Friday, December 14, 2018

Six Questions for Eric Lindbom, Editor, Trigger Warning: short fiction with pictures

Trigger Warning publishes stories to 5,000 words in the horror, fantasy, sci-fi and crime genre. Learn more here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine? 

Eric Lindbom: The driving force behind the site is John Skewes who illustrates each story and helps pick the stories along with myself and JT Sharpe, who often takes the first pass.  John wanted to illustrate a story I'd written for a class and then became intrigued by the challenge presented to him as an illustrator to conceptually encapsule each story with one visual.  The site took off from there.

SQF: What are the top three things you look for in a submission and why?

EL:  1).   A story well told.  While we run horror, sci-fi, fantasy and crime stories we want a gripping tale above all.

2).  A surprise ending or POV helps but isn't a requirement.

3).  While we don't mind some ambiguity we prefer stories where it's clear from the narrative what's occurred.

SQF: What most often turns you off to a submission?

EL: There are several aspects of stories that are problematic.  It's easy to turn down a poorly written story or a predictable tale that goes from A to B with no surprise.  What's more troublesome is the many stories from clearly talented writers who trip themselves up for some of the reasons below:

1).  Over writing (for lack of a better term).  We often get submissions from gifted writers who are overly eager to slay us with word play and the stories get lost behind purple prose.   We hope writers will put the story first vs. trying to dazzle us with the cleverness of their descriptions. Clearly, a shrewd turn of phrase or an evocative image makes a positive impression on us, but if it's hard to follow the thread of the story because it's muddled in adjective- heavy tangents, it won't make it.

2).  Many horror writers, in particular, try to ape the styles of various masters particularly Lovecraft.  We 3 editors appreciate Lovecraft's imagination, ideas and the incredible worlds he creates more than his often dense, turgid style.  When a submission tries to ape Lovecraft it's usually obvious in the first few paragraphs, and we almost always tune out.

On the other hand, if a writer of crime fiction is overly influenced by say Raymond Chandler that doesn't bother us because we prefer hard boiled, terse writing over more verbose styles.   Trigger Warning does run more florid material.  Some writers can take on the guise of Victorian character and do so beautifully.  However, if a writer isn't comfortable in that style it just seems like they're avoiding developing their own voice and trying to Xerox another's style.

3.  We don't run flash fiction. 5,000 words is the limit but we're not looking for stories that are only several hundred words.

4)    Minor, but italics for emphasis or screaming punctuation marks don't score highly with us.  Grammatical gimmicks aren't necessary and just seem desperate.

Here are a few other points that have nothing to do with story quality that can work against a writer:

-- We run original and previously published work and the author of course owns the story.  Sometimes we receive a submission from a writer who says they're submitting the story to other outlets and if one of those (apparently preferable) outlets chooses to run it, then they'll pull the submission from us.  Question:  Why would we consider posting a story if it might be yanked from us at the twelfth hour?   We're not thin-skinned, but we won't read a story if we're warned we're a second fiddle option for the writer.  (If another outlet wants to run the same story that doesn't bother us; we don't demand any exclusivity).

--  Many writers have big egos and that's okay.   We don't edit stories heavily, but sometimes we'll suggest a rewrite of a story we want to run.  The writer may not agree with our suggestions and a civil, reasoned debate is fine.  We had a writer who clung to every semi colon and fought us on every idea.  Doesn't mean we won't consider his/her work in the future, but if said writer is a pill they're not helping themselves the next time they submit.

SQF: What do you look for in the opening paragraph(s) of a submission?

EL: Just clarity unless the point of the story is to keep the reader off balance.  If a story starts off a bit slack but builds momentum and pays off a slow beginning won't throw us.

SQF: Many editors list erotica, or sex for sex sake, as hard sells. What are hard sells for your publication?

EL: Funny you bring up erotica as we've turned down stories too steeped in that -- not because (I hope) we're prudes, but we're trying to arouse curiosity and suspense vs. sexual arousal.   We really don't have a "hard sell." 

SQF: What one question on this topic do you wish I'd asked that I didn't? And how would you answer it?

EL: Think the questions are great.   One possible would be What can a writer do to increase their chances? 

A.  This is minor but we have more writers than readers.  It's understandable that someone submitting will be excited about their work, but if they take the time to mention something about the site they enjoy, someone else's story they read etc. that doesn't hurt.

Thank you, Eric. We all appreciate you taking time from your busy schedule to participate in this project.

No comments:

Post a Comment