What quality do you most value in submissions (humor, concision, clear message, etc.) and why?
By Hannah Ramsey, Daniel Boyko, and Sarah Nachimson
Hannah Ramsey: Figurative Language
I appreciate when writers use metaphors, symbolism, allusions, and other varieties of figurative devices to provide depth and meaning to their work. Rather than have a story or poem be told straightforwardly, I prefer when a submission gradually moves the audience to its conclusion through the employment of subtle suggestions and subjective descriptions. Essentially, I admire when a piece possesses the ability to elucidate complex concepts and relationships in a way that is meaningful, innovative, and leaves the reader thinking about the story long after they are finished reading.
For this to happen, the story needs to have depth; it’s the way the submission is executed that matters. Any writer can create two characters and have them, say, fall in love with each other; however, not all writers are able to craft elaborate and emotionally-charged metaphors to illustrate the love that manifests amongst these characters. Similarly, not all writers make use of allusions as a means of uniquely describing a person or phenomenon. In my opinion, authors should utilize increasingly descriptive language in a creative way that leaves the subject to the readers’ interpretation. Exact and explicit story-telling, which leaves nothing for the reader to debate and wonder about, is, in my opinion, ineffectual in evoking an emotional response.
Daniel Boyko: Concision
For me, I value concision. As much as I would like to say that having a clear message is beneficial—and it is—I can’t place anything above concision. Without it, a piece can end up as a jumble of nonsense, whether it’s poetry or fiction. A piece needs to answer the famous English teacher question: so what? If a piece fails to answer this question, the writer’s theme will be unable to resonate with the reader, making the theme obsolete. I know, I know, this may seem harsh, but it’s the truth. A verbose piece that jumps around the point is worse off. Get to the point.
A writer shouldn’t worry about flowery writing or sophisticated vocabulary words if it doesn’t add to the story being told. Less can often be more when it comes to writing, which is something that many newer writers struggle with. This is especially apparent in descriptions, where some submissions seem to have a thousand adjectives that still fail to describe the necessary components of the story. Verbosity can distract from the heart of a piece and ultimately take away from a submission’s potential.
Sarah Nachimson: Control of Language
I find it important that writers takes advantage of their diction, whether in poetry or prose, to create emotion for the reader. If a piece clearly states the color of the sky or how a character feels on their birthday, I don’t feel compelled to keep reading. I am compelled when descriptions can answer the question ‘what makes this piece unique?’ A lot of writers come to Polyphony Lit with similar themes, but only a few stand out. How are these pieces conspicuous among the slew we editors receive? The answer is control of language.
Control can take place through figurative language, well-chosen words, or any other literary techniques. I often read pieces where authors insert creative description but lose control of tone. While a piece may include beautiful metaphors, they don’t have much of an impact if the piece is disconnected and the message is vague. I value writers who can use these metaphors and other literary techniques to serve their main idea instead of stating descriptions bluntly or losing control of their imagery. Language is the foundation of creative writing, and wielding language effectively will make a piece stand out.
Hannah Ramsey is a Genre Editor at Polyphony Lit and a blogger at Voices.
Daniel Boyko is a Executive Editor at Polyphony Lit and a blogger at Voices.
Sarah Nachimson is a Genre Editor at Polyphony Lit and a blogger at Voices.