Three Culture Shocks, by Tony Thorne (1:36)

IOD-ThreeCultureShocksToday we see that if your prose doesn’t pull the reader deep, the smallest issue will push them out of the story.

What I gleaned about the stories: The strangeness of life is all in your head.

Find this book on Amazon.

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 onto the next one. As usual, I stop reading after the third WTF.

WTF #1: Absence of page breaks

Analysis: The first page starts with the title of the book, then moves onto the copyright declaration without even a clear line to mark the transition. While this raised a concern that the formatting would not be ideal, I chose not to score a WTF for it.

However when a précis of the contents and then the start of the first story followed, still without even a clear line to mark them, my faith that the book had been formatted at all plummeted.

Considering for a moment how much more confused readers who don’t habitually read copyright pages would be if they’d automatically flipped over the page when they saw the first few lines, I scored the WTF.

As the entire book is defined as a single unbroken chapter there is no table of contents or other navigation. I anticipated that flipping through pages of text without even a line break to mark a new story would put me in an extremely critical mood; so, in the interest of fairness, I decided to score the WTF at the point of the précis and restart from the beginning of the first story

WTF #2: Multiple typographical issues

Analysis: Less than halfway down the first page, I noticed a third typographical error.

My hope that the collection was well-written, properly edited, and merely blighted by a poor ebook conversion at the last was shaken. The first page of a story being sacrosanct, I moved on.

WTF #3: Distant prose

Analysis: Partway down the second page of the second story, I encountered a line break in the middle of a sentence. As the break itself was three-quarters of the way to the right margin, it was within the tolerances of ebook justification, so I might have slid over it. However, the heavy sprinkling of adjectives and slightly over-clear description in the preceding paragraphs had kept me from engaging with events.

Realising I had no investment in the story to counter my expectation of further technical obstacles, 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.

Saving Hitler, by Ian James (2:06)
Ignifer Tales, by Michael John Grist (2:16)

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.