Forgive Me, Bloody Hell And Other Stories, by Steven Soul (1:19)

IOD-ForgiveMeHellToday we see that readers expect a story to be about the significance of events rather than the fact of them.

What I gleaned about the stories: Events happen. More events follow. Those new events are followed by still more events.

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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: Capitalisation Issues

Analysis: Titles do not traditionally capitalise And. However, with all other words capitalised, it seemed a trivial issue so I continued.

The book is dedicated to the author’s wife for (among other things) Editing. The capital caught my eye; but, given that having work edited can be an emotionally harrowing experience I assumed it was for humorous effect and continued.

However, a few sentences into the first story I encountered: It builds up in the pit of my stomach until it just flows out from Me. This third unexpected capital in a short space shifted my thought from stylistic choice to lack of adequate proofing.

Re-reading the paragraph to take the quotes, I noted two missing commas; I suspect these unconsciously added to the sense of poor proofing.

WTF #2: Witness Statement Syndrome

Analysis: The second story opens with a string of declarative statements. With each short simple Noun Verbed my desire for a display of emotion grew, while my expectation that one would come shrank.

After an entire paragraph of them, I felt no attachment to the story, so I moved on.

WTF #3: Odd Paragraph Breaks

Analysis: The second story opens with:

She sits in the dock, tears freely rolling down her cheeks. She takes a dirty white, well used handkerchief from her pocket and mindlessly dabs at her face. The man sits on trial. He sits crying, his voice choked telling his story.

I don’t know why I am here; I was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. I mean I found her, it was me that rang the police,” he places his face into his open hands and sobs loudly.

The first line was enough of a hook that I pushed past the flat narration in the hope there’d be more emotion soon. However, the change of subject in the middle of the paragraph tripped me. Was she watching him, sitting with him, or something else? The lack of a new paragraph suggested a connection but what was it?

That stumble became a sprawl when I discovered the next paragraph was the man’s speech referred to at the end of the first paragraph.

The mix of duplication of tears with apparent random chopping of the story destroyed my trust that the story would be presented in complete parse-able segments.

Noting in passing more grammatical niggles that the paragraph issue had occluded, 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.

Get On Board Little Children, by Victoria Randall (4:05)
Pandora Red, by Jay Tinsiano (3:55)

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.