Mina Cortez: From Bouquets to Bullets, by Jeffrey Cook (6:43)

IOD-MinaCortezToday we see that flawed description of a scene’s physicality can destroy immersion.

What I gleaned about the story: Mina takes a fall on her bicycle, but a friend comes by to give her a lift.

Find this book on Amazon.

WTF #1: Pronoun confusion

Analysis: Our protagonist, Mina, has just taken a nasty high-speed spill on her bike. A large woman further up the alley stops the sliding bike. Then we get: The big woman, easily a head and a half taller than Mina, scowled down at her. As she closed the gap, Mina noticed an area cordoned off by the police…

The problem is that pesky “she” in the second sentence. Does it refer to Mina or the woman? Who is closing the distance? The rule of thumb for pronouns is that they refer to the most recently mentioned character who fits the gender profile, which in this case would be the large woman. But the structure of the sentence itself suggests that it might be Mina who is doing the walking. After another sentence or two, it became clear that it was indeed Mina approaching the woman, but I had to stop to parse it out. And on the first page, that earns a flag.

WTF #2: Confusing scene description.

Note: While she is talking to the woman, a car arrives on scene. It’s Mina’s friend, Amiko. The problem for me was in the description of Amiko’s arrival:

Amiko’s restored ancient model Chevy, screeched to a sudden slowdown, eventually pulling up at something akin to polite suburban driving speeds.

A car that “screeched to a sudden slowdown”? That is all kinds of awkward in my ear, and it also raises questions of physics. When a car screeches, it is because the tires have stopped turning and the rubber is shrieking out as it gets dragged across the pavement. But the only description we’ve had of the terrain so far is the alley in which Mina crashed her bike—a crash that was caused by trying to stop on loose gravel over bare dirt. So this screeching business immediately invalidated the mental picture I had of the scene and forced me to reevaluate.

Then there was the part about “pulling up at […] polite suburban driving speeds.” The term “pulling up” suggests a car coming to a halt, but you don’t do that at “suburban driving speeds.” You do it at suburban stopping speeds.

I think I understand the actions the author was trying to describe here, but these tiny miscues and conflicts of wording kept tripping me up, forcing me to translate on the fly from what was written into what was meant. And when I became consciously aware of doing it, I was clearly no longer immersed.

WTF #3: Illogical physics

Analysis: After climbing into the car, it launches forward and then: Mina was pitched forward midway through buckling herself in. But when a car accelerates, the passengers are pressed backward into the seat, not forward. There is nothing in the surrounding text to explain this apparent contradiction. The seats don’t appear to be facing backward. The driver does not appear to have slammed on the breaks again. So it’s either bad physics or a poorly explained situation. But either way, it was enough to jar me out of the story to investigate.

And So May The Wonders Unfurl by Richard Simpson (1:03)
What Looks Back by Zachary Adams (0:53)

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.