Eight Unreal Stories, by John Carter (1:42)

IOD score cardToday we see that an error can hit harder if readers think you aren’t the sort of author who’d make it.

What I gleaned about the stories: The protagonists of horror stories sometimes start with an almost divine sense of their own worth.

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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.

Note: The font size of the front matter is noticeably larger than the font size of the body text. As a result, I’d scaled my ereader’s display size down to avoid the sense of a large print book, then had to scale it up again when I hit the first story. While I didn’t score a WTF for this, it did make me wary.

WTF #1: Autocorrect Anomaly

Analysis: The first story opens with: When Jacob saw it standing up against the side of a building on Stark Ave. He gave it a glance and nearly walked on by. My mind parsed ‘full stop capital letter’ as a sentence break, so attempted to make a full sentence out of the first clause and failed. An instant later, I realised the first full stop should have been a comma and the capital H was no doubt an artefact of a word processor’s auto-correct feature.

An obvious error like this in the first sentence always raises a strong concern over whether the book has been proofed. Faith shaken, I moved on.

WTF #2: Misleading clause structure

Analysis: The second story opens with the protagonist watching a family move in next door. A couple of sentences in, I encountered: A man and a woman, and a girl who Robert assumed was their daughter, made trips back and forth…. The placing of the girl in a subclause rather than listing all three people together implied a sense of division: that the new owners were a couple and that their daughter had come to help them unload. A few sentences later, the narrator was revealed to be a teenager and the girl estimated to be a couple of years younger, whereupon my mental model broke because a girl of about thirteen would be part of the family unit rather than just helping. A moment later, I concluded the use of a subclause was intended to support the assumption that the girl was their daughter; however, the default parsing of man, woman, and girl would be a family unit, so—even if justifable grammatically—the sentence had confused me without adding any useful information.

I therefore moved on.

WTF #3: Echoing I disease

Analysis: The third story opened with the protagonist talking to the audience in a conversational style that made me think that this author had a good grasp of first-person narration. Unfortunately, this meant that the multiple uses of I in the third paragraph (sometimes two or three in a sentence) not only created an annoying echo but also left me feeling cheated.

Without sufficient trust this paragraph was an aberration, 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.

City Under Ice, by Te Olivant (12:50)
Disturbed: A collection of five disturbing tales, by Michael Riddell and JJ Riddell (0:38)

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.