Short Stories for Short on Time People, by David Santos Solano (0:37)

IOD score cardToday we see several writing styles that strip emotional impact from the prose.

What I gleaned about the stories: People regaining consciousness don’t always know where they are straight away, or what is real.

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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: Verb tense confusion

Analysis: One sentence into the first story, I hit: She suddenly understands that the newborn baby, covered in hair, covered in blood, has a name long before she was born. The child’s birth is in the past, so events prior to it must be in the past to; so, my mind stumbled on has rather than had. An instant later, I wondered if – as they only differ by one letter – it was a typo rather than tense confusion.

However, I had lost immersion and both were equally problematic, so I moved on.

WTF #2: Telegram staccato

Analysis: The second story opens with: He woke up shouting, terrified. He examined his forehead, his hands. All was just a horrible nightmare. The clipped delivery of the first sentence felt like a reasonable rhythm for panic. However, the missing ‘and’ in the second sentence tipped this over into the diction of telegrams or newspaper headlines where words are omitted to save space rather than create an effect. An effect amplified by the third sentence.

While I could understand the paragraph, both telegrams and newspapers conjure an image of terse fact rather than emotive or fluid prose, so my trust that I would be invited to feel the story was lost. Thus, I moved on.

WTF #3: Declarative parade

Analysis: The third story opens with a series of sentences listing events one after the other. By the end of the first paragraph, I had a distinct impression I was reading a witness statement rather than a story.

Lacking emotional investment in the protagonist, 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.

Momentary Stasis, by P.R. Adams (40:00)
The Watch (The Red Series Book 1), by Amanda Witt (19:58)

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.