The Upheaval, by Erica Stevens (8:45)

IOD-UpheavalToday I learned that when numerous unflaggable issues go by, it lowers my tolerance to the point where I’m ready to throw flags at relatively small offences.

What I gleaned about the story: John and Carl are cutting some grass. Then the ground begins to shake. Presumably, this is the beginning of the Apocalypse.

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WTF #1: Echoing headwords

Analysis: Right up front in the first paragraph, a pair of “The”-sentences. There’s nothing else amiss in that pgph, so it’s probably a case of an author who is not sensitive to the issue. Hopefully it will not prove to be an addiction. But as I say, the first paragraph is holy, and any taint earns a flag.

WTF #2: Pronoun confusion

Analysis: This is one of those murkier cases, and it might not trip some readers. We begin with Carl speaking, which is attributed with a “he said” tag. Then John replies, but this utterance is untagged. We know it’s John because these are the only two people present. But then the third sentence uses “he” to still refer back to Carl. For some people, this might not feel like a mis-anchored pronoun, because John was not mentioned by name since the last use of “he” for “Carl.”  For me though, John’s intervening utterance is enough to call him back to mind. So in my unfolding story experience, John has now been referenced, and any subsequent “he”s will attach to him. Consequently, when sentence three rolled around, I was confused when “he” proved to be Carl instead. Plus it was on the first page, so even if I had considered moving on, that made it enough to earn the flag.

WTF #3: Echoing headwords

Analysis: Another sequence of “The”-sentences. Unfortunately, there had been a number of awkward sentences, a growing sense of declarative sentence parade, and a few odd word choices. None of these was enough to raise a flag on it’s own, but over time, these things lower my tolerance, leaving me increasingly trigger-twitchy. So when this new echo happened along, I was a tad eager to throw the flag.

On the surface, this might all sound rather petty, but I believe it’s pretty common. A reader might not be able to articulate what it is that’s bothering him. It might not be something major, or obvious. But it’s there. And it’s slowly chafing at the edges of his awareness. Then he finally runs into something he can point a finger at, and that’s it, even when the triggering infraction might normally have passed by without comment. This is why it’s so important for authors to work with copy editors.


Ghostoria by Tam Francis (8:16)
Operation Chimera, by Healey and Cox (9:23)

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.