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Tales from the Slushpile - A short burst of anger

I was asked to write this for several people. This is a first draft and will most likely stay that way (I probably switch to first-person-present a few times in here). This is the true tale of my rage, minus the fact that I’m not REALLY an otter person. I only play one on TV.

The sounds of my printer whirred to life, the pages of my next victim flowing through the workings of the machine and out onto the tray. It looked to be twenty-thirty pages or so; it wasn’t anything too strenuous.

As the fan of the printer came to a stop, I bent down to grab the pages, the feel of them warming the webbing between my fingers. I stared it over for a moment, wondering if this would be the story from the pile that would finally wow me. This anthology had been a slow and tedious process, and I had yet to find a gem to really get me excited about the final product.

“Such is the life of an editor,” I said aloud to no one. I walked across my cluttered office to the hole-puncher, my tail knocking over several books and binders as I slid by them. A few quick punches and one open and close of a binder’s rings later, the story was ready to be reviewed.

The orange pen sat on my desk, lonely, waiting for my grasp to bring it to life. It didn’t need to wait long; a couple of steps was all it took to bring me back to my desk, binder on the wood surface and the pen now in my hand. I took a glance at the title of the story, and immediately was thrown off balance. It didn’t seem like something that would really fit with the themes of the anthology, but that didn’t mean anything. Maybe the title was an allusion to a much more grand idea that I would discover. I was optimistic, an unusual feeling for me.

That all changed when I read the first paragraph.

I was immediately confused by the rush of words, the setting, character, and motivation all seeming to be thrown at me at once. The completely inappropriate language in the narrative didn’t help the story’s case. If I wasn’t so desperate for that one shimmer of gold, I might have just quit there.

“Professionals don’t quit out of stories that quickly,” I noted as I looked over to the piles of stories that I did indeed quit out of that early in the story, all within the last week. With a shrug I continued on with the story.

The rest of the first page went on and on with more information about the setting and events that didn’t seems to matter within the context of the story. It wasn’t until page two that something finally happened, a short dialogue between what seemed to be the main character and a supporting character of some sort, and all that led up to was a weak beginning to characterization and an inability for the main character to properly do their job within the story. Having worked in that same field a couple of years prior, I couldn’t help but twitch my whiskers in frustration. I had a feeling the author had at least spent some time in this sort of establishment, and yet didn’t know the first thing about the practices that went on in it.

Not wanting to spend more time on these items not relevant to the plot of the main story, I continued on to meet another supporting character who would end up being the supporting main character. Their exchange was brief, and it turned quickly into an aside with character backstory. Laced with all of this was the flagrant misuse of punctuation…but that wasn’t what I was here for. The supporting main character’s age, according to the narrative and information, had to be at least eighteen, but the character’s actions and dialogue made them seem as though they were twelve.

I took my eyes from the story for a moment, knowing that I would need some help to be able to make it through. I pushed my way out of the chair and padded out to the kitchen where I began to pour a cup of coffee.

“This isn’t going to be enough,” I told myself as I reached into the nearby cabinet for the vodka and Irish cream. When all was finished, I may have only filled my cup halfway with actual coffee. “Much better.” I returned to my office and sat back down, taking a sip of the concoction. The sting of the alcohol made my muzzle wrinkle, but I instantly began to feel better about the task at hand. The cup took its rightful place on the left side of my desk and I returned to the story.

I skipped along to page four where the theme-relevant plot began to take form. I don’t know what else had snuck its way into my coffee, but it was like my prayers were finally answered. If the plot of this story ended up being good, it may have a chance after all. That thought vanished as we quickly returned to character backstory, inserted needlessly into the middle of some dialogue. I took another large sip of my coffee.

The scene then changed, the main character heading off to scope out more plot relevant items in the style of the Hardy Boys. The character’s motivation for doing this was very slim, even with the wordy story to their motivation leading up to the action. So much potential, just wasted.

When the character arrived at the scene, I was met with another influx of inappropriate language in the dialogue and horribly unbelievable reactions. After a brief description of the scene, one of the supporting characters conveniently shows back up, making me wonder what sort of timeframe had passed between the first and second scenes. The secondary main character then arrives on the scene, and at this point I am completely lost at what is going on and why it is going on.

My eyes left the page. I ran my claws through the fur on my head and neck to trying and relieve the aggravation that this story is providing. I’ve read far, far worse, but I’ve never found myself getting so frustrated at the wasted potential in a story. It was never going to be that shining gem, but it could at least be a rather good story if the author had bothered to care about what they were writing.

I take another large gulp of coffee from my cup and get back to the story, coming back into a line that now makes the supporting main character seem even younger than before. I’d place the character’s age around ten now. The page of dialogue that follows that line seem to support that theory, even though they actually do a good job of supporting what plot devices the author had probably intended to write originally, but failed to do.

The dialogue continues, getting less and less relevant to the main plot, throwing away the little bit of light that the story was beginning to show. And then the temper tantrum thrown by both characters…their age seems to be a bit more in the area of eight now. I’m trying to figure out if it’s the poor writing that’s doing this, or if they have that Benjamin Button disease.

After a bit more dialogue, the scene changes. The plot is almost completely lost at this point, only being saved from hints of dialogue here and there. I fully admit that I started to just skim the story at this point. I had already made up my mind that I’d be handing this story a bit, fat rejection, but I was interested to see if the story got any worse. It was like watching a train speeding towards a large object on the tracks. I know that I’m in harm’s way by sitting there and watching it happen, but I just have to know how bad it ends up.

It doesn’t take all that long before the train, instead of hitting the breaks, hits the accelerator. The story completely loses all relevance to the main plot just as the major twist happens. It happens completely out of nowhere and is so unbelievable, I found myself having to go back over the rest of the story three times before I could finally admit to myself that the twist made absolutely no sense. To say that I was dumbfounded would be the understatement of the year.

I was done. There was no redeeming this story, and I’m pretty sure that rolling around in barbed wire would be more pleasant than taking another minute of this story. I grabbed the binder and shot out of my chair, my tail getting hooked on one of the arms and toppling it over. With my hands firmly on each side of the binder, I brought it down hard, cracking the spine of it over my knee, causing the top near the clip to split. I grabbed one side of the binder in my teeth, using them as a vice grip to tear the binder completely in half. Once satisfied that I had destroyed the binder enough, I flung it across the room and into the wall, a mere inches from putting it right through the window.

I looked over to my half-empty coffee cup, cooled to room temperature by this point, and chugged the rest of it. With a snarl, I stomped out of the office and into my bedroom, grabbing one of my pillows.

“That was the worst story I have read in my life!” I screamed into the pillow. After a few moments, I managed to calm myself down to think a bit more rationally. Was it the worst story I’ve ever read? I would say no. However, I can say with certainty, I have never hated a story even a fraction of the amount as I hated this story.

Thank you slushpile. Thank you for all that you are and all that you do.

You prick.

I’m glad I haven’t submitted any stories to you, or else I’d be fearful this was based on a true story!

Haha I’ve had a few people message me to confirm if this is their story or not. I said no, but I’d say no anyways! This is vague enough where I can get away with it.

I’m looking to do a sequel to this at some point, but for stories that don’t actually exist. And maybe I’ll even read it a second time after writing the first draft (something that those who read slushpiles in this fandom will probably know to be a blessed occurrence).