I’ve been on the staff of several literary journals now and I am shocked at the prevalence/frequency of one particular species of story:
The guy-sees-girl-and-is-transformed trope.
Almost always, it’s a very unhealthy obsession. It’s often not even the infamous Manic Pixie Dream Girl either, but just any woman. More than not, she’s the most beautiful woman he’s ever seen, but frequently there’s no real identifying character there at all. And she never gets her own arc in the story.
Hell, sometimes, they never even meet the woman. They see her from across a bar or coffee shop and are apparently haunted by the idea of her.
When they do meet, these stories tend to start post-breakup then spend the majority of its wordcount relating their relationship. There’s no stakes in this type of story at all.
And often, the change the male “protagonist” goes through is not good. Maybe he gets bumped out of his boring life by their interaction, maybe. In many cases, it seems like they can’t wait to get back to living their pre-stalking sadsack life.
There’s also a variation in this trope that shows up with a surprising frequency: in the end, the guy kills the girl. These stories make me want to googlestalk you and report your whereabouts to the authorities.
I’m not saying you can’t or shouldn’t write these kinds of stories. However, I am saying that it’s a pretty worn trope, we’ve all seen it a million times, it’s pretty sexist, there’s little stakes involved, and it smells almost exactly like a too-specific dating profile where we know you’re basically subtweeting about your most recent ex.
P.S. Also, in worn-out trope news: maybe chill with stories that open with a dead woman.
In case I haven’t mentioned it here, I’ve donned the mantle of
Interdimensional Ethnograper Fiction Editor at the freshly minted Outlook Springs. We’re a biannual literary magazine posing as a small town in another dimension, or another dimension posing as a literary magazine. We’re on a safari to catch the elusive lovechild of Welcome to Night Vale and Tin House, if you can imagine such a beast. And if you can’t, try, write a story about it, then submit it to me.
For fiction, we’re thinking along these lines:
Send us stories we can’t put down. Our emphasis is literary fiction: “the human heart in conflict with itself,” as Faulkner famously said. But we aren’t biased against genre. To the contrary! Experimental, science fiction, fantasy, slipstream, magical realism, minimalist, maximalist, etc., etc., are all welcome into our home, so long as there is an emphasis on character and language rather than on cleverness and conceit. Let us reiterate: character and language are important. We want sentences radioactive with the bizarre, the beautiful, the ugly—the world as only you see it. Surprise us. Break our hearts. Humor is always a plus. Humor and heartbreak together? Oh, boy. That’s a dream come true. Outlook Springs isn’t looking for merely competent stories—stories that are technically proficient but emotionally cold. Zap us with life.
So yeah, everything from gritty realism through lambasted absurdism, as long as it’s heart is beating so loud it travels back through time and drives Edgar Allan Poe to write a creeptastic story about it.
We’re a biannual print magazine. We do not charge submission fees. We pay our writers. We have big plans for our little town.
Check Submittable for nonfiction and poetry guidelines. Also, you can check us out on Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, and Instagram. Our official website will be up soon, but you can already sign up for our newsletter. Or send us a telegram.