Here is a wonderfully helpful post put together by new IGMS assistant editors Scott M. Roberts and Eric James Stone (and me) that could help your story get hoisted from the depths of the slush pile. I would recommend reading the entire post as it is full of good information for any fiction writer, but I'll paste my bit over here:
"I like stories that surprise me. I don't mind if a cliché is used, if there is a neat twist. What makes your vampire/werewolf/sorcerer's apprentice/space colonists story different from all the others? I once got a mutinous murder on a spacecraft story (cliché), but told from the perspective of a sanitation robot (twist!). I like detail, that makes the character/world real to me.
I like caring about the point of view characters, even if they are flawed. Why are they flawed? I hate stock villains. Villains you can empathize with, even just partially, are always more effective. I also love the themes of sacrifice, honor, redemption, and breaking/questioning tradition. I am inexplicably partial to stories about robots, empathetic monsters, and adolescent boys going through tough times.
I love captivating first paragraphs, and dislike impotent last lines. For most short stories, you have two pages to capture my attention. Do not waste these on exposition. Do not throw away first paragraphs with exposition. I like being shown why or how a character is a certain way, as opposed to simply being told. I like natural, realistic dialogue that comes across as sincere, as opposed to being convenient to move the plot along. I do not mind stylized, snappy, or
humorous dialogue if it fits in with the story and is creative.
One of my biggest turn offs in a story is when female characters are only described physically, or always initially described physically just because they are women. Especially when this only goes as far as letting us know she has great breasts. I hate stock beautiful women in a story that are not fleshed out (ha!). Violence and exploitation of female characters that is not important to the core of the story is a big pet peeve. It usually comes off as lazy or, duh, exploitative.
I also do not like stories where it feels like important or clarifying information is being withheld so it will feel like a surprise or a twist later. Being confused makes me impatient. Another minor thing that pulls me out of a story is "shoutouts." Shout outs to favorite bands, television shows, writers, etc. that are not integral to the plot. It doesn't usually ruin a story, but it often pulls me right out.
I like stories that make me feel passionate about how it will all end."
Painting by Vermeer, Oh, Vermeer.
What sorts of stories are you drawn to? Notice any trends?