Somewhere to Turn: stories by Linda Courtland (27:53)

IOD-SomewhereTurnToday we see that poor layout can hide good prose.

What I gleaned about the stories: Dolphins make poor workmates, but some burglars make good wives.

Find this book on Amazon.

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: Shifting margins

Analysis: The book was initially set with full-width, right-ragged margins and a first line initial indent. Then it suddenly shifted to left-indented, right-ragged. Because I had internalised the margins by that point, I automatically read each indent as a new paragraph, so stumbled and stalled as lines broke into fragments.

The setting shifted back and forth between the two throughout the book, reducing immersion each time it changed, but didn’t actually destroy it after the first instance, so I only scored one WTF. However, it might have made me more susceptible to other issues.

Kudo #1: Tight characters and good emotional range

Analysis: The characters were immediately distinct and plausible. And – apart from the point below – the humour was amusing, the sadness touching, and the fear real.

WTF #2: Overuse of puns

Analysis: Some way into the collection, I encountered a story written from the perspective of a donor’s organs as they make their way to hospital. Nearly every line contained a pun, which quickly moved from a slight chuckle, through conscious awareness of the cleverness, to boredom, leaving the image of ‘I am John’s Liver’ and other pro-forma talking-organ shorts.

Discovering tedium rather than pastiche, I moved on.

WTF #3: Confusing stage business

Analysis: Just after the police stop the protagonist, I encountered the following dialogue:

You have the right to remain silent…”

Where are you taking my baby?” Janie screamed.

The ellipsis implies trailing off, so I was expecting either some reason for the police officer’s distraction or Janie’s internal monologue to suggest she wasn’t listening any more. Having Janie interject instead jarred enough that I surfaced, and therefore 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.

A Sip of Fear, by Brian Rush (12:05)
Malus Domestica, by S.A. Hunt (40:00)

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.