Episode 005: A Chaotic Courtship & Spare

Hi folks. I’m sorry this week’s episode is late, again. On Monday night the president announced that South Africa would be going into a 21-day national lockdown from 23:59 on Thursday so every bit of my energy has gone into prepping for that. Mr Sage and I are lucky enough to be able to work from home for this time, so we are safe. I hope that you are as well. 

I want to thank you for listening and being patient. I don’t know what the future holds, but as long as I can, and as long as you keep sending me work to react to, I will keep making this podcast. I have some wild ideas for future episodes, so please keep an eye on Twitter and the website so you don’t miss out.

And now, on with the show!

As ever, I’m not an expert, my intention is to be positive and helpful, and my opinions do not reflect the authors’ worth as people or as writers. Please ensure adequate sodium intake with this podcast.

by Bethany Swafford

A good match is what every young lady searches to find. However, defining what makes a good match can be difficult. The majority of society proclaims wealth and consequence as the most important qualities a lady ought to focus on. Of equal importance is physical appearance. Select few would say a gentleman’s character must be examined first and foremost. Still, all would agree a bad match is to be avoided at all costs; perhaps even to the point of being left a lonely spinster.

This is a Regency romance, and I think that comes through nicely, both in the title and in the paragraph. It’s reminiscent of the opening of the Jane Austen classic Pride & Prejudice – It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife. 

We’re not opening on a character or a setting, but on a thinky bit which hints at character and setting to come. The statement of the fact of the time – that a young woman is to be married at the earliest convenience – makes a very clear promise to the reader. This will be a novel of manners.

I think the tone and the word choice are appropriate to the genre, and I would happily keep reading.

So, well done Bethany, and thanks for sending that in!

by J.M. Carr

I heard his boots clump up the stairs. I heard him bang on our door and I heard him whisper, “Get rid of her,” in Mum’s ear.

Austen’s here again.

He pushed past her at the door to our attic, lowered his head where the ceiling sloped, swept my book off the sofa and sat down. He leaned over me for the remote and switched off the TV too; I smelled engines and bonfires. I held my breath; I didn’t want to breathe him in.

I’m holding my breath, too. I don’t know what’s about to happen, but I know that it’s not good. I am very worried for our protagonist.

The author has told me that this is YA but they’re struggling with genre. I struggle with genre, too, so now’s as good a time as any to talk about it. 

A lot of my writing falls into the nebulous cloud of “contemporary fiction” – a classification which doesn’t actually tell anyone much of anything. It seems to be roughly equivalent to what, in some circles, might be called “slice of life”, which is really anything that follows so-called normal people doing so-called normal things. That is to say, anything that isn’t specifically or identifiably another genre.

Back to the submission. Without reading the rest of the story, this could be contemporary fiction, but there is also groundwork for it to be crime or thriller. Give the protagonist pyrokinetic (or other) abilities and it could be horror or urban fantasy. Pull in some whimsical happenings and flowery prose and it might be magical realism. That last one might be a bit of a stretch, but it could work.

Now let’s forget about genre and get back to the reaction. There is just one sentence that I don’t like: “Austen’s here again.” I suspect that the purpose of this sentence is to tell us Boot-guy’s name, but I don’t think we need to know his name yet, and I feel like it breaks the tension of the scene. Aside from that, I like this opening and want to keep reading.

Thanks so much for sending that in, J.M.! I hope to hear more about it soon!

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