My friend Hilary once told me about wanting a handsome guy with dark hair, who was taller than her. Being around the six foot range herself, that was no small order.
Then one day, we go to a food truck rally. A friend of one of our companions shows up. He’s real tall, easily some 6’5″. Dark features, and reasonably attractive. I grinned and thought, well you got your wish.
But to our mutual surprise, Hilary whispered to me that she wasn’t interested in him after all. She was kind of shocked herself, because although he hit all her qualifications, he just wasn’t doing it for her. He was outgoing with the girls, that wasn’t the issue. But his personality was boring.
Thinking back, I realize that this man was somewhat cliché. Maybe it was because his physical features hit everything many girls want in a man that he thought he didn’t have to evolve and engage people’s taste more. Good looking but socially lazy, coasting on his genetic fortune.
The point of this story comes from a mental debate I’ve been having with myself for a while. Some publishers will tell you what themes and ideas they’re seeking in an anthology. Others don’t tell you what they need and leave the door open for an awesome story… that just so happens to fit their unmentioned requirements.
I suppose that if publishers told you the themes they wanted more often, they’d end up in a similar situation as Hilary did. They’d get the same, clichéd tale, again and again, that totally fails to satisfy the never mentioned requirement that a story has to be good.
Or, in Hilary’s case, they have to have a personality. Guys? Seriously. Personality is the unspoken requirement all girls need. They almost never say it, but the need is there. No one wants to date a mannequin.
So when you see an anthology or submission window, start by asking yourself what has already been done. Many publishers have huge lists of what they don’t want. The same crap that keeps getting rammed into their mailboxes. If you’re not innovating, you’re stagnating. If you’re not evolving, you’re dying.
So find a way to stay sharp. Try something new. Go to another country, study something unorthodox. Learn, research, create. If you’re creating without being creativity, then you’re doing it wrong.