I just got a story turned down by a magazine that I expected would turn the story down. None the less, it's not a good feeling. The problem with the story (the rejection note said) was that the hero did not develop morally. Well, yes, I guess you could say that. The hero is a clever and decent teenager, who grows into a clever and decent adult, though he is -- perhaps -- less moral as an adult than he was as a teenager.
The story is based on several related folk tales about tricking the devil, and I tried to keep the plot and flavor of the folk tales. The devil is evil, powerful and stupid. The trickster is good, far less powerful and smart. The trickster -- the little guy -- wins. Whatever is going on in stories like these, the message is popular. The world is full of trickster stories. Whatever they teach or tell us matters to much of humanity.
Maybe what they say is, "Power isn't everything. Intelligence matters. The bullies -- the rich -- don't always win." A good message, I would say.
When I started out, I used to get rejections that I described as "this banana is the worst orange I have ever seen. It's the wrong shape, the wrong color, and the taste is funny..."
I found these rejections really difficult, because it seemed so clear to me that the objection had nothing to do with the story. How could I learn from it? There was total miscommunication going on.
This current rejection sounds to me like a banana-orange rejection. The editor expected something from the story that wasn't in it, because it isn't that kind of fiction.
However, thinking about the rejection, I got an idea. I'm working -- endlessly -- on a sequel to Ring of Swords
. The hero, Nicky Sanders, is a trickster, and there is a second trickster in the sequel. I think I can see a way to bring moral development into the novel and make it more interesting. Because Ring
and its sequel are novels of the classic 19th century bourgeois variety, and moral insight and development work in this kind of fiction.