Short Stories, Crimes, Cults and Curious Cats, by Jonathan Day (2:40)

IOD-CrimesCatsToday we see that tripping over things a proofreader should have caught shakes a reader’s faith in the production quality of what lies ahead.

What I gleaned about the stories: When sitting betwixt skies of pearl and grass of verdant hue, even the most humble of workers orates in purple prose.

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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: Duplication and repetition

Analysis: A couple of paragraphs into the first story, I encountered: One enterprising young man attempted to track the clockwork cockerel back to where it had originated from with his drone,

While the sentence makes sense, the effort of holding everything in my parsing buffer until I reached the comma was enough that I noticed the sentence itself rather than the meaning. This allowed my mind to realise that at least two of back, originated, and from were redundant.

Long-windedness on the first page made me wonder if the rest of the collection was also overly wordy, so I moved on.

WTF #2: Inconsistent serial commas

Analysis: The first line of the second story is The world was white, blue, and every shade in between. There are arguments either way on the serial comma, so the presence (or absence) of one doesn’t usually trouble me unless it damages clarity. However, there is no serial comma in the title of the collection. So, when I saw a serial comma here, I immediately lost my trust that the rest of the punctuation was consistent.

My faith that I could use experience to resolve ambivalent usage later damaged, I moved on.

WTF #3: Missing comma

Analysis: A little way into the third story, I encountered: Strangely Valerie did not mind him asking the question which, if she had pound every time it had been put to her would have funded a world cruise.

When I hit the comma, I – rightly – parsed it as the start of a sub-clause. However, because I read in chunks rather than word-by-word, the lack of a comma to close the sub-clause meant I ran past the end and suffered an instant of confusion. A moment later the sentence clicked, but I’d already noticed that I was reading.

After noting in passing that – as I’d suspected in WTF#2 – the punctuation was a touch off in places, I pulled the plug.

Kudo #1: Good hooks

Analysis: Despite losing immersion to technical issues, all three stories provided a solid reason to read on from the very beginning; so, I’ll be returning to this collection to see if the stories can hold attention once they’ve got going.

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 Rat Collector, by Chris Yee (6:21)
Upriver, Downriver, by Aaron Ward (4:53)

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.