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 Natasha Neagle
YA author repped by Michelle Richter at Fuse Literary. I graduated with a degree in Biology from Old Dominion University and a Master’s in Education, Curriculum & Instruction from the University of Phoenix. A middle school science teacher by day, I spend my nights coming up with news ways to torment my characters while giving you the most swoon-worthy book boyfriend. I live in Northern Virginia with my husband, two children, four cats, and two dogs (Welcome to #NeagleZoo).
Natasha’s 500 Word Critique . . .
YA Urban fantasy
Esme launched herself through the opening door. This was her one chance— While this opening starts us with action, I wonder if there is another way to make this voicier and really hook the reader. I’m more interested in why this is Esme’s one chance than finding out Esme launched herself through the door.
‘No way.’ This doesn’t relate to voice, but style. Be sure you are using quotation marks (“ “)for your dialogue. The newcomer caught her arm and shoved her straight back in. You could add some internal here to voice this up. What is Esme’s reaction to being caught? Is it a swear or body language? Give us some insight as to who Esme is because I don’t know yet. Her sea-water ears crackled, the door latched with a click, and a flash of dizziness swerved the room to the right, pinning her back into the chair. There is a lot going on in this sentence making it somewhat hard to follow. I don’t feel as if I’m in the mind set of your character. Damn. Her eyes closed, after-images of the room flaring up in violent oranges and pinks behind her lids. How does what happened just now make your character feel? I ask myself this question a lot when I’m writing because it tells me I can voice up my writing with internal.
‘What’s she told you?’ said the new voice. How does this voice sound? If you show this it might add some dimension to the character and give us more a sense of who this person is. As of right now, I know nothing.
‘Nothing yet. What happened? Did you finish the show?
‘Only just. Real claws, you saw that?
‘On our first night without Lo? It can’t be a coincidence.’ All of this dialogue is talking heads. It’s very confusing for the reader because we have no idea who is talking. You can remedy this by using dialogue tags. If people are arguing and it’s not your character doing the talking, then show us that. Let your character’s thoughts and internal dialogue come in sooner to show us this information.
That voice like broken grass. She knew him without opening her eyes. This has my interest. But again, I find myself asking ‘how does this knowledge make her feel’ – show us through her voice. Does she swear or have a physical reaction or internal? The room swerved again and she could no longer follow his words, but the pull of his voice still tugged at her, sustained through the queasy wash of orange. She gripped the edge of the desk, pressing the cold metal into her palms until the shapes faded away and she could open her eyes.
The two of them were still arguing.
‘—but we can get answers here, why go to the effort?’ Off-stage, the boy seemed younger and smaller, like the story was a shape he’d climbed into while performing but, now the show was over, his real shape was winning through. Not voice related, but I’d split this into two sentences for more effect. You could always insert some voice into this to possibly give us some insight into her age and maturity level.
The older man argued back. Don’t tell us they argued here. Show us. Give us body language and then lead into the dialogue which shows the argument. ‘The place is emptying out and we don’t have any other leads.’ The noises of the bar pushed through the door, a blur of voices calling goodbye over footsteps and the chink of collected glasses. Maybe give this information sooner so we have a better idea of where we are located. If this is a bar, what does it smell like? You can introduce the setting in a voicy manner, showing us how the character sees things in her own unique way.
‘What if this is what they want, Laine? What if they’re trying to get in and she’s just the start? First we take her and then—’
‘—Dean, I’m not asking. You have to ’tell her.’
The boy flicked his glare to Esme, his face tight with dislike. You could give us some voice here with Esme’s thoughts to this person staring at her with dislike. ‘Tell me what?’ Esme tried to say, not sure if the words came out. Her belly rolled and she planted her elbows on the table as the office contracted once more, determined not to shut her eyes this time.
Dean crouched next to her and frowned. ‘What’s wrong with her?’
Esme blinked at him, willing him to leave her alone. As I read this, I hear your character asking a question here. You don’t want to use too many, but they do a great job to voice up the pages. Maybe try something along the lines of Why won’t he go away? Or you could say, She wondered why he wouldn’t leave her the hell alone. There are many ways to add voice right here. Each blink snapped the colour in and out of the room, on and off, off and on. The flowers on the table waited quietly for her to finish, their petals vibrating with each change, shimmering between black and white, purple and red.
‘Stop it!’ The boy snapped his fingers in front of her face. Here is another opportunity for voice. So internal here would voice up the page by giving us her thought.
Laine pushed Dean out the way. ‘Quiet. Let me see.’ Ignoring them both, she concentrated on not falling face forward onto the desk. What is happening to me?
‘Could be she’s not used to this,’ Laine said. ‘It can happen when they’re new, but it’s been years since I’ve seen a case.’ A weight in his voice made years sound like decades. ‘We can’t leave her like this. She’s coming with us.’
Thank you, Natasha, for your critique. Interested in more 500 word voice workshops? 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.