Johnny America


Top­ics, Themes, & Man­ner­isms We Could Do Without

An­i­mals, Sto­ries Writ­ten from the Per­spec­tive Of

We get a lot of sub­mis­sions like these, and they just don’t work for us.

Bukows­ki, Sto­ries Writ­ten in the Style Of

If we feel like read­ing Bukows­ki, we will read Bukowski.

Col­lege Sto­ries, Drug-Related

Like strange dreams or con­sti­pa­tion, we find these sort of ex­pe­ri­ences rarely make for good reading.

Col­lege Sto­ries, General

See above.

Col­lege Sto­ries, MFA-related

While like­ly un­true, we pre­fer to main­tain the delu­sion that most of our read­ers are not writ­ers, would-be-writ­ers, or per­sons with ad­vanced knowl­edge of or in­ter­est in the minu­tia of cre­ative writ­ing grad­u­ate programs.

Cow­boy Poetry

Is a sur­pris­ing­ly pop­u­lar genre which we nev­er want to read again.

Di­alect, Ex­ces­sive Amounts Of

We al­most nev­er find the ex­cla­ma­tion, “Hooo-weee,” ap­pro­pri­ate­ly com­ic or con­vinc­ing as re­al­is­tic di­a­logue, es­pe­cial­ly when fol­lowed by a bar­rage of “chough­ins’” or “layins’” or “slidins’” or “tex­tins’.” We ap­pre­ci­ate di­alect used spar­ing­ly and to max­i­mum evoca­tive effect.

Goats, Sto­ries Disparaging

Al­most nev­er ring true.

iPhones, iPods, iDoohickey

Sto­ries that make ex­ten­sive men­tion of such tech­nol­o­gy — es­pe­cial­ly pieces that re­peat the word “iDoohick­ey” or oth­er plays on Ap­ple’s prod­uct-nam­ing con­ven­tions — al­most nev­er feel fresh. If a char­ac­ter is mak­ing a call on a Droid or iPhone we find it is usu­al­ly bet­ter just to use the word “phone” in lieu of a spe­cif­ic de­vice name. We are liv­ing in the fu­ture now, where even ad­vanced squir­rels have mo­bile de­vices; the rel­a­tive in­tel­li­gence of a char­ac­ter’s tele­phone can be im­plied by their in­ter­ac­tions with it.

Lists, Pre­vi­ous­ly Re­ject­ed by McSweeney’s

We wel­come the chance to read sto­ries writ­ten as lists, and lists of the hu­mor­ous sort if clear­ly craft­ed for John­ny Amer­i­ca’s ed­i­to­r­i­al idio­syn­crasies, but we try to avoid in­fring­ing on this well-guard­ed turf of Tim­o­thy Mc­Sweeney & Com­pa­ny. They’ve done hu­mor­ous lists since for­ev­er, and they do them well, and they car­ry jars of muri­at­ic acid that they pret­ty read­i­ly toss at the faces of the ed­i­tors of com­pet­ing lit­er­ary en­deav­ors, and we find it wise not to ape their reg­u­lar fea­tures for fear of reprisal, be­cause, you know, we like our un­scarred faces.

Mil­i­tary Stories

Are some­thing we like to read, but are rarely a good fit for the par­tic­u­lar tone we’re try­ing to cul­ti­vate. If you’ve spent a day read­ing our archives and have a mil­i­tary sto­ry you think might work for us, by all means please send. If this is your first time look­ing at John­ny Amer­i­ca and you’re about to in­clude us in a blan­ket sub­mis­sion, please be fore­warned that it’s very like­ly we’ll pass.

News Re­portage, Sto­ries Writ­ten in the Style Of

While this style of writ­ing can achieve stag­ger­ing hi­lar­i­ty for The Onion, we feel it rarely works for non-hu­mor pieces — and be­cause news-style sub­mis­sions of the hu­mor­ous sort al­most al­ways feel like Onion re­jects, we tend to shy away from them.

Po­et­ry, Unsolicited

We re­ceive more of this than you would think, giv­en how clear­ly state we’ll delete it with­out re­ply. We like po­et­ry, we re­al­ly do, but al­most all of the sub­mis­sions we re­ceive are painful­ly earnest mis­sives to the void from well-mean­ing writ­ers who have read ex­act­ly ze­ro sto­ries on our web site and so are obliv­i­ous to its unique tone. If you’re a po­et and you know it and you’d care to show it, please send us an in­tro­duc­to­ry note first, men­tion­ing your fa­vorite mo­ment of Sis­ter Act II or Pee Wee’s Big Ad­ven­ture, so we’ll know you read this far in­to our sub­mis­sions guide­lines and that we’re op­er­at­ing on a com­pat­i­ble wavelength.

Punch­lines, Sto­ries That Ex­ist to Build Up To

We fre­quent­ly re­ceive ini­tial­ly-promis­ing short-ish pieces that build up to tepid punch­lines. These may ap­pear as well-ex­e­cut­ed shorts hum­ming along smooth­ly, then with the turn of a com­ma the read­er dis­cov­ers that the whole rai­son d’être for the piece is to set up an easy joke or unin­spired pun. This sort of punch­line can work for a gut-buster like Bob (R.I.P.) Saget’s take on the fa­mous “The Aris­to­crats” joke, where the very over­wrought­ness of the set­up is in­te­gral with the joke, but usu­al­ly, al­most al­ways, this is not how the sub­mis­sions we see are struc­tured. We sus­pect a sto­ry that’s a meta-riff on this form — with char­ac­ters wait­ing in an ac­tu­al line for ac­tu­al punch — might be able to work and gen­er­ate a laugh, but as of this writ­ing that sus­pi­cion is pure­ly theoretical.

Sa­tan, Sto­ries De­pict­ing for Comedic Effect

Can be very amus­ing, but al­most al­ways feel cliché. We have to pick our tropes, and this is one we choose to avoid.

Tele­vi­sion Char­ac­ters, Fic­tion­al­ized Ac­counts Of

Can oc­ca­sion­al­ly be very fun­ny, but are al­most al­ways not so. Char­lie Brown, grown up and ad­dict­ed to Horse? This is well-trod­den territory.

Ste­fan Urquelle, Fic­tion­al­ized Ac­counts Of

Are an ex­cep­tion to the above rule and are prac­ti­cal­ly guar­an­teed ac­cep­tance. Do you re­call this vel­vet-smooth al­ter-ego of the sit­com Fam­i­ly Mat­ters’ nerd-o-type “Steve Urkel”? That show kills.

Vi­o­lence Di­rect­ed Against Non-Hu­man Primates

Is ab­hor­rent when writ­ten for com­ic effect.

Zach Gal­i­fi­anakis Erotica

For Chris­sake, yes he’s svelte and sexy now, but please, give it a rest. Our read­ers don’t care if you think he’d be a “thought­ful bone.”

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