Connie likes the yin and yang of characters. Do not make anyone all good or all bad, that is completely unrealistic. I want to find my bad characters endearing in some sort of way. Where you can see what turned them this way. And I want my good characters to be flawed in some sort of way. I want to think of your characters as people not flat names and descriptions on a page. And never tell me what the main character looks like in self reflection. Other than thinking, Oh my god, I’m having a bad hair day, I never contemplate the auburn highlights that the sun picks up in my chestnut coloured hair. But if a zit appears on the end of my nose, that I’ll notice. Your characters should be the same. Much like if they walk into a familiar to them room, they aren’t going to notice the period of décor and every detail, but they will notice if a pillow is askew, or if the cuckoo clock goes off when they are rushing to get ready for a party.
Cliché and trope make me yawn. Be creative. Have fun. Give me something that is from the perspective of an unlikely character. Challenge the norms and stretch yourself into realms you’ve never been. Widen your scope of your own personal circle. However, don’t throw in diversity for the sake of it being trendy. It must be done with care and respect and with thought. The token person of colour or sexuality comes off trite if not done properly.
For Nefariam, I want to see something from a younger point of view, ala Stand by Me or Stranger Things. Give me something like a high crime. You don’t need to kill someone for it to be a crime. A jewelry heist, or white collar crime could be interesting.
Finally, make sure you’ve edited before you send. Simple errors can be the difference between two stand out stories.
Tobin enjoys engaging characters who are flawed. Nobody’s perfect in real life, nor should they be in fiction. But he shudders at characters that brood or whine—either through speech or thought—constantly. Same goes for characters who wring their hands before taking action. Yeah...you know the ones.
Don’t give Tobin description for description’s sake. He doesn’t need to know how tall a character is, unless that height is conspicuous. He’s not worried about eye and hair colour unless they are exceptional to the viewer. Description should—in most cases—come from emotional impact. He doesn’t care if it’s sunny out, but he will be fascinated if you can show him how the world shares in a character’s joy or pain. When a character is stressed, does he notice all the sharp edges? When a character is angry, is every point of detail an obstacle for her? Lovely.
Finally, a story that makes him think. He loves being entertained, but he adores being provoked. If a story can show him a different or challenging viewpoint on a situation, a trope, an opinion, a character, or a world, you’ve got him.
Give him a solid hook, then carry it through to a logical, but unexpected ending.
Automatic rejections? Unless you’re doing something shockingly different with it, Tobin will make rude gestures at your manuscript before closing it if he sees
Any character that observes themselves in a mirror or other reflective surface, and provides a full description
Any story that starts with a character waking up and thinking for any length of time.
Any opening scene that describes weather or landscape before getting to the point.
Tired old tropes used in the same old ways.
The whole idea of Nefariam is “crime with a twist.” Bend conventions. Break rules. Doesn’t have to be a murder, doesn’t have to be a mystery. Does have to have a crime, whatever “crime” means in your fictional world.
I would love to see a wide range of times, places, cultures, subgenres, etc. How would an astronaut solve a medical mystery, using nothing but common sense? How would a magical toad solve the murder of his favourite wizard?
Because these stories are short, I need a sharp and plausible plot with a surprising twist. I detest using unnecessarily fancy language to prove how eloquent you are. Character-driven stories are less important to me in a crime-fiction plot, but a charming hero (or anti-hero) is a definite plus.
Dale is looking for, first and foremost, relatable and engaging characters. Characters, even the minor ones, should have a purpose, shape and substance and steer well away from super-hero tropes. Good characters not only carry a story, they most often drive it.
After that, he likes plausibility, good choreography, and subtle but impactful description. And finally stories that catch him by surprise. Stories with unique twists, and unusual circumstances with equally unusual characters. And if you really want to get on his good side? A nice gothic feel.
What he doesn’t like is stilted, clichéd dialogue, “and then, and then…” plot pace, “badass/kickass” characters.