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 Kelly Siskind
Kelly is the author of CHASING CRAZY and MY PERFECT MISTAKE, the latter being the first of her Over the Top series, all published through Grand Central’s Forever Yours. A small-town girl at heart, she moved from the city to open a cheese shop with her husband in northern Ontario. When she’s not neck deep in cheese or out hiking, you can find her, notepad in hand, scribbling down one of the many plot bunnies bouncing around in her head. She laughs at her own jokes and has been known to eat her feelings—gummy Bears heal all. She’s also an incurable romantic, devouring romance novels into the wee hours of the morning.
The 500 Word Critique . . .
It was his voice again. Whoever that man was across the alley, his singing lured her in. That soulful sound marched right up to her, confronted her and slithered around her chest every time she heard it, until she gave in. Before she knew it, Missy Storack was at her open window, secretly watching his moody gray eyes light up like a vicious storm on the Nederlander Theatre fire escape across her apartment alleyway. (Love this opening. I’m drawn in right away. It creates a slightly dark, suspenseful vibe. Wonderful!)
Through practice, Missy realized the best way to slyly see what was going on from her apartment, was to slowly peer her right eye past the window frame in her bedroom. (You’ve mentioned that she is already at her open window above. To me, this implies she’d be squinting through the glass, but the actual frame would no longer be in her view. And can you describe the frame? Add one adjective to get a better sense of this apartment. Is it peeling? Freshly painted? Dented? Let us know if this is a nice apartment or more of a slummy place.) And there he was, wearing black jeans and a plain, white V-neck t-shirt. She recognized the songs from Rent and knew he was rehearsing at the theatre before the 8:00 p.m. PM show tonight. And this time he was alone. Only in New York City, could your apartment back up to a famous Broadway show. She smiled, thinking she was so happy she’d moved here; she’d never need TV again. (Love the image this creates!)
Missy’s cell buzzed in her hand, making her jump and fall over on one knee. (This reaction is odd to me. If I were standing and something startled me, the odds of me falling to a knee are almost nil. Something to consider.) She watched her phone skid across her bedroom (You mention she’s in her bedroom earlier. No need to repeat it.) hardwood floor, out of reach, right in front of the open window. (Again, since you started the piece by stating she was at the window, it seems to me that the phone would land elsewhere. And ditto issue for the following sentence.) Would Rent know she was spying on him if she grabbed it? But Missy knew her brother had to be out of jail by now and that text was probably from him. (I would probably swap the order of this previous sentence: mention the text was from her brother and THEN the jail thing. I think it would have more impact.) She kind of wondered what would’ve happened if she didn’t help Junior this time. She sucked in her breath and dived across the window to get her phone. She snapped her head back to steal a glance and make sure Rent wasn’t still outside, but she found herself locking eyes with him instead. (This is a wonderful place to add more setting. Heighten the mood/atmosphere by slowing it down. In the moment they lock eyes, does the temperature shift for your MC? If you want to add suspense, cold can snap down her spine. If you want to add a wisp of romance, certain parts can heat up. What is the lighting? How can you use these elements to add a hint of tension? One or two sentences are all you need. But I am also curious as to when she actually locks eyes with Rent. Is this while diving? After she’s landed? Make it clearer.) Her heart dropped. And like a gopher, she popped straight down to the floor and moved alongside the windowpane with her phone in hand. (Same issue with staging here. She started the scene at the window. But I love the gopher image you’ve created!)
“No problem,” Uncle Frankie texted her. “Got Jr. out an hr ago. Mums the word. I’m bringing him back to you. You need to watch him, k?” (Don’t use dialogue quotations when writing texts. It’s misleading. Just use a different font or italics.)
She made Uncle Frankie swear up and down not to tell her dad, Jack. (Not sure her father’s name is important here.) Her father would be absolutely livid that Junior screwed up. Her brother of course would die that she sought Uncle Frankie’s help, but she needed someone that could get things done. And she didn’t know anyone else like that, except for her dad.
“Charge?” she texted Uncle Frankie back.
Her heart sank. Missy knew her dad was going to find out one of these days, so, Jr.(I would write out full name: Junior) needed to get his act together. Especially if If the report would ever be made public, the media would have a field day that Manhattan’s top defense attorney’s son was caught. (Doing what? This sentence reads incomplete.)
“He wasn’t charged,” Uncle Frankie confirmed via text. “We got him cleared. He just had to spend the night in lockup.”
A chill of air crept past the old windowpane, and for a moment she felt an escape to the world outside. (I’m still super curious about Rent, which means you did a great job building tension around that character in this scene. Well done!)
Thank you, Kelly, 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.