Fiction Mistakes that Spell Rejection
by Moira Allen
Editors — and readers — aren't just looking for great action and strong characters. They also want a sense of "why." Why should I read this? Why did you write it?
"This is not to say every work should address an Aesopish moral or a grand theme, but rather every story should contain at its core a reason to be," says Max Keele. "In fact, that is my single personal demand from a story: That it add up to something. That it shock me, scare me, unnerve me, make me think, or cry, or vomit. Something."
Ellen Datlow of SciFi.com says she reads far too many stories with no apparent reason for being. "I have no idea why the writer bothered to write the story — no passion, no unusual take on the subject, dull, unbelievable characters. A story has to have something special to make me want to buy it."
A story without a point tends to be "flat," according to Rhonna Robbins-Sponaas. "If we come away with the peculiar feeling that we don't really know why we've just read what we've read, or our first thought is that the washer has finished and the clothes are ready to be put in the dryer, then the writer hasn't conveyed the 'why' of the story as strongly as she could have and should have."
The solution? "Were I to tell a writer one thing, I'd tell her to go back and be certain what her story is, then be sure that she's answered the 'why' of the story so that the reader comes away from the experience with as much a sense of its importance as the writer had," says Robbins-Sponaas. Brown and English of Stickman Review urge writers to, "Write sincerely. Write stories about those things that matter the most to you. If you're writing about something you don't really care about, it'll be obvious to your readers, and they won't care either."