Short Stories: Volume 1, by Liam Mor (1:10)

IOD score cardToday we see that if your formatting makes reading the page feel like wading through a swamp, readers might give up and head to shore.

What I gleaned about the stories: If you’re not getting a pigeon’s egg on the noggin, you’re getting their shit on your shoe. But still, a man, who is not himself mean, must be described in text that is.

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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: Inadequate line spacing

Analysis: The text is set with almost negligible space between lines, making the page seem like a rather unattractive solid block rather than a series of lines. While the opening sentence hooked me, by the third line I could feel the moment when my eyes started hunting to find the start of the next line.

Aware the difficulty of hitting the next line without consciously noticing would only increase as I went deeper into the forthcoming long paragraph, I moved on.

WTF #2: Galloping I disease

Analysis: The second story is written in first person present. Unfortunately, of the eight sentences in the opening paragraph, seven of them include I. This created enough of an echo that I started the second paragraph wondering whether it also would be densely packed with I rather than imagining the events described.

After noting in passing that several of the ‘I verbed’ clauses only stated assumptions that the reader would make anyway, so were unnecessary, I moved on.

WTF #3: Confusing qualifier

Analysis: A few lines into the third story, I hit: By that time I was already a real life private eye. Or at least the modern equivalent. The story hadn’t indicated it was set in some distant future – if anything, it gave the impression of being modern – so the mention of a modern equivalent to a private investigator conjured the image of… a private investigator. Hoping to identify the difference that the narrator intended, I continued on; however, instead of sharing more about their job, the narrator told me that they’d started the story in the wrong place and started again.

While I know people who tell stories in the wrong order, the added tolerance I give them because they are friends or relatives doesn’t make the snatching away of clarity pleasing, so it certainly wasn’t engaging in a stranger.

My trust that the author wouldn’t leave me hanging for no good reason shattered, 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.

Rise of the Overlord, by Kevin Potter (3:26)
Kissed by Literature, by Jordan Elizabeth (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.