A debate-ish popped up today about editors' proclamations. Editors of small journals which publish fiction. In addition to always and not originally stating, "Send us your best," as if writers knowingly send their crap, their fails, their uglies, an editor, one in particular, was called out for his proclamation, his warnings in his journal's Call for Work. This particular fellow isn't so bad. But comments, mainly from men, defending him are (so bad). It's an old battle, ongoing and never very interesting, the battle being the "don'ts" of plot. A woman instigated the debate. I suppose that's why the fellows chimed in.
One comment was only Kafka could write about the creature/human transformation. Whew! He got in under the wire. I thought the cutting off point was Shakespeare. I thought the real cutting off point was Ovid. I guess cause Satan isn't an animal, Goethe was safe.
Listen to me and listen hard. No one is to write a fairy tale. No one is to read the Hans Christian Anderson or Angela Carter. You might be inspired. O fie on thee, writer, inspired by great writing.
Some other don'ts include:
Don't write about star-crossed lovers, or lovers who have any problems at all.
Don't write about adultery.
Or gambling. Or driving, hitchhiking, or walking.
Don't write about men who hate their father.
Don't write about daughters with overbearing mothers.
Don't write about the experience of being a soldier at war.
Don't write about the experience of being a citizen in a country at war.
Just leave the whole war thing alone.
Don't write about revenge, abduction, or molestation. Who cares?
Don't write about being a Jew.
Don't write about being a Catholic.
Hey, Protestants, Buddhists, Muslims, and Hindus. Don't bother.
I'm on the line about atheists and agnostics.
Don't write about the absurdity of the academy.
Nothing there of interest and definitely nothing humorous.
Don't write about being a misfit teenager.
Don't write about a deformity, imaginary or real.
Don't write about poverty.
Don't write about Brooklyn.
Don't write about wealth.
Don't write about Boston, New York or Americans who travel abroad (wealthy or not, for adventure, or with drugs).
Don't write about crime, be it true or false.
I beg of thee. No stories in which someone is murdered and a detective, official or quaint, solves the crime.
Please. No stories of injustice. No children born out of wedlock. No working class heroes. No war heroes. No heroines. No-I mean NO-stories of orphans who are adopted, abused, sent to dreadful schools.
Don't set your story in New Orleans. Or Texas or New Mexico. Or Oregon. Which reminds me:
No stories about institutions caring for or warehousing the mentally ill.
The above is a short list.
Of course, be warned, publishers of journals. The quiet, open-minded, modest editors will end up publishing the best - original writing which steals from the finest. Theft in art? Always a plus.
*The Nagas were mythical beings who could transform from man or woman to snake. They were a separate species from humans and lived in their own secret cities deep in the jungle. Often worshipped as gods in the early days, they eventually ended up as minor parts of both the Hindu and Buddhist religions. For more see: The Naga