What I gleaned about the stories: Duct tape might or might not be clothing, but socks are.
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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: I look out my apartment window where the sprawl of the city crushes against the sand of suburbia- at least before it drowns it, and single-family homes sprout into condos and complexes, stretching towards the sky.
While the use of a hyphen rather than em-dash wouldn’t have irked me enough to lose immersion, the use of a space after but not before did. The first sentence of a work is likely to be the place an author is freshest when proofing, so an error there raised the possibility of increasing niggles as the story continued. I moved on.
Analysis: The book had a malformed NCX file, so my ereader only displayed a link to the first story when I hit the contents button. However, I was still at the start of the first story, so paged back to the Contents page manually.
When I selected the second story, I ended up in the middle of a story rather than at the start. When I checked the title of the next story, I discovered that the link to the second story on the contents page had actually sent me to a point most of the way through the third story.
A table of contents is one of the most basic features of any ebook, let alone one where readers might actively want to skip to a particular point such as a short-story collection. So an issues with both types of contents listing immediately made me think that the book hadn’t been checked for basic functionality; which raised the issue of what else might not work smoothly on my ereader.
My faith that the ebook would display properly shaken, I moved on.
Analysis: The second story is written as a monologue, using many colloquialisms, casual usages, and asides. To begin with I found the dialect intrusive – but not thick enough to make parsing a trudge – and the opening image of a duct-tape wrapped body was interesting enough I wanted to know more. However, the asides became more common and began to nest. Several paragraphs in, I had to go back because I’d lost track of whether a comma was the closure of the existing sub-clause aside or the start of a new one.
Untangling myself distracted me enough that my mind slipped sideways into speculation on whether the rambling style would have been accessible enough not to lose me had I not also had the effort of parsing the dialect.
Now firmly in an editing headspace, 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.