Phrases of Light, by Richard J. Kendrick (10:23)

IOD-PhrasesLightToday we learn that if you want to hold things back to create mystery, you’d better give the reader something to fascinate them while they’re waiting.

What I gleaned about the story: A guy sees a girl but then wakes up from a dream, and then two other guys wake up and argue about who’s more useless.

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WTF #1: Scattered echo.

Analysis: It began as a curious instance of the much rarer trailing echo. Two successive sentences ended on the same word: …reached across the bed. And this was followed immediately by: … tumbling out of bed. But this alone was not enough to trigger a WTF. I merely flagged it as a note because I’ve not had the opportunity before to comment on tail-word echoes.

Then came the firehose. Over the next few sentences, I was inundated with references to “the bed.” Trailing uses, mid-sentence uses. The bed. The bed. The bed. I get it. There’s a bed. But for the love of God, find some synonyms or throw me an “it.” And when I find myself calling out to the heavens for respite, I figure immersion is clearly broken.

This was then followed by a flurry of other, more traditional echoes, on the words “Lumin,” and then “He.” I didn’t charge a distinct WTF for those, because immersion hadn’t yet been re-established, but there was definitely a little echo-storm there for me.

WTF #2: Indistinguishable characters.

Analysis: I’m in the second chapter, in a scene with two people, named John and Hogmartin. I like the juxtaposition of the commonplace and unusual names, but their dialogue is just idle bickering, and largely undifferentiated. I kept losing track of which one was talking. This was partly because their argument struck me as inane, and partly because I couldn’t find any real handles by which to keep the two figures distinct. More than just name labels, I need some aspect of character, or attitude or even vocabulary to help me keep them straight as people. In the end, I had to go back several times to re-read things to keep the speakers straight, and that was several times too many to consider immersion maintained.

WTF #3: Lack of give a shit.

Analysis: I’ve reached the end of Chapter 2 and these clowns are still largely indistinguishable and boring. Worse, they keep making veiled references to what’s actually going on, but the author is intentionally keeping me in the dark. The problem however, is that with nothing about the characters themselves to keep me intrigued, I don’t really care what they’re talking about. I’m just bored and annoyed at being jerked around.

Ever Shade, by Alexia Purdy (6:35)
The Star Thief, by Jamie Grey (7:44)

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.