Dislocations: Fictions, by Windsor Harries (4:37)

Today we see that if you have to explain your description then you’re calling somebody an idiot: either the reader or yourself. And neither case is good for the relationship.

What I gleaned about the stories: The world is divided into two groups: those who view the lack of previous earthquakes in an area as a sign that a horrific rumbling isn’t dangerous; and those who view this as a greater cause for concern.

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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: Doubly doubtful description

Analysis: At several points in the foreword, the author wraps inverted commas around a word, such as ‘regular’. I assumed this is done to suggest that the word should be read with a certain irony. While this did make me somewhat aware I was reading, the implication that there’s no such thing as normal people hinted at a nuanced worldview; so I continued. However, toward the bottom of the first page I ran into the phrase: so-called ‘normal’ ; at which point my parsing got stuck in a loop. I’d previously inferred the inverted commas signaled a deviation from the usual meaning, so a part of me wanted to render this as “not not-normal”, i.e. those who think there isn’t a normal are wrong; but another part of me rendered it as a straight “normal doesn’t exist”.

This confusion pushed me the rest of the way from immersion to editing, so I moved on.

WTF #2: Over-explanation

Analysis: A couple of paragraphs into the first story, one of the characters says that they recall the incident being discussed. The narrator describes the character staring off into the distance, then expands this by explaining it’s the stare of someone thinking of past events. The mention of staring into the distance had suggested a sense of nostalgia, conjuring the image of the character having some reason to be more connected to this past event than the present. However, having the meaning of the action explained to me ended this building curiosity; instead of a reader pursuing the unknown, I had become someone who the author thought needed things explained to them clearly.

Whether the author doubted their description or my intelligence, it was clear the trust was gone and I therefore moved on.

WTF #3: Further over-explanation

Analysis: The next story opens with a small boy panicking about a mysterious rumbling beneath the house and his father showing him there have been no historical reports of earthquakes in the area. After some conversation, the boy calms down and drops the matter. However, the following paragraph indicates the boy picks it up again on Sunday. The paragraph after that starts with the boy’s actual question to his father, which the narrator characterizes as a resumption of a previous conversation.

Because I’d already been told the boy returned to the matter on Sunday, being told his return to it was like returning to a previous discussion felt a little perverse: it wasn’t as if he were, he was.

At this point, the confusion described in the first WTF was replaced by a strong speculation that that also was a case of the author deciding to make sure the message was driven home.

Feeling somewhat lectured at, 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.

Grave Clouds: & Other Dark Tales, by John Allen (1:04)
Cabals of Blood: Tales of Cosmic Horror, by Richard Klu (8:45)

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.