Short, Sharp Shocks: A Collection of Hit ‘n’ Run Fiction, by Simon Wood (2:03)

IOD score cardToday we see that editorial issues with the title of your book signal trouble ahead.

What I gleaned about the stories: Insurance company employees are so precise that they cling to formal diction even when everything else is too much effort.

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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: Glaring inconsistency in punctuation

Analysis: The cover displays the title as Short, Sharp Shocks. However, the title page displays it as Short Sharp Shocks. While either could be valid, the difference leapt out.

With titles displayed on their own rather than surrounded by text, issues in them raise a stronger concern than usual that the book hasn’t been proofed thoroughly; so I moved on.

WTF #2: Inconsistent character voice

Analysis: The second story opens with the protagonist not bothering to lock the door to his office because: what was the point. This both created a sense of a character who was depressed or resigned, and made a reasonable hook. However, the following paragraph opened with a series of uncontracted statements: he would, he had. As most people talk in contractions, this created a sense of formal or exacting speech utterly at odds with the ennui displayed in the previous paragraph.

Unsure whether this was an unfortunate mismatch of register or a deliberate character trait that hadn’t come across clearly, I moved on.

WTF #3: Conflicting description

Analysis: The third story opens with the protagonist complaining about someone crashing and banging above him, before displaying a fear that they will break through the roof. This created an image of a raucous and active event in the flat above. Then the protagonist reveals that he is in fact a corpse lying in a grave, and is worried about rats and worms burrowing into the coffin.

While I quite enjoyed the image of a dead man being worried about his body being eaten, worms strongly indicated a depth of earth over the coffin, as did burrowing. So, I couldn’t reconcile the image of rats clattering and banging. Struggling to put it together, I became further puzzled at how worms could either clatter or bang while moving through soil.

My faith in the author’s descriptions lost, 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.

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Sonoran Dreams: Three Short Stories from Exile, by Robb Grindstaff (2:33)

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.