Tra-Con-Per-Ski!, by HM Reynolds (6:46)

IOD-TraConPerSkiToday we see that if you reduce characters to a pronoun rather than giving them names, readers need clear cues about which character’s point of view a scene is in.

What I gleaned about the stories: Even perfectly normal things are utterly terrifying.

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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: Confusing description

Analysis: The first story opens with a shuttle landing. During disembarkation, the passengers are described as: a mix of locals and other, even more wide-eyed, visitors. As the landing hadn’t been rough and there were no suggestions the shuttle port was unusual, I had difficulty parsing the comparative: locals wouldn’t be gawping at their own planet, so why were they wide-eyed? So I re-read the opening, looking for something I’d missed; but still found nothing to make the locals startled.

Having been tripped on the first page, I moved on.

WTF #2: Inconsistent spacing

Analysis: The first use of an ellipsis was set with no spaces on either side. The second one was set with a full space on either side. While either is a valid choice where hairline spaces aren’t available (such as in an ebook), the difference stood out enough that my mind shifted from the story to wondering what else might not have been checked for consistency.

Doubts about the editing raised, I moved on.

WTF #3: Unclear change of perspective/time

Analysis: The third story starts with the protagonist’s memories of how he became a sniper, voiced in first-person singular with no names mentioned. The second section is in the same voice, but details the protagonist accepting a stealth mission to deal with a group of soldiers who have gone off mission. The third section opens with first person plural, describing a different mission from the one accepted at the end of the previous section. This disjunction confused me slightly as I wasn’t certain whether this was the same protagonist’s memory, a shift to the soldiers, or a new protagonist altogether.

After a page, I still hadn’t found anything that confirmed where this section came in the timeline, or whether it definitely followed the protagonist of the previous sections. 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.

Community 17, by James Cardona (3:20)
Second Skyn, by Damien Boyes (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.