Cheer Up, Jimmy: 3 Melancholy Short Stories, by Dania Sonin (1:31)

Today we see that the first page is like a first date: your grooming counts.

What I gleaned about the stories: Some corporate liveries are depressing enough to provoke suicide.

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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.

WTF #1: Obvious spelling error

Analysis: Partway through the second paragraph of the introduction, I encountered possible in place of possibly.

An issue in the top half of the first page raises serious concern about the quality of the proofing, so I moved on.

Note 2: the typeface, line-height, and justification changed at this point. I decided not to score a WTF, but might have been influenced by this apparent laxity.

WTF #2: Confusingly placed detail

Analysis: The first story starts with a shiny blue train rushing toward the narrator. My immediate thought was that he was on the tracks, but having him notice the cleanliness and colour made me uncertain. The story then described the narrator standing on the platform considering how he never liked the way the trains looked, so I pictured the train about to thunder past him. Then the narrator explains why he stepped in front of the train. At this point, my mental image fell apart.

Had the story opened with the train rushing toward him, then cut back a few moments to him not liking the livery and stepping off the edge, that might have worked. However, the mention of the look of the train in the first sentence made it fit the description of a narrator standing on the platform.

After puzzling for a moment whether someone could fail to notice the colour until they’d already stepped off the platform, I moved on.

WTF #3: Conflicting information

Analysis: A couple of sentences into the second story, I hit: “You choose,” the other man said, sounding stuffy and academic. “What do you choose, Jimmy?”

While the dialogue isn’t riddled with slang or casual usages, neither is it filled with pretentious phrasing or jargon. So, although the lack of contractions fitted with either academia or stuffiness, I struggled to hear the combination of both in my head.

As this wasn’t vastly confusing, I might have given the benefit of the doubt under other circumstances; however, it was both the second issue with description and on the first page of a story, so 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.

A Threat of Shadows, by JA Andrews (13:26)
Book Simulator, by Chris Yee (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.