Her demonic Angel: and other short stories, by Joy Mutter (0:32)

Today we see that adjectives have a proper ordering and sound wrong when that’s violated. [See here for details.]

What I gleaned about the stories: The tendency of teenagers to see any situation as life-threateningly important can be great enough that it applies to other people who are merely nearby.

Find this book on Amazon.

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 2: The lower-case d in demonic is replicated on the cover and the Amazon listing so I decided it might be a deliberate choice (i.e. an inversion of the fantasy-capital technique) rather than an escaped typo and thus deserved the benefit of the doubt; however, it did mean I was going into the book needing to have my concern proved wrong.

WTF #1: Duplication of content by repetition

Analysis: The first story opens with: “Get off! You’re really hurting me!” bellows the young mother from next door. High-pitched defiant banshee wails stream endlessly from her rebellious daughter. The exclamation marks convey shouting and the dialogue suggests negative emotion. So having the dialogue described as bellowed, a verb that means shouted and carries a possible negative emotional flavour, raised a flag that the author might not leave anything to my imagination (taking away the fun bit of fiction: the imaging of other worlds). The duplication of information in High-pitched defiant banshee wails made this flag wave so hard it fell off its pole.

After taking a moment to clear my image buffer of echoes, I moved on.

WTF #2: Mistargeted ToC

Analysis: When I clicked the contents link for the second story, my ereader opened on a full page of text with no title at the top. My immediate thought was that something had gone terribly wrong with navigation. However, almost immediately afterwards, I wondered whether the anchor had accidentally ended up at the end of the title paragraph rather than the start, so I flicked back a page. Another full page of text without a title.

Ficking forward again, past my original landing point, I discovered the start of the next story. However, my mental state had fully become that of someone having overcome an obstacle rather than that of a reader interested in the story, so I moved on—via a stop off toward the end of this story.

WTF #3: Description poured out in globs

Analysis: The third story opens with: “Oh, she’s beautiful,” Susie gushed as she pulled back the pink, soft shawl from Maddie’s three-day-old baby girl’s face. I stumbled on pink, soft shawl: the traditional order of adjectives in English would be soft, pink shawl so the reversal triggered the editor in my mind; but the arrangement also didn’t sound right in my head, so distracted the part of me that likes the feel of prose too. Then I reached Maddie’s three-day-old baby girl’s face and stalled. Already holding the image of the shawl, my mind tried to parse the next description block in order: starting with the assumption of the simplest answer, Maddie became the putative shawl-wearer; then the assumption shifted to Maddie’s child being the shawl-wearer; then I received more information on the child, then still more. Struggling to put all the pieces together, the part of my mind that had initially wondered whether that lower-case d in the title carried vital nuance piped up: what if the description of the shawl was deliberately disharmonious. At which point the bits of mental image I thought were solid fell apart.

Lacking any trust the description would be accessible, 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.

Power for Two Minutes and Other Unrealities, by Mjke Woods (1:18)
The Jack of Souls, by Stephen Merlino (40:00)

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.