Thin Men, Paper Suits, by Tin Larrick (40:00)

IOD-ThinMenToday we see that a small error has a larger impact if it occurs at the very beginning of a story.

What I gleaned about the stories: People from different walks of life, with different personalities, attempt to kill each other in engaging ways.

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WTF #1: Jarring punctuation

Analysis: The first story opens in a cafĂ©. The lead character glares at a waitress, who “hurried over, a mousy woman of forty; stray hair teasing her ears.” When I hit the semi-colon, I unconsciously expected an independent clause linked to the first. So, finding only a fragment left me with the unconscious feeling I had missed something. So I went back to check I hadn’t misread it.

As this occurred at the start of the story, I didn’t have enough momentum to pull me past the issue so going back to and considering whether it was correct or not, stalled me out.

Kudo #1: Skilled use of metaphor and imagery

Analysis: Not only are the narrators’ voices consistent and appropriate to the story, but the images they use are layered with unconscious insight.

For example, in a story about domestic abuse, Larrick describes a victim’s response to panic button apps for phones as “illicit, like pornography”; in three words, this reveals the mix of desire to be free from the abuser and belief that seeking freedom is wrong which victims of abuse so often experience.

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.

Graveyard Shift, by Angela Roquet (1:37)
Reader, by Erec Stebbins (7:24)

About the author

Dave Higgins has worked in law and IT for both public and private sector organisations. When not pursuing these hobbies, he writes poetry and speculative fiction.

He was born in Wiltshire, England. Raised by a librarian, he started reading shortly after birth and has not stopped since. He currently lives in Bristol with his wife, Nicola, his cats, Jasper and Una, and many shelves of books.