Opal Eggs of Fire, by James Calderwood (4:38)

IOD-OpalEggsToday we see that weak or inconsistent prose on the first page is likely to ensure readers never see what’s on the second one.

What I gleaned about the story: John lives on a farm. Times are tough. He has a son.

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WTF #1: Adjective diarrhea

Analysis: The first two sentences were an immediate alarm bell. The coppery sun shone down on the dusty paddock. A cold breeze pushed the thin dust before it as it blew lazily across the barren landscape. Notice how every single noun is preceded by an adjective? In the middle of the book, I would not have charged a WTF for an isolated passage of overwriting like this, but the first paragraph of the book is holy territory. And when I cringe at the style from the get-go, that just puts me on guard, making any other stylistic foibles much more likely to grate as well.

WTF #2: Pronoun confusion

Analysis: John’s shoulders dropped as he turned back to the kitchen. Tony followed with a look of gloom. He pulled out one of the kitchen chairs from the table and sat down. Who is ‘he’? John or Tony? By usual custom, the most recently referenced male is the one to which the “he” refers, but it makes no sense for Tony to sit down, since this beat is about John answering the telephone. So it must be John who is sitting. But whoever it was, the fact that I had to stop to puzzle it out yanked me entirely out of the kitchen and brought me back to the words on the screen in front of my treadmill. And since we’re still in the first paragraph, a single occurrence of the problem is enough to pull the flag.

WTF #3: Inconsistent voice

Analysis: We are in John’s POV. In previous paragraphs, we have even been privy to John’s thoughts. But now we get: It was halfway along the lane before John spoke. He had evidently been doing a lot of thinking. The jarring change of intimacy threw me completely out. Why does a narrator who knows what John is thinking suddenly have to guess about whether he’s been thinking?

Also, what does “it” refer to at the beginning of that middle sentence? I suspect this is a corruption of “It was not until John was halfway along the lane…” But as written, I was momentarily confused, wonder what object John might have been watching.

Bionic Punchline, by Damon L Wakes (12:04)
Born to Magic, by David Wind (5:25)

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.