Night Terrors by Valentine King (5:50)

IOD-NightTerrorsToday we see that considering how readers read is as important as word choice.

What I gleaned about the stories: When the chips are down, whether or not your attacker has a logical reason, might be justified, or is potentially not even human are all secondary to the fact of being attacked.

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Note: This is a short story collection, so the rules are slightly different from standard Immerse or Die: instead of reading on every time I lose immersion, I stop reading that story and move on to the next one. As usual, I stop reading after the third WTF.

Kudo #1: Good series of hooks

Analysis: Each of the stories opens with a line that made me want to know more and kept building the sense of more to come, while providing enough resolution to not become either frustrating or mysterious for the sake of it.

WTF #1: Multiple dramatic events in a single paragraph

Analysis: The narrator has been kidnapped and tied to a chair with a bag over his head, so the story is tense. Then a series of several separate blows by the kidnapper, speech by the narrator, and analysis by the narrator occur in a short paragraph. This pushed me out in two ways.

First, I (like many readers) scan sections of page and unpack them after scanning rather than scanning along the line unpacking as I go, so having two actors in the same paragraph caused a momentary hiccup while I untangled who spoke after the first blow

Second, putting a series of actions and responses into a single paragraph reduced their emotional weight to that of a single thing: rather than the uncertainty of not knowing until the next paragraph what was coming, there was little mystery.

Taken together these issues were enough to kill the tension so I moved on.

WTF #2: Punctuation issues

Analysis: I noticed a number of hyphens instead of em-dashes but only in passing, so didn’t charge a WTF. However, it did trigger my punctuation detector, so when I noticed a missing comma as well I dropped into proof-reading mode.

As I now was reading word by word to consider punctuation and formatting rather than absorbing the story, I moved on.

WTF #3: Duplication of description

Analysis: A character’s demeanour was described as like an “errant servant who’d been caught stealing the silverware.” Errant (ignoring the slim possibility the author intended it in the sense of questing for adventure) means acting against social convention, so I parsed this as ‘a person in a lower social position acting against social convention caught committing a crime against a person of higher social position.’ The apparent duplication leapt out, so I stopped to consider situations in which being both errant and committing a crime would add meaningfully to how someone would appear when caught.

Whether or not there is a nuance there, the image had brought me to a halt rather than providing a mixture of conscious detail and unconscious flavour, 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.

Cyberbully Blues, by Rubin Johnson (7:50)
The Tube Riders, by Chris Ward (4:41)

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.