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 Destiny Cole
Destiny Cole knew from a young age that she was going to be a storyteller. Whether it was fantastical worlds or creepy villains, Destiny wants to tell the kind of stories that stay with you long after the last page is turned. Writing primarily YA thriller and mystery books, Destiny is repped by Kirsten Carleton at Prospect Agency and also works in digital marketing. When detached from her computer, she can be found entertaining her three kids and trying to convince her Belgian husband that she’s the funniest person he’s ever met. She and her family currently reside in Dallas, Texas. Find her on Twitter at @destinywrites or at destinycole.com
The 500 Word Critique . . .
Young Adult Fantasy
A child darted past him, jostling his knee [jostling his knee makes me think he was sitting, but later on we see he’s walking. Another descriptor may be needed.]. Automatically, his hand went to his pocket. Brilliant. Now he would have to ask Escar to lend him the money for his ale. But even as he thought that, something else struck him. He’d left his map with Escar and the boys, sure [possibly use the word ‘confidant’ or something similar here. The use of ‘sure’ for some reason tripped me up every time I read the sentence and made me think it was saying something else.] he could remember the way to Dulcine Street on his own. But in his stewing, he’d lost track of his turns.
He laughed, setting his fists on his hips [This Peter Pan move is a little awkward. Maybe more of a “runs a hand over his head” type thing would work better to show his resignation to his crappy night]. Well, the night clearly wanted to go badly, so why shouldn’t he be lost? Why not wander around a strange town at dusk with pickpockets running about? Maybe General Lescue was right and that sigil on his uniform had been given out too liberally.
The street had a pitiable appearance, the haze of clouds overhead doing little to brighten its atmosphere. [This is a little too weak. Imagine what this street looks like at first glance and then paint it out. Pitiable appearance is too broad.] Sarcey must have seen some action along this front. Half the buildings were shelled to rubble, and through their hollow frames, he could see the skeletons of other houses, all the way to the harbor. [Great visual. Phrases like this, that evoke a visual are what you want.] Maybe he wasn’t lost. Perhaps this was what the war had done to Dulcine Street. Who could hope to tell? He trudged along the [a descriptor here would ground the scene. Right now it feels like he’s relatively alone, but in the next few sentences you say it’s busy. Set that up. Even just saying “crowded block” would set it up] block, no longer minding his missing coins. They were a small offense when he considered the beggars lining the broken stone facades. [saying they were lining the walls evokes an image of just that, they are all lined up along the walls, which is not the case. Some are sitting, standing, talking with one another, maybe some are living inside the dilapidated homes… give us that sense here.] The street seemed overrun with children, each thinner faced than the one before.
He could feel the children watching him, heads poking out of tents and lean-tos cobbled together from the surrounding rubble. [Describing the overall feel of this area would be helpful to connect us emotionally. Give us some similes and descriptors that we can connect to. The “heads poking out of tents like…” “Lean-tos cobbled together from the surrounding rubble like…” We need a more vivid picture of this area. Also, describe the “feel” of the people. The looks on the children’s faces. Are they scared of him? Are they wary? Are they smiling, oblivious to the fact this isn’t “normal”? How does HE feel being here? Does it make him uncomfortable? Does it remind him of anything? Does he feel responsible to help them? You have a great opportunity to really paint a picture of your world.] Did he have anything of value for them? His money might be gone, but a trinket from the southern provinces could fetch a price. As he checked his inner-breast pocket for valuables, he sensed a shadow behind his shoulder.
“Pardon, sir. Are you with the men the General assigned to city relief?”
Redat spun to face a young woman who stood a head taller than the rest of the impoverished group. Dark, sharp eyes and a barrage of matted hair greeted him. She looked very young to be responsible for so many children. Among any other crowd, Redat would have thought her no more than a girl. A massive scarf and coat swallowed her frame [good descriptors here], nothing but a wind bitten face exposed to him. [seeing her needs to evoke something in him. How does seeing her so dirty and starving make him feel?] Clasping her hand was a starved child of about ten years.
“Are you part of the city relief?” she repeated. [is she irritated right here? Desperate? Kind? Patient?]
He cleared his throat, embarrassed to realize he must have been staring. “No, sorry, Miss.”
“Then who is, Captain?” the girl asked. [Is she defiant? Wary of him? Describe her a little more]
Captain. She was quick about reading uniforms. Redat pulled his hands from his empty pockets. “I’m sorry, but I haven’t any information about that either.”
She nodded, lips pressed tight. “I see. Sorry to waste your time.” She curtsied and began walking back towards the pack of children. [Was it a mocking courtesy? If not, is he surprised at her manners?]
But Redat couldn’t abide someone believing him unhelpful. “Wait, Miss! I apologize. The General is organizing city relief, but there’s always a touch of chaos on a happy day like this.”
“We haven’t eaten all day. What’s so happy about that?” She stared at him, as if his enthusiasm was the most moronic thing she’d heard in her life. And judging by the hollows in her cheeks, he couldn’t be sure she was wrong.
[Overall, you have a really great start here and I enjoyed reading and wanted to read on! When describing a world that is familiar, you can focus more on connecting the reader to the “atmosphere” of the setting. Paint them a picture with your words and let them connect emotionally with the world you describe. You can do this by using similes and going deeper into the overall “feel” of an area rather than honing in on more specific setting descriptions.]
Thank you, Destiny, 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.