|This page last updated 3/27/07.
The point of this page is to get you thinking about more novel approaches to the Machine of Death concept. None of these story ideas are bad, per se, it's just that they have been very well-trod, and we would rather that you spend your time working on something different that will make us excited!
If you have already sent a story that falls into one of these categories -- don't worry, we will be publishing stories of all types! It's just that we don't want all the stories to be the same, and we would rather that new stories cover different ground.
And remember: we are trying to publish a book full of engaging, interesting stories that people will want to re-read again and again. If your story is heavily reliant on a last-second pun or twist, you'd better make sure that the "meat" of your story is exceptionally interesting and compelling.
Another good rule of thumb that can help you add scope and breadth is to imagine the machine as just another prop -- same as a car or a spaceship or a gun or a slot machine or anything. It can have a central role or it can be incidental, but the narrative should be about characters, not about the machine itself. In other words, consider how to show us the coming of age story (with the machine), or the parlor mystery (with the machine), or the road trip story (with the machine), or the heist story (with the machine), or the high-seas adventure (with the machine), or the political thriller (with the machine) -- instead of just "the machine story (with the machine)".
APPROACHES TO AVOID
Someone attempts to prove the machine wrong by killing themselves or others (REVISED FROM SIMILAR TOPIC)
We have now received as many of these stories as we are likely to need, and have seen so many approaches to this core concept that yours is unlikely to be significantly different. (Sorry, just telling it like it is.) This is a tricky concept to pull off well because suicide/murder is beyond the ken of most normal people in the world, and suddenly having characters become suicidal/homicidal for questionable philosphical reasons can easily come off as implausible. Better to stick with something a little more relatable.Any story at all in which the central prediction is "SUICIDE"
Unless you have an amazing twist on the theme, we already have as many of these as we will ever need, thanks! Not that we don't think your suicide story is great; rather, we only have so many pages that we want to devote to suicide and so your time would probably be better spent exploring a more unique avenue.Gimmicky predictions regarding the machine itself
In our opinion, a machine predicting itself as a cause of death is not by itself an interesting story. Examples include "PAPERCUT", "INFECTED NEEDLE", and "CRUSHED BY FALLING MACHINE". This concept may be an interesting jumping-off point for a more complex story, but that story would frankly have to be brilliant to make us look past the gimmick.Pun-based predictions
As above, if your story isn't interesting to read the second time through (even when you know what's coming), take another crack at it.Someone gets a prediction, and is killed on the same day
You have to admit, this is pretty implausible! There are ways that this could work, but again, you'd better be brilliant.Stories entirely about the protagonist getting their first prediction
There is really only so much internal musing about "THE NATURE OF FATE" that we can find interesting, without something more dramatic happening.Stories that open with the protagonist getting their first prediction
Again, nothing really wrong with this setup, it's just that we're seeing it an awful lot, and would rather see more variety.Stories in which the entire narrative thrust is someone trying to avoid their predicted death
See above. More variety please!Stories in which otherwise normal people suddenly become serial killers (UPDATED)
If your story features a serial killer he had better be pretty abnormal. You know, like a real serial killer.Finally, to paraphrase George Orwell, "Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous."
We are not opposed to serial killer stories per se, but it is a really hard premise to pull off plausibly, and the concept is so saturated in the culure that even great serial killer stories are fighting an uphill battle. A good rule of thumb could be, if your story is not better than Silence of the Lambs or Se7en, consider not bothering.
Show us something more unusual instead, because we will only have room in the book for one or two serial killer stories (at the very most) but will have plenty of room for interesting, novel character-driven stories in other genres.
back to guidelines