God and the Saber-Toothed Tiger and other stories, by Ed Weiss (1:21)

IOD score card

Today we see that readers are looking for your stories; not your “awesome guy achievement awards.”

What I gleaned about the stories: If you’re in a queue to pay, you should expect to be asked for money when you reach the front.

Find this book on Amazon.

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: Business CV biography

Analysis: The book starts with an About The Author section which is a lengthy list of every educational institution the author has worked at. It is also filled with abbreviations and titles that are no doubt both meaningful and significant in the US educational field. However, as I was in a fiction-reading mindset rather than recruiting for professors, my immediate experience was one of tedium and disinterest.

Upon that mood’s heels came a strong sense of vanity projects. While there are many fiction authors who are also skilled and respected in another field, the ones who appreciate the difference between their day job and fiction writing tend to have – if not a memorable bio – one that at least seeks to entertain or engage. Unfortunately, there are some others who assume that success in field X automatically means competence in Y, and that telling you about their X-success should be all the reason you’ll need to fall in love with their Y-book. I was not convinced.

Hoping that this was merely a case of the author automatically copy-pasting the bio from a previous non-fiction project without considering the matter properly, I moved on.

WTF #2: Overexplaining the point that’s being explained

Analysis: The first story opens with:

Not one of the three people in front of me was paying enough attention to their present task to be ready to pay the grocery store cashier after their purchase had been rung up. Each of them in turn appeared as a startled dear in headlights when the cashier announced the price of their purchases.

That first sentence felt both long and overly focused on clarity to me: readers will naturally assume that someone in a queue is buying items and that payment won’t be due before the sale has been rung up, so the sentence would have been perfectly clear with about half as much content. I had the same sense of over-explanation from the addition of the word “startled” to the well-know simile about deer, and again with the confirmation that the cashier announced the price of their goods rather than the price of other, unrelated, items.

Had I encountered either sentence alone within a paragraph of varied prose, it might have dragged slightly but not enough to distract me; however, as the first two sentences of the story had the same niggle, the pattern-seeking part of my mind started waving a flag.

After noting that this issue was an especially unfortunate one to hit after the bio had already raised the issues of tedium and inappropriate style for fiction, I moved on.

WTF #3: Comma splice

Analysis: A couple of sentences into the second story, I encountered a series of unconnected clauses that were joined with commas rather than being separate sentences. Since my mind parses commas as marking clauses related to part of the main clause, the first time it happened I ended up juggling pieces that I’d been led to believe fitted together but didn’t seem to. This stumble pushed me out of the story enough that I noticed the sentence stretched over several lines.

My earlier concerns about overly long sentences joining with a new one over tangled grammar, 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.

Kissed by Literature, by Jordan Elizabeth (40:00)
Zombie Zeitgeist, by J Cornell Michel (1:15)

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.