Dungeons & Diamonds, by Zeppy Cheng (6:14)

IOD score card

Today we see that building a good story and rendering good prose are two distinct skills.

What I gleaned about the story: Gilly and Mei Sky are sisters, suddenly left homeless after both parents are killed during a dungeoneering competition. So now it’s just the two girls, elkith kids in a world that hates their kind, with nobody to rely on but each other.

Find this book on Amazon.

Note: Things got off to a rocky start. The book opened in my reader to a full-page image. An illustration of some kind, but with no caption and no text, I’m at a bit of a loss to understand what I’m seeing. The artwork itself is fine, although a bit low in resolution, but I have no idea how it connects to anything. I’m not going to charge a WTF, but authors should be aware of the reading experience their books offer.

Note: The legal page is rather whimsical. I’m all for a bit of fun in the boring boilerplate stuff, but the legal page is the one place where you might want to be cautious. Have fun, yes, but when it begins to call the professionalism into question, that fun might be costing you more than your whimsy is gaining. Again, no WTF charged, but my spider senses are on high alert, and I haven’t hit any prose yet.

Note: There appears to be no cover included in the ebook. That full-page graphic had no author name or title, so it can’t really be called a cover. Nor does there appear to be any cover listed in the ToC. I begin each treadmill read by confirming the proper spelling of the title and the author’s name, so I really wanted to see the cover to be sure I was getting it right. I then checked the book’s metadata, but that listed the title as, “Real edited version.” Eventually, I had to go check the Amazon page to be sure I was spelling things properly. None of this has the least impact on the quality of the story and writing, of course, but it does signal the likely landscape I’ll find ahead.

Kudos #1: Fun opening

Details: It took me a moment to pick up on the style of banter, but it soon became clear that I was reading a televised sports color commentary of a high-stakes D&D game. Very amusing image, once I’d worked it out.

Correction. Not a D&D game after all. It’s a live dungeoneering sports event. Apparently, real people in a real dungeon against real monsters. And it’s a chilling emotional touch to learn that we’re watching this life-and-death cage match through the eyes of the adventurer’s daughter, as she follows the action at home on TV. By seeing her react to the sudden danger of her father’s situation, my sense of fear was heightened as well.

Note: I’m finding the sportscaster narration a bit repetitive and sloppy, but that may be the intended style. They might be amateur commentators rather than professionals, but I don’t yet know. The other explanation, of course, is that it’s the author who hasn’t quite got a handle on what smooth professional sports commentary should sound like. Stay tuned to this station as this story develops.

WTF #1: Redundant declaration

Analysis: The second chapter begins with the line: 5 years later (no period). Unfortunately, I tripped over this for several reasons. First, I was sure we’d already been told about the time skip, so I went back to check. Sure enough, the first chapter was titled, “5 Years Ago.” So when I got to the start of the second one, that information hit me as redundant.

That’s about when I noticed the missing period. Is that the first sentence of the new chapter? A subtitle? A dateline? Since it’s rendered in exactly the same style as the body text, I have to assume it’s part of the body, and therefore missing the period it needs. It’s aggravating that I’ve put so much wheel-spinning into this inconsequential issue, but that’s what happens when the formatting of the book doesn’t quite conform to established norms. Readers have to play forensic grammarian, trying to piece together the mutilated body of text and figure out what it looked like before it was murdered. And that almost always means immersion is going to be broken.

WTF #2: Odd clause break

Analysis: I’d decided to ignore a short burst of echoing headwords, but then the third sentence of the sequence came up: The younger, whose nametag read Gilly Sky, girl held a guitar. Clearly the break should have come after girl, not before it. As a result, when I came back from the parenthetical aside, I tried to parse what remained as a full clause (girl held a guitar) and failed.

WTF #3: Tense mismatch

Analysis: The very next sentence was: She was lithe, almost skinny, bare bones on a frame that looks as if it were built for far more beauty and fullness than it possessed in that moment. Note the contrast between “She was” and “frame that looks” One is in past tense, the other in present. A frustrating pothole in my reading road.

But note the eloquence of the thought being expressed. That strikes me as such a lovely way to say that the kid was awkward looking, but in a way that promised future beauty. And that’s the thing I keep running into here: strong ideas, but rough execution. This is the 3rd WTF, so the clock is now stopped, but I stayed with it for a few more paragraphs, just out of curiosity, and I quite like the scene of injustice that is shaping up.

Unfortunately, despite what appears to be the start of a good story, the storm of editorial oddities marring the prose keeps shaking me off the path.

This may be one of the more obvious cases I’ve encountered of an author who has a good story to tell, but has not yet developed the prose chops to execute it in text cleanly. A good editor would have made such a difference.

Take the Pepsi Challenge: Want to know if my own writing measures up? Try the free sample on one of my books or short stories and decide for yourself.

Becoming Estevan and Other Science-Fiction Tales of Love & Obsession, by McCamy Taylor (0:17)
Tell the Octopus and other short stories, by Jonathan Day (40:00)

About the author

Jefferson Smith is a Canadian fantasy author, as well as the founder, chief editor and resident proctologist of ImmerseOrDie. With a PhD in Computer Science and Creativity Systems compounded by a life spent exploring most art forms for fun and profit, he is underqualified in just about everything. That's why he writes.