Operation Chimera, by Healey and Cox (9:23)

IOD-ChimeraToday we learn how to tell what an author thinks the scene is about.

What I gleaned about the story: Brilliant fly-boy Michael Summers, fresh out of the Academy, calls his mom to brag about how good he is. Then he hangs up. Poor mom.

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WTF #1: Conspicuous exposition

Analysis: The protagonist is walking through a transfer station, en route to his new ship. Then I hit this bit: Even his name evoked a sense of mythical awe; some of the stories that filtered through the Academy about him seemed like the sort of thing that got wilder with each retelling. Since we’re in a relatively intimate POV, this bit of narration must be from his perspective. But how does he know what stories are being told about him? And even if he had overheard a few of them, making this declaration in his voice seems like a direct contradiction with the competent but unassuming personality that has been built up in the previous paragraphs. So it’s either a POV violation, or inconsistent characterization. But at the core, it was an arrogant character moment that repulsed me out of his head-space and feels more like conspicuous exposition.

WTF #2: Conspicuous exposition

Analysis: Our hero is about to embark on a dangerous military mission—his first since graduating from the Academy. He calls his mom to say goodbye, but instead of any honest-sounding chatter between a boy and his worrying mom, we get backstory about how highly he scored in his Academy training, and how brilliantly special he is. And that’s too bad, because showing how a character responds to difficult emotional situations is a great way to convey his fundamental nature. Sadly, that opportunity here was squandered, and the result was an eye-roll of authorial intrusion.

WTF #3: Pacing problem

Analysis: That opening scene just kind of stopped, right in the middle of his conversation with his mother. It’s as if, now that the backstory of his brilliant flying skills had been conveyed, mom had become a waste of valuable ink, so the authors moved on to the next scene. But each scene in a story should be about something, and it shouldn’t end until that something his reached its conclusion. So when a scene just stops, it leaves me wondering if I’ve missed its point, so I jump back, trying to figure out what I missed. And searching around, trying to find the point of a scene is definitely a sign that immersion has broken.


The Upheaval, by Erica Stevens (8:45)
Company Daughter, by Callan Primer (19:14)

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.