Mar 21, 2006, 11:04 PM
Post #1156 of 6279
Well, first of all, I think it's definitely shortsighted to set out a hard-and-fast rule about what stories can or can't be about. Usually rules like that just encourage someone to go out and break them.
Re: [kcole7] Stories about kids
[In reply to]
I can take some stabs, though, at where those particular "rules" come from. Stories with young children as narrators or protagonists are hard to pull off (though of course not impossible) because a child, in order to be a narrator or protagonist, generally has to be pretty precocious -- your average four or five year-old probably doesn't have the psychological complexity and self-awareness that's generally required to carry a story (and before people start yelling at me -- yes, I realize there are stories that work despite, or even because of, their main characters' lack of self-awareness). So I think you run the risk of the story being a little too cute, in a Jonathan-Lipnicki-in-Jerry-Maguire way. Certainly that's not true of ALL stories centered primarily on young children, but it's a pitfall the writer has to be aware of and work extra hard to overcome.
The "dream" story rule, I think, comes from too many stories in which the main character discovers, at the story's end, that "it was all just a dream." Those stories are pretty annoying to read. That doesn't mean a story can't have some dreams in it. Although it does seem like writers sometimes use dreams as a way to pump "meaning" into a story, rather than doing the harder work of providing it through action/scene/etc.
So anyway, those are my guesses. But of course these rules are unnecesarily limiting. It's kind of like when lit journals say they don't accept "genre work," which is a kind of shorthand to indicate they want character-based "literary" fiction. But in reality, that line is pretty hard to draw, and there are a lot of good "literary" short stories that borrow heavily from various genres. And genre stories that are really good, and also considered "literary" by many people (just like there are good children-centered stories). I guess my assumption is that those journals (and those MFA programs) would admit to this. But explaining what they're REALLY looking for would take a lot of words, so it's easier to just say "no genre work" or "no stories about kids."