Three Mermaid Tales: Short Stories, by Anne Seaworthy (2:00)

iod-threetalesToday we see that the more conclusions you draw for a reader, the less interest they have in reading on to decide for themselves.

What I gleaned about the stories: Mermaids are exactly like humans with fish tails—except when it comes to a few randomly selected pieces of technology, which they have no concept of.

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

WTF #1: Declarative parade

Analysis: The first story opens with a string of He verbed…, The object was adjectives… While this provided me with information to build a picture, it gave me no reason to care about that image or read on.

Note: when I tried to move on, I discovered that the Table of Contents listed the chapter breaks within stories, but didn’t mark where a new story started. While I was able to work out the story breaks, having to do so caused another bump in my reading experience. After a moment of consideration, I decided not to charge a WTF as I’d never regained immersion to lose; however, it did create an expectation that the book would be difficult to navigate, so increased the impact of all the issues going forward.

WTF #2: Obvious exposition

Analysis: The second story is told from the close third-person perspective of a science teacher in a primary school. Over a few paragraphs, the author builds a sense that they have lost the fresh bloom of youth and was now going through the motions when it came to engaging with their pupils. Then they thought of a location as Ms. Rosie Jones’ fifth grade classroom. If we know people well, we don’t tend to use their full name when thinking about them, and the same applies for labelling locations. So, a teacher fresh out of training might think in those terms, but someone who’d taught for years (which was the impression I had) would think in a more personal and compact way, such as “Rosie’s room” or “the fifth graders.”

Pushed out of the story enough to start analysing rather than experiencing, I then realised that the author was trying to pack information for the audience in. My trust in the description to show rather than tell lost, I moved on.

WTF #3: Bathetic emphasis

Analysis: The third story opens with an argument in which the dialogue contains exclamation marks; speech is roared, sneered, or done defiantly; studying is done carefully; people squint closely; and so forth. After a couple of paragraphs all this signalling of character and emotional state began to feel as if I had a pedantic narrator standing behind me providing a running commentary about what people were feeling, how this meant they were angry, etc.

This removed both the expectation that I’d get the fun of drawing my own conclusions, and made the description seem over-emphasised like a caricature. My trust in the description gone, 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.

Grey Magic, by JT Lawrence (4:13)
Demoniac Dance, by Jaq D. Hawkins (3:26)

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.