See my previous post for disclaimers. Wherein I continue to advance through the ranks of hopeful stories for possibly inclusion in Triangulation: Last Contact. My sincere apologies to those of you who have been waiting patiently for decisions. At this point we’ve officially accepted 14 stories (38,000 words).
Story 217 (2/28/2011 Fantasy 2000 words)
Reader 1: “Good use omni, exactly as it should be used, making it clear that the narrator is taking an outside view of many characters. The problem is that we don’t have much reason to care for any of these characters by being so far outside their heads. The various ‘heart-warming’ endings didn’t quite have enough emotional impact. It also lost me on the literal Deus Ex Machina which clearly illustrated the passive nature of most of the protagonists. It’s a competently enough told story and I’m impressed how deftly the author handled the omniscient POV, but the strengths of the story weren’t enough to compensate for the lack of intimacy.”
Interesting hard SF opening, with just enough mystery to pull me onward. I’m a little concerned that it’s been labeled Fantasy, which likely means it’s not going to maintain a hard SF feel. Which is probably unfortunate, since hard SF is likely the only genre where this voice will work consistently. Fantasy tends to thrive on emotion, whereas SF can get by on intellect. Personally, I like either genre to depend on strong characters AND strong ideas, but…
Page 2 connects us (nicely) to a character. The writing is engaging and smooth. I’m definitely not getting close to these characters, but remain interested in how they will be connected by the inciting incident.
I lose some interest when God appears in scene. It changes the tone of the piece. What I thought was building to be serious may end up being fluff. (Yeah, God evokes fluff? Trust me on this one).
When God reappears on page 8 I’m ready for him. More importantly, though, I’m thinking, Now there’s a story that would interest me. Unfortunately it’s not this story. There is substantial skill on display here, some fine, comfortable writing that does not overreach or underachieve. The story does not deserve it, unfortunately.
Basically, what we have here is an ambitious idea writ lite. To the author, I would say, come back to this one in a few years, after you’ve developed your storytelling skills a bit more. There’s something really special waiting for you here.
To do this story right will likely take 6,000-8000 words. The God portion could be done at shorter length, but would involve a much different focus.
Encouraging, but I’ll have to turn it down. Too much to be done in revision, I’m afraid.
Slush-o-meter (1-10): 4 An ambitious SF idea. An oversimplified delivery hampers its potential power.
Story 218 (3/1/2011 Fantasy 3000 words)
Reader 1: “I think this little ghost story is told from the wrong point of view. Telling this from the girl’s point of view puts the reader too far away from the actual story. The girl has no stake in the action and no emotional involvement. The story doesn’t begin until page 3. That the parents don’t notice the ghost girl’s condition is too forced. Good idea, poor execution. ” (plot spoilers removed)
The opening effectively drops me into character and situation. It’s not amazing, but works. I lose interest in the second paragraph, however. It dissolves into chit-chat (conversation that doesn’t push story action forward). The dialogue itself is fine, but because we have no story yet, it seems to be delaying rather than pushing things forward.
On page 3 we get some background delivered as dialogue. Some good observations, good scene description, natural dialogue, but no story yet. At the end of p3 we get a possible inciting incident. This is too late by a couple pages. Story should probably begin either arriving G’ma’s or with the kids playing.
Next page is more chit-chat. It’s interesting, but doesn’t seem related to the inciting incident. End of page 5 returns us to the story. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with p4 that couldn’t be saved simply by having the MC think/worry about what she saw on p3. The conversation then becomes a complication (she can’t concentrate on what she wants to with G’ma blathering on – hopefully what G’ma said will become relevant later too).
Some very nice observations here. This is close to working, but the story just isn’t quite strong enough to carry the flow yet. I like page 8-9. It’s getting good now. A strong scene here. The clues are pretty numerous; that the MC doesn’t catch on a little sooner makes her seem a little slow. In reality, a person wouldn’t catch on quickly, but in fiction it’s difficult to pull off.
On p12 the mystery is officially solved. I don’t mind this so long as the story has more to offer in terms of climax and resolution. The actual climax is rushed. We have this super slow buildup, then wham! it’s done. Then the anti-climax is fairly slow to deliver. It’s a nice touch, but the story isn’t yet shaped to its strongest impact.
