Thirteen, by Jonny Newell (2:33)

iod-thirteenToday we see that changing the meaning of your punctuation in mid-sentence is a recipe for a shipwreck.

What I gleaned about the stories: The Devil may have gone down to Georgia, but people are fixing to bring him back so they can ask some questions.

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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.

Note 2: this collection is a mix of stories and lyrics. Rather than skip the lyrics, I treated them as a species of poetry.

WTF #1: Conflicting scare quotes

Analysis: The second sentence of the dedication is: Some are blessed with the gene ‘creativity’ more than others but to be believed in is what is more important, it is what makes your heart and soul strong and the desire to ‘NEVER’ give up. I’m not strongly fond of putting quotes around a word to indicate irony or such; however, the quotes in the gene ‘creativity’ felt like a commentary on the idea that artistry is born rather than a product of graft, so didn’t knock me off path.

Unfortunately, that meant I tripped on ‘NEVER.’ Did the quotes mean it should be read as it’s opposite? Did the capitals add emphasis or change the meaning of the quotes.

Lacking clear keys to unlock the meaning behind the formatting choices, I moved on.

WTF #2: Unfortunate proper noun use

Analysis: The opening of the second story is: “Stop it! Stop it! Stop fucking licking me! Fucking Cat!” The errant capital in Cat caused me to picture the scene as a person called Cat licking the protagonist. In the interests of fairness—as that might have been the intent—I read on; only to discover it was indeed a feline rather than abbreviated Catherine.

Possibly this image might not have been as strong had I not a friend called Cat, whom I saw two days ago; however, as it had fully derailed me and was not so abstruse a circumstance that it would not similarly catch other readers, I scored it and moved on.

WTF #3: Bathetic emphasis

Analysis: A paragraph into the third story, I hit: Yes! That’s my father bellowing his usual overbearing grumpy voice and why? Not because it’s my fault! Oh no! Because Mummy is such a BITCH and knows how to push his ‘Angry’ button every time that it’s my time to go to his house.

While I expect a certain amount of high emotion from teenage narrators, the mix of exclamation marks, capitals, quotes, and italics completely overloaded my emotional parser, making the entire thing seem flat rather than furious.

Unable to trust the emotional range, 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.

Dymond's World, by C.W. Crowe (12:06)
Muddy Mouth, by C.A. Newsome (9:08)

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.