Red Flags for Fiction Rejection

For those writing or interested in writing fiction, Jane Friedman lists the following red flags that could bring a swift rejection by an editor or agent.

  • Flashback on first page
  • Too much backstory or explanation, slowing story down
  • Waiting for the protagonist to appear (or unclear protagonist)
  • Starting with an alarm clock or ringing phone
  • Lots of characters introduced on first page
  • Ordinary day stuff (getting out of bed, walking to kitchen, etc)
  • Ordinary crisis moment without distinct voice or twist
  • Too much telling about the story, not enough showing
  • Nothing happens — no action or problem
  • Interior monologue: in character’s head, just lots of thinking, no acting or interaction with anyone else
  • Predictable story start or story line without a unique take
  • More of a journal entry (stream of consciousness), and not a story
  • Wrong starting point; not starting at a point of change
  • Too confusing, not enough reason or motivation to figure out what’s happening
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