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Day 2 of May’s Voice Workshop with Pitch Wars mentor . . . Dionne McCulloch

Tuesday, 3 May 2016  |  Posted by Heather Cashman

voice workshop

Welcome to May’s Voice Workshop with some of our amazing Pitch Wars mentors. From a Rafflecopter lottery drawing, we selected over thirty writers to participate in the workshop. Each mentor has graciously critiqued a 500 word sample that the writer chose from his or her manuscript where he or she felt they needed help with their voice. Our hope that these samples will help you with your work and that you’ll get to know some of our wonderful Pitch Wars mentors. 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 Dionne McCulloch


Website  |  Twitter

Dionne is the managing editor at Cornerstones US after freelancing as an editor in their UK office. She is a writer, working on her third book and represented by Writers House in NYC, a long- and short-list judge for the Bath and Caledonia novel awards, and a PitchWars 2014 and 2015 mentor. She previously wrote scripts for TV. She copyedited speeches for President Bill Clinton during his first term.

Represented by Brianne Johnson of Writers House NYC.


Dionne’s 500 Word Critique . . .

YA Contemporary Fantasy
Why did I let my friends talk me into going to this party? Try to be more specific, creating a voice that reveals character, ie: Why am I sitting on the deck of the lacrosse captains house holding a strawberry wine cooler and pretending to like Green Day?
It’ll be fine, Zo,”Push this dialogue harder. All dialogue should reveal character through what is said, or what isn’t
said. How does this tell us who Jenny really is? How about “Zo we have to be here. Everyone who’s anyone is here. Quit stressing,”
Jenny says, nervously checking her hair for the millionth time. The words ‘millionth time’ is an example of voice. It is Zo’s perspective, and characterizes Zo as someone who doesn’t care so much about her hair. Jenny says. It’s times like these I remember why I put up with her yearning for popularity. This sentence doesn’t make sense. Omit. WHY does she put up with it? Reveal Zo’s feelings through how she responds to Jenny. Does she sigh and roll her eyes?  If it were up to me we’d be having a movie night or, at least, be at a less…lively party.’Less lively’ doesn’t say much. Be specific. If it were up to me we’d be watching Zoolander II on Netflix and eating caramel popcorn from the bag.
The crisp night air mixes with the sizzling burgers, hot dogs, and chicken on the grill, but no way can I eat, my
stomach is tangled in knots a rattlesnake den. I just know someone is going to say something about mention the poem class. again, be specific. Music pulses from the speakers by the lake house
’s door, sending vibrations through my chest.
“Just breathe,” Jenny continues, “And you’ll have a good time. No one’s going to bring up English class.No one’s going to bring it up.ok to leave the ‘it’ vague. They are friends. They wouldn’t have to say what ‘it’ is.
My cheeks burn, and I grip the sides of my dress. It was horrible.Again, push this dialogue harder. “It was the single most humiliating moment of my life. I’m still dying on the inside about it.”
You’re making it so much worse than it really is. Everyone’s known you since you were little. They get the dyslexia thing You’re being dramatic. Nobody cares.” What is Jenny DOING while she says this? And remember how best friends really speak. They use shorthand.
She doesn’t understand. Can’t understand. “It took me ten minutes to read it.” God, I must look like such a dumb blonde. “Work the ‘dumb blonde’ comment into what she says to Jenny. “God, I must have looked a total dumb blonde taking ten minutes to read a haiku.”
“No one laughed.”
“That’s because you and the teacher would’ve you’d have killed them.”
“Damn straight.” She takes a breath. “Look, just relax and have a good time.”
“Okay. I promise I’ll try.”
Jenny scans is scanning the crowd so I know I’m about to be in trouble. There are plenty of guys here to take your mind off things.Look. Check that one. He’s hot” Of course, we’re back onto that now. “I want you to enjoy yourself.”
“I just want a nice boy.” Or girl, but I doubt she’d like to hear that.Or girl. But I don’t say that part.
Jenny’s boyfriend Tom joins us, trying to hold all our drinks in his arms. He hands the first to Jenny with a, “Here, babe,” before giving me mine. This doesn’t reveal what Zo thinks about Tom. How can you do that? Jenny’s boyfriend Tom comes over, cradling four drinks in his muscled arms: two for us, two for him.
Nice boys who are popular are like unicorns. They don’t exist.” Her lips purse as if she’s thinking hard. “At least not popular ones. Craig certainly wasn’t popular.” She taps Tom’s bicep with the back of her hand. “I’m lucky I found this one.”
He snorts, looking up from his cup. Found me?
“Hey.” Jenny somehow manages to look indignant while not turning her head. “Pre-K counts. Look, Zo, you promised to at least try.”
“I know. I prettied myself up for this, didn’t I?” God, I’m wearing a tube dress and actually curled my hair. What more does she want?
Indeed you did.” She smiles. Would a teen say this?
Options for the thrill-chasing teen are hard to find in our town. The most exciting thing in our immediate radius around here is the mall, small movie theater, and lacrosse team. Everything else is done in the woods. We have a lot
of that, surrounding us. If you keep going far enough in any direction, you
’re sure to find itwhat is ‘it’? fun or woods?. So, being teens, the fun shifted to partying there. Anything you can think of trying there, the kids at our high school have attempted to do.Be specific. What have they done?
Well, this is Ryan’s lake house, so you know, dating him wouldn’t be too badWhat about Ryan? He’s super-hot and the lacrosse captain,” says Jenny. (new paragraph)

I know who he is. Our school isn’t large enough not to.Zoe should respond in thought or dialogue to what Jenny has just said. Ie: Sure, he’s super hot. So why’s he going to want to talk to dumb old me?

Thank you, Dionne, for your critique. Interested in more 500 word voice critiques? Come back tomorrow for two more critiques. And get ready! The Pitch Wars Mentor Wishlist Blog Hop starts July 20 with the Pitch Wars submission window opening on August 3.
One Comment
  • Judy Mintz says:

    Excellent critique. I’m learning a lot, and dying at the same time. It all seems so obvious when someone points it out!J

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