Dark Days, by Chris Harris (1:46)

IOD-DarkDaysToday we see that ill-matched tenses confuse readers.

What I gleaned about the stories: People who go outside experience weather.

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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: Incorrect capitalisation

Analysis: One sentence into the first story, I encountered: We lived in harmony: I clapped, and it would move; The Box clapped, and I would move. Semi-colons start a new clause, but not a new sentence, so the capital T hooked my eye. As I had barely started, it was enough to bring me to a halt.

WTF #2: Mixed tenses

Analysis: A few sentences into the second story I hit: Trees loom above and, even while stripped naked by the wind, seemed to have an imposing presence; The story had, until then, been in the present tense, so the sudden shift to past perfect made the verb stand out. Because of the slight delay introduced by the subordinate clause, I wasn’t certain for a moment whether there was a shift or whether I had somehow mis-parsed the tense previously. So I went back to check.

Going back to check while I’m still in the first paragraph is a clear loss of immersion, so I moved on.

WTF #3: Mixed tenses again

Analysis: The first paragraph of the third story had the same present/past tense uncertainty that the second one did.

Obviously, it’s fine because he continues walking down the street at a brisk pace. It may be a nuisance, but rain is good in this day and age; while there is no vegetation for it to water, the tiny pores in the pavement allowed the water to travel into the underground drainage system.

The shift leapt out again. However, as it was possible that the past perfect was intended to indicate the pores had allowed the water but no longer did I chose to go on, anticipating the next sentence would begin with ‘At least until…’ or some other reference to how or when the pores stopped working. When the next paragraph continued to describe an entirely mundane walk through the rain, 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.

Operation: Blackflag, by Richard J. Kendrick (12:38)
The Darkening Dream, by Andy Gavin (31:32)

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.