Welcome to episode 11, or episode 1 of season 2, if you prefer to think of it that way. I’m sorry that the podcast wasn’t back last week as I had promised, but Mr Sage has had some health issues (unrelated to the ‘rona) and I wasn’t really able to focus on anything else. He is back home and doing well, though, so hopefully it’ll be smooth sailing for this season of the podcast.
In today’s show, I’ll be looking at two openings from a single author – Cass Voit.
Her stories are set in the world created by White Wolf Publishing for the role-playing game World of Darkness, and so might be considered fanfiction. Now, I don’t usually accept fanfiction submissions for this podcast because I don’t want to get on the wrong side of any publishers. However, White Wolf Publishing actually has a nifty little bit of legalese that allows authors to create work within that world, so I’m fairly certain that they won’t have a problem with me featuring it on the podcast. I won’t go into all the details of the legalese but if you’re interested in that sort of thing, you should check out Cass’s YouTube channel which I will link in the show notes.
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 Cass Voit
I’d had a particularly rough few months. A bureaucrat I am not. In an attempt to relieve some of the pressure of being the Don of a powerful Mafia, as well as the youngest Primus of the youngest House in the Order of Hermes, at the beginning of the month I found myself using coke a couple of times a week. At the end of the month, I found that I was using 5 or 6 times a day. Someone had shown me the trick of heating up the end of the tube to amplify the high. Besides, the dragon-like plumes of smoke were rather gratifying.
So, this paragraph has a lot of Important Things (capital I, capital T) which I normally have a problem with. I normally have a problem with it because usually when we see Important Things, it’s coming from someone who is trying to establish a new world. That’s not the case here. The world is already built. I say that because most of the people who are going to pick up this book are going to be World of Darkness players or fans. They’ll be familiar with World of Darkness already or, at least, one of the other games under the White Wolf umbrella. That being the case, they will know or have an idea what a Primus is, what a (capital H) House is, and what the Order of Hermes is. I’m also discounting Don and Mafia because most people, even outside of World of Darkness, know what they mean.
That aside, I feel like “In an attempt to relieve some of the pressure of being the Don of a powerful Mafia, as well as the youngest Primus of the youngest House in the Order of Hermes, at the beginning of the month I found myself using coke a couple of times a week.” is just too long as a sentence. It’s almost more of a paragraph on its own. I would suggest splitting it into two sentences, one which establishes that our protagonist is the Don and the Primus, and one that introduces their use of cocaine as a stress reliever.
“At the end of the month, I found that I was using 5 or 6 times a day.” If you’re reading along on YouTube or in the show notes, you’ll notice that 5 and 6 are written here as numerals. This is a matter of style and which style guide you as the writer have chosen to follow, however, it is worth noting that most style guides agree: numbers one through nine should be written out as words. The style guides vary greatly in their opinion on how to write larger numbers though. Whatever style you decide on, whatever rule you choose to follow, do make sure that you are being consistent with it.
I’m not 100% sure how I feel about the line “Someone had shown me the trick of heating up the end of the tube to amplify the high.” but I understand what it’s saying and why it’s there.
And then “Besides, the dragon-like plumes of smoke were rather gratifying.” I like. I like dragon-like. You may have heard that compound adjectives are bad and you shouldn’t use them, I was certainly taught that way, but I think that’s the biggest load of old cobblers. As long as not every adjective you write is compound and as long as you’re not flooding the page with adjectives, just write the words.
All in all, I really like this and can’t wait to read the rest of the story.
by Cass Voit
Autumn was rolling around once again. The leaves were turning red and orange, the air was turning crisp, and the fiscal year was turning over, so people were eager to spend money before it was gone for good. That’s where I come in.
My breath was visible in the air, puffing out in small clouds. I massaged my knuckles, which were swelling and aching from the cold. I ran a sharp, gnarled hand through long, straight, white hair and adjusted my eyepatch. My skin hung off my bones, hiding under layers of brown and blue cloths. My spine curved and warped just short of a hump, forcing me to lean forward whether I wanted to or not. With my one eye, I surveyed the rest of the auction yard. The caller was impossible not to hear as he shouted prices for the scared young girl that he had by the arm, lifting her to the point where her toes barely brushed the floor. She was garnering a rather high price, of which I was a little jealous, as my income came nowhere close.
Okay this is weird and creepy and I love it.
Technically this is two paragraphs, but the first one was so short I couldn’t help but add the second one in. So looking at the first paragraph, I think it’s a good paragraph aside from the tense switch in the last sentence. But I don’t know if I would start the story there. I don’t know if autumn rolling around again is a strong enough first line.
If you’ve been around the writing community for any length of time, or googled writing advice, chances are you’ve read Elmore Leonard’s famous writing “rule”: Never open with the weather. Hemingway, on the other hand, felt that weather was extremely important to a story… And in any case, my motto is “no one can tell you how TO write, they can only tell you how THEY write”. Anyway, I don’t believe in absolutisms but I think that if you’re going to open with the weather there had better be something really gripping about it.
So what I would do is this: I would start with the line “My breath was visible in the air, puffing out in small clouds.” and then have the bits about autumn and the leaves and the fiscal year. That way, even though we’re still opening with the weather to some degree, we’re also opening with a character.
I don’t know enough about World of Darkness to know what kind of sinister thing our protagonist is but I do know enough to know that pretty much everyone and everything in World of Darkness is sinister, and this opening definitely gives that impression. And having read it, I want to dig into more White Wolf material, like my all-time favourite computer game – Vampire: The Masquerade Bloodlines.
I am intrigued and hope I get to read more soon! Thanks Cass for both of your submissions.
Music: Continue Life by Kevin MacLeod
Sound effects from freeSFX [https://www.freesfx.co.uk/]