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D.C. McNaughton

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  1. FIRST ASSIGNMENT Story Statement: As one of the rare remaining fertile people on Earth, Theodore Young, a licensed sex worker at an ‘all-natural’ adoption facility, spends his days conceiving children with fertile female partners whom he has always experienced as human-sized birds. For years, management, and Theodore’s friends, have played along with his delusions, denying any issues that might deem Theo unfit for his job. The company cannot afford to lose him. His delusions are never confronted until an assignment to conceive with an unusual swan brings Theo’s mental illness, his lifelong struggle with an abusive twin brother, and the impending murder of his company’s CEO, to a head. The swan is initially brought to the facility because her DNA may be the key to resolving the fertility crisis. However, when Theodore begins work with her, the swan notices that he’s experiencing psychosis in seeing her as a bird, and she takes it upon herself to help Theodore better understand himself, and the birds he sees. Theo’s self-discovery leads him to push back against his boss’s increasing demands to produce a child with the swan. Instead, he seeks—with the swan’s help—to reconcile the contradictions between his perceptions of reality and his seemingly perfect memory. Are the unspeakable acts his brother subjected him to as a child real, or mere figments of delusion? What might Theo himself be capable of? (And how have his delusions affected the murder he knows is about to happen?) SECOND ASSIGNMENT Antagonist Sketch: William Young is the CEO of the Stork Adoption Agency, the only ‘all-natural’ birth facility in the world, specializing in ‘real’ babies, born from ‘real’, consenting adults. No petri dishes, no in vitro fertilization. His company is proud, morally upstanding, and sex-positive—progressive, and admirable. Though William is often genuinely kind, he is blinded by the riches Theodore and his twin brother, Shane, bring into the company. For years, William hides Theodore’s episodes of psychosis from the general public, afraid that Theodore's mental shortcomings would cause people to stop paying so much money to adopt his children. This results in Theodore not getting the help he needs. As Theodore grows older, so do his delusions grow more severe. All the while, William keeps the truth to himself, and orders every other worker at the facility to keep the truth to themselves as well. William also refuses to acknowledge Theodore’s accounts of being abused by his twin brother, Shane, who is equally valuable. When William finds out there is a woman (the swan) who may hold the answer to curing the fertility crisis, he manipulates her into staying at Stork, hoping he can use Theodore as a means of getting her to conceive a child, thus giving his company an opportunity to study her gestation period. However, his disrespect toward the woman causes her to close up, and refuse to give him the child he wants. Behind William’s back, the woman teaches Theodore to embrace his differences, and join her in rising against William. When he catches a whiff of this, William sends in Theodore’s twin brother, Shane, to finish the work Theodore has barely even started. Through expert beguiling, and master manipulation, William’s lies are camouflaged from Theodore for years. In the end, he is finally outwitted and cornered, caught in the act. Revenge takes its toll. (I would like to note that although there are notes of sexual discomfort in the plot, I do veer from sensationalizing rape, focused solely on the company’s moral obsession with consent. William serves as a point of manipulation, convincing the woman to eventually consent with clever lies, not physical force.) THIRD ASSIGNMENT Titles: My Extraordinary Memory of Birds The Stork and the Swan Crows in the Attic FOURTH ASSIGNMENT Comparisons: THE GOLDFINCH, Donna Tartt - Why? Recent. Literary style, not for the faint of heart, real people with real issues—no holds barred. Slow paced, steady build-up. Mental health immersion. THE PROPHETS, Robert Jones, Jr – Why? Recent. Literary style. Similar voice. Similar intercharacter, LGBTQ drama. Mental health immersion. FIFTH ASSIGNMENT The Hook: A male sex worker, and one of the most valuable, fertile assets in the world has experienced a childhood trauma that causes him to see all the women he works with as human-sized crows—when one of those birds becomes wise to his mental disability, she begins training him to better understand himself, ultimately freeing him from the traumatic bonds he is bound to. Or A male sex worker who has dedicated his life to helping populate the world with children discovers that a most important aspect of his job has been all delusional, and now he must rise against the family members who kept him ignorant of his disorder for years. SIXTH ASSIGNMENT Primary conflict: Theodore’s primary conflict revolves around his own self-discovery, after he becomes aware of the fact that he has been experiencing moments of psychosis for years. When he brings the issue up to his boss (who is also his uncle, by blood), his boss denies that anything is wrong with him, but Theodore worries that he’s being lied to. Because Theodore is worth more money than any other man in the facility, it is imperative that no flaws appear on his public profile, which means no mental ‘illness.’ It is important that everyone make him believe he is 100% healthy, mentally and physically, regardless of the truth. While grappling to accept his shortcomings, Theodore begins to push back against those who kept him in the dark for years (his family, his friends). Simultaneously, he worries about what his disability might mean for his future life, his job, and his livelihood. His Uncle William, who is the CEO of the agency where Theodore works, is a key player in all this, and master manipulator, who constantly tries to manipulate Theodore into believing there is nothing wrong with him, and he is not delusional at all. Theo resolves this conflict by resolving his tertiary conflict (see below). Secondary conflict: William Young has brought a swan into the facility who he claims has the answer to solving the fertility crisis on Earth. She does not want to be a part of William’s research, but she agrees to try to get used to the idea. To help her, William hires Theodore to speak with the woman often, to try and get her comfortable with the idea of helping solve the cure. However, the swan becomes far more interested in the fact that Theodore appears to have some sort of undiagnosed psychosis. Instead of pushing herself to conceive with Theodore, she befriends him, and begins using her background in psychology to help him. William grows more and more impatient as Theodore and the swan continue to make him wait for them to conceive, slowing down the process of him finding a cure. But he’s just in it for the money and fame, and the swan knows it. Because of William’s continued disrespect, she plans to help Theodore, then leave Stork and find a different person to bring research to (because she no longer wants to work with William). When Theodore takes too long to convince the swan to have a child, William grows impatient, and sends in Theodore’s twin brother to finish the work for him, without telling anyone. Theodore finds out in the end that his brother succeeded in pretending to be him, and lying to the swan, to manipulate her. He seeks to kill William. Theo resolves this conflict by resolving his tertiary conflict (see below). Tertiary conflict: To add insult to injury, Theodore is convinced that his history with an abusive brother and birds are not only real, but incredibly accurate. He claims to have an eidetic memory, and his memories are so detailed that he feels them as if they are happening in real time (and even blacks out when he experiences the memories). He believes he can remember back, in detail, as far as the latter months in his mother’s womb. Many of Theo’s peers doubt his memory, and his unspeakable accounts with his brother, because of these outrageous claims. The truth, for Theodore, lays in a special memory of a place from his babyhood—The Nursery. If he can prove that the nursery genuinely exists on the 13th floor of the building he lives in, he believes he can prove everything else. If the nursery exists, it means that his brother is actually abusing him, it means his memories are real, and it means he is not just a ‘mental-case’ with no reliable qualities. The only way to find out if the nursery exists, however, is to ride the same copper elevator that took him away from the nursery as a baby. For years, he has avoided the copper elevator. The copper elevator is the thing he fears most, and while Theo doesn’t know it, the reader knows that the elevator is what initially caused his delusions of women being birds. Getting to the nursery means Theo can finally make his peace with every issue in his life so far, including his delusions. ASSIGNMENT SEVEN SETTING: Before I get to setting, I’d like to mention that I did everything in my power to make Theo’s world as optimistic as possible. As a human on this good Earth, I am so bored of the speculative fiction that paints a picture of humanity as having no idea how to problem-solve, or get along, or make positive changes in times of hardship. (Especially in times like the ones we've experienced during COVID). I intentionally abandoned the idea of a dystopic society in order to create believable, humane characters (even the antagonists) who are all inherently altruistic and kind at the heart’s center, and overall, enjoyable and comforting. Just as well, I have built up a world that has risen from the ashes of a fertility crisis, and embraced concepts like sex work to create a world that is fair, and just, and hopeful. Theodore himself is wholly optimistic, and kind. My sex workers want to be sex workers—and are proud to do so. There is no stigma, here. It was important for me, in writing this book, to create a story that was emotionally delicious without focusing on the folly of man. My book is sex positive, sex work positive, mental-health aware, and LGBTQ+ inclusive. It is by no means a book for the light-hearted, but it does stray from the usual ‘world is on fire approach’ to speculative fiction. Theodore’s world is on fire, yes, but humanity is smart, and is taking care of things as best they can. Optimistically. As for the actual setting—Theodore’s life takes place entirely indoors. Facilities called ‘Family Dispensaries’ house and care for the few fertile people left on earth in exchange for good pay, and fair treatment. When contracted with a Dispensary, workers cannot leave the building, for their own safety, to make certain they do not die of things like the flu, or car accidents, etc. Theodore’s world is 70 floors of safety. (The building I speak of is actually based on the Michigan Renaissance Center in Detroit, Michigan. The book takes place in this building, in a not-so-distant future.) It is difficult staying busy in close quarters, but my characters have as colorful a life as they can, given the circumstances. They are given access to gyms, and private malls, theaters, church (the facility Theodore lives in is specifically funded by Christian sponsors), all of that good stuff. There is, however, a keen reliance on things like video games (namely, eSports) to keep the men busy. Many of the characters in my book have made themselves famous winning championship level eSports competitions.
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