FIRST ASSIGNMENT: write your story statement.
Gabriella Gold (Gabby) must protect her teen daughter, Penelope from a sexual predator, while at the same time, trying to heal from and make sense of her own experience at seventeen with a forty-eight year old predator with whom she had an affair.
SECOND ASSIGNMENT: in 200 words or less, sketch the antagonist or antagonistic force in your story. Keep in mind their goals, their background, and the ways they react to the world about them.
Peter Romano is the forty-eight year old, renowned artist with whom Gabby had an affair with when she was seventeen in 1989. He is handsome, famous, worldly, intelligent, artistic and charming. Peter manipulates the situation, acquiring Gabby as his studio intern, which allows him the opportunity to groom Gabby, eventually entrusting her to him so that he can take sexual advantage of her. He is selfish and manipulative and is driven by what he desires in the moment.
Perry Mason, the fifty-five-year old famous art photographer and New York City icon, preys upon Gabby’s daughter Penelope in 2019. He is a notorious womanizer and enjoys his status as an edgy and charming older man, who parades around with young, beautiful women.
Andrew Gold, Gabby’s father, is an extremely wealthy hedge-fund player who was emotionally abusive to Gabby’s mother before their divorce. He is a dead-beat dad, who barely saw Gabby when growing up. He is driven by money, power and status. He takes no responsibility for his failed role as a father.
The antagonistic force is society’s acceptance of men in power preying on young women.
THIRD ASSIGNMENT: create a breakout title (list several options, not more than three, and revisit to edit as needed).
Before Penelope: Penelope is Gabby’s daughter, and as Gabby is trying to mother Penelope and protect her from a predator she suspects her daughter is in danger of, she is confronting her own past affair she had as a teen with a predator—hence, Before Penelope
Reading Girl: Reading Girl is the name of the painting that Gabby’s predator painted of her when she herself was a teen, having an affair with him. The painting is renowned, and yet no one knows that Gabby is actually the subject in the painting.
The Gallerist’s Daughter: Gabby’s mother April is a renowned gallerist. The art world exposed Gabby to her predator, and this is a book about art and predators as much as it is a book about mothers and daughters
FOURTH ASSIGNMENT: -
Develop two smart comparables for your novel. This is a good opportunity to immerse yourself in your chosen genre. Who compares to you? And why?
GENRE: Literary Fiction
Dark Vanessa by Kate Russell
Like Russell’s character, Vanessa, my character, Gabby, must juggle the memory of her past as an in-awe teen of an older man she “loved”, with her present perspective of him as a predator; she must also deal with the trauma that came with it. Both works go between the past and the present, exploring the dynamics of a teen’s vulnerability and excitement, and a grown woman’s confusion and rage.
The Girls by Emma Cline
Although my work is different in subject matter from Cline’s, The Girls, there are stylistic and thematic similarities. The middle-aged, present day narrator of Cline’s work, recalls her teen years in California with the same detailed and vivid precision that my character, Gabby, recalls her teen years in New York City with. Both works analyze a teen mistake from the perspective of a middle-aged woman, and both works are able to convey the magic, promise and beauty of youth despite the darkness and danger that are present. The writing highlights the beauty in the darkness from a teen’s perspective, and for that reason, the reader is able to understand why the teen characters in both works did what they did.
FIFTH ASSIGNMENT: write your own hook line (logline) with conflict and core wound following the format above. Though you may not have one now, keep in mind this is a great developmental tool. In other words, you best begin focusing on this if you're serious about commercial publication.
When a mother catches a middle-aged man flirting with her teen daughter, she is forced to confront her own past affair at seventeen-years old with a forty-eight-year old man, and the negative impact it had on her life, all while trying to prevent her daughter from suffering the same fate.
SIXTH ASSIGNMENT: sketch out the conditions for the inner conflict your protagonist will have. Why will they feel in turmoil? Conflicted? Anxious? Sketch out one hypothetical scenario in the story wherein this would be the case--consider the trigger and the reaction.
Next, likewise sketch a hypothetical scenario for the "secondary conflict" involving the social environment. Will this involve family? Friends? Associates? What is the nature of it?
