Lonely Out in Space: A Collection of Sci-Fi and Fantasy Short Stories, by M.R. Holman (0:47)

Today we see that finding a formatting issue within another distraction makes both issues even more distracting.

What I gleaned about the stories: To the objective witness, life lacks drama.

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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: Walls of whitespace

Analysis: The text is set with both an indent and a clear space between paragraphs. However, this is not just a 1-3 em indent and a clear line; this is (estimating by eye) a 4-5 em indent combined with two clear lines. As my mind is trained to use either indents or clear lines to parse paragraph breaks, the combination of the two can be enough to throw my natural reading flow out. Both taken beyond the norm created a sense of struggling across barriers of space to find the next paragraph.

After the third time my eyes flicked to where they expected the next line to be and missed, I moved on.

WTF #2: Declarative narration

Analysis: Of the four sentences in the first paragraph of the second story, three began with Noun/Pronoun were… The fourth began Noun verbed… This both created an echoing pattern in my mind and left me without any emotional connection to events.

Less invested at the end of the paragraph than I was when I began it, I moved on.

WTF #3: Overloaded description

Analysis: The third story opens with:

The hum of an air cleaner was the only sound in the dimly lit recreation room aboard the men’s portion of a spaceship bound for a distant water-laden planet. A man sat alone in a nearly trancelike state, staring at a chess board on the table before him as an endless expanse of stars spilled across the porthole window beside him.

By the end of the first sentence, my mental image was straining: which of these many details was the important bit of the image? Was the emptiness a sign of huge problems or just night time? Or was the key the segregation? Had there been some indication immediately after, I might have found the right fact to ground the image; however, another long list of things that were present left me with more to add to an unstable image and no idea which bits were important.

With too many things to potentially care about, I found myself not caring about any of them; 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.

Strange Stories And Novellas, by Jillian Kulp (0:56)
Short, Sharp Shocks: A Collection of Hit 'n’ Run Fiction, by Simon Wood (2:03)

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.