There’s not much plot here, probably enough to support 1500-2000 words. If I were revising, I’d likely cut the opening 3 pages or so, then trim the conversation that follows, and focus more tightly on the grandmother, since she’s the one who matters to the resolution. I don’t mind that this is in the girl’s point of view, but the price of that is that the girl has to actually change as a result of what she witnesses. There’s an inference that she learns something, but I don’t really see her as having changed her perspective in the end. It’s a nice warm tale, but the story is not complex enough to support this word count and the protagonist doesn’t really have an emotional arc yet. I do think this can work with a bit more tinkering. It’s not really as layered as we like for the anthology, however.
Slush-o-meter (1-10): 5 A tidy ghost story with a strong emotional core. Lack of character development and uneven plot work against it.
Story 219 (3/1/2011 SF 867 words)
Reader 1: “In this story, the POV has decided to leave her home. “[something] is taking over the country and she has decided to move west like everyone else. The rest of the story is telling us about all the techniques people have tried to get rid of the things. There isn’t enough character development or story here. ”
First person does this opening no favor. It’s bland, despite dropping me into the middle of a situation in a character’s perspective. First person is such a trap for writers. It’s usually more distancing than third person and more difficult to sustain. (why? you ask. Mainly because in first person everything gets filtered through a perspective; we can’t step back and see the big picture or how the MC fits into it.) Maybe there will be a reason why it’s necessary here.
The first page is essentially a summary of the situation. Except for the final couple of paragraphs this is essentially an explanation of an idea. There’s very little emotional investment. If I were revising, I’d probably shift this to close third person viewpoint and actually show the story that happens after this ending. The situation/idea isn’t taking me to a new understanding of myself or my world; it’s just kind of sitting there on the page. It’s not a bad idea at all, but I think it deserves a story.
Slush-o-meter (1-10): 3 An SF flash that describes a unhappy future. Lack of character development works against it.
Story 220 (3/1/2011 Fantasy 2700 words)
Reader 1: “I suppose this is a unique idea, but it’s a poor story. We are never fully in the POV’s head because that would give away his plan. There isn’t any real suspense or escalation until about page 6/9 when [something nasty] shows up to kill him. Then there is a bunch of info dumping through dialog to fill us in on the past. By then, it’s too late. I really don’t care about the character, even if he does have a good idea.”
The first paragraph effectively paints a picture of the setting. It’s good in that sense, but it’s not really moving the story forward or planting me into a character perspective. This is omniscient and it’s solid omniscient, but it’s certainly not pulling me into the scene emotionally (intellectually, yes).
The writing is smooth and the dialogue works very well to enliven this. I’m still a little leery of being held outside the MC’s viewpoint. I’m not emotionally invested at all. The details of this place are interesting. I’m mainly worried that I’m being held away from the MC in order to set up a punch line or simple twist. This seldom works very well for me, or for the anthology.
I do like that when we’re introduced to the complication, it’s not shrouded in false mystery. The device for keeping this from us is wearing a little thin, though. I believe this would make a cool movie scene, however.
Yes, the dialogue beginning on page 6 is much less effective. It’s basically telling background they both (should) know. I’m feeling manipulated. It’s true that all fiction manipulates the reader, but it works best when the reader doesn’t realize that.
Clever idea and a nice ending. The story relies too heavily on technique for our taste, however. Maybe as a 1000 word flash, but not at 2700 words (for us). I do think this might get picked up by a more specialized horror/dark fantasy magazine, but not likely one of the majors. It’s got a nice sense of character, but the techniques required to hide the ending from us makes the telling laborious in places.
Slush-o-meter (1-10): 6 A dark fantasy with a clever twist. Omniscient POV works against its emotional power and forces the prose to strain in places.
Story 221 (3/2/2011 SF 2800 words)
Reader 1: “This is much less inspiring than I’d hope. The characters are pretty stock-standard and the dialogue doesn’t sing or hold my interest. This is a punchline story, relying on an ‘unexpected’ end, but I don’t think the ending is cute enough to sustain a fairly bland set-up.”
