Three Short Fairytales, by G. Wulfing (1:03)

IOD score cardToday we see that sometimes, it isn’t the narrator who seems unreliable; it’s the author.

What I gleaned about the stories: People who spend a lot of time standing around thinking about themselves often miss the excitement that surrounds them.

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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: Declarative sentence parade

Analysis: The first story opens with a series of sentences telling me what there was, what a character did, and what that meant. At the end of the second paragraph, I still lacked an unusual detail about the world, a challenge that the character faced, and any emotional connection to the character. I read widely, so don’t need a specific trope to be present to catch my interest; however, I do read because I want an interesting story of some kind.

Without any reason to care about the character or the world, I moved on.

WTF #2: Pointless secrecy

Analysis: A few sentences into the second story, I hit: a tune that he had often sung to a certain child, when she was little, to quiet her. The lack of a name or other key trait (such as “the king’s daughter”) for the girl shattered my faith in the description. If the protagonist was that familiar with this girl, he’d know her name, relationship to him, and other matters; and he was thinking to himself, so there was no question of concealing any of that from hostile ears.

My mind therefore threw up all the times other authors had hidden key facts so they could pull a “gotcha” at a later moment; and my intense irritation in those instances at having the reveal be something that (due to the lack of both something the narrator knew and any indication that the narrator was unreliable) I could never have worked out.

While the identity of this girl might have turned out to be trivial, the choice to not name her had destroyed my trust in the description, so I moved on.

WTF #3: Random level of detail

Analysis: The third story opens with a Chlyh studying her reflection. Rather than the cliché of having her list the facets of her appearance in her head, the author indicates that she thinks she’s ugly and moves on. However, a few paragraphs later, her home is described as: a cave covered with ferns on one side of a clearing. Smaller ferns grew on top of the cave, and large ferns grew at either side of the entrance, covering it with their fronds. The random levels of detail threw me: I have no frame of reference for what a Chlyh is like, yet that isn’t described; I can easily picture ferns hiding a small cave, yet the exact arrangement is described. This glossing over the unusual while focusing intensely on the apparently mundane left me unable to rely on the narrator describing relevant facts and omitting the trivial.

The remains of 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.

Short Stories of the Twenty-first Century, by Prescott Fry (1:14)
Forge of the Jadugar, by Russ Linton (38:56)

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.