March 15th – Slush Party Feedback – “Horror VS Hemophobia” Round 1

During this round of reviews, we had 21 submissions answering the “Horror VS Hemophobia” prompt:

Some audiences seek out graphic violence­—so what’s the benefit? On the other hand, what’s the impact on audience psyche long-term? With all short stories, submit your opinion on what makes gore artful, ethical, and meaningful. Then show us how to bleed right.

3 submissions passed our first round of reviews (14% pass rate), which means we consider their writing “publishable” quality at a basic level. All other submissions struggled with at least one of the following issues:

TOP 3 SLUSH PILE CRIMES (and how to fix them):

Trouble getting/staying oriented

    • EASY FIX – Use “KAV cycles”: appealing to the senses in the correct order can put your readers into a trance.
      1. Kinesthetic (What they feel, both physically and emotionally; Not just touch, but their physical state of being; Movement)
      2. Auditory
      3. Visual
    • Use KAV cycles in your first paragraph. Repeat whenever reader attention starts to slip
    • Make sure your reader is “awake and alert” by clearly communicating:
      1. Who they are (or rather, who the POV character is)
      2. Where they are
      3. What time it is
      4. What just happened
        • Until the reader knows all 4 of those things, they will be confused.

Things getting really weird without a reason

    • Be intentional about your choice of “Mimesis” — Every author makes a choice to present human beings as better than they are, worse than they are, or the way they are.
    • If you jump straight into showing people as worse than they are without first creating safety for your reader, the reader cannot resonate with the story.
    • Character is a glove the reader puts on to vicariously experience action. Characters that facilitate this immersion are effective characters. Characters that impede this immersion are ineffective characters.
      • Because readers are seeking that immersion, they need to relate to what is going on. Even if your goal is to share an impossibly dark side of humanity, start with pleasant details that show humans as they are. Appeal to shared values.
    • The power of horror is in the believability of it. Show what you think is beautiful about the world, not just what you think is broken. Balance makes it believable.

Ending didn’t pay off

    1. Give your monster a purpose. Nothing is evil for the sake of being evil. Who is the monster supposed to be in a balanced world, and what threw them out of balance?
    2. Keep your problem small. The bigger the problem, the smaller your lens should be. The closer in you zoom, the closer it hits to home. Don’t show the giant explosion of a city, zoom in on the burning kid’s sock in the midst of the rubble.
    3. Pick a soapbox. Make the story your thesis. Write a story about something that you wish other people would pay more attention to. Leave the reader with a thought that is worth the emotional cost.

Finally, 2 submissions were auto-rejected for violating our four core rules.

Want more details? Watch the full slush party here!

MYTHULU’S GRADING RUBRIC:

PROSE Targets Storytelling Targets
HOOK is strong PACING is magnetic
Narrative Cohesion – Sentences read fluently ENDING pays off
Narrative Polish – Delicious prose, fun to read on a sentence-by-sentence level MOTIVES are believable, consistent, and actionable.
AUTHOR VOICE is unique – Rare perspectives, thoughtful connections between the story and real-life MULTI-LAYER PLOT – subtext, ultra-simple secondary character needs, plot events drive character growth
THEME is crystal clear – All details build toward a single, clear thesis BREATHERS – Terror balanced with saving graces. Balance of disdain and empathy.

All submissions are ranked based on the above rubric, one point per item, for a total score out of ten.

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