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 Kevin Springer
Kevin is a self-proclaimed dreamer and a kid at heart. When he’s not writing or reading, he is coaching soccer or helping with homework. He lives outside of Atlanta with his wife, two extraordinary boys, and dogs. He is also a co-founder of the Middle Grade Mafia blog.
The 500 Word Critique . . .
Middle Grade Magical Realism
After his grandmother left, William lugged the bulky backpack up the stairs with an ache in his heart. He missed his grandfather. (Good emotion, but I felt like I came in at the middle of a chapter. Hook the reader.)
William stopped in front of the family pictures hanging in the hallway that led to his bedroom. A stenciled row of small half-circles woven together in what was called an Irish trinity knot filled the space separating each frame. (Like the detail of the trinity, but had to re-read to get a picture in my head. Paint a vivid image to draw them into the hall with William)
“Six generations of our family are on this wall.” Grandpa Woodman had told William just before Christmas. “One day your photo will go next to mine.”
“What about Mom’s picture?”
Grandpa Woodman bristled at the question. “One day, soon, you’ll understand what it takes to be on this wall.” This response only confused William more.
He’d wanted to ask if she’d done something wrong. Instead, William listened as his grandfather droned on about the family’s Irish roots and the wall of ancestors for the millionth time.
After Grandpa left, William asked his mother why her picture couldn’t hang next to the others. “Maybe one day it will be there.” Her answer didn’t help either.
At the time, their answers only raised more questions. But William’s confusion ended when he read his grandfather’s letter. It opened William’s eyes to the Irish origins of the Gift of Seamus and the story of these people. These leaplings. All born on February the 29th. The shared birthday his mother missed by only a few minutes.
Now, standing in front of Grandpa Woodman’s picture, William reached out to touch the well-loved face, but stopped. The blue eyes appeared lifeless behind black-framed glasses. (Interesting choice, but he seemed like a man who would have a lot going on behind his eyes and when the picture was taken, it would be captured) Large bushy brows sprouted like weeds in a garden. (Love this imagery) Even the top of his head, bald for as long as William could remember, was dull and freckled with age (This could be me, but has the picture changed over time?). The only things standing out in the photo were his grandfather’s ears. Grandpa always bragged they helped him hear everything, but with so much hair sticking out, William didn’t see how (:-)).
“Grandpa,” He felt ridiculous talking to the picture, but it helped. “Mom and Grandma are suspicious about the envelope. I think they know something.”
William stared at the photo of his mother to the right. She’d waited until last week to hang it up. Her smiling face made him feel better. (Why did she hang it last week? Seems like an important indication of what’s going on, but reader isn’t in on it yet. Is the mother dead now? Missing?).
“I wish I could just tell you everything, Mom.” William sighed. “It would make this whole Gift thing a lot easier.”
A tiny movement to the left drew William’s attention. The face in his grandfather’s photo grimaced the way it often did when William had done something wrong. (Has the imaged changed to express his grandfather’s reaction to William’s words?)
Startled, William stepped back, his stomach lurching to the back of his throat, like when he rode one of the roller coasters at Cedar Point Amusement Park (like!).
A peek at the picture to the left, the one of great-grandpa Woodman, made William take another step back. With lips pinched so tight they’d turned white, the scowl on his great-grandfather’s face sent the hairs on the back of William’s neck out like porcupine quills. (Great, but once again, is this a change. If take reader along the wall earlier, this would be clearer.)
His backpack hit the carpet with a soft thud. (Strong end! I like this visual, but the only mention of the backpack is early on. Is this the same day as the start of chapter? Got muddy for me with the flashback.)
Overall, I like the story. There is definitely a mystery here worth the reader exploring. The scene is confusing at times with jumping between different points in time. I saw places that could use more physicality (non-verbals) that could convey character’s reactions or unspoken truths. The imagery in the passage is good, but could use more here and there to have the reader feel like he/she is in the hallway with William. I know this was only a small section, I am guessing first chapter, but could use another 200-300 words to totally have the reader not want to put the story down.
Thank you, Kevin, 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.