Selected Short Stories featuring Analog Memory, by Nicolas Wilson (1:59)

IOD score cardToday we see that some aspects of real human conversation, when rendered in fiction, make the story difficult to follow.

What I gleaned about the stories: Duct tape might or might not be clothing, but socks are.

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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: Muddled dashes

Analysis: The first story opens with: I look out my apartment window where the sprawl of the city crushes against the sand of suburbia- at least before it drowns it, and single-family homes sprout into condos and complexes, stretching towards the sky.

While the use of a hyphen rather than em-dash wouldn’t have irked me enough to lose immersion, the use of a space after but not before did. The first sentence of a work is likely to be the place an author is freshest when proofing, so an error there raised the possibility of increasing niggles as the story continued. I moved on.

WTF #2: Mislinked Table of Contents

Analysis: The book had a malformed NCX file, so my ereader only displayed a link to the first story when I hit the contents button. However, I was still at the start of the first story, so paged back to the Contents page manually.

When I selected the second story, I ended up in the middle of a story rather than at the start. When I checked the title of the next story, I discovered that the link to the second story on the contents page had actually sent me to a point most of the way through the third story.

A table of contents is one of the most basic features of any ebook, let alone one where readers might actively want to skip to a particular point such as a short-story collection. So an issues with both types of contents listing immediately made me think that the book hadn’t been checked for basic functionality; which raised the issue of what else might not work smoothly on my ereader.

My faith that the ebook would display properly shaken, I moved on.

WTF #3: Rambling narration

Analysis: The second story is written as a monologue, using many colloquialisms, casual usages, and asides. To begin with I found the dialect intrusive – but not thick enough to make parsing a trudge – and the opening image of a duct-tape wrapped body was interesting enough I wanted to know more. However, the asides became more common and began to nest. Several paragraphs in, I had to go back because I’d lost track of whether a comma was the closure of the existing sub-clause aside or the start of a new one.

Untangling myself distracted me enough that my mind slipped sideways into speculation on whether the rambling style would have been accessible enough not to lose me had I not also had the effort of parsing the dialect.

Now firmly in an editing headspace, 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.

Rite of Rejection, by Sarah Negovetich (40:00)
The Eagle's Flight, by Daniel E. Olesen (26:57)

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.