The King’s Sword, by C. J. Brightley (8:27)

IOD-KingsSwordToday we learn that there’s a difference between keeping things mysterious and simply not giving enough information.

What I gleaned about the story: A pampered prince is lost outdoors in winter. A competent foreigner of some kind finds him and decides to protect him. They run. In the distance, some dogs bark.

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WTF #1: Repetitive sentence structures.

Analysis: Subject, verb, object. Subject, verb object. There is a little bit of variety, but not enough for me, and the default keeps coming back to the simple declarative sentence. This created a sort of echo for me, drawing my attention away from the story and focusing it on the pattern. Immersion broke.

WTF #2: Galloping “I” disease.

Analysis: The simple declarative sentences combined with a 1st person narrator creates a steady stream of “I” pronouns. No one sentence was problematic, but they occur very frequently, often with three or four “I” sentences in the same paragraph, and many times with two or even three “I”s in the same sentence. Even though they were all grammatically sound, this dense repetition still creates an echo that draws attention to itself. And once I noticed it, it was hard to stop. I kept getting lost in her “I”s, and immersion broke.

WTF #3: Insufficient information.

Analysis: Often, a writer will hold back information, parcelling it out slowly, to create a mystery that draws the reader forward through the book. But in order for that to work, the reader must be curious – engaged in some aspect of the story or the characters – to a degree that makes them want to learn more. It worked on me here for the first few pages, but as the pages went by, I was not getting enough new information. The further I went, the more questions I had and the less I felt I knew. Is the narrator a good person or bad? Is he a soldier? A commoner? An ambassador? An assassin? Should I trust him? Fear him? Should the prince trust him? What potential threat does he pose to the prince? What risk does the prince take if he chooses not to trust? Where are they? How far to the nearest town? Or the border? Or food?

While any one or two or three of these questions could present a tantalizing lure, all of them together leave me with no information at all, about anything. And that gives me nothing to anchor my engagement onto. No way to begin forming opinions. And as I’ve said before, engagement is tightly connected to the process of evaluating and forming opinions, and without that, immersion cannot happen for me.

Crimson Son, by Russ Linton (40:00)
Murder out of the Blue, by Steve Turnbull (10:00)

About the author

Jefferson Smith is a Canadian fantasy author, as well as the founder, chief editor and resident proctologist of ImmerseOrDie. With a PhD in Computer Science and Creativity Systems compounded by a life spent exploring most art forms for fun and profit, he is uniquely unqualified in just about everything. That's why he writes.