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
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.
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.
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.
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.”