Like Life Itself: Ten Short Stories, by BP Broome (4:07)

Today we see that typesetting conventions keep the text out of the reader’s way.

What I gleaned about the stories: If it exists, someone will pay for video of it. If it doesn’t, someone will pay for it to exist, then video it.

Find this book on Amazon.

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: Inaccurate hyphen

Analysis: A few sentences into the first story, I encountered: newly-naked follicles. Compounds formed with adverbs that end in -y aren’t hyphenated (except for newly-wed), so the hyphen immediately raised concerns about the proof-reading.

Had it been later in the work, it might not have broken my immersion; however, issues in the first paragraph stand out

WTF #2: Perceptual convolution

Analysis: The second story opens with: My boss’s wife looked nothing like I’d imagined she would. Her husband, Mr Dooley, was… When I hit the second sentence, my parsing went loop-de-loop: the story starts—plausibly—with a previously unmet woman defined by her relationship to the narrator’s boss. Then suddenly, the narrator’s boss is defined by his relationship to her. People tend to always think of those they know in the simplest way (for example, when we see a friend, we think of a first name or a nickname rather than their full name and how we know them); so, having Mr Dooley—who the narrator knew well—suddenly referenced by his relationship to someone the narrator had just met felt wrong.

My confidence that the prose would be functionally invisible damaged, I moved on.

Kudo #1: Interesting narrative voice

Analysis: The third story opened with the protagonist mentally applying nicknames such as Fly Eyes and Rooster Boy to the other people in the room. These distillations of the cast to a single trait both created a strong sense of who they were and showed a core part of the protagonist’s character.

WTF #3: Ill-formatted text

Analysis: A couple of pages later I hit: Their website is muy interesante. While some foreign phrases have become ubiquitous enough not to need it, words not in the primary language of a book are traditionally set in italics. So, rattling through the story fast enough not to be considering individual words, my instinctive reaction to muy interesante was that they were a spelling mistakes. An instant later, I reparsed it as Spanish of some variety; however, by then I’d both slowed down and moved into a typesetting headspace.

While my interest in the stories remained, this tripping hazard had damaged my trust in the fluidity of the forthcoming prose enough that I wasn’t immersed, 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 Goldfish Mastermind Named Benedict Cumberbatch & the League of Domesticated Assassins: And Other Unexpected Tales, by Mark R Morris Jr (1:11)

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.