And So May The Wonders Unfurl by Richard Simpson (1:03)

IOD-WondersUnfurlToday we see that an odd layout can lose a reader as fast as a poor opening paragraph.

What I gleaned about the stories: People feel emotions. They might do something about them at some point.

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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: Poetic opening line

Analysis: The first story opened with:

The oak-panelled walls were gloomily black where the sunlight had all but left them, though on the white ceiling of the state bedroom a wondrous texture of gold remained to whisper of the transient glories of life, of the laughter, the tears, the tragedy, the ecstasy, and in the state bedroom especially, the majesty.’

I am fond of a poetic turn of phrase, so enjoyed the emotional undertones in this description of the light.

WTF #1: Odd paragraph spacing

Analysis: Each paragraph was indented between 4-5 em and had 4 blank lines separating it from the next. While I am not always distracted by combination of indents and blank lines, the extent here was sufficient to break my usual eye tracking at the end of the first paragraph.

Fully in a typesetting head-space instead of the story world, I moved on.

WTF #2: Actively confusing structure

Analysis: The second story opens with:

Lauren had to work in the morning and she was not looking forward to it. The reason why I am at university is to study in order to avoid ever winding up in such a position, she protested to herself.

As there were no indications the second sentence was speech, I assumed the ‘I’ referred to was a separate narrator from Lauren. So, discovering the second sentence was actually Lauren’s internal monologue brought me juddering to a halt.

Since this occurred in the first paragraph, the problem carries full weight, so I moved on.

WTF #3: Implausible emotional control

Analysis: Part way through the first paragraph of the next story, the narrator says: ‘But I was appalled, furious, and took it on myself to become infuriated further on a daily basis.’ Fury is a powerful emotional state, exceeding anger, not an exercise you can practice; therefore, the idea of someone deciding to be furious tomorrow and even more furious the day after, and so on, tripped me.

And again, since it happened in the first paragraph, 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.

Digital Divide, by K.B. Spangler (13:30)
Mina Cortez: From Bouquets to Bullets, by Jeffrey Cook (6:43)

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.