The Zoey Chronicles, by Sophia Grey (2:01)

IOD-ZoeyChroniclesToday we see that dense or figurative language increases the risk readers will lose immersion.

What I gleaned about the stories: Being a teenager is confusing, and becomes more so if you turn out to be a supernatural creature too.

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WTF #1: Dense exposition

Analysis: In the first two paragraphs the protagonist describes her father’s medal, studies herself in the mirror and concludes that no one would believe she was descended from the man who won the medal, and tells the reader about her mother’s alcoholism.

While it wasn’t all pure narrative, the information density was high enough that I had to focus on unpacking it rather than easing into the story.

As I wasn’t immersed after two paragraphs I moved on.

Kudo #1: Interesting protagonist

Analysis: While the density of the first two paragraphs did prevent me from getting into the story, having unpacked it I did want to go back into the story.

WTF #2: Using the name of an ability to describe the act.

Analysis: The protagonist sees a deer, and “[u]nbidden, imaginations started to fill [her] head.” Imagination is the faculty of mind which experiences images and sensations separate from the senses; as such the plural refers to several minds not one. So the plural came as enough of a surprise I stumbled and had to go back.

Rereading, I concluded the author had used imagination to mean a thought or image; and had this been poetry or a certain style of fiction, that might not have been an issue. However, the style of the work up to that point had been modern casual, rather than allusive, so it didn’t fit.

WTF #3: Distracting compound adjectives

Analysis: The protagonist punches a “hard-stone wall.” Hyphens in adjective strings indicate that certain adjectives modify other adjectives rather than the noun. So I parsed the phrase as ‘a wall made of hard stone’, which in itself isn’t confusing. However, in the context of flesh to stone, all stone is hard, so I immediately wondered if the author wasn’t merely mentioning that the stone was hard; perhaps “hard-stone” was an type of rock in this world.

Which left me two options: the author had either included irrelevant detail or chosen to name a rock in a way that was slightly confusing and lacked the obscurity of most real substance names.

Although I was curious to find out whether hard-stone was a name or a compound adjective, puzzling over author intention is a loss of immersion, 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.

Call of the Kaiju, by E. Stuart Marlowe (8:17)
Infinity Squad, by Shuvom Ghose (5:05)

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.