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 Stephanie Scott
Stephanie is a Young Adult writer whose debut ALTERATIONS is set for release in 2016 by Bloomsbury Spark. She’s an active member of Romance Writers of America and its online YA chapter YARWA. She enjoys dance fitness and cat memes, and Pinterest is driving her broke. Born and raised in Kalamazoo where there are no zoos, she’s a Midwest girl at heart. She now lives outside of Chicago with her tech-of-all-trades husband. You can find her chatting about TV and all things books on twitter and Instagram at @StephScottYA
The 500 Word Critique . . .
New Adult Contemporary Romance
“Believe me; I’m not going to let a chance to have you forever get away.”
“Okay,” I said, exhaling deeply and putting aside all fears and uncertainties and deciding to go with it. I felt at ease for once, at peace somehow, knowing that he would not hurt me.
“Come on, let’s go. I know you are hungry; you must be with all that work this morning”, he said, his smile appealing to the growing hunger deep within my loins. Grabbing my hand, we walked to the parking garage, got in his car, and left. He plugged in his iPod and selected a playlist called driving tunes. Jake Owen’s Real Life started playing and I looked over at Nicholas.
The first instance of setting here is the parking garage. This is a good place to show some character point of view though the setting details. If you want to go for more humor, you could take the loins comment and tie that in. Something like, He smiled, and despite our walk through a very public parking garage, my loins signaled, get him alone. When they’re in the car, how does it feel to be in an enclosed space with someone your Main Character (MC) is so turned on by? What do the seats feel like, or how does the inside of the car mirror (or contrast) with what he/she views of the love interest? In two or three lines of tying emotion and POV to active setting, you can not only create a deeper feel for the scene, but we also get to know your character more.
“What you don’t like this?”
“No Jake is fine, one of my favorites actually. I’m a bit surprised that you listen to it. Especially after the way you danced last night.” He chuckled a bit, finding amusement in my comment.
“I actually like a lot of different music genres including classical. What about you, what are your interests in music?” Since this is one of the more concrete things we had in common and a way to ease the tension, I was pleased to engage in this conversation.
Perhaps rather than this explanatory line about things in common, you could show them bumping hands by reaching for the iPod, or some other detail relating to the closeness of being in a car together.
“I like all genres too. Sometimes it is my mood that determines what I will listen to that day, including while at work. It soothes me if I feel rushed or if I need motivation.”
“You strike me as the type of person who does not need any type of motivation.”
“The façade does its job. I’m sort of a perfectionist. I know that I can’t do everything and expect to be perfect, but I strive for that level anyway.” I noticed that we were passing Blue Collar the spot he pre-picked for us to have lunch.
Being in first person POV, you can cut the filter word “noticed” and find a stronger verb to show them passing the intended destination, then connect it to an emotion. An example: Out the window, the neon sign [or whatever detail fits] for the Blue Collar passed in a blur. My heartbeat picked up. That was our supposed lunch destination. Maybe he didn’t want lunch after all.
“Um, Nicholas, you missed your turn.”
“While you were getting dressed, I decided that I wanted to do something different so I made alternate plans. I hope that’s okay.”
“Yes, that is fine, but why didn’t you tell me?”
“To be honest, I was going to tell you, but when you walked out of the room, I lost my train of thought.” He paused and looked over at me and gently caressed my face, his thumb gracefully rubbing across my bottom lip. His touch was causing a waterfall in my undies and that desire from within was making her presence known. “If it’s not, tell me. Remember, I am not trying to pressure you into anything you do not want.”
You have some humor to work with here with the undies comment (and as a romance reader—I definitely laughed). Rather than the extra explaining about the presence, you can work in more setting details. Think of all the details within a car that could be a hindrance to this romantic moment in order to up the tension. Or maybe the closeness is enabling their moment to strengthen. Think of seatbelts, the door handle, what’s going on outside the car, is the car still moving?
“I don’t feel pressured, Nicholas. I don’t want you to go through any trouble for me.”
“Lunch is not trouble, Maya. It is a requirement of your body. It’s not far from here. I wanted a place with a little more privacy. I think we need to talk about what is going on between us. You know, lay our cards on the table. How does the other person feel about what happened?” It was as if he had been reading my thoughts the whole time.
And no matter what you add in, make sure you connect it to something your character is thinking or feeling. It’s not setting for the sake of describing objects nearby, but how the surroundings affect how the characters act in the scene. Thanks so much for sharing!
Thank you, Stephanie, 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.