Reader 2: “An alien walks into a bar…what is it with bar stories? Anyway this one is pretty good. I think the last scene is too long. It’s not the usual character-change story, so I’m not sure everyone going to like it. It has a good voice and good writing. It pulls you right through. I’m not sure the POV changes work or not, but I don’t think the ending works without it. ”
Ah, I get to be a tie breaker perhaps. The opening drops me into mid-scene, in a character’s perspective. I have a hint of motive as well. It’s not ground shaking stuff, but effective. The next page paints a convincing picture of the surround. It’s not really pulling me along, however. I’m enjoying immersion in this scene, but something’s niggling at me. I think it’s that the story doesn’t seem to have much importance. What are the stakes here? Why does it matter if this murder is solved or not? That sort of thing. It’s written well enough that I’m reading right through it, but I’m feeling a bit blase’ about it at this point.
We switch viewpoint to the witness. I’m not sure why this helps. I do like this section better. I feel more connected to the viewpoint; there’s more emotion and at least somewhat higher stakes.
We switch viewpoint to the suspect. Here, we get the stakes of the situation. The problem is I’m not certain I would be willing to wait this long. Some very nice lines and strong observations throughout the story. This scene is strong.
The last scene plays on too long. The story is set up to be a simple twist end, but this final scene attempts to take it much farther. I don’t think it works, unfortunately.
This is a story I’d like to like. It’s well written, quirky, has an unique twist ending. Overall, however, I don’t really feel its power. It tries to be too many things at once, I think, at least for this word count. Also, it opens with its weakest scene, and closes with an overlong resolution. If I were revising, I’d consider opening with the bartender’s viewpoint and witnessing the event, then shift to the detectives. We’ll have been hooked then, we’ll have seen the high stakes of it. I’m not sure the witness is even needed here, so it might be useful to frame the main story with the bartender, the detectives sandwiched between, and then a final, shorter version of this ending.
I’m afraid I’ll have to say no to this one, though I do like what it attempts.
Slush-o-meter (1-10): 7 A quirky SF story with a muti-layered reveal and some strong character writing. An uninspiring arc structure holds this back.
Story 222 (3/2/2011 Horror 2400 words)
Reader 1: “The story is pretty much camera POV, but even with that the descriptions are not clear all the time. We never know the characters and [when something happens] in the end, it doesn’t seem to matter. This needs more attention to important detail, more character description, more motivation, and more escalation.” (plot spoilers removed)
The story opens with untagged dialogue. Those of you who read this blog will know that’s a red light for me. I’m hanging in darkness, hearing a voice from nowhere. Better to give me someplace interesting to put my feet down and observe from.
I don’t find out who said that until the third paragraph. The second paragraph introduces me economically to the MC. It’s feeling pretty disjointed already.
His supply of God? You can’t just say that and not give context. There are too many concepts flying around and too few grounding details. The name tag on the patient is good, but I have no idea what he looks like (I only need a a vague sense of him) or where we are (intellectually I know it’s a hospital, but where am I in-scene? Just a few specific details, including smell or touch, can make a scene bloom in a reader’s mind. I’m hearing words now, not witnessing an event.
The description of the recovered guy is better, some nice specifics there, but the order of observation feels wrong.
This is an interesting take on a common horror trope. However, the story feels pretty much like an explanation of the idea. I don’t see an inciting incident (why the story begins now, not yesterday, not tomorrow) or a character arc (how the MC is motivated, challenged, pays a price, etc).
Skimming to end. I like the feel of this ending. I don’t think the story quite deserves it yet. It expends too many words explaining the concept and too few developing the character who would deserve this ending. It is a neat twist; I ‘ll give it that.
Slush-o-meter (1-10): 5 An interesting take on an age old Horror concept. Lack of character development and concrete setting prevents this from reaching full potential.
Story 223 (3/2/2011 Horror 545 words)
Reader 1: “A great example of over writing and trying too hard to sound dramatic. Strange word choices that have me scratching my head. ”
Well, Reader 1 is my SF reader and has a limited appreciation for literary. Still, Reader 1 gets it right more often than not. Shall we see?
Yes, Reader 1 is right. The first sentence is a gem of confusing word choices and jumbled imagery. I’ll give the author props for pushing his vocabulary. We have to do that as writers if we want to reach our potentials. However, we also have to learn to force these words and images to earn their place on the final edit.
