Aurelia: six ghost stories, by David Bramhall (0:56)

IOD-AureliaToday we see that immersion needs more than a series of statements connected together. 

What I gleaned about the stories: People who don’t use any sort of name lead tedious lives.

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

WTF #1: Disconnected clauses

Analysis: The opening sentence of the first story is: The bell rang for lunchtime, and he went to stand at the door of the Music Room. While the sentence works as a statement of facts, the construction confused me. The lack of any explicit statement of connection (As the bell…, When the bell…, etc.) weakened the sense that he was going to the door as a reaction to it being lunchtime.

I might have passed over it as trivial had the comma not emphasized the division between the clauses. So, I tried to find a deeper meaning: where was the emotional resonance? Why might there be a contrast between the clauses. Nothing came to mind, suggesting the author’s attempt had failed.

I wondered for an instant if it were a typographical error. However, if any sentence receives the author’s full attention when proofing, it is the first one of a book, so that threw doubt on the editing.

With a choice between inaccessible description and doubtful editing, I moved on.

WTF #2: Conjunction-itus

Analysis: The second story opens with a description of a room. A sentence in, I encountered: It was L-shaped, the smaller leg of the L being a little dining area with a wood-burning stove and a table and chairs, and, incongruously, the piano. When I hit the and between stove and a table my mind parsed a probable list of two items. ‘Table and chairs’ is – while technically several items – ubiquitous enough a phrase to seem a single item, so completed the expected construction rather than confounding it. However, the next and both came as a surprise and created an echoing and. I stumbled to a halt, trying to reassemble the list.

After an instant, I put it together. However – even reparsed – the sentence had that odd echo. My mind turned to ways it might be rewritten to be both clearer and more fluid.

Noticing I had entered edit mode, I moved on.

WTF #3: Echoing narration

[Tweet “Repetitive structure is even more obvious if the subject matter lacks interest too.”]Analysis: The first paragraph of the third story is:

Arnold!” she called from the back door, and went back into the kitchen. She laid out two plates, and the two rounds of cheese and pickle sandwiches, and two little pots of strawberry yoghurt from the supermarket, and switched the kettle on. She looked round the room with satisfaction, seeing the clean surfaces, the stainless steel sink unit that shone, the spotless top of the cooker and the neat, ordered rows of spices on the shelf. She bit into her first sandwich and opened this week’s Good Housekeeping magazine.

Between the superficial rather than emotive description of events and the repetition of She verbed, I’m not certain I gained enough immersion to lose it.

Discovering without surprise that the fourth sentence was also ‘She verbed the object’, 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.

Salvage Trouble, by J.S. Morin (40:00)
The Path of Flames, by Phil Tucker (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.