Shard Knight, by Matthew Ballard (8:02)

IOD-ShardKnightToday we see that repeating yourself too often creates echoes that pop the immersion bubble.

What I gleaned about the story: A prince and a slightly older Knight-trainee are about to battle for a singular prize, but that’s as far as I got.

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Kudos: He kept his chin tucked into his chest and drew the sign of the circle around his heart.

I really liked this detail. I’ve seen all kinds of gestures and genuflections described in fantasy – both religious and magical – but I don’t think I’ve seen this one before. And better yet, it is so entirely simple and believable that I can hardly believe I haven’t seen it yet. It is the elegant little details like this that make a world begin to feel true for me.

WTF #1: When he opened his eyes, particles of loose soil drifted through rays of sunlight penetrating the dusty room’s shadowy darkness.

Analysis: There’s at least one adjective too many in that, for my tastes, but that’s not what stopped me. The problem was that, three paragraphs earlier, I had read: Dusty particles drifted through the stale humid air and settled into the dark hair of the young prince.

We’ve already seen the drifting particles. I get it. I was able to picture the room nicely with the first instance. But when the author hits me with essentially the same image a second time, I have to ask why he repeated himself. Does he not trust me to get it? Does he not have confidence in his ability to convey the scene adequately? Or have I maybe lost my place? Have I jumped back and re-read the same line again? Nope. But by forcing me to ask these questions, the author has broken my immersion.

WTF #2: [Concentrating,] he closed his eyes and pulled a deep breath in through his nose… With focused attention, he concentrated on the passage of air through his nose… He focused the entirety of his conscious mind on this singular moment… His breaths came short and hard, and it took focused concentration to steady himself… 

Analysis: All four of those passages are on the first page. So again, it feels like the author is not trusting me to understand the bit about Ronan’s deeply focused attention. Paradoxically though, by reminding me of it so often, he actually breaks my attention, and I popped up out of the world with each new echo.

WTF #3: Ronan pulled up a few yards short. His first strike strategy ended before it began. Bryson had superior size, strength, and experience, and he needed a new plan.

Analysis: So here’s the thing. In the paragraph previous to this, Ronan went on at length about Bryson’s superior age, size, and experience. Moreover, he has also told me that he knew it would be Bryson out there in the arena waiting for him, and that he had known this for some time. So why in hell would he wait until he was half way through beginning his attack to realize that he couldn’t use a surprise attack on this guy and that he’d need to come up with a different idea? The realization expressed in the quoted excerpt is not based on new information – it’s based on information he’s known for days. This disconnect snapped me out of the story, because it seemed so much at odds with all the concentrating that the author has invested in this guy. Clearly, he’s a thinker, but when it came down to it, apparently, not a very good thinker. Anyway, immersion broke here, and that was the third time.

The Battle, by R. W. Allen (5:18)
Warrior's Embrace, by Jodi Zeitler (3:08)

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.