Some of these phrases do work, most go overboard (feel strained). When I see this in my own work it’s time to back up and see if I’m actually telling a story or simply riffing. Nope, not a story. It’s a description of an event with very limited character involvement. If I were revising, I’d try to find the point of character revelation and build a plot around that. Then, if I wanted to be aggressive with the language, it would be in support of a story.
Slush-o-meter (1-10): 2 A horrific vignette. Words gone Wild work distract from a lack of story and character arc. Flash should at least imply story.
Story 224 (3/2/2011 Horror 5000 words)
Reader 1: “The writing is good, but the story seems to go on too long. It doesn’t escalate very well and uses all the old cliched woman gets beaten and raped triggers. I think it would take too much revision to fix it. ” (plot spoilers removed)
I’m bothered that this opens with false mystery. The first page talks about a sketch we could easily see, but don’t. When we do get the description at end of page 2 it’s nicely detailed. The conversation leading to this revelation feels like background information rather than story. This is developing too slowly. As an example, “… responding to her mother’s acerbity in kind.” This tells us about her tone, when we can easily infer it from what she says. Quite a few adverbs here also.
I like the second scene. It could be improved by removing adverbs, but it’s short and sharp. I’m not getting a sense of story yet, however.
The next scene is nicely active and the prose is sharper. The scene doesn’t really move us past the usual battered woman scene, however. I do like the MC’s attitude. The problem is that there’s no real story yet.
The next scene is written sharply, but feels kind of convenient. The next scene delivers background information via dialogue. The story is well written, but it’s very slow to develop (very day in the life) and there’s barely a hint of genre by halfway through. Some nice observations, a nice protagonist, though she’s not really doing anything about her situation yet. She’s feisty, sure, but passively going about it so far.
On page 14 we get an explanation of the genre concept. On page 16 I’m wondering if I’ve read a version of this story. This part seems familiar.
The entire (genre) story takes place in the last few pages. It’s a clever idea and the writing is solid, especially after the mid-point or so. I think (for us at least) it’s a matter of getting to the genre element a lot quicker, then escalating through the end scenes to an actual climax. There is one, but it’s over in a flash. For 5000 words, that’s not enough. We need an emotional escalation to go with the detective work. The first half of the story basically establishes character background and motivation. There’s no real inciting incident (the sketch is set up to be that, but it’s not; Dad’s revelation is what incites the actual story).
Anyway, it’s mainly a matter of reshaping this, I think. It doesn’t feel like a great fit for us in any case, but I could certainly see it being published if these problems are fixed (maybe even if not).
Slush-o-meter (1-10): 6 A horror story that twists a tried and true topic in an interesting way. A very slow buildup and too-quick climax work against it.
Story 225 (3/2/2011 SF 3300 words)
Reader 1: “While this one starts fairly well (if not especially originally), the end is weak… the story threads aren’t resolved by the protagonist, but instead they are rendered irrelevant by the antagonists reaching their goal. While some of the world building is nice enough, I don’t think the plot and setting is original enough to offset the weakness of the ending. ”
It’s an intriguing opening, but feels kind of forced. I do like the term for the antagonists. Nice. There’s something a little off about this prose. It’s smooth and lively, but I feel as if I’m floating in a blank place despite the occasional specific details. Wrong details or wrong timing? Or maybe it’s that characters react without stimulus, e.g. “With a sick feeling [MC] realized that his projected time-frame had been overly generous.” Why? I wonder. What has he seen or hear to cause him to react?
I do like the grittiness of this. It’s not exactly a new concept, but it’s handled well enough. The immortality thing seems like a separate issue. It diffuses my interest for now. We get an explanation of background. It’s weird. Theoretically I should be lapping this up, but it feels forced instead. The ideas are fine, the drama is here, the scene suitably SFnal. Yet, I can’t help but feel that the foreground story exists only to feed the background to me at this point. Is this part of a book, perhaps? I don’t know, but it’s frustrating, not because it’s poorly written, but because it’s not. I want to like this a lot.
It gets better. I like the cave scene. The potential for an HG Wells type exploration of concept exists here. Will I get it? Almost. It starts off promisingly, then returns to a rehash of basic background.
