A Visit from the Soul-Eater, by Talisha Harrison (1:22)

IOD-SoulEaterToday we see that if you don’t prime the reader to expect unusual usage or structure, when it happens they will assume you made a mistake.

What I gleaned about the stories: Cars in horror stories might explode if lightly bumped.

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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: Muddled list

Analysis: The subtitle for the collection is A collection of horror stories, flash and short

My instinctive parsing was as a straight list, so when the sentence ended at short my first thought was “Flash and short what?” Almost immediately I wondered whether the author meant flash and short horror stories but had put the modifier after the noun phrase.

As a stylistic element in an homage to old-fashioned ghost stories, putting the modifiers last might not trip me; however, combined with a cover image that looked decidedly 20th Century and no other context to prime my mind it felt muddled so I scored a WTF.

WTF #2: Inconsistent sentence breaks

Analysis: The second paragraph of The Horror Pack (which with hindsight I believe to be an introduction) starts with Gaze upon the everlasting darkness, be in awe of the multitudes of undead who chase the living on an awkward footing. Be invested in that specific character only to watch them die a horrible death.

My unconscious muttered at the comma splice in the first sentence; but also suggested I might have mis-seen a semi-colon so I gave the benefit of the doubt. However, discovering the next instruction was a separate sentence broke the established pattern whether it was a comma-splice or semi-colon so my trust that the prose structure would be accessible took another blow.

Catching sight of a comma splice with an erroneous capital letter out of the corner of my eye, I moved on.

WTF #3: Inappropriate wordiness

Analysis: Partway through the first paragraph of the first story I hit: The actions that brought about his death began when a red 2010 Chevy Silverado dangerously jumped right in front of Deangelo’s vehicle. It nearly caused him to slam into the back of the truck, that would have created a deadly chain reaction continuing way past the plus mile line of sardine packed automobiles.

Instead of dramatic irony ramping the tension and the near-miss adding to the sense of a world filled with danger, this felt flat. Pausing, I noticed many of the words didn’t add to the image, so merely slowed my pace; which consequently reduced the tension. So I pulled the plug.

Rereading the quote, I realised that cars packed as tight as sardines wouldn’t have had space to turn into a chain reaction of death either.

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 Glass Beacon, by John Day (5:52)
Project Fifteen: Rain of Ash, by Rachel Judd (4:52)

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.