Wednesday, September 30, 2015

PitchWars Critique - THE LAST OF THE BLESSED

PitchWars is at its heart about the writing community. And even though at the end of the day Mindy McGinnis and I were only able to choose two mentees, we still wanted a way to give feedback to the many many many others who had been kind enough to share their work with us. Our decision to do this via our blogs, rather than a private email, is so that (hopefully!) everyone can learn a little bit from this feedback.

I'm happy to say that quite a few people have been generous enough to take us up on this offer! So, through November, Mindy and I will be posting these critiques on Mondays and Wednesdays. Make sure to look for them on both of our blogs as we'll be posting totally different critiques.

And for anyone out there looking for personalized feedback, I am now offering manuscript critique services which you can find out more about here.

You'll see my comments in red.

Dear Mentor,

Seventeen-year old ARAVIS is Second Mate on her father's the Joiamare pirate ship, Safris. On board the ship Aravis is safe from SPECIFIC THREAT and doesn't need to hide her SPECIFIC hair color or her strange powers., where she has never had to hide her unique hair color, imperviousness to the firestone flame, or heightened senses. With her father as captain they sail the Torian Sea, helping those in need and living out of the repressive monarchy’s reach. When a stowaway named KAIRU is discovered on board, she fears he’ll learn the secret of her heritage What is the secret - specifically? and destroy her way of life destroy her life HOW exactly?

You really don't need to put character names in CAPS. Also, I think there is a bit too much going on with your first sentence. Just too many details about ship names and pirate name and second mate and hair color and firestone and heightened senses. Reading it I'm not sure what to focus on. This is why I made the changes above - to simplify. I also think you could cut the bit about sailing the Torian Sea and the repressive monarchy. 

Eighteen-year old Kairu is really the missing prince of Asven who ran away the night of his engagement announcement. When he’s found aboard the Safris, Aravis wants nothing to do with him, but Kairu can see beyond her sharp exterior and deep mistrust of strangers. He must win her trust if he wants to escape his old reality this is an odd word choice and remain on the Safris, while still hiding his true identity. Why does he have to keep his identity secret from Aravis? What would she do if she found out? But Kairu doesn’t realize that his brother is closing in on his newfound freedom. 

Meanwhile, curious things are happening throughout the Kingdom of Asven. Islanders have disappeared. An entire town has been abandoned. A mysterious light keeps appearing in the sky. The Joiamare pirates learn their sworn enemy is working with Kairu’s brother. Aravis must deduce I would use discover instead of deduce their plan and determine if Kairu is an ally; while Kairu must choose where his loyalties lie. They’ll have to accept the truth of who they are and trust each other, or let their enemies continue abducting unprotected islanders.  This is good. You mention the complications, what they must do, and what is at stake if they fail.

THE LAST OF THE BLESSED is an 80,000-word Young Adult Fantasy Adventure novel told from Kairu’s and Aravis’ perspectives and has series potential. Oooh. I like the title. 

I have a Bachelor’s degree in Creative Writing from Pepperdine University. Thank you for considering my query and offering your time to Pitch Wars. I look forward to hearing from you. 

Lauren Wilhelm

Overall, this query is pretty strong.

Chapter One: The Party

“You know this is not a great idea, right?” Aravis said. 
So starting with dialogue is tricky. I think to make it work you need more than just "Aravis said" (although actually it should be "Aravis asked") as your dialogue tag. Just something that gives us more of a mental picture to place her because right now we know nothing - not even if Aravis is a boy or girl or whatever. Just something simple like: "Aravis asked as she paced the deck of the ship her long skirts swirling around her legs with every sharp pivot" would do the trick. 
       "That may be, but it still has to be done.” Okay, again, I need more here. Like who is talking. Give me more than just disembodied voices.
She shook her head. He again - he who? Even "Her father" would be better here was always doing things like this. Someone needed the Joiamare’s help, so in swoops Captain Finn to the rescue. Not that Aravis really minded the rescuing part. In fact, she rather enjoyed helping out the people of Asven who couldn’t help themselves. And given the supreme negligence of their royal majesties, the king and queen, the Joiamare were kept quite busy. But sneaking onto Tier Sha´Tal, the very island where the unscrupulous sovereigns lived, was not what Aravis would call reasonable.
“All right, Captain. Get caught by the Royal Guard and spend the rest of your days on land in a dreary dungeon instead of sailing the Torian Sea.” Aravis crossed her arms and leaned on the bulwark Much better dialogue tag. I like the dialogue here too, although I'd like to get a hint of actual feelings. Is she worried (and hiding it)?. “On second thought, do get caught,” she said. “Then I will be made captain and I can keep the crew of the Safris from your absurdities.” 
“The only things that are absurd are your words,” said Captain Finn. “Firstly, the Royal Guard would not catch me. I am too stealthy.” He puffed up his chest dramatically. “Secondly, Sylvanus would be with me. And if I did manage to get myself into trouble, he would cover my back – which you know he can do as he is quite broad.” An explanation of exactly who Sylvanus is would be nice here. Let the reader in on the joke about how broad he is.
Aravis managed half a smile at that. Finn smiled back, satisfied.
“Finally, and most importantly,” he said, “Basilias forbid I ever get captured by the Royal Guard, but if I did, you’d miss me.” He put his arm around her shoulders. “You would never leave me to rot away in a cell where not even the scent of the sea are could reach me.” Again you mention another character - Basilias - but it means nothing bc we have no idea who that is.
“You seem sure of that, but I wouldn’t don't test me. Better for you if you don’t get caught.” 
“You could still come with us, you know,” Finn said, retracting his arm.

Overall, I think this is good. If you can add in a few more details to bring the reader into the world a little more quickly, it would be even stronger.

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