I do like this idea. The story doesn’t quite deserve it yet, but it’s closer than I thought. The ending it interesting, but I do see why the reader reacted as they did. The story was mainly a tour of the concept meant to get me to the philosophy of the ending. It needs to be more than this; it needs a real character with real conflicts and a real price (the potential cost IS real, but it’s glossed over in a matter of a couple sentences). The complication is artificial, meaning that it doesn’t rise organically from the character, but is a means to get him where he needs to be. His solution is simplistic and only works because it needs to work for the ending. This is definitely worth pursuing; I suspect the key will be to develop the protagonist more fully so that he deserves to be part of this idea and so that plot events carve into him and create who he becomes. As the story stands, he’s pretty much the same person at the end as he was in the opening.
Slush-o-meter (1-10): 6 An interesting SF concept played to an interesting conclusion. A lack of equally strong character development holds this one back.
Story 226 (3/3/2011 SF 2900 words)
Reader 1: “This is well-written and generally well observed, but I don’t think there’s enough complication and conflict to really allow it to pass the grade. I liked the writing and the observational details in the story, but the conflict between competing impulses (mercy versus duty) was very much underplayed on the side of the duty and overplayed on the mercy side. There was no sense that the final decision was a difficult one for the protagonist whereas if the sense of duty was increased, the story would have been more compelling for me. In one sense, I thought the final climactic decision should have almost been the first decision to make in the story and the complications emerged from that point. A good story, but probably not quite good enough. ”
This comes from an author I’d love to publish. This is a recent reprint from a very visible market, however, and it will take something incredible to get it into the anthology.
Lively opening. Good details. A touch of true mystery. First scene is good. I’m right there with the MC. The second scene is well written, but the stakes feel very low. The only escalation is an argument rehashing the first scene (which was more dramatic).
Yep, here’s the problem. While I like the MC, her decision is far too easy and without complication.
I do like the sense of cost in the final scene. Where was that angst before she made the decision? That would have escalated and created a more proper climax rather than a breezy anti-climax. The final line is neat, though it didn’t release the emotions it should. I think that’s because I never quite fully connected with the MC. Lots of nice writing, but the story kind of ran downhill through a path of least resistance in a way.
If I were revising, I’d mainly focus on shaping the middle complication toward an actual climax (point of highest tension where the MC has to decide something despite its cost to her). It’s a nice idea and I do like these characters. I’d even like a longer story here, but it needs to deliver the full story experience in any case.
It’s been published by a stronger market than ours, which should reinforce to those of you out there getting frustrated, that sometimes it really is about taste. Keep writing, keep editing, keep subbing.
Slush-o-meter (1-10): 6 A well written and clever SF story. A lack of escalation through the middle complication stands in the way of its emotional payload.
Story 227 (3/3/2011 SF 1000 words)
Reader 1: “This piece is in second person for some reason. It’s very obscure and overwritten in places. The tenses bounce all over the place at the beginning.”
Flash operates by its own rules to a degree, so don’t take this comment as a death knell for the piece just yet.
It’s not technically a second person viewpoint, but first person in conversation with “me”. This technique isn’t doing much for me other than making it seem experimental. I like experimental when it works, not when it doesn’t. The opening paragraph spends a lot of time feeding me background, made more awkward by the viewpoint choice.
I don’t have the bouncy tense issues. It seems solidly in past tense to me. I am having problems with immediacy though. Lots of looking back, not a lot of forward momentum yet. Some good lines sprinkled in.
It’s stronger on page 3, when the actions feel more immediate (and visually interesting). Nice final lines. Overall, this reads long for its content, especially the opening and next-to-final scene. Conceptually I like this quite a bit. If I were revising, I’d drop the second person conceit and go with present tense. First person is okay for this, though I don’t believe it’s required. Third may well work better.
I’ll pass this on to other editors. It’s short and contains some interesting visuals. I would require a change in viewpoint technique at minimum if we do take it.
Slush-o-meter (1-10): 7 An emotionally strong flash that fits the theme well. An awkward viewpoint technique works against its power, as does a slow buildup.
Story 228 (3/3/2011 Fantasy 1900 words)
Reader 1: “This isn’t really a story. It’s mainly a girl telling a guy about the ‘secret’ life she’s had while they were together. It’s mainly talking head with 2 pages of unnecessary descriptive details at the beginning. There’s no escalation. The POV stands around and listens. ” (plot spoilers removed)
The opening is pretty bland. I’m in character, but there’s no real sense of story after the first page. Feels like a character sketch so far.
