Welcome to June’s Setting Workshop! From a Rafflecopter lottery drawing, we selected over thirty writers to participate. Each mentor has graciously critiqued a 500 word sample chosen by the writers from a place he or she felt needed help with setting. We hope that not only you’ll learn a little bit about setting that you can apply to your own writing, but that you’ll also be able to get to know some of our wonderful Pitch Wars mentors and their editing styles. We appreciate our mentors for giving up their time to do the critiques. If you have something encouraging to add, feel free to comment below. Please keep all comments tasteful. We will delete any inappropriate or hurtful ones.
And now we have …
Pitch Wars Mentor Holly Faur
Holly grew up traveling all over the western U.S. and Germany pretending each long car ride was by covered wagon. She now lives in her birth state of Michigan with her husband and four little ruffians where she writes modern historical fiction about wonderfully complicated people. She also reviews books for the Historical Novels Review, keeps a garden, and can’t live without her Wellie boots. Her heart belongs in England, so her boys have promised to take her one day.
She is represented by Maria Vicente of P.S. Literary Agency.
The 500 Word Critique . . .
Adult Contemporary Romance
Traffic was sparse due to the viciousness of the storm, which continued to pelt the area. [Can you add a wee bit here—the buildings, rooftops, sidewalks, etc.] Julianne passed multiple accidents and cars pulled over. She scanned for Jokob’s red Jeep heading the other direction or in the median. Two hours later, [jumping two hours in the same opening paragraph removed me from the setting you began with. I think you can describe a little more about the mayhem and then have her pull up to camp—without a time stamp] she reached a scene of pure chaos at the camp entrance. [The name of the camp might pull us in faster.] The closed gate stretched across the road, with emergency vehicles and rescue crews everywhere. She pulled up to a police officer directing traffic out of the park.
“I have to get in,” she yelled through pounding rain, punctuated by flashes of lightning and thunder.
“No one’s allowed in,” he shouted through a wall of rain. [She just spoke “through rain” so I’d see what else you can use here to show us the craziness of it all.] “We’re still trying to rescue trapped campers. You can park over there and wait.” He motioned to an area away from the ambulances. [Tree-lined? Open prairie?]
Panicked, Julianne pulled over, parked, and jumped out of her car into ankle deep mud and water. She glanced over at the nearest ambulance. Soaked rescuers loaded a gurney into it. On the ground, surrounded by flowing mud, lay a row of filled body bags. She gasped. Her heart leapt into her throat, and she ran toward the bags, but another officer stopped her. She got close enough to know by the size of the bodies in the bags, that none of them was large enough to be Jokob. Her heart broke—children.
She slogged up the road that led into the campgrounds, her clothes already soaked. Sheets of rain pelted her eyes making it hard to see past twenty feet ahead. The guard posted at the gate stopped her. “You can’t go in. Too dangerous!” he yelled over the storm’s howl.
“I’ve got to get in there,” she screamed, struggling to run past him. He outsized her and held tight to her arm.
She threw up her free hand in surrender and relaxed her body. The guard loosened his grip and when he did, Julianne wiggled her wrist free and ran. The guard followed but slid in the mud and fell to his hands and knees. Julianne continued slipping and sliding in the mud sloughed gravel toward the campground and the river. The swollen river roared in the distance. [Use of “distance” made me feel like it was indeed farther away than “around the bend”]
As she rounded the bend, the impact of destruction became evident. Campers lay on their sides and upside down, some caught in tree roots in the river. Cabins were simply gone, only their concrete bases remained. The sight stopped Julianne in her tracks, unable to comprehend this level of destruction. [I’d go for a bit more detail here.]
“Jokob!” she screamed repeatedly into the wind and rain, while turning in slow, slippery circles.
“Jewel, look out!”
Jokob gestured wildly at something behind her. She turned in time to see a wall of muddy water rushing toward her as the last levee breached. The mud wall slammed full force into her the chest, cutting off her scream and sucking her under, propelling her full-tilt down river.
Thanks for sending your pages and letting me join in on the critique. Right away you’ve given us the weather, which is a great addition to help us feel the setting, I’d just be careful on the use of too many similar words. Rain only shows up 3 times, but they are nearly always yelling over or through, so I’d see how you can show us the intensity of the storm in other ways. Mud shows up 6 times (wall of mud/mud wall 2 times, in same paragraph), so I’d definitely see how you might describe this differently—brown sludge, even. I’d love to see a bit more of what the camp looks like—or used to look like. Just oomph up small details here and there as she sees them. Of course, as this is chapter 24, we may have already met this camp and know details about it, like its name, but I’d still add simple touches to ground the setting. Other than that, you certainly give the feeling of natural disaster and “holy geez, this is NOT good!!”
Thanks again, it’s been a pleasure!
Thank you, Holly, for your critique. Check back every weekday for the rest of our June Setting Workshop. And get ready! The Pitch Wars Mentor Wishlist Blog Hop starts July 20 with the Pitch Wars submission window opening on August 3.