Looking forward to the conference in two weeks! Here are my assignments:
Assignment 1: Story Statement
Giselle must discover why the spirit of a young girl lingers in a Civil War manor, convinced that the ghost holds the key to cure the unnamed fear that has always plagued her.
Assignment 2: The Antagonist/Antagonistic Force Sketch
Antagonistic Force - Giselle's unnamed fear, or the "Anxiety": Giselle doesn't remember much of her young childhood other than having abdominal attacks that still get triggered sometimes. She connects the attacks to the Anxiety, which has plagued her for years. It often starts as anxiety/fear, but then leads to obsession with some idea that she latches onto along with an amorphous belief that it means something. The Anxiety has been such a tangible presence in her life, she thinks of it as an animate object -- specifically, a mangy dog that is always following her. She can't bring herself to chase it away, but she also can't let it catch her.
Antagonistic Force - Brynn Mancini (one of Giselle's best friends): Giselle met Brynn at the Nashvile-based global CPA firm they both joined after college. Brynn is fearless, strangely insightful and also aggressively spontaneous, and she becomes determined to distract Giselle from her ghost obsession by dragging her into adventures designed to show Giselle how to live "bravely" without fear. Instead, brynn's increasing recklessness feeds Giselle's Anxiety, which then further drives her need to cure it, and the corresponding obsession with Emily Ruth. Brynn's antagonistic influence is pushing Giselle, subconsciously, toward her core wounds, and the true source of the fear.
Assignment 3: Create a Breakout Title
THE SUNFLOWER PATCH
Title selected because it represents a recurring motif in the story, one with multiple levels of significance, including to the twist in the climax.
Assignment 4: Genre and Comps
THE SUNFLOWER PATCH is a psychological suspense novel in the spirit of Lucinda Berry, Tana French and Liane Moriarty, with a hint of Joe Hill. It combines the complex friendship intrigue elements of The Lying Game with the slow-burning, gothic supernatural suspense of The Woman in Black.
Assignment 5: Hook Line/Logline
A young woman drags her best friends into her growing obsession with a haunted Civil War manor, believing a young girl's ghost holds the key to unlocking her own troubled soul.
Assignment 6: Primary and Secondary Conflicts
Primary Conflict: Giselle Lewis should be happy. She's got her own apartment with coordinating throw pillows, she's halfway to becoming a CPA, and she's found two amazing friends, Brynn and Crosby, at her new job in Nashville. But instead, anxiety grips her stomach, the physical manifestation of the Fear that never leaves, and a sign that an obsession is forthcoming. Previously, it was seances, and then past lives, both in search of wisdom that could help her conquer that fear. This time, she latches onto Calloway Manor, a haunted Civil War plantation nearby, compelled to find the ghost of young Emily Ruth. When Giselle investigates Calloway Manor and makes contact with Emily Ruth, she's convinced it means something, and that she'll finally find the answers she's been looking for. As her connection with Emily Ruth intensifies, Giselle becomes obsessed with finding the answers, even as she begins to question why it's so important to her.
Secondary Conflict: Her friends are worried about Giselle's growing fascination, and that her interest in the dead is because she's fearful of life. So Brynn pulls her into crazy adventures designed to show Giselle how to live bravely, while Crosby challenges the scientific validity of her investigative process. But when Brynn's quest for adventure turns dangerous at a paranormal investigation, the three friends put to the test the strength of their own connection. And Giselle has a choice: face parts of herself and her past that could forever redefine what it means to be brave, or lose herself forever in the fear that is waiting to consume her.
Assignment 7: Setting
Calloway Manor - a Civil War-era plantation in rural Tennessee, including the rutted gravel road leading into the past, the crumbling barn, an old cemetary, and a small defiant sunflower patch that doesn't quite belong
Audit room where Giselle works with Brynn and Crosby
Nashville bar scene
Woods/bluff/waterfall (on camping trip)
Giselle's dreamscapes - rural woods, not unlike the grounds of Calloway Manor, with sunflowers and a sinister pond
Many of these settings are intended to be immersive and atmospheric, and all of them represent aspects of who Giselle is, as follows:
the rural plantation grounds, not unlike where's she from in Kentucky;
the audit room, where Giselle works with lots of young professionals, all eager to define these new adult versions of themselves;
swanky Nashville bars with her friends, where Giselle feels a sense of belonging she's never quite had;
the bluff and the waterfall on their camping trip, where Brynn triggers Giselle's deepest fears (and which, in turn, reinforce Giselle's Anxiety and corresponding obsessive need to cure it);
Giselle's apartment, which she's decorated herself, hoping it reflects who she is and who she wants to be;
the haunted house, with the little girl ghost that both fascinates Giselle and torments her, a representation of her inner psyche/suppressed past; and
her dreamscapes, which reveal the missing links to uncovering her core wound.