The inciting incident takes place at the end of page 2. Too late. False mystery here as well. He looks through a telescope and jumps back in reaction. What did he see? That’s the stimulus. Hiding it from us to create tension is false mystery. Showing it to us to create wonder and/or tension is true mystery.
We get a page or so of explanation of concept. There’s no story movement, really. The inciting incident doesn’t seem to have motivated anyone particularly.
Explanation of background ensues. It’s interesting enough, but not story. On page 6 we’re back to the idea that started us off. She’s leaving in some mysterious fashion for some mysterious reason. Oh, there’s the reason now. It’s fairly mundane.
Okay, so this is basically an interesting idea. Now, find a story to contain it and it should work fine.
Slush-o-meter (1-10): 4 A fantasy vignette that takes place in an interested world. Lack of story and character arc weakens this.
Story 229 (3/3/2011 Fantasy 5400 words)
Reader 1: “This involves a lot of good world building, though the MC is immediately unsympathetic. I really like the world, but the MC does make it more difficult to follow than it should be. Not only are they mostly unsympathetic (though this would fit in with the MC’s position in society), but I also never really felt that the MC was in any real danger. The ending was also essentially resolved by discussion rather than action. This might have actually been more effective if we swapped viewpoints, so that the story was from the viewpoint of the antagonist. The antagonist has much higher stakes than the MC, they face significantly more challenges in the story and despite some of their deeds they are more sympathetic than the MC. It’s a big re-write, but I think this writer has a lot of skill. I really did like the world building.”
Reader 2: “This is written pretty well, but took way to long to get from one point to the next. The main problem is that it isn’t really the [MC]’s story. It just didn’t hold my interest because there wasn’t any tension or escalation.” (plot spoilers removed)
This is another writer I’d like to publish. I say that a lot don’t I? Well, it’s true, but it shouldn’t be a huge surprise that we end up buying so few of them. Successful writers justly send their best to the higher paying markets, leaving us to consider stories that don’t make the cut there. Sometimes we’ll get lucky and find something that’s perfect for our theme or something that just didn’t tweak the right tastebud somewhere else, or maybe a writer has a soft spot for us and throws us a bone. Our best bet for quality, however, is to find top stories from writers who are still making their name, or good stories that we see the potential to make even better with a little work. We’re probably most proud of those ones.
Back to the story at hand. Begins with unattributed dialogue. I’m not a fan of this approach in general. It’s okay here, not great. The next paragraph is very good. I’m in a character’s perspective, in a fully realized setting. No motivation yet, but that’s okay.
An intriguing genre element on page 2. I’m hooked for now. The moment is becoming belabored, however. It’s fine to not look at something once, but repetition of that idea kind of grates. I’m still intrigued, but it could be sharper (more to the point). I would suggest compressing the second page to one or two shortish paragraphs. We don’t need to dwell on the inciting incident. We’re still pushing the idea on page 4. This is a case where finding a way to present something powerfully once trumps presenting it more weakly in several variations. I like this idea and the character, but am also getting impatient.
Page 5 brings forward movement. Good. Nice turnabout on page 10. I’m liking the detailed reality this story presents, the unlikable protagonist, the concepts. Second scene is escalating nicely. First scene pales by comparison.
The climax builds nicely, but then goes on too long. Then we get an explanation of background that I don’t particularly need (I have sufficient clues already to understand most of it). I do want to know that she means to live through this discovery, but not so much about her personal history, at least not so directly. Perhaps as direct thought in response to the situation? I don’t like the details about the husband, for example. They lessen the power of what I’ve just witnessed. They justify the woman’s motives, but I don’t actually want that here. The actual ending is nice, a redemption of the MC in a way. I don’t think I need so much explanation for it work, is all. And, yes, a sense that the MC is in real danger and must pay a price during the climax scene would be helpful. Nothing dramatic, just a touch of worry/dread, a moment of doubt.
I’ll pass this one along. It needs to be streamlined in a few places, but the core is solid and I like the world details very much.
Slush-o-meter (1-10): 7 An interesting fantasy about death and life, murder and gamesmanship. A slow opening and over-explanatory ending weaken it.
