10 Stories Richard Thomas is Soooo Tired of Reading

Richard Thomas is starting a new magazine. It’s ambitious.

The current state of publishing, for those of you who may not be in the trenches daily, is that most magazines pay about 1 cent per word for short stories. The good ones pay 5 to 6.

Gamut, the magazine Richard Thomas is kicking up funds for on Kickstarter, is going to pay 10 cents per word.

Here’s his Kickstarter pitch:


I managed to chase him down and we talked a little about publishing and books and stuff.

Richard has already edited a number of anthologies (including The New Black, my favorite book of 2014, yo!), so he’s seen a lot of short stories. A lot.

I asked him about the kind of story he sees the most and wishes he saw less of. Right off the top off his head, he gave me ten (grab a pen and paper, you’re going to want to write this down):

Ten Stories Richard Thomas is SOOOOOOOOOO Tired of Seeing

1. Anything that starts off with fuck or shit or other curse words. It immediately pulls me out of the story and rarely adds anything to the story. Do I use the word fuck in my fiction? Sure I do, but sparingly, and only when it matters, and fits the character.

2. Stories that have bad narrative hooks, or no hook at all. I need to be grabbed, I want a hint of what’s coming, the tip of the iceberg, foreshadowing of what’s to come. This should set me up, get me excited to read on—the first line, the first paragraph, and the first page.

3. Any story that opens with dialogue. First, we don’t know who is speaking, so how do we read it—little girl, demon, fat man, angry wife, dying scarecrow? No idea. Also, we don’t know the history, so whatever is said is usually lost on us, not a hook (see #2), usually empty of depth and meaning.

4. The same old monsters. Whether it’s fantasy, science fiction, or horror, wow, would I love to see something besides vampires, werewolves, demons, or ghosts. Be creative, make it your own, or find something obscure to scare us, or if you must, innovate (e.g, energivores, vampires that feed on misery).

5. The same old mythologies. Similarly, can we move on from the same old Greco-Roman mythologies? What about Egypt, Africa, India, Japan? There are so many cool stories, cultures and gods out there that we never hear about, try something new! Do a little research; it’s fascinating stuff.

6. Death and rape. Can we NOT kill off every person; can the tragedy be something else but death? I know, I know, I do it a lot too; it’s the ultimate sacrifice. But try to avoid it, and if not, really make sure it matters. Same with rape, avoid it if you can. It’s never pleasant, and rarely worth it, in my opinion.

7. Twist endings that aren’t earned. I do love twist endings, but only when it adds up to something, and isn’t this “deus ex machina” out of nowhere revelation, hero, or rescue. If it’s been there all along, and we can see it now, how it adds up? Yes, that works. That can be devastating.

8. Writers writing about writing and teaching. I don’t see as much of this in MY in-box, but I am totally sick of reading this in literary journals. It’s been done to death; find different occupations for your protagonists, outside your own life, if you are indeed a teacher and writer. Nobody cares.

9. Women as victims, mothers and whores. Likewise, how about empowering women, showing them in roles OTHER than prostitute and mother. Also, don’t swing the other way and make them indestructible superheroes that can’t be hurt. There is a whole range of emotion to work with here, and as far as capability—women can do anything that men can do (of course) so show them as factory worker, truck driver, chef, banker, athlete, serial killer, etc.

10 A story that is way too familiar. Quite often I read stories and everything feels familiar—the plot is the same, the characters are the same, the setting has been done to death, the outcome unoriginal. Look at your choices, and in that moment, be honest and true, but also look for ways to be different—the decisions, the settings, the dialogue, and the result. Put your voice out there, be weird, risk something personal, and speak from the heart, and pull us in, make us feel something, so you leave us spent and dizzy, wanting more.

So [for Gamut] I expect to see a lot of stories soon with great hooks, and strong female protagonists, quite possibly set in an exotic location, based on obscure lore and fable, and where nobody dies. There are fates much worse than death, right? That sounds like a good story to me, give me a second to grab my cup of Sleepytime tea, and I’ll tuck in. Oooh, that first line. I’m hooked.

So go now. Pitch in a buck or two to the Gamut Kickstarter and subscribe to what is going to be an awesome new magazine of short fiction.

If you’re a writer, you have to.


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