Trio: Three Short Stories, by Danielle de Valera (1:00)

IOD score cardToday we see that if syntax out of order your is, readers will assume either that you are Master Yoda, or that you didn’t hire an editor.

What I gleaned about the stories: People who walk in a friendly manner can suddenly become threatening when they knock on a door.

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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: Odd table of contents

Analysis: Rather than have the names of the stories be hyperlinks, the table of contents has the link before the name of the story; further, the link-texts are story start, halfway, and last story respectively. My mind raised a number of concerns in response: first, the labels don’t follow a coherent pattern such as first story, second story, third story; second, story start – being singular – suggests the work is one story, which raised the spectre that this was an automated conversion that hadn’t been proofed so would contain further odd artefacts; third, the natural order of using a table of contents is to find the story/chapter/&c. and then follow the link/page reference, so having the link before the names of the stories suggested, if not a deliberate rejection of natural flow, at least an inability to feel it.

With the table of contents already boding ill. I moved on.

WTF #2: Hiding key facts

Analysis: The first story opens with the protagonist hearing an unnamed male who she seems to know approaching her house at eight in the evening. The second paragraph begins with: Now he’s banging on the back door, and she’s not looking forward to the visit. Visit has a sense of being a guest or a professional rather than an interloper, so gave me a strong sense of the man being expected either socially or by appointment. So I instinctively parsed the protagonist now not looking forward to the appointment as something having changed from him banging on the door. However, banging on the door isn’t in and of itself a threatening thing (delivery drivers and the exuberant do it all the time) especially in a friend or other expected visitor. The only way it would suddenly change an opinion is if there was an existing reason for concern that had been suppressed such as this being a separated husband coming to discuss the divorce; which left me with a sense that a key fact was missing from the description.

Fearing that the author will now be withholding facts purely to surprise me, I moved on.

WTF #3: Formatting issues

Analysis: A couple of paragraphs into the second story, the typeface changed. Already primed by the issue with the table of contents, my mind immediately flagged a double whammy: first, a typeface change meant that the book was formatted to override my preferences; second, whoever proofed the book hadn’t noticed that parts of the book were hardcoded for a particular typeface and parts weren’t.

Finding myself editing now, rather than reading, 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.

Squawk of the Were-Chicken, by Richard J. Kendrick (40:00)
Waiter! There’s a Clue in My Soup, by Camille Leguire (40:00)

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.