Enchanting the King, by E.D. Walker (4:21)

IOD-Enchanting_the_King.jpgToday we see that when the visuals are in conflict, readers can get trapped trying to make sense of them, rather than staying in the story.

What I gleaned about the story: Aliénor is trapped in a marriage she hates, caged by a supercilious prick of a husband who treats her like a child. I’m only on page two and I already hate him. Hopefully she kills him soon so we can all move on to an adventure that doesn’t annoy me.

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WTF #1: Unintended resonance

Analysis: The protagonist’s name is Aliénor, which is a fine name, except that the English word “alienor” means vendor or seller, so to me, that name reads as slightly comical. This is further exacerbated by frequent use in the first 3 or 4 paragraphs. Salesgirl did this, Salesgirl did that. This is doubly funny because the woman in question is a princess of some description and would certainly never have worked a day of market stall retail in her life.

I’m sure I’ll get used to it eventually, but for the moment, it’s jerking me out of the story. And since I’ve thrown the flag, I’ll use this opportunity to remind authors to always Google any character or place names you invent. You want to be sure they don’t carry any hidden meanings, weighing down your story with connotations you didn’t intend.

And if you think this is a petty gripe, just imagine how hard it would have been to read The Hobbit if Tolkien had been a bit oblivious and had spelled his protagonist’s name with Ds instead of Bs. :-)

WTF #2: Conflicting description

Analysis: I’m a bit confused here. Aliénor is being driven over bumpy roads in a coach. One of her attendants sees that she’s getting annoyed by the jostling and asks if the princess would like to stop and walk around for a bit. Aliénor says no, but then in the very next paragraph, she calls out to the driver, orders him to stop so they can saddle her horse, and, oh by the way, while they’re doing that, she’ll just walk around for a few minutes.

Is she being intentionally obtuse here? Cruel even? Nothing else in the text suggests that she is, but it seems such a gapingly obvious “in your face” to the attendant. Following that exchange though, neither the attendant nor Aliénor herself comment on the snub, so I’m left wondering if maybe the author herself didn’t notice the blatant reversal.

Either way, I certainly noticed, and it yanked me out of the story to wonder about authorial intentions, so up goes the flag.

WTF #3: Confusing choreography

Analysis: Aliénor has hopped out of her coach and is now describing the scene around her. They’re on a long river road and she’s grumbling about the noise.

Thousands of feet tramping, thousands of men chatting and laughing and yelling good-naturedly at each other. Horses too, hundreds of them prancing down the road with their masters. It was a dizzying sight, impossible to take in all at once.

Okay. An army on the move. Got it. And note that it’s all really loud and hard to take in, so I infer that they must be more or less surrounding her.

Then she tells us that: The supply wagons were still somewhere far behind, carrying the tents and mattresses and other accoutrements of camp.

Okay, got that too. All the comfy stuff is way back there at the end of the line somewhere.

But then we get: Behind her down the road, the baggage train seemed at least half as long as the column of soldiers. She frowned, considering that tail of carts and animals lagging behind on the long river road.

And here’s where I get lost. From the excerpt, there are thousands of men, and hundreds of horses. That’s a long line. But she can see all of it? That in itself seems a bit of a stretch to me. And on top of that, she can also see all of the baggage train? (How else would she be able to compare the lengths of the two groups?)

Unfortunately, I can’t make these numbers and descriptions fit my mental scene layout. And when I can’t form a proper image, I simply can’t ignore the conflict and move on, because I remain convinced that I’ve misread something. So I puzzle and circle around the description, trying to find a way to make them all fit together. And one side effect of all this wheel-spinning is that it becomes pretty obvious that immersion has broken.

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.

Cross Examinations: Crime in Columbus, by John Hegenberger (2:16)
There Comes a Time, by J.J. Green (2:24)

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.