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.
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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.
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.
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.
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.