Deviants of Giftborn, by Zuri Amarcya (2:13)

IOD-Deviants_of_Giftborn.jpgToday we see that too many details all at once can actually paint an incorrect image.

What I gleaned about the story: The old man official who was neither old nor official stood in front of darting people who were not darting.

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Marketing note: That’s an awesome cover.


WTF #1: Detail poisoning

Analysis: Consider the following sentence and count along with me. I make it 5 nouns and 8 adjectives. His robes, brilliant white with thick, deep blue swirl designs, settled around him while the wide white hood rested on his large head.

When a character is introduced with this many details in a single passage, the effect on me is the opposite of what was intended. Instead of creating a very specific image in my head, they instead shout over top of each other, jangling everything into a chaotic noise. With all those different images competing for my attention, it suggests that none of them was dominant or especially noteworthy, so I end up subconsciously ignoring all of them. In this particular case, the only adjective that stuck was “white,” because it was used twice. So in my mind’s eye, this became an old man with white hair.

Unfortunately, neither “old” nor “white hair” was actually part of the description. So in that sense, the adjectives actually poisoned the prose. Not just causing me to ignore them, but actually doing damage by leaving me with an incorrect after-impression.

WTF #2: Confusing image

Analysis: The second paragraph opens with this passage: Behind him on the Torak Road, horse riders and carriages charged back and forth to Torak city as travelers took advantage of the morning’s mild weather to visit various wards in Hannaw.

The first half of that sentence painted a rather strong image (that was entirely wrong) of jockeys and buggies dashing back and forth across the road. Why only the horse riders and the carriages? Why weren’t the horses dashing with them? The sentence seems to go to elaborate lengths to exclude the actual horses from this chaos. So here again, excessive detail ended up creating a false image.

But then I got to the second half of the sentence and saw that the “charging back and forth” was intended more metaphorically, since it’s talking about this traffic going into and out of the city. Presumably they’re meant to be “charging” in the sense of hurrying from their homes in the countryside or in neighboring towns. So again, we get visual description that creates entirely inaccurate mental imagery.

WTF #3: Confusing prose

Analysis: The POV character is a girl/woman named Nemma, who has been interrupted on her journey by a man she refers to as The Thaide. That’s a cool sounding title for him, but I have no idea what it denotes yet. Then I get this line: The Thaide’s high opinion of their own authority along with their suspicious attitude usually heightened their ability to see manipulation tactics and made them notoriously difficult to trade with.

Why is she suddenly referring to him in the plural case? Is the office of Thaide so important, that they used the royal plural? But that doesn’t feel right, because it isn’t the Thaide himself who is speaking, it’s Nemma, and we don’t usually see commoners using the ultraformal royal plural to talk about the king.

It was at this point that I finally realized that “The Thaide” is not a reference to the man’s title. It’s a reference to his race. My mistaken interpretation was reinforced in the early going because “Thaide” appears to be both the singular and plural form of the race’s name. When I finally figured out what had happened, my mental image of the Thaide was completely unraveled, and I had to go back and reread to figure out what really happened. And of course, that means my immersion was kaput.

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.

Journey Back to Mars, by Hugh Huesca (1:10)
Wanna Take a Ride?, by Gary Val Tenuta (2:42)

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.