I have five stories to first-read this week, so without further ado…
Story 1 (3549 word SF/Fantasy): I’m a little worried that the story begins with an avoidance of description, other than the protagonist’s violet eyes and dark hair (which she could not see in any case, but that’s a minor niggle). Rather than actually describing a character within a scene, the character thinks about what’s going to happen. It’s better than moving backward, but not as effective as getting me into the scene with vivid description AND character insight. At this point I’m more confused than intrigued. I will say that the story does drop me into the middle of a situation, which is a good technique. It doesn’t give me enough context, however, to figure out where I am, what’s actually happening, or why I should care about the protagonist. She seems nice enough, but doesn’t have a goal as far as I can tell. She also spends a great deal of time passively watching and having things happen to her expression, body parts, moods, rather than causing these things to happen (passive vs active). A more accessible goal and active presentation would help a lot. Scene two begins with an “as you know, Bob” speech meant to fill us in on background information. This is usually not the most effective technique and it doesn’t work particularly well here. By this point it’s clear we’re not going to take the story, so I skim to the end. It’s a story about a young woman choosing a different path, but it’s not terribly compelling for the reasons stated above. The background seems pretty interesting, though it feels more like a piece of a book than a stand alone story. It’s basically about one woman deciding to change her situation, rather than a larger issue. That makes it a fairly “small” story. My advice would be to work much harder on establishing the initial scene, a meaningful goal for the protagonist, and a more robust complication that makes the ending matter to more than this one woman.
Thanks for thinking of us for this story, but we’ve decided to pass on it. While it does drop us into the middle of a situation, we found the opening more confusing than intriguing and did not understand the protagonist’s goal or need early enough. She reacts passively throughout most of the story rather than taking an active part in the events. That said, there are some interesting ideas here and we wish you the best in developing them.
Story 2 (2620 word SF): This starts interestingly, though I find the voice annoying, a little too flippant. That could be taste, so I won’t let that be the deciding factor in my analysis. It does fit the theme, which is a nice change of pace. The story is written as if I am interacting with the narrator, which almost always irritates me (not that I haven’t tried the technique myself though). The actual writing is strong, with good naturalistic dialogue and many observations of character and history. It’s a time travel piece. The problem, for me, is that it’s not really a story, but a description of an idea. There’s no real escalation of tension or climax, only a tying up of loose ends with a penultimate scene that explains the story’s genesis (essentially) and a final paragraph meant to twist things around. The trouble is I don’t really care for the characters all that much.
Thanks for submitting xxxxx, which certainly fits our theme. Unfortunately, we’ve decided to pass on it, mainly because it lacks the sort of narrative momentum we like to see. Basically, the story describes an (interesting) idea rather than providing a story experience with escalating tension, climax, and resolution. The twist ending didn’t work for us, because we did not feel fully invested in the characters despite some good character details and dialogue. Should you have other stories that fit our theme, we will be happy to consider them.
Story 3 (1992 word SF): A solid opening. The rainbow feels a bit tacked on, but that’s not a huge deal. I’m engaged through the first third or so. It’s beginning to lose focus, however. It’s devolving into chit-chat, amusing, but not moving forward. It turns serious (well, emotional) for the final third. It’s a nice little ending, but wholly undeserved. The story is pretty much a one trick pony with a serious thread woven into the last section to give it the appearance of substance. My advice would be to tighten the cleverness considerably and set up the ending properly in the first scene. Just because clever dialogue comes easy to someone doesn’t mean it’s the right tool for every occasion. We see that a lot, folks who are good at a particular technique or skill, overusing it, possibly to avoid weaknesses in other areas. I would have liked to love this story, but it’s just not… enough.
Thanks for thinking of us for xxxxx, but we’re going to pass on it. While we enjoyed the cleverness of your writing, the story had a little too much of it. The attempt to add substance in the final third of the story (relationship with son) was too little too late. You might consider tightening the first two thirds of this and setting up the ending in the first scene. In any case, we wish you well in placing the story elsewhere. If you have other stories that fit our theme, we will be happy to consider them.
Story 4 (4500 word SF/Horror): Solid opening. Second scene moves backward in time. I’m finding it confusing rather than helpful. It does establish a scene and character motivation, but I’m wondering why the story doesn’t lead with this instead. The opening scene certainly piqued my interest, so much so that this perfectly functional second scene is a letdown. The third scene establishes backstory, but is a bit tedious (mainly repetition). After that there’s a nice action sequence but it devolves into explanation of phenomena rather quickly. Then I’m feeling kind of disconnected from the experience (reminds me a lot of Men in Black with a bit of Lovecraft mixed in). Story doesn’t seem to be maintaining a focus at this point. The ending is reasonably good, avoiding the most predictable outcome and adding a nice little twist to the usual wish fulfillment tale. However, the story seems out of balance and I have no idea why that opening scene exists.
Thank you for sending xxxxx, but we’re going to pass. There is some strong writing here and the core idea is interesting, but we felt the story was out of balance. The opening scene seems to serve no purpose other than to titillate, which it does so well that the second scene comes off as a disappointment by contrast. You may wish to consider starting this at the beginning and moving forward from there. After the initial scene, the story proceeds in segments: situation and character introduction, background emotional content, depiction of idea, action sequence, emotional resolution. The story would work better for us if these elements were better integrated (i.e. scenes serving more than one purpose). That may be an oversimplification, but that was our experience in reading the story, in case our reaction is useful to you. We wish you the best in placing this and look forward to receiving other stories from you.
Story 5 (1450 word Fantasy/Humor): The story opens with summary background that is not particularly engaging. Heavy issues are mentioned in passing, leading me to believe this will be a sincere story with a message. It then moves into mostly breezy dialogue that’s not half bad. My interest perks up. This turns out to be a clever little three wishes story with some gay-lesbian content. Maybe someone’s been listening to our podcasts? Anyway, the writing is overly controlled in places, but the dialogue is good and the story is cute. I’ll pass it on for a full reading. Might be a nice contrast to other stories we’ve bought.
This week’s Slushy goes to Story 5. It’s not as well written as other stories, nor as ambitious, but it works for what it is. I would change the opening paragraphs to better set up the ending and weed the prose quite a bit, but it’s a fun read (for me anyway, and that’s what counts, right?)
Tune in next time for the Slushy rundown.