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  1. What happens when your vocation as an Executioner keeps you from finding love? Finding happiness while lopping off heads sends this unusual woman into a partnership she never saw coming. This is a 79,000 word Speculative Romance. Maigrede is proud to follow in her family’s footsteps to act as the Executioner, but it is forbidden for women to perform the task so she must keep her identity a secret. One day, she arrives at her hidden home to discover Philip, an injured nobleman. Against her instinctual need for isolation she finds herself falling in love with him. All is well until he discovers the truth about her job. Forced to make a choice between her heart and her duty she chooses her life’s work and loses the man. Left alone and with child she breaks her code to rescue a woman she is supposed to execute. The woman becomes a friend, helpmate, and then lover. Together, they raise Maigrede’s child and build a family until war enters their balanced existence. Once again, Maigrede faces choices which seem impossible. She struggles to understand her role in a fractured land. Comps include: Sistersong by Lucy Holland and The Princess and the Odium by Sam Ledel
  2. Hi Everyone, I'm attaching another story of mine, Crime Warp. It's the first installment in a planned series of 5 stories (sequel written, 3 others fully outlined). The main premise of the series are my MCs use a technology called Projection (similar to time-travel, but with differences), to solve famous unsolved mysteries and cold cases. I've pasted a plot summary below and a short, but not sweet, chapter one. I appreciate all feedback. ==================================================================================================== When you want to solve history’s greatest cold cases, you don’t find the witnesses, you become the witnesses. Seasoned and sarcastic investigative reporter Carl Axford is recruited by Limbo, a covert organization using a unique technology called Projection to solve cold cases. Seduced by a Trial Mission that sells the romantic side of this innovation, Axford is offered the opportunity to identify Jack the Ripper. This observe-and-report mission is too good to be true. In 1888 Whitechapel, Axford’s presence is ghost-like, allowing him an up-close and personal view of the Ripper murders and anything else he chooses to witness. But London’s East End holds revelations that Axford hasn't bargained for—revelations that not only influence The Ripper legend and its present-day perception, but who lives and dies by The Ripper’s hand. Limbo is pulling strings from the present day. With a clear attempt to interfere with history, (a policy they claim to never violate), none of their Agents are safe. With his life now in danger, Axford finds he is poorly armed in a battle where knowledge and truth are the ultimate weapons. Identifying Jack the Ripper is not the only challenge Axford faces as he realizes there’s much more at stake, here in Whitechapel, and back home in his native Chicago. What began as the story of a lifetime is now a life-and-death game of chess spanning three centuries. 1 September 8, 1888 All precious life drained from Annie when her throat was slashed. Dawn ascended on Whitechapel, doing its best to expose it. Light crept up on the city’s shadows, casting a spotlight on her savage murder. Annie’s final expression was panic, a realization that death had preyed upon her, but not knowing why it had pounced. A fatalistic look of horror remained in her eyes until a coroner would later close them. Having delivered the fatal cut, The Ripper laid her down in the Hanbury Street yard. It was time to get to work. He observed her blood on his hands, a deep almost purple, contrasting with the red stripes on her stockings. The stillness of the yard at sunrise offered a convenient silence. The Ripper stared to his left, looking toward the furthest fence from the house. While his hat, shadows, and a scarf covered most of his face, there was no concealing his eyes. They projected pure evil and a lust for death. Annie Chapman was more than just a victim. She had been laid out, presented for the world to see. A trophy for a fiend rising to the heights of his notoriety. If Polly did not provide a sufficient warning of his menace, Annie would certainly sound the alarm of terror throughout the East End. Whether Annie was headed to be with angels or not was uncertain. What was clear was that hell had played its hand in delivering her. The Ripper turned from the fence, refocusing on his prey. He needed to hurry. Jack was certain he was being watched.
