1. The Act of Story Statement:
The mission of the protagonists is to find a space for themselves in a world actively attempting to silence them.
2. Sketch of the Antagonists:
Two collective antagonists exist in this story, the cult of Tree Tree McForest Face (led by Sandra) and the QAnon “patriots” (led by George and, to an extent, Carl). Sandra’s goal is to keep the cult she has created in the heart of the Colorado mountains a secret from the outside world. She was a person of power on the outside, but her power was limited. In the forest, she is a god, and she wishes to remain that way, to have absolute control. When Quincy, and later Maya, learn of the cult and actively resist being part of it, Sandra will do what is necessary to retain her power and keep her secret. George and his compatriot Carl are an embodiment of masculinity and whiteness. Carl is gay but won’t acknowledge that fact. George is what Carl wants to be, hypermasculine and tough. They wish to kill Quincy because they believe he has weaponized gayness, and they wish to kill Maya because she is black and most likely aligned with the Obama administration. For Carl, killing Quincy will prove his masculinity and will help him further hide his true identity. For George, he will be a “patriot” hero.
3. Title Options:
Quickmash-Mishmash (Protagonists find themselves in a world that never slows and in which they are not in control. Mirroring of events.)
Elevation 10152’ (All Colorado city and town signs use elevation instead of population. Leadville’s elevation, where the story begins.)
The Kidney, the Cult, and the Unfortunate Two (An allusion to the three things central to the story.)
4. Genre and Comparable Titles:
A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole: This is the first comparable title I chose because, though it is a Pulitzer Prize winner and a classic, it is the book that inspired the writing of my novel. The various perspectives are the first part of the similarities, the movement between Ignatius Reilly, Irene Reilly, Gus Levy, and Burma Jones. Aside from this, the way Ignatius moves through the world and how things happen to him that are seemingly outside his control but are always leading him forward to Myrna--who is sort of a clouded future--is similar to the way my characters move through the world. Also, the idea of events pushing characters to an undefined or ill-defined future resonates with the way my characters are forced to navigate their world without knowing the outcome of their journey.
Callisto by Torsten Krol: Like Odell Deefus in Callisto, my novel’s protagonists unwittingly end up in positions that pit them against, and put them in alliance with, odd and quirky characters. Stumbling into terrible positions against their will forces them to make choices that have lasting results. The darkly comedic aspect of Callisto is also similar to my novel. On top of this, my novel, like Callisto, exposes the dark realities of our world and makes one think about the major social and political issues in the United States while laughing both genuinely and uncomfortably at the events unfolding.
5. Core Wound and Primary Conflict:
Quincy, gay man, and Maya, a black woman, stereotyped for their entire lives, must escape violent conspiracists and hypersexual cultists, both of whom wish to use Quincy and Maya for their own ends based on the stereotypes that Quincy and Maya have been attempting to free themselves from since they were young.
6. Other Matters of Conflict:
Maya: Maya is pulled over by a white cop and told by this cop that her last name, Jones, doesn’t sound black and that she must have a white dad. Maya considers what she has been told all her life about cops. Keep your nose down, and never talk back, no matter what. She strongly wishes to confront the cop on his blatant racism, but her dad’s voice keeps playing in her head, and she is torn about what to do next. She has had relatives arrested because they looked suspicious, because the color of their skin, and she doesn’t want to end up like them, but she also feels she must do something.
Quincy: Quincy is socially awkward. He says things that he shouldn’t, and he doesn’t say things that he should. He spent a lot of time alone and continues to spend time alone because he doesn’t think people really get him, partially because he is gay, and partially because he himself thinks he is kind of weird. Before and during conversation, Quincy is always thinking about how awkwardly things could turn out or how stupid he could potentially appear to his audience. Even in situations where the external conflict is high stakes, his inner voice continues to shout at him about the trajectory of his words.
Maya: Maya is at a costume party in Aspen at a wealthy doctor’s home. Everyone there is white, except for a couple who appears midway through the evening, but as the couple approaches her, she sees they, too, are white and that they are wearing blackface. She is tired of her inner voice by this point, and she confronts the two on their costumes, to which they reply that they donate to black charities, so they have a right to dress up this way. Later in the evening, as tensions mount and the two people in blackface confront Maya and ask her where she got her blackface done (they don’t believe that a black woman could be in Aspen), Maya disregards all the advice she has ever been given and slaps the woman in blackface.
Quincy: Quincy is in an outdoor store with Maya trying to find food at a place the cultists and conspiracists will never think to look. Quincy, being the awkward man that he is, stares in a way that the female store worker thinks means he is checking her out. After Quincy and Maya purchase their items, the woman begins accusing Quincy of staring at her breasts and starts throwing carabiners at him, telling him to get out. Quincy, lost for words for a brief moment, finally yells at the woman to stop, that he is gay, to which the woman replies that Quincy should have said so from the start, to which he then replies that that he shouldn’t have to announce that he is gay to everyone he meets.
The story starts in Leadville, Colorado, an outdoor enthusiast’s mecca in the heart of the Colorado Rockies. There is a BBQ festival there every year, and it is during this festival that Maya, one of the protagonists, meets George, a central antagonist, while he is serving beer. And it is outside this town that Quincy, the second protagonist, meets Carl, another primary antagonist. Weather is shifty in the high country, and this allows for a sudden lightning storm at high elevation to kill Carl’s friend, thus setting off the conflict between Carl and Quincy because Carl believes Quincy is a government agent who sent the lightning down to intentionally kill his friend. This first area in and around Leadville, because it is so vast and so uninhabited, also allows for a cult to exist without anyone knowing, and when Quincy is swept away in a swift moving stream and picked up by the cult, the next group of antagonists comes into play.
Aspen, the next primary location in the story, was chosen for a few reasons. The first is that it is close to Leadville. The second is that, even though it is not the closest town, Maya and Quincy believe it to be the least racist since it is full of wealthy Hollywood elite. And the third is that Aspen is rich, and the police, at least according to Maya and Quincy, must have the resources to protect them from the cultists and the conspiracy theorists. But in a town where money talks loudest, Maya and Quincy soon find out that the cultists who are chasing them are extremely wealthy and have the Aspen PD in their back pocket; that the only black people who apparently come to Aspen are Oprah, Rihanna, Rosario Dawson, or any other black people with wealth; and that the enlightened elite that they thought would be their salvation are actually just as bad as everyone else they’ve encountered so far but in more eccentric and also insidious ways.
The final location, Glenwood Springs, just off the I-70 corridor in Colorado, is just enough in the middle of the socioeconomic spectrum that Maya and Quincy feel it could be the place they could finally, finally find someone who isn’t out of their mind. Glenwood also has a Planned Parenthood, and all the characters, at differing times, end up in the middle of a protest during the final pursuit, which helps to expose the characters’ inner workings even further during various confrontations with protestors and media. Glenwood also has a gondola that leads up to what is called a mountain coaster, a roller coaster that starts at the top of the mountain and ends at the bottom. This setting provides a good slow pursuit to the top of the mountain, where all parties come into conflict with each other, and a fast pursuit to the bottom, after all hell breaks loose at the summit.