Who Likes Short Shorts? by Peter Sortwell (40:00)

IOD score cardToday we see that deft writing can overcome a few distracting glitches.

What I gleaned about the stories: If you want to commit suicide without dying, plan your approach in advance.

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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: Sudden formatting change

Analysis: The first paragraph of the introduction was set with a line height of slightly greater than one and rendered in my ereader’s default typeface. However, the second paragraph was set with a line height of one and rendered in a different typeface. In addition to the visceral jolt caused by an unexpected change in the appearance of the text, it made me think that the book hadn’t been proofed after being compiled, the proof-reader hadn’t noticed, or the proof-reader had noticed but not cared; as each of these raised the spectre of a flawed reading experience, I moved on.

Kudo #1: Sound characterisation

Analysis: The first story is about an illegal immigrant with little English and less understanding of modern Western society. The resulting confusion and rote behaviour are described in a manner that both feels real and provides the reader with sufficient frame-of-reference to understand what’s objectively happening. This balance between characters having a strong personality and stories being accessible is maintained throughout.

WTF #2: Confusing description

Analysis: A little way into the collection, the male protagonist of the story gets into a can-throwing fight with some youths. After a few ineffective salvoes, he describes being hit between the tit and the armpit. As he’d been described as male and there’d been a reminder of his maleness a couple of paragraphs earlier, I had an instant of disjunction between the image of an East End bloke (a la, Jason Statham or Ray Winston) and the image of prominent breasts that tit conjured. A moment later, my mind reparsed it as probably being slang.

Unfortunately, that instant of puzzlement was enough for the analytical part of my mind to get its boots on and raise another confusing thing: the pectorals end pretty much where the armpit starts so, sex notwithstanding, where is the bit between? Without the high level of accuracy, I’d have pictured the can hitting him just below the shoulder without even blinking, but with it my mind struggled to assemble the image.

After a quick glance on to confirm the precise point of impact wasn’t a vital plot point, I moved on.

Kudo #2: Integrated humour

Analysis: Where a character does or says something that seems absurd, foolish, or accidentally amusing, they act as if it’s a rational response to a rational world rather than a choice to be laughable. As people in real life rarely do things they know to be comical, and when they do it’s often in pursuit of a specific aim (entertain a child, demonstrate a disdain for authority, and so forth), this consistent indication that the humour is in the absurdity of life rather than a conscious veneer both prevents it feeling forced and draws upon the fear of being foolish that we all feel to make the jokes hit harder.

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.

Amber Fang, Book 2: Betrayal, by Arthur Slade (40:00)
Evenings with Littleberry and Other Short Stories, by A.S. Morrison (1:28)

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.