According to my dictionary, one of the definitions of the
word confessions isï¿½ ï¿½a voluntary admission by an individual who has
learned his/her lesson the hard way.ï¿½ Weï¿½ll accept that. It is also the secret
short story market which is always buying, buying, buying.
WHO READS THESE MAGAZINES?
The confessions weï¿½ll be discussing in this book
are the same magazines that caused your grandmother to say to your mother,
ï¿½Donï¿½t bring those magazines into this house.ï¿½ They are now published by the
Sterling/MacFadden Magazine Group and they usually sit together in the drug
store or grocery store or convenï¿½ience store magazine rack. Four of them are
directed to the white female: True Confessions, True Story, True Romance and
True Love. Six are for the black female: Black Confessions, Black Romance,
Black Secrets, Bronze Thrills, Jive and True Black Experience. The two groups
are fairly different in content. The main differences youï¿½ll notice at the
newsstand will appear in the color of the models who pose for the illustrations
for the stories and for the color of the pretty woman on the cover. Payment is
a bit less at the Black Confessions.
Your mother paid attention to your grandmother in a certain
way. She didnï¿½t bring the confessions home but she continued to read them,
nevertheless, at the beauty shop, at school, or at the houses of her friends
whose mothers read the magazines and saw no reason why their daughters and
friends shouldnï¿½t read them.
These days, girls and women of all ages are still
reading them, particularly the blue collar or pink collar workers or wives of
blue collar workers. (Pink collar workers are women who work at traditional
womenï¿½s jobs which do not require the worker to get dirtyï¿½ secretaries, hair
stylists, cashiers, store clerks, day care workers, etc.)
NO LONGER SIN, SUFFER AND REPENT
Your grandmother was wrong when she forbade your
mother to read confessions. At the time she told your mother that, the stories
were not just stories of sexual misbehavior as grandma suspected, they were
quite moral stories which told stories of girls who sinned, of girls who
suffered for their sins, and of girls who repented of their sins and then lived
happily ever after beï¿½cause they had done the right things.
Few modern confessions follow the sin, suffer and repent
formula of yesterday but these magazines are still highly moral in outlook and
presentation. Generally speaking they demonï¿½strate common American values, the
things most American women hold dear such as a lifetime marriage plan, family
interï¿½action, care for others, family closeness, etc. Nearly every story is
about some young, middle aged or older femaleï¿½s problem of the moment and how
she handles it wrong, then how she faces the problem and herself and overcomes
whatever is bothering her. Few of the protagonists in these stories are male
but editors do like to buy an occasional male viewpoint story. Todayï¿½s conï¿½fession
magazines are in the aid, service, and education business.
ONE PERSONï¿½S PROBLEM AND HOW SHE/HE HANDLES IT
Itï¿½s true that todayï¿½s stories donï¿½t focus on ï¿½sin, suffer
and repent,ï¿½ although there are still a few of that type. The disgrace of the
illegitimate child has gone the way of all flesh. Sorry. But hey! We still have
a world of problems, donï¿½t we? What is a problem to a middle class intellectual
writer can also be a probï¿½lem to a confessions heroine. (Except for the problem
of getting published, perhaps.)
Perhaps since modern morï¿½s
are a great deal more accepting of unmarried sex, children born out of wedlock,
divorce, and other so-called ï¿½sinsï¿½ of the 1940s and 50s, there are still a few
sins for our heroines to jump into even today.
Our confessions are about todayï¿½s womenï¿½s problems. We write
about one problem per story. Too many beginning writers think they must load
all of their protagonistï¿½s problems into one storyï¿½ but that doesnï¿½t work.
Modern readers want to learn about the heroineï¿½s one problem that is now
bothering her, one problem and how she got into that mess, how she handles it,
and finally, how everything turns out okay for herï¿½ or at least how she looks
forward to a hopeful future. Readers of these stories believe them to be true
stories and they are based upon real hapï¿½penings in todayï¿½s world. Many
a wife has discovered that her husband, olï¿½ Bubba, has been sniffing cocaine,
so if you sit down and write a story of such a wife and tell how she handled
the problem, youï¿½re writing a story based on a true happening, arenï¿½t you? And
by helping your narrator to solve the story problem youï¿½re helping your readers
find a way to handle their own coï¿½caine sniffing Bubbas.
IMPLICIT MORAL VALUES OUR READERS HOLD
The moral of the story (what our narrator learns) should not
be pointed out directly as authors used to do in the old days. We need to write
todayï¿½s story with the implicit moral underscored by what our characters say,
do and think.
What are the morals (values) most clearly demonstrated in
confessions? There are several and every story demonstrates one or more of
Those implicit morals are:
Shacking up is okay but legal marriage is much better.
Marriage without children is okay but legal marriage
with two or more children is infinitely better.
A child born out of wedlock is okay but being born a
child to loving (married) parents is a thousand times better.
Practicing no religion is okay but attending church
occasionally is better: Attending an established church consistently and taking
part in the church activities is the best of all possible worlds.
Getting government help to live is okay if there is no
other way, but working and caring for your own by the sweat of your brow is
ever so much better.
Leaving your children in childcare is okay but being a
stay-at-home-mother, although seldom possible, is top-of-the-trees better.
Sending sick, older or disabled family members to an
institution to be cared for by others is okay but to care for your own loved
one within your family is the really correct way to handle such problems if you
can manage to do so.
In other words, our readers have accepted without question
the middle class American values of Father, Mother, and two kids all living
in a loving home where the extended family works and attends church and takes
part in community activities toï¿½gether.
WHY WRITE CONFESSIONS?
If youï¿½re determined to write short fiction this may be a
good field for you. Confessions need to be based on fact but if you can sign
the publisherï¿½s contract, ï¿½Based on factï¿½ with a good heart, then you can write
confessions and make some money with your short stories. Our readers consider
all the stories in our magaï¿½zines to be truthful transcripts of what happened
to our main characters so it is best to keep mum outside the writing commuï¿½nity,
best not to say that the confessions are made-up stories based on lifeï¿½s
realities. Thatï¿½s why I like to call the confessions our secret short story
There is a catch. You must study the confessions markets.
See what the editors are looking for. Genre fiction, which is a fancy fiction
writer word for category material, is what weï¿½re dealing with here. You do have
to quit listening to your mother or your English teacher screaming inside your
head and just march yourself right up to the nearest magazine rack and buy an
assortment of the magazine. They have names like True Confessions, True
Romance, Bronze Thrills, but youï¿½re not through yet. You must read
the magazines back to front, then come up with a character, usually a blue
collar worker or wife of a blue collar worker and then give her a problem. Then
youï¿½ll be ready to write.
While you continue to try to perfect your commercial slick
magazine short story, your romance novel, your mid-list womanï¿½s fiction, your
literary bestseller, you can, at the same time, be working up to that
prestigious sale and practicing your art right now by driving in the category
lane as a confession writer and you can make a little money while youï¿½re doing
it. Of course, you do want money for your work donï¿½t you?
Youï¿½ve heard what the Victorian literary light, Dr. Johnson
said, havenï¿½t you? He said, ï¿½Only a blockhead would write for anything but
Rememberï¿½ one probï¿½lem, a wrong choice or two and, finally,
your narrator finds her way out of the maze and looks at the future with hope.
Sound easy? Itï¿½s not, but it is do-ableï¿½and if you do it right you can start