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 Kip Rechea
Kip Wilson Rechea is a young adult writer represented by Roseanne Wells of the Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency.
She has a Ph.D. in German Literature and a passion for books, languages, and travel. Her work has appeared in the TIMELESS and SPAIN FROM A BACKPACK anthologies, as well as FACES, COBBLESTONE, APPLESEEDS, LEARNING THROUGH HISTORY, and TRANSITIONS ABROAD magazines. She’s also proud to be the Poetry Editor at YARN: The YA Review Network and the Events Editor at Mommy Poppins Boston.
She lives in Boston with her cute Spanish husband and mischievous twins, and is hard at work on several projects for young adults.
The 500 Word Critique . . .
Middle Grade Horror
“Why did the mermaid cross the road?” Oh mouth, you’re going to get me killed, thought Kelsey. [Starting with dialogue certainly throws the reader right into the action, but it can be disorienting to be thrust somewhere with no details on what it looks, sounds, or smells like there.]
“What?” Boomed the Kraken and if he was disturbed before, he was murderous now. [This is picky, but this line is a bit clunky and took me out of the world of this story since this is only the second paragraph.] “Who? Who got out? Was it that gangly looking one with the big head? Now I’ll never get my five dollars back.” [This might be a good spot to throw in a line or two to describe the Kraken and the setting.]
“No, Mr…Kraken. It’s a joke.”
Shut. Up Kelsey. Shut up-shut up-shut up. [At this point I’m ready for the voice/humor and chuckled at this line. Nice.]
The Kraken blinked.
Kelsey cleared her throat. “A joke. You know. Just a…pretend scenario designed to make…uhm…one laugh, often applied during tense moments. Or during slightly uncomfortable situations.”
She thought goodbyes at the people she would never see again.
“Say it again,” snapped the Kraken.
“Oh. Uhm…” Breathe. “It’s a pretend scenario designed—“
A tentacle slapped the shore spraying sand and fish bits everywhere. [Up until this line, I had no idea where this story was taking place. Possibilities that ran through my mind included a classroom and a stage, so it would be good to get a hint like this earlier.] “Say the joke again.”
“Oh! Yeah. Well, sure.” Kelsey looked everywhere but the black holes where the Kraken’s eyes should have been. “W-why did the mermaid cross the road?”
“She couldn’t, because she didn’t have a leg to stand on.”
Goodbye Mom. Goodbye Dad. Goodbye Putney. Goodbye Lunch Lord with the red beard—
“My ink, that is funny.” And the Kraken laughed for the very first ever. [I like this of a Kraken laughing—but I don’t know how Kelsey could know that this is the first time the Kraken has ever laughed, since the setup gave the impression that the Kraken is new to her, so it doesn’t ring true.] And do you know what happens when a Kraken laughs for the first time? Well, that laughter breaks into a million pieces, which turn into sparkling baby dolphins, which suffocate on the stench of a Kraken’s breath. So unless you have a strong gag reflex, pray you never have to make a Kraken laugh. [This is a great visceral detail that strongly places me in Kelsey’s head. Smell is underrated for conveying setting! Well done!]
Kelsey gagged. Seaweed, sludge, and last month’s gym shorts were not a good combo.
Once things settled down, Kelsey and the Kraken had a lovely chat.
Breathing through her mouth, she scratched his tentacles and even taught him a few more mermaid jokes. And one about a mama goat. The Kraken could not get over how funny the punch line sounded, “Just kidding!” He tried it out a few different ways. “Just kidding…Just kidding.”
Feeling confident, she said, “This was really fun, but I should go.”
In a great show of gratuity and politeness, the Kraken extended a tentacle and bobbed his bulbous head. [Nice details here. I can picture the Kraken.] Kelsey smiled and shook hands with him, so to speak.
The Kraken said, “Thank you so much for a wonderful afternoon. Do stop by the gift shop on your way out…Just-kid-ding.” He was very amused with himself. [No need for this last line since you’ve already showed this brilliantly.]
Kelsey laughed politely and pulled her hand back.
But the Kraken wouldn’t let go. “You’re not going anywhere,” it [This is picky, but pronoun choice can also give us a better sense of setting. In my mind, this was a male Kraken with a deep voice, and “he” was used above, so the “it” caught me off guard.] snarled.
—Goodbye mailman. Goodbye moon—
“Just kidding. You can leave any time!”
“Oh gosh.” Kelsey sputtered. “You had me for a minute there, Kraken. You’re funny.” And she laughed and laughed and pulled away and laughed, wiping invisible tears from her eyes. The Kraken still had her hand. “Take care.”
“Goodbye.” Finally, the Kraken let go and slipped soundlessly back into the water.
Kelsey’s knees gave out and she stumbled as far away from the edge of the lake as she could get before she collapsed. [Great details in both this and the previous line.]
Something wet tightened around on her ankle. [Another great sensory detail! I’d love to get Kelsey’s reaction here, too, but I can definitely feel this.]
“Just kidding,” said the Kraken. [Nice hooky ending to the scene.]
Thank you, Kip, 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.