The Witch Board

...The formatting made this paranormal horror impossible to finish....

This is a paranormal horror story, with the psychic investigator Penny Lane trying to save four girls from the dark spirit they contacted using a ouija board.

I was only four pages into this book when a real problem became apparent: the formatting. I am reading on the Cloud Reader, so this may be device dependent, but the formatting is poor. Nothing is centered, and there is a lack of linebreaks until headings and subheadings, creating the impression of a wall of text. The Table of Contents runs on from the front matter, with no page break or title.

In the Foreword, some paragraphs are indented, some are not, and as this changes halfway through page three it is very obvious. Some linebreaks around the Preface and Setting subheadings would be nice. p9 has the format swap from indent to non- on the same page, again. It does feel a bit like having to do homework and read up on the setting before even getting to the story. I confess: I skimmed it. Details on the setting should come up in the story, not the author’s note. By this point, the formatting was giving me a headache.

Then I reached p10, where the story starts with Chapter One; Chapter One that runs straight on from the introduction. No Chapter heading at the top of the page, no pagebreak, no linebreaks even, or centering. Just an all caps bold left-aligned Chapter One. For large sections of this chapter there are no indents, and while paragraphs and speech start on a new line, there are no blank lines to aid flow.

I do not often take issue with an author’s writing style, but there are sentences that directly contradict each other. On one page we are told ‘Penny always says: “You don’t contact the dead’ and yet the line after that is ‘She always avoids the word “dead”‘. They cannot both be true. There’s also a habit of telling not showing: e.g. the story starts with several lines about Penny’s background, and yet when we first see her, she is chatting with her aunt. Couldn’t these things have been brought up then? Couldn’t she actually have said her catchphrase, or brought up her objection to ‘dead’ instead of the reader being told it?

By page 15 I was struggling. Page 16 was where a scene break occurred, and there were still no blank lines, or indicators of the cuts back and forth. By then I had discovered that our main character was a psychic who runs a teashop, writes children’s books (the named series actually written by the author), helps with people with psychic problems, and consults with the police.

I can’t critique characters, plot etc., because I simply didn’t get that far. It is a real shame. This is the type of story I usually enjoy, but once I started developing a headache from the formatting, I gave up. Normally my cry is “Get an editor.” Here it must be “Get a formatter, and an editor.”

Rating: DNF
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