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Friday, May 16, 2014

LETTERS TO THE SLUSH PILE #17

WE ARE WRAPPING UP READING THE SECOND TIER SLUSH and will be meeting this coming Sunday to discuss which stories we want to buy for upcoming On Spec issues, as well as others we might consider under revision. I plan on posting the few remaining Letters to the Slush Pile that I've written, even after we've picked the stories we want to buy. I hope you've found these letters helpful, that they've given you some insight into what editors are looking for and how they think. Perhaps they've also helped you strengthen your own work.

Dear ------,

I can see you know what's required to craft a reasonable story - a decent plot, novel characters, good dramatic action that rises to a climax, and a final resolution. You even have a denouement. All of this shows me you have a basic understanding of what is needed in a complete story. What you haven't figured out yet, is how to take your story to the next level.

Your plucky protagonist does all the right things. She jumps in without waiting for others to handle the problem. She deals with it, narrowly escaping a terrible fate. You've written some great action, but in spite of what she's up against, I don't get the sense that she's really personally involved.

I can hear you thinking, "But she risks her life!" To which I would answer, "Yes, but because you don't set me inside her head enough, I don't know her thoughts, sense her fear, feel her terror at the idea of losing her husband or herself, or whatever else that's important." Like Wonder Woman, she jumps in to save the day, because that's what she does. Do you see what I'm getting at here? For your protagonist (and the reader), the story needs to be much more personal. There needs to be more at stake. She needs to have more to lose, and I need to worry that she just might lose it. If you share her interior world with me in much greater depth,  she will also be a much stronger character.

Rewrite the story with that in mind. If you do, I guarantee it will be better.

- Susan.

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