Black, by Catherine Winters (12:43)

IOD-BlackToday we see that I am a total deaf-mute when it comes to the language of the heart.

What I gleaned about the story: After a three year struggle to get over him, including a new life, and a new city, a lonely lady learns two things when her ex-lover returns in the middle of the night. 1) She is not as over him as she’d thought, and 2) He’s a vampire.

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WTF #1: Where did the blood go?

Analysis: She was standing still in the front doorway when he arrived, and the shock of seeing him made her drop her drink and break the glass. But even though she didn’t move, she now has many little cuts on her feet. From richoeting glass, I guess? Maybe, although I’ve never seen that happen. But then he wipes the blood away and they go sit in the living room. No more mention of blood. No more cuts. No pain. No dark red smears staining the sofa. It might as well not have happened. And to me, this breaks faith with the reader. Adding a detail to heighten the drama of a scene is fine, but IMO, you simply must undertake the full set of logical consequences when you do so. And in this case, I got so distracted, waiting for the consequences of the cuts and the blood, that I wasn’t paying attention to the other stuff going on. I kept yelling in my head: She’s sitting on the sofa with bloody feet! Anyway, immersion broke.

WTF #2: “Because I love you.”

Analysis: To me, a lot of the dialogue feels like a tortured Hollywood rom-com and not like natural people speaking to each other the way humans do. This scene is in a style that I’ve referred to elsewhere as “breathless and angst-ridden.” It was a fairly common feature of the few romance novels I’ve read. And it’s also a big part of why I don’t read more of them. When the dialogue starts feeling stilted and melodramatic, my eyes roll, and immersion breaks.

WTF #3:So a man who left me abruptly and savagely three years earlier tracked me down only to discover I had moved on, but was still making a living writing my little vampire books. Obviously, he had to make me necessary to him. Simple: claim a case of fangs.

Analysis: First of all, how does one person leave another “savagely?” Does he storm off in a loin cloth?

Anyway, my actual problem was that, to make sense, that should have read “make himself necessary to me.” But another page later, she repeats this logic, so it isn’t just a case of an accidental inversion. For some reason, she believes that his best ploy for working his way back into her affections is to make her believe HE needs HER. What? That’s either bizarre romance logic, or it’s a female thing I just don’t understand. That just strikes me as entirely subservient. I’ll love him because he really needs me to. Sigh. ::bats eyelashes::

Or maybe I just don’t get the language of love. Don’t tell my wife, though. She thinks I do, and I don’t want to open that can of worms at this stage of the game. (After 25 years, I’m too old to learn a new language.)

WTF #4:The only way the entire scene added up was if he were telling me the truth, which was absurd on its face. I’d have had to abandon the entire workings of the natural world as I knew them and start fresh, being careful to include all mythical creatures this time around. Preposterous.

Analysis: Exactly. Preposterous is just the word I would use for this. Sadly, she then goes on to do exactly that, accepting his explanation far too easily. It happens all the time in amateur fiction, but believable characters do NOT throw reason out a window at the first hint of the unexplainable. She should be far more willing to believe that she’s accidentally consumed psychotropic drugs than to leap to the conclusion that her boyfriend really is a vampire. And when characters leap to illogical conclusions for the sole purpose of moving the plot along, my eyes roll, and immersion is broken.

Note: Full disclosure: This one is probably a function of its genre more than its writing. From what little I’ve seen of romance novels, these WTFs I’ve cited are not uncommon elements of that genre, so today’s episode may have been brought to you more by my own shortcomings in the language of the heart, than by any failing of this story to serve its intended audience.

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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.