Commitment and Other Tales of Madness by Glen Krisch (1:12)

IOD-CommitmentMadnessToday we see that if a story confuses a reader on the first page, they are more likely to give up than read on.

What I gleaned about the stories: Some people react to stressful situations by thinking about local geography in the manner of a teacher preparing a lesson.

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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 style

Analysis: The first story opens with some as-yet-unnamed threat having done something to the narrator’s family. The second paragraph ends with Saul, the narrator’s son, having his cheek savaged by the narrator’s other son. The last line covers Saul telling someone (presumably the narrator) about the attack: Saul recounted those details as he ran through a twisting ravine, sloshing through the bone-chilling creek that halved Beaumont county with its ceaseless slurry.

My first thought was that recounted those details didn’t sound right for a child, particularly one with deep nail marks across his face. So I tried to re-parse it as the narrator’s words; but, they didn’t feel like the words of a man describing one son being attacked by the other so much as a relating a historical anecdote.

The narrator’s focus on the environment rather than on his son further removed my sense of a father talking about his child, so I moved on.

WTF #2: Odd description

Analysis: The second story opens with the narrator’s revealing he wants tangential pain. Ignoring the mathematical definition, tangential things are of little relevance, digressions from a path. Which didn’t immediately fit pain. If you want something it is a goal, not a deviation.

I attempted to parse it as pain that was of little relevance, but that still didn’t fit. People might prefer that any pain they feel had little impact, but that doesn’t mean they want the pain.

Still on the first line and struggling to untangle the meaning, I moved on.

WTF #3: Unclear tenses

Analysis: The first two sentences of the third story are: Dixon watched from his washed-out sedan, drawing on another menthol, jetting smoke from his nostrils. He parked in the last stall of a cracked blacktop parking lot.

My immediate thought on reading watched was Dixon staking something out, and the extended process of taking a draw on another cigarette and blowing smoke added to this sense of being stationary for a reasonable period; both in terms of watching while slowly smoking not being something people do while driving, and film noir tropes. So, I was slightly confused when he pulled into a parking space in the second sentence.

Unsure whether the second sentence should have been He was parked… or if the first gave the wrong impression of Dixon’s actions, I pulled the plug.

While checking the quotes, I read on a little to see if it became clearer. After two paragraphs of description of an apartment complex, I still wasn’t sure.

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.

The Girl at the End of the World, by Richard Levesque (40:00)
Cthulhu Doesn't Dance, by Justin MacCormack (3:06)

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.