Strange Horizons’ deliciously honest “Stories We’ve Seen Too Often” list covers a lot (stories about writer’s block, where it’s all a dream, which are based on D&D, etc.). But in our time here at Reflection’s Edge, we’ve started our own “don’t” list. Sure, a story could overcome one of the major problems below…but it probably won’t. If you see any of the items below in your story, we strongly suggest you reevaluate your work before sending it in, perhaps with another trusted author.
In general, we (and most magazines) see far too much of the following:
1. Stories where men punish their partners, usually fragile women, for various real or imagined infractions with violent retaliation.
2. Re-told myths or faery tales which change little or nothing from the original.
3. Stories with killers for unknown reasons.
4. Killers who kill via electronics/the internet.
5. Stories about multiple personalities (particularly serial killers).
6. Stories about outsmarting Death (personified).
7. Intentional hooks which are really only meant to grab attention (and not really part of the story).
8. Stories which read like encyclopedia entries (what we call infodumps).
9. Stories which contain blatantly wrong/unresearched material.
10. Stories where nothing happens.
11. Stories with telepathic animals, particularly unicorns.
For more information, suggestions, and links on on writing, see any of the following: Genre Fiction: History and Cliches, Improving Your Writing, or any of the links available on our Submissions page. Best of luck!
The Don’t list is updated as needed.