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Pitch Workshop – B’s critique #3

Thursday, 9 February 2012  |  Posted by Brenda Drake

So today is the second day 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.
And our next victim participant is …
Name: Hope Roberson
Title: My Protector: The Calling
Genre: YA Post Apocalyptic
Word Count: 68,000
When Eri develops an internal link to the man-eating beasts plaguing the planet, she must control the Calling and secretly learn the skills of a Protector before she ends up dead.
B’s notes: I don’t have enough information in this pitch. What’s the calling? What skills does a Protector have?  How does the internal link work? Answer these questions in the comments and I’ll see what I can do with it. Right now, this pitch is too vague. 

B’s update: After getting more information from Hope, I’ve taken a shot at her pitch.  I think the problem was that Hope was trying to give us all of Eri skills in the small space of a logline. It helps to give one succulent detail to entice an agent. Read her information in the comments and let me know what you think. Together, we can help her come up with a better one. Here’s mine…
‘When Eri develops the Calling, an internal link to the man-eating beasts plaguing her planet, she must learn how to use her inherited skills against the creatures before they destroy everything she loves.’

Going to the river was forbidden. I knew this, yet it didn’t keep me from stepping off the gravel path or walking into the field.
B’s notes: I like this opening. I get a real sense of who Eri is here. She seems like a rebel.
My heart banged against its cage of ribs. The space in my lungs shrunk. I sucked in a shallow breath, enough to nearly taste the crisp grass beneath my feet.
B’s notes: Why not just say ‘rib cage’ here instead of ‘cage of ribs’. And who’s rib cage is it? The way it’s written, it sounds like it belongs to the heart not Eri. The rest of this is great – I feel her nervousness. But what is she nervous about? I think you need another line here. Something that tells us why she’s nervous, like…

‘My heart banged against my rib cage. If I continued, my dad would whip me.’

Of course, that’s kind of lame and I’m sure it doesn’t fit the story, but I just wanted to give you an example of what I meant. I’m the ‘show me’ type, that’s how I grasp things best (I was going to say ‘that’s how I roll’ but I was sure I’d get an eye-roll from Shelley).
Stop your feet, Eri!
From the twilight behind me, a stifled gong sang out across the village, ringing through my insides. The warning bell.

B’s notes: It’s a stifled gong, so could it ring through her insides? And is twilight only behind her or completely around her? This sentence isn’t working for me. Couldn’t she just hear the gong? You should probably give more detail here, like …

‘Twilight settled around me. I sat on my heels and picked a yellow wildflower from the river bank.The petals sagged, knowing their doom. A stifled gong sang out from the village. I straightened, holding my breath, listening, uncertain of what I  heard. The gong went off again. I dropped the flower and sprinted toward home.’

Again, kind of lame, probably doesn’t fit your story, but you get the gist. Bring us into the scene, but keep us on edge.

I watched figures flee for safety, their shouts carried across the distance growing between us.

B’s notes: How did she get back so fast? There isn’t enough setting for me. I have no idea how far from the village she is or if she made it to the river. Did she hear the gong in the field? Is she barely out of the village? And if she’s barely out of the village, why is the gong stifled? What are the figures (could be dogs, but most likely they’re humans) and what are they running from? How is the distance growing between them? Is she moving away? Is she running from the village? I need more details. Is she afraid and trying to get away?

But the charcoal sky and inky river invited me forward. My emotion stumbled and collided like the rapids crashing against rock. Thoughts swirled through my head and I reached up to steady myself, squeezing my eyes shut against the confusion. I pressed my hands over my ears, begging the pounding inside to leave me alone.  “Please stop, please stop, please stop,please stop, please stop—” 
B’s notes: Why does she have this urge to go to the river? What kind of emotion is she having? Sadness? Terror? What thoughts are swirling through her head? What’s confusing her? Let your readers know. This is how we get to know your character.

From what I can tell, this premise sounds intriguing. Actually this scene could be great. The problem, we need more details and it feels too vague for me to connect to the character and the setting. Flesh this scene out. Don’t over do it, just sprinkle small details that will help clear up what’s going on here. 

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

  • Angela Brown says:

    I agree with the notes regarding the pitch.

    I read through this the first time without looking at the notes. I wanted to let myself react to the original words. I found them quite poetic and filled with a lot of sensory inducement. The one I both agree and disagree with, for example, is the use of “cage of ribs”. Poetically, this works as a manifestation of displaying something being caged in or held back. Yet, simplifying to rib cage works just as well for reading purposes. The rest of the notes provided mentioned are great. Personally, my favorite things thus far is that opening line. Very strong.

  • Brenda Drake says:

    Thank you, Angela, I love to hear what I might miss in critiques. I agree there is poetic prose here. The opening line grabbed me too. I’m excited about this story. I think it has some great elements in it. 😀

  • Wow! Thanks for all your feedback! You’ve given me great, specific direction, I’m sure I can make my beginning so much stronger with your suggestions 🙂

    For the pitch, I obviously am struggling to get the important snippets in 35 words and still maintain intensity 🙂

    The Calling is the internal link to the beasts. Someone with the Calling can feel when the beasts are coming near the village. For Eri, when she feels the Calling, her body fills with adrenaline and rage and she wants to hunt down the beasts to make the rage go away. The Protectors are the guardians (somewhat secretive and only men)who fight off the beasts and try to keep the village safe. Most Protectors use swords, Eri needs to learn how to fight with one.

    Thanks again for all your feedback and I hope you can spin those answers/details into a pitch I can work on 🙂

  • I love the way you’ve tweaked my pitch! Thank you 🙂 Now if I could somehow infuse the fact that she has to fight to get those skills since she’s a girl and Protectors are men…

    When Eri develops the Calling, an internal link to the man-eating beasts plaguing her planet, she must find a way to learn the skills of a Protector before the creatures destroy everything she loves.

  • Brenda Drake says:

    When you use Protector it confuses. We don’t have enough info. to know what a Protector does. You can put Protector in your query where you have more room to explain them.

    Okay, another try…

    When Eri becomes the first girl to receive the Calling, an internal link to the man-eating beasts plaguing her planet, she must use her inherited skills to stop the creatures from destroying everything she loves.

  • Thank you for clarifying that part about the Protectors 🙂 I know all of it in my head, it’s hard to figure out what is key to a pitch. I really, really like what you’ve come up with! And I can’t thank you enough for giving me such in depth edits. So awesome!

  • TL Sumner says:

    I like Brenda’s pitch that includes the idea of her being the first girl to receive the Calling. That’s very intriguing and I can just imagine all the conflict that could arise.

    I would have liked to known how far the field was from the river from the beginning. I was trying to picture it in my head and couldn’t see the river. I knew the river was dangerous and forbidden, but I think if it’s mentioned how close it is – it would raise the tension for the reader.

    I’d keep on reading. 🙂

  • I love the concept behind My Protector: The Calling and every time I read an excerpt I get excited. Brenda really gave some great advice to spice it up a bit. I have seriously learned so much from these contests.

  • Stephsco says:

    The first two lines are great, very well done. You have some vivid descriptions, but it may help the flow to stick with a few strong ones and pare down the rest of the language. For example, I agree with the rib cage comments. If one sentence acurately shows the character’s distress, two or three descriptions aren’t needed. Maybe combine those lines for one strong statement, followed by a short sentence with some action in it. One or two references to body distress can cover a lot, the reader can fill in the blanks.

    I say this all with great respect because I know how hard it is to set the tone early on. Nice work, you have a great start.

  • Thank you everyone for your helpful comments 🙂 It’s so nice to get extra feedback on specifics to tweak! And thanks Brenda for this workshop, awesome!

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