On Friday, April 30, I received a rejection email from Beneath Ceaseless Skies about my fantasy story "Magna's Plea." This is what they said:
Thanks very much for sending this story to _Beneath Ceaseless Skies_.
Unfortunately, it's not quite right for us I found the narrative more
distant than I prefer; I wished I got a more vivid sense of what Magna
wanted--her driving goal or desire--and what was at stake for her.
We appreciate your interest in our magazine. Please feel free to submit
_Beneath Ceaseless Skies_
Although this is a rejection letter, I do enjoy sending stories to them because they usually give some comment about what they thought was wrong with the story. I do agree, and it made me realize I forgot the characters.
I've had much more success with my earlier works than my more recent works. I've been wondering why, and I think I've come to a conclusion. In my earlier works, the writing wasn't perfect and the details were sparse, but the stories were focused on plot and characters.
As I learned more about writing, I began to focus on how to make the writing better, adding descriptions, flowery language with metaphors and similes aplenty. I focused on the writing in itself more than I did on the plot or characters. True, I felt the plot and characters, and I think the plots in themselves are pretty decent, but the characters suffered. In the attempt to show not tell, I ended up telling too much detail and showing very little when it came to the character's motivations, although I've been working on showing how a character feels without saying words like angry, sad, happy, etc. Somehow though, it distanced myself from my writing and from my characters, and it shows. I realize that now. I'm so focused on writing well from all I learned that I forgot that the story and characters are what truly matter. I can fix the rest in edits.
So, I wrote a story that I feel is more about the characters and plot than pretty descriptions. I used what I have learned, kept it in mind as I wrote, but it was the characters that were central. This story is "A Mother's Gift," which is on the Raven and the Writing Desk blog. I had fun with that story, and it only took two days to write it at work, even though the story is around 6,000 words.
Every day in writing world is a new experience, and I've found that I learn something new from it all the time. Now, I just have to remember what I learned when I go to my next short story or novel. Write, write, write, and most importantly, don't forget the characters!