Missing, Assumed Dead, by Marva Dasef (9:44)

IOD-MissingDeadToday we learn that even disguised as a chapter, a prologue with no information is still a faux-logue.

What I gleaned about the story: Kameron McBride has just inherited an run down property on the edge of nowhere. But when she gets there, she’s going to find more trouble than just dry rot. There be evil in them thar hills.

Find this book on Amazon.

Note: The cover title is unreadable at thumbnail sizes due to the decorative font choice. I also had a minor problem with the wording. The common phrase is “Missing, presumed dead,” not assumed, so I kept trying to puzzle out the intended word play, but maybe there is none.

WTF #1: Verb tense misread

Analysis: There’s a sentence that begins: Once the good Lord took Miranda away… I read this as a speculation about the future, something that might happen soon, once that pesky Miranda has been dealt with. But it turns out it was a reference to the past—the old man’s life after the death of his wife. A past perfect would have cleared this right up. Ever since the good Lord had taken Miranda away…  But as written, the temporal whiplash yanked me out of the story.

Note: There were other editorial head scratches in that same part of the text. One line read: It crossed his mind it might be his only friend… Huh? What kind of “it” can cross his mind and be his only friend? Turns out, each “it” was a reference to a different noun, which caused a minor stumble. There were a number of these low-grade grammatical joggles along the way. Most of them were not quite enough to disrupt me on their own, but authors need to know that, taken together, these are like background hiss on a recording. They’re persistent, they slowly wear on the audience’s attention, and they give the whole thing an air of the substandard. These are not the kinds of thoughts you want going through a reader’s head during those crucial first few minutes.

WTF #2: The faux-logue

Analysis: The opening chapter is a single short scene, set seven years in the past, and does not involve the protagonist. In short, it’s a prologue trying to sneak in using its big brother’s fake ID. So regardless of what the heading says, I’m judging it for what it is: a prologue. But unfortunately, this prologue conveys no information. An old man living alone on a farm is visited by some tough guys, who walk toward him menacingly. That’s it. And by now, you all know how I feel about informationless prologues.

WTF #3: Declarative sentence parade

Analysis: It was a minor issue during the faux-logue, but now it’s singing louder. She does this. She does that. She goes here. She goes there. Seeing it in yet another book reinforces my growing belief that declarative sentence parades are caused by a focus on the physical movements of a banal experience. In this case, the protag is simply entering her apartment—opening doors, pushing elevator buttons, etc.—with no exploration of her emotional state or any analytical commentary or analysis of the bigger picture. It’s just dragging me through an all-too-familiar experience with nothing for my conscious mind to grab hold of. And with no handle-holds for my imagination, I fall right out of the story.

Take the Pepsi Challenge: Want to know if my own writing measures up? Download one of these free short stories, in the format of your choice, and decide for yourself.

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