Campaign 2100: Game of Scorpions, by Larry Hodges (4:13)

iod-campaign_2100_game_of_scorpionsToday we see that the metaphor of your title should be a long, slow burn. Not a sledge hammer you attack the reader with on page one.

What I gleaned about the story: Politicians are scorpions. They have stingers. They sting each other. They sting the public. They sting their staffers. They sting their families. Politicians are scorpions.

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WTF #1: Echoing headwords

Analysis: A flurry of echoing headwords right at the top of page one. The second and third paragraphs start with “The”. Then the first three sentences of that third paragraph start that way as well. This is way too early in the book for me to be getting stuck in that echo chamber sentence feeling. The first few paragraphs need to be slick and absolutely distraction free so that I can make the transition into the story world.

WTF #2:

Analysis: The entire first two pages are a protracted series of mental flashbacks as the protagonist revisits the political maneuvers and job decisions that brought him and his boss to this glorious point. Since I don’t actually know any of these characters yet, this like sitting next to a boring academic at a dinner party and being forced to listen to him recite the long version of his resume because he’s tone-deaf to your lack of interest.

WTF #3: Metaphor with a 2×4

Analysis: The metaphor of the subtitle—that politics is a battle waged between ruthless, power-seeking scorpions—was pretty clear from the cover. Then to cement the point, the opening chapter is entitled, “The Changing of the Scorpions.”

In the first paragraph, we get to watch the former president and the new president: They shook hands, one scorpion to another.

A paragraph further down, the point is explained in still greater detail: All politicians are scorpions.

And just to be super-clear, in the event that the reader has somehow managed to misunderstood the point, later in that paragraph we are told: You didn’t get to be leader of the world without a little scorpion blood.

Finally, after fighting my way through the obstacle course of scorpion references, I got one page further, and then was gently reminded: The changing of the scorpions was complete.

That’s where I pulled the rip cord. It may just be personal preference, but I prefer my literary metaphors to be a bit more subtle than this. At the very least, I don’t want to be bludgeoned with it a dozen times in the first three pages. And if I had come to this book hoping to find out about the relationship between scorpions and politics, that bolt is shot now, leaving me to wonder what the next 420 pages could possibly be about.

Probably more scorpions.

Take the Pepsi Challenge: Want to know if my own writing measures up? Try the free sample on one of my books or short stories and decide for yourself.

Why You Were Taken, by J.T. Lawrence (3:21)
Stories, by Samie Foster (0:46)

About the author

Jefferson Smith is a Canadian fantasy author, as well as the founder, chief editor and resident proctologist of ImmerseOrDie. With a PhD in Computer Science and Creativity Systems compounded by a life spent exploring most art forms for fun and profit, he is underqualified in just about everything. That's why he writes.