THIRTEEN: a collection of 13 dark tales, by Adam Hainline (12:28)

IOD-ThirteenToday we see that readers assume sentences are structured in a certain order, so changing it without warning can cause confusion.

What I gleaned about the stories: Insane horrors lurk in the most mundane places. Some of them are terrorizing you out of love.

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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.

WTF #1: Inappropriate imagery

Analysis: The protagonist’s reaction to fear is described as “thick sheets of gooseflesh”. Thick sheets immediately conjured up an image of rubber tarpaulins covered in bumps draped over the character or hung from the ceiling, rather than the intimacy of skin. In addition, in the context of skin, ‘thick’ conveys protection or immunity rather than vulnerability. With all the tension diffused by this slightly comical image, I moved on.

WTF #2: Voice glitch

Analysis: The narrator of the second story uses a casual but neutral voice. However, some distance in, I encountered:

Just last night, he’d been called to a domestic dispute-what he hated the most-in a suburban neighbourhood.’

As I entered the aside, I expected it to unfold as ‘what he hated most was…’, so hitting the second em-dash without the second half of the clause left me confused. Rereading it slowly I realised the clause was ‘which he hated the most’ filtered through a light dialect. However, due to combination of the delay and lack of dialect at that point, I had lost trust in the narration, so moved on.

Kudo #1: Good use of other senses

Analysis: In addition to the unsettling sights and doubting of eyes common to horror, Hainline provides images of other senses, and juxtaposes normal or pleasant images of one sense with odd or unpleasant images from another.

This both drew me deeper into the experience and made the oddities seem more odd.

WTF #3: Confusing structure

Analysis: A little way into a later story I found:

His entire body tensed as the man’s grip on his shoulder tightened. Although from the shadow casting over him, the man was more than two feet taller than him; he could feel the man’s breath on the back of his neck as he spoke, causing the hair on the back of his neck to stick straight up.’

Due to the structure of the clauses and the break created by the semi-colon, I parsed the first half of the second sentence as being a partial refutation of the previous sentence; and became confused when that didn’t make sense.

Upon re-reading, I correctly parsed the second sentence as the man’s breath being on the back of the boy’s neck despite the man’s shadow suggesting he was too tall. Having lost momentum again, 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.

Mists of the Miskatonic, by Al Halsey (3:36)
Digital Divide, by K.B. Spangler (13:30)

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.