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What do we look for in fiction submissions?

09 February 2018 on Fiction, Storystorm  

Barnstorm’s fiction readers have varied reading tastes and interests, but they share a common passion for stories. Recently, they weighed in on what they look for as they read fiction submissions. The results suggest that Barnstorm fiction readers appreciate active, compelling characters, thoughtfully-constructed language, and emotional clarity. We also tend to enjoy stories that give us something unexpected, whether that means we are introduced to an unfamiliar experience or offered new ways of seeing events in our day-to-day lives. Check out what the fiction readers had to say below:

“In a short story, I look for a character that has a strong desire/a call to action. Even if I can’t relate to the situation or the character, I can always understand the emotional drive behind a character, which at the end of the day is more likely to push me to continue reading. I also look for strong imagery, witty dialogue, and a unique voice. I especially enjoy stories that expose me to something I haven’t experienced before, or stories that explore a topic in a new way.” -Rachel

“Believable characters who are compelling (if not sympathetic). A plot with external as well as internal conflict—something has to happen. Prose that’s clear and vivid, giving the impression the writer knows how to work with language. Something original or surprising without veering into melodrama or cliché. A protagonist who acts, not just observes or ruminates.” -Matt

“I'm looking for stories that introduce their premise early and stick tightly to that setup, focusing on details immediately relevant to a character arc or plot arc. Strong voice is appreciated; imaginative circumstances and people even more so. A "Maybe" has some character/plot intrigue, but a lack of clarity in events or an overall slowness. A "Yes" would have surprises, weirdness, and a strange angle on people or life. Bonus points if I laugh.” -Ben

“More than anything, I want a story to help me see the world differently. I’m looking for images and turns of phrase that surprise me. I’m looking for sentences I wish I had written and characters I wish I could meet in real life. When I read a submission to Barnstorm, I listen for that quiet humming feeling I get when I know myself to be in the hands of a confident writer—someone who sees people and their complex emotions clearly, and who renders the observations of these people in lucid and compelling language. I read less for plot and more for character. I’m always looking for the moment in a story where I encounter a character and think: ‘I’ve felt that way, too. I just didn’t have the words for it until now.’ For me, the best stories are filled with images and moments that linger in my mind; having helped me to understand the characters in the story, these moments help me to understand myself, long after I’ve read the final page.” -Alexandra

“Stories that stand out to me tend to have a certain level of clarity—I’m able to quickly understand who the main characters are, what kind of environment they’re in, what is happening and why. I’m constantly hoping for the world of the story to have enough internal consistency that everything the character does and everything that occurs makes sense. As a reader, I want to be able to trust the integrity of that world. I look for language in which each word feels deliberately chosen rather than accidental, as well as details that are specific, unusual, and appropriate to the character and world. Finally, the story needs to feel as if it exists for a reason—there is some deep-seated emotional core or understanding that is driving the narrator (and, by extension, the writer) to tell it.” -Kaely

All of us here at Barnstorm are writers ourselves, engaged in the process of trying to create meaningful and effective stories. Thank you for trusting us with your work – we can’t wait to see what you have in store for us next!

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