Story 230 (3/4/2011 Fantasy 1900 words)
Reader 1: “While the story concept is sweet and sad, most of the characterisation is achieved through info-dumping. None of it is badly done, but neither is it really special enough to warrant inclusion. The protagonist came across as just that touch too needy for me to really feel the ending. I simply wasn’t moved enough and the story resulted from a passive protagonist. It’s sentimental and sweet, but not strong enough to warrant inclusion.”
The opening drops me into mid-scene and into character. It’s a bit bland, but a nice inversion of the “usual” sort of protagonist intro. I’m game so far. Lots of internalized background. Interesting character/relationship details, but no story movement.
Second scene takes us into back flash. What are the stakes here? Why does this matter in the larger scheme? Isn’t it just two people spatting and making up? Where is the genre? The writing isn’t bad at all, but there’s no immediacy and no real motive yet. Why not begin with the inciting incident instead?
Nice character details. A nice little complicating moment on page 6, but I don’t get a sense of genre or even story yet. Ah, there it is. It’s a sweet inversion of expectation and good irony. This is a good literary character piece, but it’s not got enough story arc for us, I’m afraid. It’s rather a one trick pony with golden harness in the end.
Slush-o-meter (1-10): 8 A well observed fantasy with a touching end. The lack of story arc works against it for the anthology.
Story 231 (3/4/2011 Fantasy 1500 words)
Reader 1: “I like the idea of this story. It’s a reprint, so I don’t think we can request a revision. I like what’s here, but it could be so much stronger with a good revision. ” (plot spoiler removed)
Sure, we can request a revision, but it’s still a reprint, which places the bar higher.
Nice breezy opening. I’m enjoying the concept and the writing through page 2. I’m beginning to lose enthusiasm (just a bit) by mid page 3. The concept is losing sharpness now that we’re dotting all the i’s and crossing the t’s of its imagining. This part feels by the numbers, which works against the boldness of the idea for me.
I like page 4 better. I can’t help but to imagine this part of the story in-scene, immediate, happening before my reading eyes. So much stronger that way. It would provide contrast to the summary detail that introduces the concept (p1-2). As written, I feel like the the story is this incredibly sharp nail that’s being gradually pounded to a dull point. It’s still strong, just not strong enough to really wow me.
The story kind of peters out to an okay conclusion. It’s clever to be sure, and quite different. Good SFnal concept handled well enough. But man, this could be AMAZING with a little more work, some immediacy, a really resonant ending.
I guess I’ll say a regretful. no to this one. If it weren’t a reprint I might ask for a rewrite.
Slush-o-meter (1-10): 7 An wonderful SF concept carried to a suitable conclusion. The lack of immediacy tarnishes it somewhat.
Story 232 (3/4/2011 Fantasy 2600 words)
Reader 1: “This one doesn’t really have enough of a story behind it because there isn’t enough character choice. The problem is a good one, but it comes way too late in the story and the characters only make one choice in the story (and it’s not a choice between difficult options; it’s the only choice they could have made). Most of the story is set-up and background. There’s also a tense shift once the story problem kicks in and I couldn’t see why the story couldn’t have continued in past tense. The switch to present tense didn’t add any tension and it seems to have been quite random. ”
Opens with unattributed dialogue. It’s iconic, so serves a purpose in setting the scene and suggesting a problem. It also seems a little too clever to me.
We shift to summary. It’s good concise summary and the lively voice carries me. The scene ends well enough.
Second scene opens strongly. It’s still mostly summary, the voice interesting. Is there a story here though? It feels observational, or perhaps an excuse to explain an interesting future world in the interstices. Good tech details do help.
On page 7, we have forward movement. There’s a complication. It’s solved. The story moves to a logical conclusion.
I have the same reaction as the reader here. Lots of neat background information and a sort of clever focusing device, but there’s really not enough story to carry 2600 words. One complication that matters, an easy solution that doesn’t cost much (unless I’m missing something). The plot seems mainly a way to deliver the story background, which is interesting, sure, but not a story. The tense shift did not bother me, but I do see the reader’s point. It wasn’t exactly a random choice, but was more of a cue that the actual story was beginning (halfway through the manuscript).
I do like the science of this and the characters are okay, but I need more.
Slush-o-meter (1-10): 6 An interesting SF conjecture with some very good science and future history details. A minimal story arc hurts this one.