Stories From Social Media, by Ray Daley (0:55)

IOD score cardToday we see that readers reaching the end of your story isn’t a victory if they leave feeling cheated.

What I gleaned about the stories: However train tracks are arranged, they pose little threat to fictional planets.

Find this book on Kobo.

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: Mangled table of contents

Analysis: The table of contents displays as:

Stories From Social Media

  • Stories From Social Media
  • Introduction
  • Midpoint

The duplication of the title and the reference to midpoint both strongly suggested the book had been auto-converted. While I might not use a table of contents in a fiction collection (so don’t directly suffer from this one being useless for finding a specific story), it raised concerns both that other, more distracting, artefacts might have occurred due to the author not having formatted the original manuscript for a clean conversion and that the author had not proofread it after auto-conversion.

Concerned that the forthcoming prose would not be smoothly formatted, I moved on.

WTF #2: Missing comma

Analysis: A few lines into the first story, I encountered, “Not I Mister Watson, but this gentleman caller….” As the speaker is addressing Watson, there should be a comma between I and Mister. Errors in the top half of the first page leap out anyway, but in this case a combination of long indents on first lines and a full line between paragraphs had slowed my gaze to the point where the editorial part of my mind had plenty of time to ponder the text.

With evidence the book contained errors that would niggle at me growing, I moved on.

WTF #3: Lack of emotional resonance

Analysis: The second story comprises a character quoting the “that’s no moon” line from Star Wars to a friend, then a couple of sentences in which they describe a piece of train track in greater accuracy, and finally closes with the mutual accusation of being nerds.

While it was not, as a snippet of conversion between friends, implausible, it didn’t engage me in the slightest. With no description of surroundings or characters, no conflict or challenge, no quality other than the lack of things that actively seemed implausible, I didn’t care about the characters.

As this was the first of the author’s stories I’d read in entirety, this immediately raised the spectre that all of them shared the same lack of reasons to follow the characters’ journey. With the previous two WTFs having raised concerns that textual issues might get in the way of fully immersing, I had little motivation to press on if there might not be much to immerse in anyway; so 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.

Above Ground, by A.M. Harte (5:50)
Thief's Blade, by C. Greenwood (7:06)

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.