much different from her Lily Bard Shakespeare series. On the other hand, some authors have a distinctive voice in all their work, e.g. Connie Willis. Personally, I love a strong voice. For example, I love Connie Willis's voice, so I know in advance that I will enjoy any Connie Willis work.
Consider wowing us with your unique voice--be it of you or your character.
The submission deadline for the November 2016 issue has passed. But we are now taking subs for the Fenruary 2017 issue.