Queen of Roses, by Elizabeth McCoy (1:54)

IOD-QueenRosesToday we realize that relying on pronouns to orient a scene involving a dozen characters is a recipe for disaster.

What I gleaned about the story: A person of unspecified age and gender is either a check-out clerk in a retail store, a robot for sale, or possibly a customer. And there are other people of each type present. Presumably, they all buy/sell each other for fun and profit.

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WTF #1: Pronoun confusion

Analysis: She waited silently as the purchaser walked down the line, stopping occasionally to look at one of her fellows. The man had irregular features… Who is “she?” The narrator? Possibly the purchaser? Who is “the man?” The purchaser or the fellow? And whose “fellows” are they? Fellow purchasers? Fellow narrators? This is not an auspicious way to start. Two sentences into the first paragraph and I’m hopelessly lost.

This strikes me as a likely case of a writer who has not left the project sitting idle for a while and come back to it later for revisions. Clearly the author knows what’s going on because she has it all organized and visualized in her head, but the actual text written does not convey enough of that imagined scene for a reader to reconstruct the scene. Or at least, not enough for me.

WTF #2: Continued pronoun vagueness

Analysis: I’m 5 paragraphs further in and I still have no idea who “she” is. Probably because we’ve had about 8 different people mentioned so far, and still no clear identifiers.

WTF #3: Yet more pronoun confusion

Analysis: To be blunt, I’m not even at the bottom of the first page and I still have no idea who is in this scene. There’s a bit of dialogue between the “purchaser” and a robot, but I have no concrete idea who the narrator is in this scene, or what’s happening. If I pushed myself to guess, I think the narrator is another robot on the shelf, or in line, but I’m far from certain. And frankly, by this point I’m already mentally exhausted, like a homicide detective trying to reconstruct the scene from three vague clues left behind at the scene.

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Nightblade, by Garrett Robinson (19:15)

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.