FIRST ASSIGNMENT: write your story statement.
In a sleepy college town, a mother is willing to do whatever it takes to protect her son, despite doubting his innocence, when he is named a person of interest in a potential murder case.
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.
1. Craig: Nicole sees her husband, as well as their marriage, through rose-colored glasses. Her first real “suitor,” Nicole, was swept up by his charm and married him when she was only nineteen, dedicating her life to being his wife and stay-at-home mom to their son, Kyle. Despite his adulating façade, Craig is anything but; he isn’t the doting, faithful husband, nor is he the protective father that he’s portrayed himself to be. Unbeknownst to Nicole, Craig is partly responsible for Jaden’s disappearance, and she only learns of his cunningness towards the end of the story.
2. Trista: The woman behind what really happened to Jaden (the boy who went missing), forcing Nicole to face the ultimate moral decision: tell the police the truth or let her unfaithful, unscrupulous husband take the fall and remain in jail.
3. Kyle: Between his suspicious and inexplicable behaviors, and privy to his illegal sports betting hobby, Nicole suspects there’s more to Kyle’s role in Jaden’s disappearance. She withholds such information from the police, creating a moral dilemma: help the case or protect her son?
THIRD ASSIGNMENT: create a breakout title
· PLAYING A DEADLY GAME
· IMMINENT LIES
· HARBORING HIS SECRETS
FOURTH ASSIGNMENT: Develop two smart comparables for your novel.
1. EVERY LAST SECRET, A.R. Torre
2. THE SECRETS YOU KEEP, Kate White
Thrillers with twisty endings in which the protagonists learn secrets about their spouses, instantaneously turning their worlds upside down.
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.
A mother meddles in a potential murder case in a sleepy college town when her son is named a person of interest, despite questioning his culpability.
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?
After her son is named a person of interest, the protagonist is conflicted about his innocence, especially after telling her his secret about his illegal hobby. As a mom, she wants to believe him and protect him at all costs, but watching his sneaky behavior and finding what may be a piece of evidence in his dresser drawer, she fears the worst: he was involved. Internally conflicted, she feels guilty for doubting her son and withholding information from the police, but on the other hand, she’s afraid to come forward because not only could it implicate her son, but it would expose her misdoings.
The stress about protecting her son causes marital strife for the protagonist because her husband’s primary concern is how his son’s possible involvement will affect his upcoming promotion. The protagonist meddles behind her husband’s back, and while doing so, she realizes that she’s being followed. Fearful of her safety, she discloses this to her husband, and as the events unfold from there, she quickly learns that her marriage (and husband) is a ruse.
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 story takes place in and around the fictional town of Cantonville, more specifically on and around the College of Cantonville. Located in the heart of historical downtown Cantonville, the sprawling campus is lined with plantation-style brick buildings built back in the early eighteen fifties. Hundred-year-old oak trees branch out over the walkways like umbrellas protecting students from the hot, humid days of summer and the cold, rainy days in winter. With its southern charm, students stroll the campus, never rushing from class to class. Rather, they laze their way through the curvy paths, stopping to chat with their peers along the way.
In the prologue, four fraternity boys are in the woods near Lake Canton, less than a mile from their fraternity house and campus. Colossal pine trees tower overhead, filtering out any light, the branches connect together like a primitive roof, thus allowing only mere slivers of moonlight to seep through the rustling leaves. When the boys realize they can’t find one of their other brothers, they give up and head back to the fraternity house.
The first chapter then takes place in Nicole and Craig’s Victorian style, two-story, four-bedroom, three-bath house, equipped nicely with state-of-the-art appliances and numerous luxuries, also located a few miles from the heart of the campus.
As the story progresses, Nicole joins the search party and combs through the woods near Lake Canton. The area is covered in rough terrain, and the sticky, muddy, uneven grounds make it challenging to pass through. When not scouring that area, Nicole is at the police station where people, outfitted in blue uniforms or plain street clothes, both wearing bright, shiny badges, scurry back and forth as their loud shoes clack on the alternating black and white square linoleum floor. Phones ring simultaneously and asynchronously, creating a cacophony of bells, and there is a nasally nosed receptionist sitting behind the plexiglass that separates the lobby from the back. Visitors can cross to the other side through a small, corral-like door with a quick buzz. Nicole, Craig, and Kyle all spend time here.
While bouncing back and forth between her house, the gym, the woods, and the police station while searching for answers, Nicole also frequents a local coffee shop where two young moms, hair piled high on their heads, chat away as two toddlers sit in highchairs, blueberry muffin crumbs blanketing the table and tile floor. Other people have their heads in their phones as they sip their overpriced, oversized coffees. She also shops at a local health store, “Fit For You,” the anchor store in a busy shopping plaza. It’s the biggest nutrition store Nicole has ever seen. It’s more like a big-box store, but it isn’t a chain. A local couple owns it, and they have everything to enhance a healthy lifestyle––from fruits to supplements––they have it all. She also shops at a Walmart one town over.
When secrets start to be revealed, Nicole visits a teaching assistant. The posh apartment is located a few miles from the campus. It’s decorated in complementary grays and blues, and the modern farmhouse style makes it look like Chip and Joanna Gaines personally decorated it. Black orbital light fixtures hang over the kitchen island, matching the hardware on the rustic barn door that separates the living room from the den. A thick shaggy rug, which looked like a Maltese dog, sits on the floor in front of the stone fireplace.
The last chapter is set in the woods again, revealing what happened when the fraternity brother disappeared on that fateful night. Lastly, in the epilogue, Nicole is once again in the coffee shop where the story concludes.