Black Jade Dragon, by Susan Brassfield Cogan (5:42)

IOD-BlackJadeDragonToday we see that plodding sentences are detectable, and avoidable.

What I gleaned about the story: A red-headed American woman has to get out of Hong Kong. Now. So she jumps on a boat.

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Note: Authors, be advised that, at the very least, the title and author name on your cover needs to be legible.

WTF #1: Stylistic misfire

Analysis: The first two paragraphs reach immediately for a sort of witty bantering 1st person narrative. Unfortunately, the reach fell far short of the goal. For a start, it’s always a risk to address the reader directly. Doing so calls attention to the fictive nature of our relationship. It can be done oblqueliy, by using the universal form of “you.” As in: You might think I was in a spot of trouble. In that usage, “you” does not mean me, the reader. It means “anyone, including me.” But in this case, the opening sentence was: My name is Angela Rosarita Tanaka, but you will call me Angie if you know what’s good for you.

This seemed too direct a form of narrative address for my tastes, and it put me on alert.

That was then followed by the next paragraph: To say Hong Kong cops are humorless bastards would be, well, something that’s so obvious that it would be silly to say it. Even if I just said it.

The first sentence here is nowhere near the disarming banter that I think was intended, and the second one just makes it worse.To me, it doesn’t feel like a wry character talking to me – it feels like a writer trying to sound like a wry character talking to me. And with me thinking about the writer and what she’s trying to accomplish, that demonstrated that I wasn’t drawn in.

WTF #2: Echoing headwords.

Analysis: The third paragraph contains three sentences in a row that begin with “He.” I haven’t even reached the end of the first page, and the rhythm has already started to feel plodding.

WTF #3: Declarative sentences on parade.

Analysis: Many long-time followers of the IOD will know that when we have repeating headwords and a plodding rhythm, that usually means a death march of declarative sentences. And after another page, I was forced to conclude that this was indeed the case here.

But I’d like to point out that a number of automated grammar checkers out there will flag repeating headword issues. So, while I don’t advise using them for general editing support, at the very least, you could be using them to find echo problems, which in turn might lead you to finding the declarative parade problem. (For a quick list of some of the online grammar checkers out there, see my review of them from last year.)

Queen and Other Stories, by Lincoln Crisler
Reason For Vengeance, by Adrian D. Roberts (3:03)

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 underqualified in just about everything. That’s why he writes.