  3. Self-Coverage Novel Scorebox Charles and Agnes, Historical Fiction, Susie Pruett MARKET VALUE Originality, freshness, high concept: 4 I believe these three categories are covered. The concept, an American heiress goes to London to marry a Viscount and falls in love with the Viscount’s valet is an idea that came from two of my favorite authors. I love P.G. Wodehouse’s character Jeeves and wondered what would happen if he ever fell in love. Another favorite author of mine is Edith Wharton. I combined her last book, “The Buccaneers” about rich American girls going to Europe to marry titles with the idea of Jeeves and came up with the story of an American heiress who falls in love with a Viscount’s valet. The story began from there. In the Romance genre the concept of a rich person falling for a poor one is not new. Usually, the rich person is a man and the poor one a woman. If a rich girl falls for a poor man, he usually turns out to be an aristocrat or prince or some other class that elevates him to the level of the woman. However, in my story the valet does not turn out to be a secret prince or aristocrat in hiding. He is simply a servant who also happens to be a good man worthy of inspiring love and of course, there is the sexual tension between Agnes and Charles. The additional aspect that contributes to the concept is that the Viscount the heiress is supposed to marry is a homosexual with problems of his own. Additionally, the valet and the Viscount have grown up together and the valet has devoted his life to protecting the Viscount’s secret life. When the valet falls in love with the American heiress, he is conflicted by his need to protect the Viscount’s secret while saving the heiress from a disastrous marriage. Clear target readership: 4 I am a fan of historical romance. I have read over one thousand historical romances from various authors. With a few rare exceptions, they all seemed pretty much the same to me. I wanted to write a book I would read. So I think the person who would read this book is someone like me, a fan of historical romance looking for something a little different. Hook: 3+ As 1912 England is on the brink of catastrophic change, a compassionate British valet to an emotionally damaged, opium addicted, homosexual Viscount, and a desperate American heiress sent to London by her domineering grandmother to marry the Viscount, meet under false pretenses and fall in love. When they discover their true identities, they must overcome duty, and society to be together. STRUCTURE Act Zero back-story development: 3 The story begins with the history of Glennwell Abbey which haunts the Viscount and will be his eventual downfall. Then the story picks up in London through a scene with Charles, the valet, going to an opium den and homosexual brothel to find the Viscount. The reader is introduced to Charles as a devoted, though equivocal servant, and to the Viscount as an addicted, haunted soul. We learn the back-story between the two men through their conversation and internal narrative. In New York, Agnes is introduced at her engagement party. We learn her back-story through her momentary memories before she enters the party. I don’t think it is an info dump as I tried to make the memories brief and relevant. Agnes’s relationship with her grandmother is shown through their conversation and Agnes’s thoughts. Concise, effective setup with inciting incident: 4 Setup: The Viscount is informed by the Earl that it is time he married. The scene is through the Viscount’s POV: The Earl cleared his throat. "It's time you married. Twenty eight is a good age to start filling your nursery. Glennwell needs a long line of heirs and since your mother never provided me with more sons, it's up to you. Maybe a true Forster will come out of those loins of yours after all. I dare say if you have enough sons, at least one of them will take after my side of the family." If Robbie had been at liberty to react as he truly wanted to, he would have barked out a laugh. Sons? From his loins? Never. It was never going to happen. Oh if his father only knew his whereabouts six hours earlier. But, he could play this game if he had to. "Absolutely, sir. That's the ticket. It is time. Sons, yes. That is exactly what I need to do. I need to marry and have sons for the title." Agnes breaks her engagement to her cheating fiancé (setup) and is sent by her grandmother to London to escape the scandal and to marry the Viscount (Inciting incident). "Be that as it may," Grandmother said, looking down her nose at Eleanor. "The question before us now, is this engagement business. After last night, Agnes is not inclined to go through with the wedding and I won't insist on it knowing what a fool Freddy is. However, if at all possible, I'd like to avoid another all out scandal." The disgrace that cost Grandmother her standing in society was still a topic of conversation. "Yes, of course. We must avoid a scandal at all cost. The only solution is for Agnes to go away for awhile.” Eleanor turned from addressing Grandmother to Agnes. “You simply must come with me to Europe, Agnes. Trevor and I are returning to Harding House next week. There is nothing like a trip to Europe to cure the blue devils and cover a