We, The Watched, by Adam Bender (5:14)

IOD-TheWatchedToday we see that whatever the POV character is experiencing, he should get on with experiencing it, rather than talking incessantly about the experience of experiencing it.

What I gleaned about the story: Some guy wakes up in a forest with no memory of how he got there. He panics. Then he talks non-stop about how panicky he is.

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WTF #1: Intimacy conflict

Analysis: There’s a strange disconnect between the narrative POV and the language used. This is particularly evident in the author’s references to vision. The story is being told in first person, present tense, and the narrator has awakened in a forest that he has no recollection of going to. We are told that his “eyes absorb row after row of gray wood.” A little while later, his “eyes land on a path.”

Setting aside that fact that his gaze landed there, not his eyes, I find this kind of narration very distancing, because it treats the eyes as objects apart from himself, which directly conflicts with the inherent intimacy of 1st person. When was the last time you were experiencing your own existence and said, “Hey, my eyes just absorbed that ugly dog?” In my experience, people think of themselves as “seeing” ugly dogs, or “noticing” a path in the forest.

Reading about the body of the narrator being a separate entity from himself like this, is so alien to me that I cannot stay immersed in this narrator’s experience.

WTF #2: Excessive repitition

Analysis:  I get that he is disoriented and bewildered, but in the space of one page we are told that:

  • It’s just a nightmare.
  • Nothing makes sense.
  • I can’t remember last night.
  • I’m disoriented.
  • The whole thing is senseless.
  • What the hell is wrong with me?
  • I’m lost in the woods and have no idea why.
  • I’m going to end up going insane.
  • This is insane.

And those were only the more direct references to his disorientation. There were also an approximately equal number of allusions to his confusion that were not explicit enough to be clear, out of context.

There’s nothing wrong with telling us that the guy’s wigged out, but when your character spends more time telling us about being disoriented than actually being disoriented, you’re over-narrating. I grokked the confusion thing in the first paragraph, so there’s no need to keep beating me with that stick.

WTF #3: Galloping “I” disease

Analysis: I tried to ignore it, hoping that the frantic dashing around (and talking about being frantic) was just making me over-sensitive, but nope. There’s just way too much “I” talk and it keeps pulling me out of the scene. It feels as though the narrator is watching himself from a distance, rather than looking out through his own eyes. So with all those echoes, I fell out again.

 

The Uncanny Valley: Tales from a Lost Town, by Gregory Miller (3:46)
Broken World, by Kate L. Mary (14:30)

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.