Asylum – 13 Tales of Terror by Matt Drabble (1:11)

Today we see that combining two things that damage immersion only damages immersion faster.

What I gleaned about the stories: Darkness looms gloomily across melancholy figures as they brood morbidly.

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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.

Note 2: The stories are set within a framing story. To avoid any lessened immersion from missing segments, I chose to skip the continuing narrative between stories.

WTF #1: Muddled Voice

Analysis: The first paragraph of the framing story ends with:

Blackwater Heights loomed over the horizon like a ravenous beast; tower turrets spiked the dark night sky, illuminated by a vibrant moon. All we need is the stormy lightning and we’re all set, he thought to himself morbidly.

The description of the building seemed overwrought, but was enough of a gothic horror trope that I gave the benefit of the doubt and read on. And immediately chuckled at the ironic internal dialogue: the purple prose was deliberate. However, having flicked from thinking the gothic style was straight to thinking it was dark humour, morbidly tripped me; was the narrator’s style overwrought or not?

Having lost my faith in the narrator’s voice, I moved on.

WTF #2: Echoing Declarative Sentence Parade

Analysis: The protagonist’s car swerves. He reacts. He does another thing. By the third sentence stating that He did something, broken only by a sentence stating that His heart raced, I had both an echo and the sense I was reading a police report rather than a story.

Either might have pushed me out, together they were more than sufficient cause to move on.

WTF #3: Multiple Confusion

Analysis: A few paragraphs into the second story I encountered: A woman some ten feet away was staring at him nervously as he had spun around with an angry expression to find that he was facing no-one. The first bump came from the tense confusion: he had turned in the past, so the woman’s action of staring as he did it should be complete too. Trying to cast the actions in the correct tenses, I realised I wasn’t sure when the woman stared; had she been staring at him when he turned, or had his turning caused her to stare?

Already working to untangle the timeline, I ran into a stage-business issue: if he has turned and is facing no one, then the woman cannot be in front of him; but if she isn’t, how does he know she’s staring? Following a moment’s thought, I decided the woman was to one side, so he could see her from the corner of his eye.

However – despite some effort – my mental image still felt insecure, so 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.

Anonymous, by Christine Benedict (1:54)
Patchwork Man, by D.B. Martin (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.