Cooper Omnibus by Bill Bernico (2:06)

IOD-CooperOmnibusToday we see that it’s actually possible for first person narratives to lack intimacy if not handled carefully.

What I gleaned about the stories: The city was hot. Hot like the diamond round the neck of the red-headed number that sashayed in, and twice as mean.

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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: Distant language

Analysis: The opening paragraph is:

It was going to be another long, hot summer. The mercury climbed upward towards triple digit status as the call came in. It seemed like a routine call at first. A bartender at a place called Jake’s phoned the desk sergeant at our precinct to report a woman passed out at his bar. That in itself wasn’t noteworthy, but the bar was on our way back to the precinct and we were in no hurry to get back to that oven we called our office.

By the fourth sentence of fact without emotion, I felt like I was reading a police report. So – while the fifth sentence eventually brings in a touch of personality – I had drifted out of the story before it really started.

Less engaged than when I opened the collection, I moved on.

WTF #2: Clumsy naming

Analysis: The first time the narrator mentions his partner he describes him as Sergeant Dan Hollister. While that would make sense when introducing him to a stranger, a character would – depending on their closeness – think of his partner either by name, Dan Hollister, or by rank, Sergeant Hollister. So the use of his full name made the paragraph feel less like internal monologue and more like a story told to an audience; as I was less than half way down the first page, this punctured the budding sense of closeness.

Conscious I was being narrated at, I moved on.

WTF #3: Full echo

Analysis: A couple of paragraphs into the third story we get a description of a new character: She wore round wire-rim glasses and had her gray hair neatly swirled on top of her head. She wore a modest dress with a floral design and sensible shoes. As it comes immediately after a sentence that began she sat down…, the echoing of she wore was particularly noticeable, making me look for the rhetorical effect. However, I couldn’t find one.

Kudo #1: Restrained I

Analysis: In the noir tradition, these stories are in first person. However – unlike many attempts – they avoid paragraphs stuffed with I verbed.

Note 2: The collection contains 138 short stories, so if you like your noir stylised or don’t mind the occasional blip, this is great value.

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.

Malus Domestica, by S.A. Hunt (40:00)
Brooding City, by Tom Shutt (7:17)

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.