Gabby is in turmoil because she is forced to face her difficult past affair at seventeen years old with a forty-eight year old man. Accepting that her divorce from her loving husband, her anger at her mother, her over-protectiveness of her daughter, and her general unhappiness are connected to this experience, instills in her immense turmoil and anxiety. And, what’s even a greater conflict, is the rage Gabby has buried about her absent father, perhaps a core reason as to why she desired the company of an older man as a teen. She must unravel this despite the discomfort it instills in her.
Gabby is also conflicted as she tries to make sense of her teen perspective for a man she thought she loved, who was actually a predator who harmed her; she struggles with forgiving her younger self.
While delving into the past to confront the emotional effects her predator had on her, she must also face her teen years, where she was inappropriately independent, living a fast life filled with clubs and drugs and a best friend she could not fix.
Additionally, Gabby struggles with her love for her ex-husband, whom she is sure she would have remained with had she healed from her past. She is also in turmoil over wanting to be closer to her daughter while inadvertently pushing her away with her overbearing worry and control.
When Gabby delves into her past and recalls letting Peter, her predator, caress the small of her back while standing next to her mother, her anger for her mother is immediately triggered, and instead of confronting her mother in the present, she chooses to push down the rage and carry it as she has done for years. She questions if she is protecting herself, her predator, or her mother, and she struggles to answer this throughout.
HYPOTHETICAL SECONDARY CONFLICT:
When Gabby watches her daughter lean into an older man to respond to him at an art opening at her mother’s gallery, instead of trying to assess the situation, she storms over, grabs Penelope by the arm, embarrassing her, and screams at the man to stay away. She drags Penelope out, who is enraged and humiliated by her mother’s behavior. As Penelope is struggling to navigate her own understanding of how the world works and step into her womanhood, she is constantly being hindered by her mother, Gabby, who will not let her because of her own fear of what could happen. Gabby continuously struggles with projecting her own fears because of her past, onto her daughter.
FINAL ASSIGNMENT: sketch out your setting in detail. What makes it interesting enough, scene by scene, to allow for uniqueness and cinema in your narrative and story? Please don't simply repeat what you already have which may well be too quiet. You can change it. That's why you're here! Start now. Imagination is your best friend, and be aggressive with it.
The setting is New York City in 1989 and New York City in 2019 as the novel transitions between the past and the present. New York City becomes a character in itself as my novel travels through the colorful art, club and restaurant world of New York City in both 1989 and 2019, with its glamour, grit and array of colorful characters.
New York City’s art world in particular, lays the foundation for Gabby’s personality as her upbringing took place during a special and more wild time in New York City’s late eighties. As the daughter of a renowned gallerist, who once had a gallery in Soho and later in Chelsea, Gabby has learned to use art as a way to understand her world. She intellectualizes and philosophizes over art (and literature) often, and art becomes a continuous backdrop for the setting.
The setting of New York City and the art world also make’s Gabby’s unconventional upbringing more understandable. As a major player in New York’s art world, April, Gabby’s mother, threw inappropriate loft parties filled with art denizens from all over the world, instilling in Gabby a deeper understanding of culture and the danger that comes with it, more than your average teen. Gabby has also developed a mature ability to read adults. The New York City art world was also April’s church, so to speak, and April is so absorbed in it that it left Gabby on her own too often during her teen years.
Similarly, Gabby’s daughter, Penelope is being raised in New York City; she has a certain freedom that comes with being a teen in the city that makes Gabby anxious and overprotective. What’s more is that Penelope is also around the art world, exposing her to interesting and sometimes dangerous, older people. The setting lends itself to a certain teen sophistication.
The novel also takes the reader to the club scene of the late eighties in New York City, where teens and drag queens alike danced on ecstasy to all hours of the morning, and even into poetry slams downtown, where Gabby shares her poetry with a young, eighties crowd. Gabby lives the life of a typical, privileged teen in New York City’s late eighties, growing up in a beautiful, art-filled loft in Soho, and going to clubs and brownstone and loft parties with absent parents.
Because New York City is the setting, it also allows for the glamour, glitz and grit that is so much a part of the city. Gabby was privy to a glamorous subculture, but it was as much beautiful and exiting as it was dangerous and dark.