multitude of sins. Don't you agree, Camille? Maybe there is a titled gentleman there for you, Agnes my dear.” Agnes held her stomach as it rolled over. She wanted to hide. The term “Dollar Princess” from the Broadway play echoed in her mind. Was she destined for the same distressing fate as so many of those other girls whose marriages ended up being disasters? Plot line arc and subplots: 3+ The plot line arc follows the hero’s journey for all the characters. The only difference is that Charles and Agnes end their journey having achieved their goal and the Viscount and Earl each end theirs in tragedy. The POV of the Viscount is a subplot. His suffering and motivation are revealed to the reader. Another subplot involves two orphans which Charles finds on the street and takes them to Mrs. Collier’s, the same orphanage where he lived as a boy. In the end they are adopted by Charles and Agnes and taken to America. Well designed reversals: 2 Agnes doesn’t marry Freddy, goes to London and meets Charles Agnes and Charles find out their true identities at the party. Agnes marries the Viscount. After finding out Agnes is pregnant, Charles’s loyalty changes from the Viscount to Agnes. The Viscount dies. Agnes tells the Earl the child is not his blood heir, but the Earl doesn’t care and still wants the boy. Pinch Points: 2 After Agnes and Charles have promised to end their relationship, the Earl requires Charles to persuade Agnes to marry the Viscount. Agnes becomes pregnant after confessing to Charles how miserable she is. Catalytic, situation driven: 3 Each new situation is a catalyst for the conflict. Agnes breaks her engagement and consequently is sent to London. Agnes in London meets Charles which is the beginning of the romance. Agnes and Charles discover their real identities and must end their budding relationship. Agnes meets the Viscount and sees his weirdness which prompts her to question the engagement. The weekend at Glennwell Abbey gives Agnes and Charles a chance to be together in secret. Agnes ends her confusion over whether to honor her grandmother’s wishes by finally marrying the Viscount. The admission that the marriage has not been consummated leads to Agnes getting pregnant by Charles. The Viscount despairs and falls from the Abbey walls and dies. The Viscount’s death means Charles and Agnes can be together. Agnes tells the Earl the child is not the Viscount’s. The Earl does not care because he wants an heir. Agnes and Charles leave for America. When the Earl finds out they have taken his grandson, he has a stroke leaving him paralyzed on one side of his body. The Countess is free from his domination and in charge of his care. Conflict, tension, rising action: 4 I believe there is a high degree of conflict in the story which contributes to the rising action and tension. Over arching conflict of class; External conflict between Agnes and her grandmother regarding her marriage; External conflict between the Earl and the Viscount; Internal conflict of Agnes concerning her desire to be loved by her grandmother; Internal conflict of Charles concerning his desire to protect the Viscount’s secret; Internal conflict of the Viscount over his secret life; External conflict of the Viscount as he is haunted by the ghosts of the Abbey; Conflict between Charles and Agnes over their differing social class; Internal conflict of Charles and Agnes concerning their love for each other; Conflict between Agnes and the Earl over the child. Every scene relevant: 3 I have tried to make every scene relevant. However, I’m not sure the subplots contribute to the main plot. In the case of the orphans, I wanted to illustrate Charles’s compassion and add a touch of whimsy. In the end I’m not sure if I should keep that part, though I love the orphans. In the subplot of the Viscount I have included his POV. I wanted to show how his anguish over his sexuality (remember it’s 1912) and how his father treated him drove him to use opium and what effect it had on him. Is he really haunted by the ghosts of the Abbey, or is it the opium? The subplot of Trevor sets up the sequel. Effective, believable climax: 4 The climax is predictable in the sense that this is a romance and must have a happily ever after. I toyed with the idea of not letting Charles and Agnes end up together, a circumstance more consistent with their reality especially in 1912. However, I did let them end up together because I felt their true essences were what made them ultimately compatible and willing to face whatever obstacles they might encounter. Resolution: 4 I believe each of the story lines have satisfactory resolutions. Agnes and Charles end up together with their baby and the orphans. The Viscount’s end is sad, but where else could he have ended up? He was in a nightmare life. The Earl is ultimately outwitted and meets his deserved end. Trevor is left with a possible future. CHARACTERS: Antagonistic force: 4 The over-riding antagonistic