Kissed by Literature, by Jordan Elizabeth (40:00)

IOD score cardToday’s survivor shows us that the best twist endings come as a surprise AND are still consistent with the evidence shown.

What I gleaned about the stories: Children, lacking experience of life, see evil in the smallest of niggles. So the safest course of action is to start running as soon as they show signs of anger or fear. With hindsight, one can work out whether one should have run toward or away from them.

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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.

Kudo #1: Breadth of styles

Analysis: The majority of these short stories fit the same classic mold that we’ll call the ghost story with a twist: Someone encounters something slightly odd, we get hints that it may be more than it seems, but with no convincing evidence, until we reach a sudden and unexpected conclusion. That commonality, however, was rendered with a variety of narrative voices, settings, and specifics of plot, which combine to lift this above a simple series of twist-ending stories.

WTF #1: Burying the ending

Analysis: Several stories into the collection, I encountered one set out in the format of a diary written by a teenage girl. Over the course of the entries, I followed along beside her as she first discovered then began to investigate a probably mundane yet quite engaging mystery from the past. I’d just finished an entry where she wrote that she’d dropped in to visit an elderly neighbour and had a conversation about the investigation when the format suddenly shifted to the elderly neighbour’s PoV, who was revealed to be the evil supernatural force behind the old mystery. This left me feeling cheated; not because it didn’t fit the facts, but because A) there had not been enough evidence that the neighbour might be more than a neighbour, and then B) the PoV change robbed me of the investigator/narrator I’d made the emotional investment in and forced me to accept the word of this relative stranger about what happened.

Follow-up: Since doing the first 40 minutes, I’ve read more of this collection: it continues to provide solid mysteries that sit just on the pleasing side of unforeseen resolutions, with a very occasional slip into endings that seemed to come a little too much out of nowhere.

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.

Short Stories: Volume 1, by Liam Mor (1:10)
God and the Saber-Toothed Tiger and other stories, by Ed Weiss (1:21)

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.