Slay Ride, a Christmas Miscellany by Simon Kewin (3:59)

IOD-SlayRideToday we see that without context, references to other works are either confusing, boring, or both.

What I gleaned about the stories: Christmas is a brutal time filled with self-interest and dispute, and the same applies in fantasy worlds.

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Note: This is a short story collection, so the rules are slightly different from standard Immerse or Die: instead of reading on every time I lose immersion, I stop reading that story and move on to the next one. As usual, I stop reading after the third WTF.

WTF #1: Hiding the obvious

Analysis: A story opens with a king and his page walking through the snow near a hut, which immediately brought to mind Good King Wenceslas. However, at the start the king is only referred to as the king, so I expected there was going to be a reveal that the king wasn’t actually Wenceslas. So, when he was finally named, I felt let down that he really was Wenceslas.

All of the characters in the story knew who he was, and those twists gained no impact from the withholding of his name, so it served no point. This shook my trust that the author would share relevant information so I scored a WTF and I moved on.

WTF #2: Incorrect hyphenation

Analysis: Part way into the first paragraph of a story, I encountered: The shiny baubles he got. And the twinkling lights. But then his mother opened the special box: sixteen brightly-painted figures that spent the year lying in little cardboard tombs.

Hyphens are almost never used to join an adjective ending in ‘y’, so brightly-painted tripped my editor.

But the contrast between the informality of a full stop rather than comma or semi-colon between the previous two sentences, and the use of a colon to create a more formal highlight/explanation pair had already created an unconscious focus on style.

Feeling a touch thrown back and forth between technical and casual structure, I moved on.

WTF #3: Lack of context

Analysis: One of the stories is an extract from one of the author’s novels. While it fitted the collection thematically, the events described were mundane and ended with the protagonist imaging what I assumed to be a race or organisation from the novel walking across the ice. I suspect that the protagonist and this group have an emotive connection of some kind, the group have some especial connection to ice, or both; however, the extract provided none of the context I needed to care about this ending.

Lacking engagement, I pulled the plug.

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.

Wings of the Sathakos, by Scott Beckman (8:34)
The Girl at the End of the World, by Richard Levesque (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.