I’m trying something a little different this week: pseuo-realtime posting of my reaction to stories assigned to me for first read (Triangulation: End of the Rainbow anthology). Best story IMHO will receive this week’s Slushy. No monetary award or promise of publication, but it’s a heck of a thing, no?
Story 1: 1900 words. I was turned off by the first sentence, but that could be taste. Reading on with anticipation. A few paragraphs of summary character description and the story begins. No, false alarm. Continues with more backfill and a little clever chit-chat. Then we are indeed moving forward and it’s pretty interesting. Seems to be a lot of switching viewpoint between colorful characters that aren’t characterized much beyond colorful names. It’s a little tiresome at this point. There is a hint of escalation that fizzles quickly and the story ends with a pun. The writing itself is solid, if a bit overclever, but story and character development are lacking. Maybe at 500-700 words this could work, but it’s not for the antho in any case.
Thanks for thinking of us, but we’re going to pass on this one. The story starts too slowly for our taste (too much character backfill without forward movement) and is too long for its payoff.
Story 2: 3600 word reprint. This starts with an overly lush description. It does move forward immediately, which is good, and there is an intriguing development in the second paragraph. I’m having trouble getting past the lush prose, however. I’m also not getting a sense of character motivation at this point. Some of the dialogue appears to be intended to inform me rather than the participants. I’m not feeling connected to this protagonist. The next scene is a flashback, which only increases my distance from the protagonist. I would rather read the story from the beginning moving forward. In the next scene, we reach the landmark which forms the piece’s title. I’m wondering why we were coming here? That should have been established early (motivation). We come to a section of present tense and rainbows, which do help justify the theme. There’s some fairly interesting moralizing going on here, but I’m not all that involved I’m afraid. Near the story end, we get a character thumbnail that explains motive. Seems very late in the game for that. The ending seems familiar, a bit Star Trek and Lost Horizon. Overall, the story just doesn’t pull me in.
Thanks for thinking of us, but we’re going to pass on xxxxx. It’s a good story, but we found the lack of early character motivation to be a problem and the resolution was overly familiar.
Story 3: 5200 words. The cover letter partially explains the story, which is usually a bad sign. A catchy, but confusing opening sentence. I’m not clear whether the name refers to the protagonist or to the world. It’s not until second paragraph that I can be sure. The opening conceit is fairly interesting though. I want to see what the author does with it. Viewpoint? I’m quickly losing confidence. And there it is, paragraph four, where the story begins moving backward. This is such a common flaw in submissions we see. We much prefer a story that starts at its (interesting) beginning and moves forward. I’m a third of the way through now and I’m still reading variations of the basic premise. There has been some interesting stuff, but it’s too drawn out to hold me, and often confusing as well. I have no idea who the narrator is, for example. There’s an interesting world here. I think the author is working too hard to hide it (create mystery) rather than developing narrative momentum. The story meanders from focus to focus. It does end well enough, but the ending is not deserved by what has gone before. The story is too long for the idea and the first person presentation does nothing to help it. My advice to the author would be to take this apart and start at the beginning with a third person protagonist. There’s a good story idea here, but the first person delivery and various confusions largely hide it. Think in terms of protagonist motivation and protagonist change rather than working so hard to make the world sound mysterious. It IS mysterious. Use that mystery as window dressing or symbol, sure, but it will be the characters that compel us to read. I’m not going to say this in the rejection; there’s too much to rewrite here and at 2 cents a word with no real confidence the new version would be purchased, it would be unfair to the writer. Still, I wish he/she were in my writers workshop because there’s something interesting in here.
Thanks for thinking of us, but we’re going to pass on xxxxx. This is an interesting world and there’s a good story to be had here, but it took too long to develop for our tastes and seemed to change focus a few times along the way. We were confused by the opening sentence. Is yyyyy the character or the world? We were also troubled that the story moved backward after the initial scene.
Please do consider us for future submissions.
Story 4: 4200 words. A nice opening. Good specific (characterizing) details. Unfortunately, it’s going on too long by the fourth paragraph. There’s good observational detail (with an overlay of the symbolic) but not a lot of narrative momentum, which is what we generally prefer for the anthology. It’s a literary retrospective with a speculative conceit, but little actual speculative content. The story is primarily symbolic. Nothing wrong with that, but it’s not what we’re looking for.
Thank you for thinking of us, but I’m afraid we have to pass on xxxxxx. While the story is well conceived, well written, and nicely observed, it lacks the narrative momentum we look for. Nor is the connection to our theme particularly clear. Should you have other stories that fit our theme, we would be happy to consider them.
Story 5: Ah, a detective mystery. Good opening paragraph, nothing flashy, but effective. It’s taking too long. Also, the story is apparently being told in retrospect, which could be a negative (though not necessarily). About midway through, I pull my hair out, realizing the story relies on a what-if world where a common practice does not exist. Really? Halfway through the story I learn this? ? And there’s this device to introduce this concept to the protagonist? It’s going to be hard to recover my trust at this point. Even better, the device was used to remove the concept from everyone else in the first place. The ending is basically a logic puzzle that only works if one doesn’t think too hard.
Thanks for thinking of us, but I’m afraid we’re going to pass on xxxx. The connection to our theme was not particularly clear and, while the core idea is logically interesting, it would take a lot more development of this world and this device to convince us to suspend disbelief.
AND THE WINNER IS: Story 3 (5200 words), not because it’s the best written story or even the strongest narrative, but because it contains more of the elements we’re looking for in a story for the anthology.
Tune in next week for the next batch. And don’t forget to listen to our weekly podcasts.