Flash Fiction, by Richard Dee (2:28)

IOD score cardToday we see that background details are supposed to stay in the background.

What I gleaned about the stories: Civilization, that structure that provides sufficient elevation above immediate survival that we might have time to develop awareness of complex emotions, is a story of walls.

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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: Title case issue

Analysis: The title of the first story is set as: Looking back at our Future. The usual style for titles is to capitalize all significant words, so the lower case b threw me a little; an instant later, I hid the uppercase F, which destroyed my nascent thought that the author had adopted the vastly less common style of only capitalizing the first word of a title.

This deviation from any style that I was aware of in such an obvious location immediately challenged my assumption that books have been edited and proofed. After a momentary speculation that Future was an example of Fantasy Capitalization (a stylistic choice that, in itself, wasn’t necessarily without issue). I moved on.

WTF #2: Ambiguous lack of hyphens

Analysis: A few sentences into the second story, the narrator describes a location as having: stained brick effect cladding. My mind parsed the words in order, producing an image of cladding that was made to look like stained brick. However, nigh simultaneously, it also produced the image of brick-effect cladding that was stained. This left me with two (very different) images: in one, the owner of the wall had gone to some effort to create the impression of age and disrepair—a pretense that promised devious schemes and cunning shenanigans ahead; in the other, the owner of the wall cared so little that not only had they not bothered with real brick, they hadn’t bothered to maintain it—a slackness that promised poor against rich and desperate choices. While either of these would be a powerful symbol, there was nothing in this image to suggest which to believe, thus achieving the impact of neither.

Worse, this stumble had switched me from flow to analysis: I was now wondering what the difference between brick cladding and brick-effect cladding would be.

Realizing that I’d spent so long considering a piece of passing wall that I’d forgotten what happened in the previous sentences, I moved on.

WTF #3: Extended, ill-marked, clause chain

Analysis: Just over a page into the third story, I encountered a sentence comprised of four clauses nested and connected by commas. The sentence that followed comprised six clauses connected by commas; some were asides, some sub-clauses, and some continuations. While neither was a run-on sentence, the effort of unraveling not one but two complex sentences with only commas as dividers produced the same sense of discontinuity that comes from a comma splice.

Musing for a moment that even one parenthesis, dash, or semi-colon in the second sentence might have provided sufficient scaffolding, 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.

The Jack of Souls, by Stephen Merlino (40:00)
City Under Ice, by Te Olivant (12:50)

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.