Forged By Battle, by Patrick J. Loller (4:33)

IOD-ForgedByBattleToday we learn that inconsistent typography can knock readers off the pace.

What I gleaned about the story: A weary soldier ruminates on the weight of duty to family while composing a eulogy for his now-dead brother.

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WTF #1: Confusing opening

Analysis: The first scene begins with a paragraphs in italics. Not an epigraph, because it’s actually part of the body text, but it reads a bit like a speech. We then switch to normal text as the protagonist crumples up “the letter.” It seems to be a letter to his mother, or maybe a eulogy for his dead brother, and I think the italics part was what he’d written before abandoning it in frustration. This is followed by an utterance in quotes, which I assume is either him talking aloud to himself, or thinking to himself. (I have to guess because there is no attribution tag or description.) Then there’s another thought in italics, but now I’m getting lost. Is this new thought another stab at the letter? From context it appears not, but if it’s internal dialogue, then why was there a preceding passage in quoted normal text? I’m not even 100 words in yet and I’m completely baffled by the meaning of the different typographic conventions being used.

WTF #2: Our protagonist soldier has a dog. Named Rover.

Analysis: There are only two ways I can see to interpret this: either the protagonist has given his dog a clichéd name, fully aware of its ironic humor, or else the author is unaware that the name is a cliché. Unfortunately, there is no in-text evidence to support the irony assumption. Standard practice in such situations would be to lampshade the name. Yeah, I know. When I was three, I swore a solemn vow that when I grew up, I’d get myself a dog and I’d call him Rover. So when I finally got my own place, I went out and got that dog, but in all the years growing up, it had never occurred to me to come up with a better name, so there he is. But there is no such lampshade in the text, so I’ve got to wonder.

The purpose of such a lampshade statement is to reassure the reader. It’s a confession. One that says, “Yes, I know the name is a cliché, and as a writer, I would never have picked such a chestnut. But it wasn’t my call. That’s exactly the name this protagonist would choose, and look, he’s even got this little heart-tugging story to explain why.”

But without that lampshade, we have no such reassurances and are left to question the author’s own judgement.

WTF #3: Decalarative sentence parade, with echoes

Analysis: By the middle of the second page, the sentences had begun to trudge with repetitive simple declarations. Then I tripped over a single paragraph with five consecutive “The”-headed sentences. I’ve been trying to restrain myself on echoing headwords, but five consecutive echoes with no apparent rhetorical or poetic intent is something I can’t step around, so the clock stopped.

The Winter Beast and other tales, by James R Sanford (9:46)
Colt Coltrane and the Lotus Killer, by Allison M. Dickson (40:00)

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.