Into the Aether, by T.C. Pearce (9:39)

IOD-IntoAetherToday we see that too many characters, introduced too quickly can be disorienting.

What I gleaned about the story: A young woman enters a haunted house and begins to see ghostly apparitions.

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WTF #1: Paragraph headword echo

Analysis: The first 2 paragraphs echo on “Cybil…”

WTF #2: Reader confusion

Analysis: I’m getting lost. The protagonist keeps looking “back.” Sometimes, that means behind her, other times it means returning to what she’d been looking at before. Normally this would be fine, but so much is happening as she takes maybe three steps into a haunted house, and I feel like I have very little to work with as I try to piece it together, so little problems become significant. She’s looking into the inky blackness at a nightmarishly black space shaped like a man, and then she’s looking into a mirror that fades and ripples. She sees her reflection, and it’s replaced by the reflection of some other woman, and… yup, I’m lost. Too many visuals too weakly placed too quickly and in too small a space and without enough referents to keep me grounded.

WTF #3: Two or three paragraphs further, and more confusion

Analysis: More of these strangely abstracted visuals to try to package. The mirror woman was only ever referred to as the “young woman”. Then we get a man hanging from the ceiling, And then an old woman on the stairs, and the nightmarishly dark man is choking the hanging man and its all just a bunch of abstract noun phrases. No concrete identifiers to make the spectral characters meaningful. They’re just people-shapes in my head and I don’t care about any of them deeply enough to be bothered sorting it out.

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.

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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.