Have questions about submitting to Pitch Wars or just want to know what it is? Start here!


Pitch Workshop – B’s critique #12

Monday, 13 February 2012  |  Posted by Brenda Drake

It’s day six of our pitch workshop. For ten days, Shelley Watters, Cassandra Marshall, and I are critiquing two pitches each per day. Click on my partners-in-crime pics on the sidebar to go to their sites and read their critiques.

Next up is …

Name: Alexandra Campbell
Genre: MG Fantasy
Word Count: 37,000


When a half-mermaid girl is kidnapped by a circus, she has to deal with power-crazy parents who hate each other, her hopelessly unhelpful twin sister, and a misplaced Leviathan in order to be free.

B’s notes: This sounds like a fun premise. I’m just missing something here. How does she have to deal with power-crazy parents? Why is her sister unhelpful? How is the Leviathan misplaced? How does she have to deal with them to get free? Give me more information and I’ll be happy to take a shot at your logline. It’s almost there, it’s just vague.

B’s additional notes: Holy guacamole, this one is tough. Okay, I’ve tried coming up with something. If anything, it’s a starting point. I could use some serious help with this one. Here’s what I’m working with…
‘Half-mermaid and circus freak, Annette, thinks living in a fishbowl, literally, sucks, but losing the song-spell controlling the Leviathan stuck on Earth is worst, especially when finding the song is her only way to freedom.


Annette was sure she’d be late, the way old Hazel insisted on curling her hair and tying it up in those ridiculous blue ribbons.Annette thought they made her look much younger than she actually was, more like eight than twelve. But there was no use arguing about it. She had to wait while her best, pale-yellow dress was pressed and smoothed until there couldn’t possibly be any wrinkles left. Then she sprinted towards the crowd gathered on the shore of her village. She was relieved, when she got there, that the circus hadn’t started yet.

A ferry boat floated in the bay with coloured lanterns strung along its deck. They shone like dozens of rainbows, light sparkling over the water. Annette spotted a few of her classmates in the crowd. She would’ve liked to have someone to watch the circus with, but each of them seemed to be wrapped up—mom on one side, dad on the other, siblings all around—and none of them returned her glance.

B’s note: I love the idea of Annette rushing off to the circus and longing to watch it with someone. What’s lacking for me is the voice. What year is this set in? The voice sounds like it’s from another era. Your MC is twelve so they’d sound older than an eight-year-old, but there would still be a child’s attitude. Sort of like…

‘Annette just knew she’d be late. It was all old Hazel’s fault for insisting to curl her hair and tie it all up in those ridiculous blue ribbons. Annette was sure they made her look much younger …’

I’m sure you can do much better than my attempt. I  find when I’m writing MG, I have to pretend I’m the character and talk out loud in their voice while writing. Of course, when my family is home, they give me strange looks. Ha. But I think they’re getting used to it now.  

I hope this helps! 

Remember this is subjective and others’ may feel differently. So I’ll now pass it on to the readers to critique. Please leave your comments, and remember the rules of critiquing … be nice, which I’m sure you all will be, but I have to say it … you know.


Filed: Misc, Workshops

  • Alexandra Campbell says:

    Thank you for your kind and helpful comments!
    I’ve been working on the voice, and your suggestions of how to approach it help. The story takes place in a world much like ours in the 19th century, and in the mer-world Akrant. I’ll take a stab at explaining the pitch:

    When Annette is kidnapped by the circus, her long-lost parents turn up to help her escape. This is the first time she’s shown the ability to change form (from human to mermaid) and they both realize she could be helpful to them.

    Malice, as heir to the Sea King, was given the power to control the most powerful monster in the mer-world: the Leviathan. But she decided to become human and immediately began to loose this power. She fell in love with the glass maker Riel, married him, and soon gave birth to twin girls. Then her father, the Sea King, was killed by a rebel clan. Malice could hear her sisters singing to her in her dreams, begging her to come back. Without the Sea King to sing to the Leviathan and defend them, Malice’s people were easily overcome. Malice tried to go back to the sea, but Riel stopped her and locked her up. She managed to escape by singing the children’s nursemaid to sleep and stealing her key, but Riel heard one of the babies start to cry as Malice left. He chased her to the sea, and pulled Annette out of her arms before she could get away. Malice called the Leviathan as she swam – what she could remember of his Song – and as she slipped into Akrant the Leviathan burst into Earth.

    The Leviathan is now trapped in a huge glass cavern under Riel’s house. Annette has to deal with her parents in order to be free, because as soon as she’s away from the circus she becomes a pawn in their war. Annette’s sister grew up in Akrant. She’s useless because she’s out of touch with reality and does whatever Malice says.

    Sorry for the long explanation!

  • Brenda Drake says:

    I’m trying grasp onto a good hook. Hmmm… Who does she live with when she’s kidnapped? Is she on display at the circus? What’s the main plot? What war? Who’s it against? What does either side have to gain if they win the war?

  • Alexandra Campbell says:

    Her father abandons her on the steps of a church so that he can figure out how to contain the Leviathan and continue his obsession with Malice. Annette is raised by an elderly couple in a fishing village. She is displayed by the circus, first in a tent as they travel towards the city and then in a giant fishbowl built by her father. He constructs it with a high pedestal in the middle so that she can climb out after changing back to human form.

    Annette is forced to choose between her parents. Malice’s people want the Leviathan back; they don’t know she’s lost its song-spell. Riel has hidden fragments of the spell in glass figures, and knows that Malice will need his help once the monster is released. He wants to go to Akrant and find her.
    When Annette is in Akrant, with her sister and her circus-friend Hans, she sees a glass hummingbird in the Sea King’s chamber. They steal it, not knowing that it holds a piece of the Leviathan’s song. Ultimately Annette helps to release the monster and guide it back to the mer-world.

    I hope that’s clearer?? Sorry for the convoluted answer. You’ve inspired me to work on my synopsis though!

  • Brenda Drake says:

    Okay, I’ve added what I’ve come up with. This one is tough. Maybe mine can be a starting point for you?

  • Alexandra Campbell says:

    That does help – I wouldn’t have thought of including those details. Thank you!

  • Alexandra Campbell says:

    This is what I’ve come up with:

    Half-mermaid Annette hates being in the circus, but when she finds out there’s a Leviathan trapped on earth and her mother has lost its song-spell being stuck in a fishbowl doesn’t seem so bad.


Leave a reply


We’d love your comments but ask that you please keep it polite. Although your views are definitely your own, we do not condone harassment or bullying and don’t want to see it here. We reserve the right to delete any comments for any reason, including being abusive, profane or off topic.

We're thrilled at the different ways those in our Pitch Wars community are giving back—and we encourage them to do so. However, please keep in mind that Pitch Wars is not affiliated with any of these various contests, promotions, etc., including those of our mentors and mentees. Promoting any such opportunities via our social media channels doesn't imply endorsement or affiliation. We encourage you to do your research before participating.

Pitch Wars takes a stand. ANTI-BULLYING. Click here to review our policy

Pitch Wars 2020

Blog Archives

Blog Categories

Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.