Threw Lake and other short stories, by Les Bill Gates (3:15)

iod-threwlakeToday we see that a single paragraph can unravel a page’s worth of reader interest.

What I gleaned about the stories: Old men in shacks are like bloodstains on the ceiling: there’s usually a complex story to how they got there, and its almost impossible to get rid of them.

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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: Declarative sentence parade

Analysis: The first story drew me into a tale of a man refusing to be evicted from his house. However, about a page in I hit a paragraph of sentences all beginning with either “He verbed…” or “Then he verbed…” The previous paragraphs had been strong enough that I continued past the point I noticed the pattern. However, by the end of the paragraph my mind was trying to guess whether the next sentence would fit the pattern too, so I moved on.

WTF #2: Witness testimony syndrome

Analysis: The second story opened with a series of repeated sentence groups, each formed of the name of the people sat at a table and a brief factual statement about them. This was followed by a statement of the barman’s name and where he was standing. While this gave me a picture of the layout of the room, it didn’t give me a reason to care about it.

Halfway down the first page without even a display of emotion, let alone a hook, I moved on.

WTF #3: Distracting detail

Analysis: The narrator of the third story is parked on a hill and sees another car approaching. This is described as probably a Toyota, which made me think identifying it later might be a key plot point. Then the approaching car crashed, and the narrator runs toward it. Which contradicted my expectation: if the make was relevant, the narrator would confirm it when he reached the car; and if it wasn’t, why did the author not only mention it but highlight it by mentioning the narrator’s uncertainty?

My trust that the description would focus on useful (or deliberately misleading) details damaged, 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.

Invasion, by Sean Platt and Johnny B. Truant (40:00)
The Ring and the Flag, by William L. Hahn (7:21)

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.