Grenheim’s Thorn, by Clay Lewisson (2:26)

IOD-GrenheimToday we see that when three or more characters are in a scene, some kind of establishing shot helps to keep confusion at bay.

What I gleaned about the story: The man in the robe is menacing the man in chains while a hungry fiend yells at him inside his own mind. I think.

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WTF #1: POV violation

Analysis: Oddly enough, the first two lines of the story manage to establish and then violate the narrative voice.

I do not like this. Take him and let me feed.

“I will, my host. But these things require some portion of the play is acted out,” thought the man.

Upon reading the second line, we realize that the first line was an internal utterance, spoken by whatever is haunting or possessing the protagonist. So we are clearly being subjected to his inner thoughts, which makes this an intimate POV. Yet the dialogue is attributed to “the man,” which is equally clearly a distant voice. (Nobody thinks of themselves in this objective, impersonal form.) So having established a mode, it is then discarded immediately. Very disconcerting.

WTF #2: Confusing punctuation

Analysis: Three or four lines later, we get: “You stand guilty of crimes against the kingdom,” said the man in the long dark, hooded robe.

My problem is with that last confused comma. It comes in the middle of a list of three adjectives. But why the middle? On my first pass, the comma suggested that it was dividing two adjectives, which would make “long dark” some kind of compound adjective, but I can see no justification in the text for that interpretation. It seems to be just sloppy punctuation. Either add a comma after “long,” or even get rid of both commas, but as written, I spent way too long trying to make sense of the typography here.

WTF #3: Character confusion

Analysis: I’m a quarter way down the first page. So far, I’ve been told about: “the man,” “the voice in his mind,” “the man in the long dark hooded robe,” and “the chained man.” But how many people is that? I’m fairly certain that “the voice” is independent of the other man/men, but are there three humans in the room? Two? I’m hopelessly lost. At the very least, the scene needs an establishing sentence. A figure in a long, dark robe stood tall over the cowering wretch in the corner. Even that much would have helped me to sketch in the basics of the scene. But as it stands, I was too confused, too quickly, and too often to press on.

Pilgrim of the Storm, by Russ Linton (40:00)
The Living and the Dead, by Todd Travis (1:37)

About the author

Jefferson Smith is a Canadian fantasy author, as well as the founder, chief editor and resident proctologist of ImmerseOrDie. With a PhD in Computer Science and Creativity Systems compounded by a life spent exploring most art forms for fun and profit, he is underqualified in just about everything. That's why he writes.