Monsters & Demons, by Brian Rella (1:33)

IOD-MonstersAndDemonsToday we see that if your first paragraph throws up a barrier, readers might not push past it.

What I gleaned about the stories: Acorns generally don’t go “Whoosh!”

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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: Slack opening

Analysis: The start of the opening paragraph is:

Jessie’s mother pursed her full lips in the mirror and dabbed them with bright, red lipstick once more, putting the finishing touches on her face. She turned to the left, then to the right, and smiled at herself in the mirror. The creep came up behind her and put his arms around her waist, nuzzling her neck and Jessie saw him whisper something in her ear.

I almost bounced out on the comma between bright and red, but gave the author the benefit of the doubt. The continued obsessive detail of the second sentence ate away at my interest. Then the portmanteau description of the third sentence tipped me over the edge from seeing the narrator’s tedium, to not really caring.

Hoping the other stories would have a stronger opening, I moved on.

WTF #2: Confused geography

Analysis: The protagonist is lying awake listening to odd sounds, while James sleeps. As this is described as a romantic getaway, I assumed they were sharing the same bed (or at least beds next to each other); which is supported by her cuddling him after the noises happen again.

The author then describes her feelings now she is in James’ nook. This threw me completely: there hasn’t been any mention that James is sleeping in an alcove. It seemed very unlikely a double bed would be half in an alcove, but there hadn’t been mention of the narrator moving from her bed to his either.

While this might not matter in most situations, horror is filled with both attempts to hide and the emotional sanctuary of having a wall to your back, so unclear geography here raised a concern that the same issues would occur later.

Trust in the narrator-as-camera damaged, I moved on.

WTF #3: Odd usage

Analysis: The third story opens with a character shouting something at the protagonist. The second sentence is: He left his mouth open after he spoke, which gave Roy the unfortunate view to the inside of his maw. The usual phrasing would be ‘an unfortunate view’ so my unconscious sought meaning in the variation; the similar variation from ‘of the inside’ increased this feeling there was a hidden meaning. Still untangling that I stumbled on maw and started to wonder, why not mouth?

Reading on, I discovered the critical detail holding the protagonist’s attention was not that his companion was some beast or monster, but that he had poor dentistry. My anticipation that the odd usage was setting up something of consequence, collapsed into a feeling of hyperbole.

With no hook to balance out the possibility the narrator’s voice would be odd throughout, 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.

The Enigma Strain, by Nick Thacker (14:30)
Daddy Soda, by Mira Gibson (3:08)

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.