Short Stories and Flash Fiction, by Alice de Sturler (0:46)

IOD score cardToday we see that if the technical side of your ebook isn’t smooth enough to fade into the background, readers might not get as far as your prose.

What I gleaned about the stories: If your best friend is actually your father’s colleague’s brother, you develop an interest in birds.

Find this book on Kobo.

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: Lack of expected formatting

Analysis: When I flicked past the table of contents, I hit what appeared to be body text. While it did start at the beginning of a paragraph, the lack of a title gave me the instinctive feel that I’d missed the beginning of the story, so I flicked back to check I hadn’t passed over two pages by accident. At that point, I noticed there was a title at the bottom of the previous page formatted as body text, after a large blank space.

In addition to the moment of confusion the lack of a page break between sections had caused me, both the absence of page breaks and lack of title formatting can be symptoms of automated conversions that haven’t been proofed.

Concerned that the rest of the book might have other formatting niggles, I moved on.

WTF #2: Broken table of contents

Analysis:The NCX table of contents began with Part 1 rather than story names. This seemed less than helpful, but I decided to press on and tapped Part 2. Whereupon I ended up part way through the seventh story in the collection.

My concerns about the technical format of the ebook being an obstacle to a fluid reading experience confirmed, I moved on (or back in this case).

WTF #3: Amplified non-standard usage

Analysis: The second story opens with the protagonist and his friend talking about an unnamed woman having done something significant. Both characters speak with a slight formality (e.g. cannot rather than can’t), and there’s no indication they aren’t modern-day Americans. As they talk, the protagonist is idly watching a hawk circling a nearby field. A couple of paragraphs in, I encountered It had found a prey. Potentially, in a paragraph of noticeable dialect, I might have parsed it as deliberate (if mildly irking) and carried on. However, with all the previous prose having a formal tone, it stood out more by contrast and the possibility it was dialect didn’t occur to me until several minutes after.

My hope that the prose had been proofed even if the ebook technicalities hadn’t dashed, 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.

The Darwin Protocol, by William Oday (9:54)
Walking: Five Short Stories from the Sands, by W.G. White (4:58)

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.