Letting Go Of Your Literary Influences

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I organized some of my old writing notebooks yesterday, and reminisced about when I began this journey in earnest eight years ago with a shitty novel/script/thing. My writing improved by football-field lengths in six years (for comparison’s sake, the road to becoming a good writer starts in your room and ends on the moon). Hell, I’ve improved just between this time last year and now. The first short story that I posted on this website, “Broken Watch,” is dull and near unreadable to me now. Ironically, I brought that story to the blog because I thought it had an exciting and tense opening. Around the same time I wrote “Broken Watch,” I also penned “The College Station All-Male Feminist Union.” Though that story had more work done editing it than “Watch,” and that story has more drafts coming, I still like reading “Union” even to this day. And if that fact doesn’t astound you to your core, then you don’t know that many artists.

There are a lot of factors I can credit to that leap in quality. I grew as a writer when I learned to stop aping the creatives that inspired me.

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A Comprehensive Guide in a Comprehensive Place

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A while back, I uploaded, piece by piece, the ultimate character creation list. Now it’s all in one place at this article here. Also included in this article are a World Document Template and a character example of all the stuff I ramble about in the guide.

Also: if you want to follow me on MyTrendingStories, that would be most appreciated. I’ll soon be posting articles there that are exclusive to that site, and you wouldn’t want to miss out, now would you?

 

How to Get Accepted By Glimmer Train (as of Fall 2014)

I began reviewing Glimmer Train stories in order to find out what content they like to see in their submissions I’ve only covered one issue in detail, and have plenty more issues to read before I stop. But even so, I think I can put together a decent guide on what topics and techniques you should cover if you want a better chance of getting into this magazine. For completion’s sake, I put down below a link farm of all the stories in the Fall 2014 issue, so you can get my thoughts on what works for individual stories.

Stowaways (#7)

The X-250 (#9)

Walang Hiya, Brother (#6)

The Hate (#1)

Speak to Me (#10)

Miss Me Forever (#2)

What We Saw (#3)

Hialeah (#4)

Maghreb and the Sea (#8)

Here for Life (#11)

The Orange Parka (#5)

Without further ado, here’s the beginner’s guide of what you aspiring writers should try if you want to get accepted into Glimmer Train:

  • Talk about a non-American culture, or at least a non-mainstream one. A Middle Eastern or an Asian culture’s a plus. The more obscure from an American perspective, the better. If a story’s set in America, than it damn well better be from the perspective of an immigrant.
  • Master your metaphors. This is where the richness of Glimmer Train stories lays. It’s also the part of my writing I’ll have to work the hardest at if I want to make it here.
  • Focus on character beats and quiet moments instead of plot. I don’t recommend this for all writing, but it’s perfectly acceptable for the plot to move on while the protagonist just lets it go on. Better ye, have the impotence of the protagonist in regards to influencing the story’s direction connect to your central theme.
  • Isolated and lonely characters are great. You’ll have to have them talk to someone, of course, but even then your protagonist should be apart from the world around them in some way.
  • Bring rich descriptions to the table. Even in minimalist stories, paint a vivid picture.
  • If you must bring in the fantastical, stick to ghosts. It’s the only thing outside of normal life that I’ve seen Glimmer Train allow in their fiction. And who doesn’t love a good ghost story?
  • Do a non-linear narrative if you can. It’s hard to do, and not required, but accomplishing that will score you extra points.

I hope this guide helps you get accepted into Glimmer Train! I’ll be adding more to it with each issue I complete. Be sure to notify me if the magazine accepts you after using these tips.

Glimmer Train Fall 2014: “The Orange Parka” by E. A. Durden

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I’ve noticed a trend in certain collections where the closing story brings matters to a quieter, more contemplative state. You can argue that the most recent example of this pattern, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, does the same in a sense, despite all the time travel and action. It’s the same way for “The Orange Parka.” After stories about public hangings, ghosts, and a refugee crisis (which aren’t exactly blockbuster action movies to begin with), we end the volume with a tale about what it’s like to be an empty nester, and the loneliness that resides within a generation that’s fading away.

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Glimmer Train Fall 2014: “Here for Life” by Gil Filar

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I try to maintain a professional tone reviewing this magazine, but… hoo boy, did this one piss me off. This story’s the worst story I’ve read in a Glimmer Train magazine, and it’s difficult to think of other short stories outside of a student workshop that induced such rage in me over how much nothing there can be in ten pages.

Continue reading “Glimmer Train Fall 2014: “Here for Life” by Gil Filar”

Glimmer Train Fall 2014: “Maghreb and the Sea” by Robert Powers

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The last story I covered, “Hialeah,” ended with the narrator swimming out from the shore “until he could no longer tell where the sea ended and his body began” (Brooks, 168). The next story in the collection, “Maghreb and the Sea,” picks that connection right up in terms of imagery. Our tale concerns two boys from the titular region of northern Africa travelling north to find both work and a better life. But on a thematic level, the story’s about water vs. sky vs. earth (or sand, in some cases) and what happens when they intermingle. Key moments in the plot focus on this dichotomy, like when our protagonist is hit by the police and is “bleeding into the sand again” (Powers, 181), or when the two boys sit in an abandoned ship and look “to where the sky meets the end of the world” (Powers, 175). This description is likely intentional on the part of the protagonist, who’s telling the story through a letter to his former traveling partner. All of this must seem like a blur to him.

Like with the previous minimalist story in this collection, “The X-250,” I find myself wanting for more description and more clarity. And this goes beyond the fact that I don’t know what these characters look like. Early on, the police beat up the main characters for throwing rocks at black cars. It’s sad, yet the boys’ behavior becomes understandable when you consider thatm, just a paragraph earlier, they were discussing how the rich don’t care about them. But two paragraphs after the black car incident, the narrator says “And then one day we were beaten again for throwing rocks at foreign trawlers” (Powers, 175). Ok, fuck the rich, I get that. But why the hell would they do the same risky behavior again? Not only does the narrator not tell us, but he has no reason to tell us; he’s writing this letter to the person who underwent the same beatings and threw the same rocks. And it’s unclear why exactly this letter is being written to the other boy besides maybe the protagonist needing to bury some demons. Does it serve the story to have it be told in this way? This might be the rare occasion that I’d encourage a story to me more vague. Minimalist writing lets you get away with less imagery and fuzzier context. It might actually fit in with the narrative’s thematic concerns: just as sky blends with sea blends with earth, so might past blend with present blend with future.

In a way, minimalist storytelling requires a minimal story. You can bury deeper meaning inside it (all you writers probably know what Hemmingway said about icebergs), but the surface-level stuff should be easy enough to grasp. I know what the story of “Maghreb and the Sea” is (what happens), but I’m unclear on the plot of “Maghreb and the Sea” (why what happens happens).

Robert Powers’ “Maghreb and the Sea” is his first published story. I found his blog at http://adumbrate.me, which had the all-too-common tragedy of a “Sorry for the late update” post as his last post to the blog… written over a year ago. I couldn’t find much else about him on the Internet.

To be honest, I read this tale a couple of weeks ago and forgot almost all of it by the time I wrote this. Maybe “Maghreb and the Sea” is your thing, but I probably won’t revisit it.

Interested in this story? Buy it and many others here!