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 20 stories (53,000 words). I spent much of the weekend putting together a final analysis of the remaining stories under consideration and today sent around a list of the final 15 for editor ranking and input. Of these, we have room for perhaps 5-6 depending on length. The collection is going to be larger this year. You folks are making it very difficult on us. Which makes the upcoming round of final rejections all the more painful for me. I’ll be working through those this week. I’ve also begun editing the stories in hand and will be preparing contracts as well. There are still a few stories that we sent in via mail. I’ll provide reading notes for those here. I’ve already responded to one (who requested a full critique).
Story 382 (3/8/2011 SF 985 words)
The opening is decent, but not compelling. It established a character in context. First person present tense doesn’t really help it, as I feel confined to the head at this point.
Second paragraph provides some background, which is okay, but it’s not moving the story forward. No inciting incident yet, no character motivation.
Third paragraph is more observation, external and internal. I’m anxious for a story to begin, especially at this flash length. I need some forward plot movement.
Fourth paragraph is more background. This is becoming an explanation of idea, I’m afraid. Page 2 is more of this. The background isn’t bad, but I’ve seen it before. What I need is a story experience. Motivated character trying to overcome an obstacle, escalating tension, etc.. I think the choice of viewpoint really hurts this one. It’s funneling everything through the character’s perspective such that I don’t get a good balance of internal and external.
Page 3 is internal ruminating on the theme. Explanation of idea, essentially. It’s not bad, but doesn’t compel me as an actual story experience would.
I’m not exactly clear on how the ending is supposed to impact me or why it fits the Last Contact theme. I get that it’s a twist on expectation, but I’m not engaged enough with the character’s situation to care, unfortunately. The key to making this one work, I suspect, is to come up with a solid story arc to mesh with this character arc. I’d also consider moving it to close third person to force it out of the head a bit. Present or past tense should work.
Slush-o-meter (1-10): 4 A story about human worth and social pragmatism. Timely, but the lack of a solid story arc hurts it.
Story 383 (1/31/2011 Fantasy 2011 words)
I like this opening. It intrigues me. Generally I don’t like openings that withhold, but this one does it perfectly (and only for a beat).
We move into character perspective in second paragraph. Good observations that pull us into his viewpoint. The last line in second paragraph is a little clever for me, however.
Get what over with? I’m wanting more concrete context now. The scene should be sharpening.
Fourth paragraph brings me the jolt I need. Name the woman earlier. Unnamed characters tend to annoy some readers (i.e. me). I’d like the revelation before the “Let’s get this over with,” comment. That smacked of withholding, delaying a reveal. Jolt me first and I won’t care so much.
I’m not as happy with where this is going as I thought I would be. It seems a little cute. But maybe not. It’s an interesting issue. Maybe just a bit too much clever dialogue.
Some nice lines, but page 2 is mostly chit-chat, cleverness rather than story movement. There is a story here, however.
Page 3 becomes an explanation of idea. Losing me now.
Page 4 is more of the same. It’s a really clever idea. Too bad I’m not getting a story experience to match it.
Clever idea. Create a story (motivated character attempting to overcome obstacle of some sort, reaching a point of decision, paying a price) and this could work nicely. Right now it’s just a fluff piece. We don’t generally take those.
Slush-o-meter (1-10): 5 A clever story about sex in the afterlife. Lack of story arc hurts this one.
Story 384 (12/13/2011 Horror 1400 words)
I can’t believe I let this one sit for so long. Profound apologies to the author. Dialogue punctuation is incorrect. “How are you ?” he said. Not, “How are you?” He said.
The story opens with dialogue and an unnamed character. The physical detail that follows is nice.
Second paragraph introduces a second unnamed character. Omniscient viewpoint. I wonder why.
Inciting incident halfway down the page. The writing is awkward enough that I’m not going to be purchasing the story unless it’s amazing.
A lot of mundane action and description. It escalates at top of page 2. That’s good. If it wasn’t the limbs she watched what WAS it? We’re in her viewpoint now. Show us what she sees, how she reacts, etc.
I’m not exactly sure what I’m seeing re. the flat screen. His sister? Not his sister?
The big problem here is that the convenient omniscient viewpoint hops us between heads too frequently to really identify with anyone. I don’t know who to root for or who will matter to the story.
This seems like an idea I’ve seen in movies before. It’s taking too long to play out in any case. We get a convenient clue at top of page 4. Good timing with the knocking, however.
Why does the girl scream? What does she see?
The ending doesn’t do much for me. We basically have a story about a passive victim being victimized. There’s some decent tension here and there, but the story is just too simple to carry even 1400 words. The is some promise here, however, and I’d encourage the author to keep working on their craft.
Slush-o-meter (1-10): 3 A simple horror tale about a girl and another girl. Lack of character identification and story complication work against it.
Story 385 (1/3/2011 Horror 4737 words)
Ditto to this author. I should have replied more quickly.
The title turns me off immediately as it suggest a fluff piece. We’ll not be taking a 4700 word fluff piece anytime soon. That’s too many pages in the anthology.
The opening doesn’t do much for me. It establishes two characters, no setting, no motivation. Just kind of sits there on the page rather than inviting me in. Not bad, just not great.
Characters talking to each other for my benefit. This is not helping. It gets better a bit further down the page, though I’m not fond of the withholding of the mystery. It’s not awful, not like a story where the withholding is intended strictly to postpone a reveal, but unnecessary. I would start the story with the question about it being safe to go out. The stuff before that is pretty mundane.
Page 2 begins with overwriting. In this case it’s sentences dressed up to avoid telling us the specific detail that matters. Atmosphere at the expense of clarity. Usually a poor tradeoff.
Viewpoint shifts in mid-page 2. Why? It diffuses the identification I’ve formed with the initial viewopint. Also, this is mainly dialogue intended for me, not each other. End of page two brings background. The basic rule (well, my basic rule) is that if the background story is more interesting than the foreground story, you probably should be telling it instead. In this case, I suspect it is more interesting. The frame does little for me.
Interesting. This is the same pattern as the prior horror story. Fairly mundane activity, something jolting, then a convenient news flash providing a clue to the reader. Eyes do not widen to the size of softballs, by the way.
The creature attacks. The viewpoint characters are basically victims here to observer rather than part of a story that revolves around them in a meaningful way. Horror so often has this issue. Atmosphere over content. Terror over characterization. That’s fine, but it’s not what we look for. We prefer story and character arc.
I do appreciate that the character is trying to overcome the obstacle on page 7. He’s being a protagonist here. Good. Then there’s a complication which is welcome. So far the story has taken too long to develop. Maybe it will move faster now. Decent tension on page12. The writing is a little clumsy, but the story is moving forward.
I like the complication on page 14. This gets better as we go. I don’t understand why the MC was spared or why this is happening. Hopefully I will find out.
Not exactly. I did find out why the creature came to Earth. That’s good. I didn’t find out why the MC was spared or why he needed this story to happen or why the creature needed him. These are issues that should be addressed.
Overall, there’s an interesting and creepy idea here. Dump that opening, move the early third more quickly, develop the theme/philosophy more fully, and most importantly, make the MC deserve this story. Why is his participation important to the creature? Why is the price he pays relevant? A few more drafts and this could be good.
Slush-o-meter (1-10): 5 A horror tale about recreating man. A slow opening, lack of compelling character identification, and some logic holes hold this one back.
That takes care of the mailed in manuscripts. I have a batch of stories that didn’t quite make the final cut. I’ll get to those tomorrow.