The Final Formula, by Becca Andre (26:19)

IOD score cardToday we see that the middle of a fight scene is a challenging time to introduce new characters.

What I gleaned about the story: Addie is a bit of a klutz, but she’s the only survivor of a devastating explosion that killed all the other alchemists. And now it seems that somebody is trying to finish the job.

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WTF #1: Déjà vu

Analysis: Near the bottom of the second page, I read that: The crucible began to dance, clattering against the support ring. There is nothing egregious about the line on its own, in fact it offers a pleasantly specific detail of imagery. The problem is that I’ve already seen that image. The book opened two pages back with the line: The covered crucible rattled against the glowing red support ring.

So how could the action begin to happen on page two when I’d already seen it happening on page one? The mental image was fresh and familiar, but now I wondered if I’d misremembered that earlier action, so I jumped back to check. Nope, they were essentially the same sentence. In my lexicon, “clattered” and “rattled” are pretty much interchangeable; certainly not different enough to count as two separate actions. And time spent chasing down confusion like this is time not spent immersed in the story, so I threw the flag.


WTF #2: Galloping I disease

Analysis: I held on for quite a while, but chapter one ends in a lengthy flashback that is rather dense with I-references. By the time I’d reached the last page of it, my eyes were darting off ahead of me, scanning to pick out the tell-tale forest of tall I-trees ahead. Very distracting. They never quite got dense  enoughin any one passage to jar me loose, but eventually even the lower density occurrences mount up.

WTF #3: Disoriented choreography

Analysis: Chapter two includes a fight scene. Well, more of a scuffle, really. But even though it wasn’t extreme, I still found myself having to flip back and forth to re-read things, trying to keep track of who was where, and who pushed who etc. Upon re-examining, I found that many of the movements were properly labeled with who did it and who it got did to, but I was still scrambling to keep it all straight? Why?

Turns out it was because two of the participants in the scuffle are known to us, but the assailants are new characters in the story, all three of them brothers, and they’re also brother to one of the characters we’ve already met. So I’ve been trying to keep four people sorted in my head, three of whom I don’t know, but who all look and talk in a vaguely similar way to each othe. No wonder I was getting confused.

In my own writing, my rule is that each new character should be introduced in a context that allows readers to attach specific, memorable details to them, and to establish some kind of connection with them, before the next one is brought on stage. And experiences like this scuffle motivate me to continue doing so.

Final Note: Not many books get this far in ImmerseOrDie, so after finishing the treadmill read, I went on to read the rest. I continued to stumble over the I-forest and some confusing choreography, but the unfolding story was strong enough to keep me reading just the same. If you want to check it out for yourself, you can get it here.

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.

A Goldfish Mastermind Named Benedict Cumberbatch & the League of Domesticated Assassins: And Other Unexpected Tales, by Mark R Morris Jr (1:11)
Scaring the Crows: 21 Tales for Noon or Midnight, by Gregory Miller (10:13)

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.