Well, I’ll tell you what I look for from an editorial standpoint. When I read Allegory e-zine submissions, I want the television and my children and my husband to fade into the distance. I want to be so engrossed in the story that dinner burns and we have to order out. I want that first line to catch me in the snare and drag me through the story as if you, the writer, have my hand in a death grip and are racing through the streets at mach speed. In essence, I want to be blown away.
Give me emotion, and action, and a plot that isn’t predictable. I want the story to unfold before my eyes. I do not want to be told what’s happening at every turn. I want to know how the characters react to the situation – not just in their heads, but physically – viscerally. I want the flow to make sense, stimulus then response - in that order, because if not, it dilutes the impact.
I want to laugh, or cry, or shiver with anticipation, and I believe this is what every editor wants regardless of the genre.
So how do you as the writer accomplish this?
Well, let’s take a deeper look at a couple items I hit on above. First - Stimulus / Response.
Let me give you an example of what I mean. Think about when someone jumps out of a hiding place to scare you. (Stimulus)
What happens first?
You jump, your heart skips a beat, you yelp in surprise - all visceral reactions / initial responses.
Then your mind registers what’s going on and emotions roll in. Relief or anger or fear depending on whether the situation is a joke or not.
What happens next?
You laugh, or scowl at the joke, or swing at an attacker, or turn tail and run.
All of this happens within seconds, but the order is always the same – it’s a natural progression of emotional response and needs to be in the right order to reach the reader on a subliminal level.
Here’s a couple examples, one that’s out of sequence and the other that’s in the proper order and you tell me which one has more impact:
1. She opened the door and yelped, her heart lurched in her chest. “What are you doing?”She shrieked at the man with the mask who jumped in front of her and she took a step back.
2. She opened the door and a man wearing a mask jumped in front of her. With her heart lurching in her chest, she yelped and took a step back. “What are you doing?”She shrieked.
For me, the second paragraph makes more sense. It still isn’t as powerful as it could be, but it’s better than the first one.
Now let’s take a gander at the second point I want to touch on… Visceral Reactions.
Looking at the example above – when someone jumps out of a hiding place to scare you, what physical reactions happen first?
You jump, your heart skips a beat, stops, or pounds in your chest, your stomach drops like you took a dive off a skyscraper, you might even pee in your pants a little - all visceral reactions – physical reactions to stimulus that can’t be controlled.
Writing visceral reactions in a fresh way and avoiding clichés is a key component in reaching your readers on a subliminal level.
Here’s the better of the two stimulus/response examples above:
3. She opened the door and a man wearing a mask jumped in front of her. With her heart lurching in her chest, she yelped and took a step back. “What are you doing?”She shrieked.
Let’s take this a step further and get some fresh visceral reactions in here to make the read more compelling:
4. She opened the door and a man wearing a mask jumped in front of her. Her heart slammed against her ribcage in a staccato beat that would challenge even Jimmy Sullivan’s drumming skills. She took a step back, distancing herself from the intruder when his laugh cut through the air, sending shivers up her spine to the base of her neck, where they bunched and turned her muscles to liquid. “What are you doing?” She shrieked, her voice breathy and shaking with fear.
I used three visceral reactions in the passage above. For me, the second paragraph has much more impact than the first. Now, let’s see what you can do with the same scenario…
Thanks for hanging with me for a bit.
In the meantime, check out my November releases:
VENGEANCE: After an undercover bust goes to hell, Special Agent Steve Williams becomes the target of an assassin and his wife’s visions escalate, forecasting a brutal assault on their family. Escaping from the city and armed with scant details from Jennifer’s dreams, Steve trudges through a litany of past connections, searching for the key to stop the course of fate. A brother with a grudge, a serial killer and a mafia assassin are all on his trail and the hunt begins . . .
Released November 1, 2010 by FIDO Publishing.
MIND GAMES Chris Ryan doesn’t understand why he’s alive. If it wasn’t for a miracle, he would have died in the prison his step-brother created and five years of nightmares hasn’t erased his passion for Jessica Connor. Haunted by visions of her daughter’s death, he runs to her doorstep, but all his good intentions fall short when they realize he led the vengeful spirit of his step-brother right to her.
Released November 29, 2010 by eXcessica.
Until next time.
J.E. Taylor is a writer, an editor, a manuscript formatter, a mother, a wife and a business analyst, not necessarily in that order.
She first sat down to seriously write in February of 2007 after her daughter asked:
"Mom, if you could do anything, what would you do?"
From that moment on, she hasn't looked back and now her writing resume includes five novels either published or targeted for release in early 2011 along with several short stories on the virtual shelves including a few within upcoming eXcessica anthologies.
Ms. Taylor also moonlights as an Assistant Editor of Allegory, an online venue for Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror, and as a "slush slasher" for Dark Recesses, an online venue for literary horror. She also lends a hand in formatting manuscripts for eXcessica as well as offering her services judging writing contests for various RWA chapters.
She lives in Connecticut with her husband and two children and during the summer months enjoys her weekends on the shore in southern Maine.
Visit her at www.jetaylor75.com