Darkest Before The Dawn, by HM Reynolds (3:13)

IOD-DarkestBeforeDawnToday we see that punctuation is only visible when it goes wrong.

What I gleaned about the stories: The type of threat faced by different people changes, but everyone faces risks.

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WTF #1: Incorrectly punctuated extended speech

Analysis: The story opened with speech to the reader by the narrator that (correctly) had double smart quotes at the start of the first paragraph. There was no corresponding mark at the end of the paragraph, so I assumed it was multi-paragraph speech. However, the next paragraph didn’t open with smart quotes to indicate it was continued speech by the same speaker.

Immediately, I was confused. Which paragraph was incorrectly punctuated? So I went back to the first paragraph and confirmed I had correctly noticed both an opening and no closing quotes. I scanned down the rest of the first page and confirmed it was a several-paragraph speech, and that there were no quotes at the start of any of the other paragraphs either.

As I had paused to untangle matters on the first page, I moved on.

WTF #2: Inconsistent punctuation choices

Analysis: The first story had an epigram from Aliens that used both single and double straight quotes, followed by smart quotes in the body. I decided not to charge a WTF as I noticed in passing rather than stopping to consider.

However it did make me more aware of the variable punctuation, so the use of hyphens and em-dashes interchangeably to mark sub-clauses grated.

Realising I had stopped reading to proof read a page in case there was other mixed punctuation, I moved on.

WTF #3: Second-person, present-tense narration in dialect

Analysis: Second-person narration is the voice that engages me least, and present tense has a similar effect. Both also increase my direct identification, rather than empathy, with the narrator. So, while I coasted on to the second paragraph, I lost immersion when I was told I was “figuring”, a verb I would never use to describe my own thought processes.

Kudo #1: Interesting prose

Analysis: Apart from the combination of dialect and the second person, the narration of each story was distinctive and fluid. This was true of the dialect as well; had it not been in the second person, it would have struck a good balance between capturing the narrator’s speech patterns and being accessible to readers not familiar with the dialect.

Sworn to Raise, by Terah Edun (3:34)
Frozen Prospects, by Dean Murray (40:00)

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.