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 Kate Karyus Quinn
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Kate Karyus Quinn is an avid reader and menthol chapstick addict. She has lived in California and Tennessee, but recently made the move back to her hometown of Buffalo, New York, with her husband and two children in tow. She promised them wonderful people, amazing food, and weather that would… build character. She is represented by Suzie Townsend of New Leaf Literary and is the author of ANOTHER LITTLE PIECE, (DON’T YOU) FORGET ABOUT ME, and DOWN WITH THE SHINE all from HarperTeen. Kate also offers paid critiques for authors looking to further polish their work. Find more information here: http://katekaryusquinn.
The 500 Word Critique . . .
Young Adult Fantasy
My head rests upon the cold stone, then nothing Okay so right here within the first sentence you are missing a huge opportunity for world building. You give the reader so little – her head is resting on a cold stone. Is it night? Is she sleeping? Is she sick or passed out? Dying? The “then nothing” is a little confusing here as well. It seems to refer to the cold stone which suggests that her head was resting upon the stone and then suddenly the stone isn’t there anymore. Is that the intention? What if instead you injected a little more voice with a setup more along the lines of: “Tonight my pillow is a cold hard stone and the dense black of the holy chamber (or wherever she is exactly) wraps around me like a blanket.” I wasn’t sure what I was waiting We’re not sure what she’s waiting for either! Give the reader a little more info! for a voice from heaven, a tap on the shoulder. I sighed; I lots of “I’s” here – might read smoother to cut this one straightened up and slowly opened my eyes. I am stunned the chamber is alight What is this chamber? Was it totally dark before? Is it like a cave – I’m guessing yes from the rock she was resting her head upon. Again a little more setup before we get to the light would help the reader be here with your main character. There’re strange glowing runes everywhere in a tongue I did not speak This should be “do not speak” – make sure your verbs are all the same tense!. The Guardians heard my confession. My eyes take in each symbol as I tried try to burn them into my memory as they fade two uses of as in this sentence – I’d rework one of them since it makes it a little clunky. When the last one went out I thought I would once again be in the dark, but I was not Okay but if she’s not in the dark – what’s keeping the dark away. You tell us what isn’t happening but not what IS happening, which leaves the reader to fill in the blanks.
I turned toward the altar; just above it an object More specific please? An object can be anything. Give it some shape or color. Compare it to a jewel or a rock or a shoe. Let the reader “see” it shines I climbed climb the stone, stretching to reach it. Fumbling around, I grasped grasp the object. I could can not believe my eyes; in the palm of my hand rests a glowing ring Sooo… it’s a ring? Why not refer to it that way from the beginning?. Fascinated I turned turn the band over and over What does it look like? I assume your MC is studying it as she turns it over and over. Is it weighty for what it is? Shiny? Dull? Warm or cold to the touch? then put it on my right ring finger. It was is large, but somehow the ring reshapesd itself to fit. I am amazed when the ring grew grows warmer making my finger glow. You have a TON of present tense verbs fighting with past tense verbs here. You need to pick one. I switched all the past verbs to present, but you could go the other way – just be consistent!
I thought this odd and got frightened as the glow spread up my arm. It would be great to know more about the MC here. Why did she even put it on her finger? What was she expecting to happen here? Does she have any idea at all what this ring might be? In a panic, I tried to remove it, but it would not yield; the glow continued until it consumed me. My entire body was glowing so bright I lit up the chamber. Panic set in and I wanted out. I squeezed through the small portal and blindly ran down the tunnel to the main exit What do these tunnels and exits look like?. My mind is set afire, strange images are flashing in my mind Repetition of the word mind twice in this sentence. My head pounds and my ears rang Again – need verbs to be both past or present. In this paragraph you seem to have mostly switched to past, but pounds is present. I ran passed past the tapestry walls What do these tapestries look like? Rich and sumptuous? Torn and tattered?, stumbling to the exit until I slammed blindly into a wall. Not sure how she slams into a wall. Does something throw her? She was heading toward the exit a moment ago.
Dropping to my knees again, I crawled around the floor, my hands desperately searching, trying hard to find the exit from these chambers But what is she looking for with her hands that will tell her where the exit is? Why doesn’t she use her eyes? Isn’t she glowing still? Wouldn’t that provide light to find the exit?. Through the pain Why is she in pain? From hitting the wall or from the glowing? What type of pain is it specifically?, I fought to keep my head about me as I had to finger the walls for the cavern’s exit Again I’m not sure what she’s looking for with her hands and why she’s not just using her eyes, scrambling about like a dog searching for a bone. Suddenly a cool breeze touches me and I let it guide me. Finally, crawling through the small tunnel, I dragged myself outside to find myself, once again, behind the falls.
My mind was in turmoil; the pounding in my head was great, and the shrill ringing in my ears was driving drove me mad as they are were assaulted by the fierce sound of the falls. I had to keep my eyes clamped shut the light is this the light coming from her own body or somewhere else? was piercing my head like sharpened daggers. My body is racked with intense pain as if my limbs are being pulled apart. In one brief moment, as I opened my eyes Okay so her eyes have been squeezed closed this whole time?, I saw my body encased in a blue flame How does she see this? Does she look down at herself? At her hands and then the rest?. Enveloped by so much heat, I jump into the waterfall to quench the fire and let myself be taken by the current. My fevered mind is spinning, ready to split open, and my heart pounding pounds hard trying to beat its way from my chest as a new darkness took takes me.
Okay so, you’ve got a super action filled almost Indiana Jones flavored opening here which, with a bit of work, could be really amazing. However, everything is so rushed that it’s hard to get a grasp on anything much less the big “need to know” things like: Where are we? Who is the MC? What does he/she (I don’t even know if this is a male/female or his/her age!) want?
This scene would be so much stronger if we knew more about the MC, why he/she is here, and what he/she wants before the ruins start to light up. Then the reader is hoping/fearing something will or won’t happen and that creates tension. Remember pacing is more than just lots of exciting thing happening fast fast fast right out of the gate. Rather it’s more about building to those moments. Slowing things down will also give you more of a chance to really dig into the world building so the reader is getting a really clear vision of what is happening with the MC at every moment. So, ease up on the gas, slow things down, and let the reader enjoy the view a bit.
I hope this helps and good luck with it!
Thank you, Kate, 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.