The Sorcerous Crimes Division: Devilbone, by Scott Warren (4:25)

IOD-SorcerousCrimesToday we learn how important it is to find a place to start your story and actually start it there.

What I gleaned about the story: Some soldiers are marching up a mountain. And then stuff.

Find the book on Amazon.

Note: I was surprised to find the book set in a mono-spaced font, with line-and-a-half spacing. Those are very unconventional choices for a published book and gave me the feeling that I was reading a manuscript rather than a finished work. I didn’t see anything in the story that justified that choice, but it’s possible that came later on.

WTF #1: Recursive back-pedalling.

Analysis: The story opens with a prologue. Many publishers are looking askance at that these days, but I figure, if the story needs a glimpse of some past event, that’s cool, so I don’t mind. But this prologue begins in past perfect, and I’m already thinking WTF? I mean, if the POV character of the prologue needs to start somewhere further back in time, why not just start the prologue there? At that deeper past point? But then, to make it even more confusing, in her past perfect remembrance, she drops even further back into a flashback, and I’m still on the first page, with my temporal elastic wound so tight that I come unstuck in time. I can’t tell when I am, or when she is, or which when she wants to be in. And somewhere in all that temporal double-think, my immersion bubble popped.

WTF #2: Convenient reminiscence of how I came to be here.

Analysis: A large part of those temporal fugues was the protagonist reviewing her memories of the factors that had led her to her current situation, and as regular followers will know, this is one of those opening clichés that I am particularly sensitive to. Even if people did regularly take an inventory of the series of bad luck that brought them to the current moment, it’s still a dubious way to open a story, because I am not yet invested in the character, so it just comes across as some random stranger whining at me about their dratted luck. Definitely not the way to get me to sympathize with their plight. After all, whining isn’t exactly heroic. But it does break immersion.

WTF #3: Implausible logistics.

Analysis: So we have a force of roughly 800 soldiers and support personnel traipsing through hostile mountain terrain… And apparently they’re carrying firewood with them? A “triple load” no less, that they requisitioned before leaving home base. Somewhere at least back down the mountain, if not farther. 26 days ago. When I read that, I stopped short. Really? They hauled a month’s worth of firewood for 800 people through a frozen forested mountain terrain? Why? I assumed I must have missed something important, so I went back and checked. But the text backs me up. 800 people. Treed mountain terrain. 26 days. And a triple requisition of firewood that is now running out.

My mind boggles at how much wood that would require, which would now require more people to manage, which would require more wood, etc. I’m sure this is not a crucial point for the story, and if I were not counting immersion pops, I would probably have cut the author some slack here and kept reading a while longer, but the treadmill is a rigid task-master. Three pops and the clock stops.

As the Crow Flies, by Robin Lythgoe (30:57)
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About the author

Jefferson Smith is a Canadian fantasy author, as well as the founder, chief editor and resident proctologist of ImmerseOrDie. With a PhD in Computer Science and Creativity Systems compounded by a life spent exploring most art forms for fun and profit, he is underqualified in just about everything. That's why he writes.