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 Trisha Leaver
Trisha Leaver lives on Cape Cod with her husband, three children, and one rather irreverent black lab. She is a chronic daydreamer who prefers the cozy confines of her own imagination to the mundane routine of everyday life. She writes Young Adult Contemporary Fiction, Psychological Horror, Historical Fiction, and Science Fiction and is published with FSG/ Macmillan, Flux/Llewellyn and Merit Press. Her YA Contemporary novel, THE SECRETS WE KEEP was named one of the best YA novels for summer by Teen Vogue and received a starred review from VOYA who praised its strong characterization and compelling premise, labeling it a book guaranteed to engage reluctant readers and keep them enthralled.
The 500 Word Critique . . .
YA Contemporary Romance
“We make an interesting pair,” Chrys said with a laugh, Lucy strutting in her power red dress, Chrys plodding (I would use a different word here) a kitchen-stained t-shirt and shorts. Their outfits got more distinct (why…did they change their clothes or are they more out of place in this particular section of town?) when they decided on a whim to walk up the green hill waves (do you mean waves of green hills. This phrasing insinuates that they are in the country, when the sentence below states that they are actually in a café. I would using phrasing that better suits the setting here.) up to the Lotus Grand and sit at one of their outdoor cafes. The one they chose happened to have one of the best views of the ocean and golf course.
Lucy ignored the snooty hostess behind the podium (delete/ implied) when she lifted her nose at Chrys’s dowdy outfit. She stepped in front of Chrys and gave a wide, teethy smile. (She didn’t ignore the hostess – she stepped in front of Chrys and gave her a smile. What she did ignore was her condescending attitude. I would rephrase so this reads more accurate) “Two please. Under a shade umbrella.”
It wasn’t until her swishing skirt nearly hit him that Lucy saw Calvin alone at a table, dressed in a crisp button-down pinstripe shirt, staring off into the distance, his hand lightly touching the stem of a half-drunk glass of wine (the glass is haven’t drunk, the wine is J) wine glass. (Great opportunity to give me some setting details here. Is the café busy? Loud? People talking in hushed tones? Are they all dressed formally? What time of day is it/ lunch or dinner crowd? Do people notice Chrys’s clothing choice as they walk by? Are they out of place here?) It was clear he was in deep thought. (You showed me this above with him staring off into the distance, so I would delete here/ repetitive.)
“Cal?” Chrys blurted, her hand grabbing his shoulder. Calvin jumped and a notebook from his lap fell to the ground.
Lucy felt her chest lighten to see he’d not just been thinking, he was writing. She squatted down to pick it up off the cobblestone, her hand covering the content (why does her hand cover the content?). “What a nice surprise.”
“Look at you two.” Calvin’s smile widened (this implies that he was smiling before, and we have no mention of that, just him jumping in startled surprise), taking it from her. “Join me?”
As they sat, a waiter appeared, raising one eyebrow at Calvin.
“They’ll ah…” Calvin’s eyes shifted from Chrys before they rested on to Lucy. “Have what I’m having.”
Chrys yanked a metal chair out and sat on one side. “This is nice. You know someone here?”
Calvin just shrugged. “Everyone has connections.”
Lucy found herself wondering wondered if Dustin called it in like he did for them that other night. But she’d never seen Dustin and Calvin ever talk. (Who is Dustin and what would he be calling in and what happened last night? I would delete the reference to him here as it raises more questions than answers and this passing mention of a forth possible character does little to advance the scene and/or give the reader insight into the Cal, Chrys or Lucy)
With a knowing look, (What does he know? I need some context for this facial expression to make sense) the waiter placed over two glasses of white wine in front of them.
“So, what do I owe the honor?” Calvin help held up his glass to toast.
Lucy was temporarily mesmerized with the how richer (richer? Do you mean greener?) the grass appeared through the amber liquid in her glass. “Sorry to sound cliché, but do you come here often?” Her high pitch landed to the disbelief in her voice.
“The secret’s out.” Calvin shrugged. “I find that hiding in plain sight is the best way not to be seen.”
“Monty Python would disagree,” Lucy said, getting a chuckle out of him. His laugh filled her with delight. Most of Stormfront was convinced he was with some girlfriend all this time.
“Haven’t seen you in a bit,” Calvin said, his focus on Lucy. “How’s the summer going for you?”
“Umm.” Lucy took a sip of wine to delay time in figuring out what the heck not to say, (Tighten this. A lot of this can be implied. …a sip of wine, stalling for time) but Chrys spoke up. “It’s been one helluva ride. I think all those yah-yahs I had pent up since graduation are expelled. (Not sure what you mean here) After the summer season I’m ready to buckle in down, already have a potential internship at a good restaurant.”
My suggestion: pull back on the scenery and clothing description and focus on descriptions that not only speak to the setting but the characters place in the setting. Think of setting as a third character, interactive and dynamic, as opposed to a flat canvas upon which our characters stand. For example, we know that the café has a view of the ocean and the golf course, but we do not know why Chrys and Lucy chose that particular café. Does it have special meaning to them? Is it out of the way/ are they looking for privacy, etc. Ditto with the clothes. I think it is less important to know that the suit Calvin is wearing is pin-striped and more important to know if such formal wear is out of character for him, considering his friend is wearing a stained t-shirts and shorts. Focus on details that only bring the setting alive, but that also hint at your characters mood and motivations.
Thank you, Trisha, 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.