force is the class difference which Charles and Agnes must overcome to be together. The other antagonistic forces are their feelings of duty to others over their own happiness. The Earl’s cruel treatment of the Viscount and his desire to control everything is another antagonistic force. Agnes’s grandmother is also an antagonistic force since she keeps Agnes from having a life of her own. Consistent opposition: 4 The forces of society and tradition which pull on both Charles and Agnes are the most consistent opposition. However, the subtle influence which the Viscount has on Charles and Agnes keeps them apart by the fact that Charles must be loyal to him and Agnes is supposed to marry him. He is an obstacle to their being together. Protagonist’s goals: 4 There are two protagonists in this love story since the outcome of each is important to the story. Charles begins with his goals being to protect the Viscount and keep his secrets. By the end of the story, his goal changes to being with Agnes and his child. Agnes begins with the goal of obeying her grandmother. Her goal changes to being with Charles and their baby. Sympathetic protagonist: I think Charles is set up as a sympathetic character. He is loyal and kind. He cares about other people and tries to help the orphans. 4 Setting up Agnes as a sympathetic character was harder. Although she is in a life she doesn’t want, and is controlled by her grandmother, she is rich and has everything material in life she could want. I tried to show her as a rebel at heart and thus able in the end to find a life she wants in spite of her grandmother. 3 Protagonist’s arc: 3 Charles begins as a man who is dominated by his desire to take care of others to the point where he does things he doesn’t believe in. For instance, he goes to great lengths to protect the Viscount. In today’s language we would say he is an enabler. Although Charles does not know the term, he instinctively knows what he does for the Viscount is not in the long run helping him. Naturally, when the Viscount dies, Charles blames himself because he has already begun to separate himself from the Viscount in favor of Agnes. In the end, although he is still a kind and loving man, he has chosen to seek happiness of his own. Agnes begins as a young woman who is dominated by her grandmother’s desire to re-join Old New York society and uses Agnes to that purpose. Because she has always felt responsible for her grandmother’s fall from grace, she does whatever her grandmother requires of her. In spite of that, Agnes has a small fire of rebellion within her. She goes through an anxious time deciding whether or not to marry the Viscount and ultimately succumbs to her grandmother’s wishes. When she finds out what kind of man the Viscount is when he can’t consummate the marriage, she goes to Charles. They make love and Agnes becomes pregnant. Her life becomes much more complicated since she must tell the Viscount the truth. He despairs, takes too much opium, hallucinates and dies from a fall. After that, Agnes defies both her grandmother and the Earl and goes to America with Charles, their baby and the orphans. Supporting characters: 4 There are several supporting characters. The Earl’s valet, Mr. Percy, who mentored Charles; Mrs. Collier the owner of the orphanage where Charles lived; Lady Harding, Agnes’s aunt, Trevor’s mother and the woman Agnes is living with in London; the Countess of Glennwell, the Viscount’s mother; Lyle, one of the footmen; Rat and Mouse, the orphans; the woman who lives with Mrs. Collier; the cook; the head butler at Glennwell House; Katie, the scullery maid. NARRATIVE DEVELOPMENT: Scene length and structure: 2 This might need work. I tried to keep the scenes and chapters relatively even, but may have missed it with the structure. I know each scene must have a beginning, middle and end in the same way a story must. And each scene must carry the plot forward. I’m not sure I did this with every scene. Effective transitions: 2 Again, I’m not sure this is accomplished. I re-ordered the scenes for more effective transitions, but this may need more work. Clarity of spatial set: 4 I attempted to make clear where each scene was taking place. The reader sees everything through the eyes of the character whose POV we are in. So, the reader knows where the character is by what the character can observe and feel. I tried to bring in all the senses when describing a place. Comprehensible prose narrative: 4 This is not a work of literary fiction. It is genre fiction. I have written it in simple language without writing down to the reader. I believe it is easily read and understood. Nothing fancy here. Tension on the page: 4 Because there is always the tension of the overall situation, each page has some of that tension. The problem with the Viscount, the difference in social status between Agnes and Charles, the looming presence of the Earl, plus the emotional ups and downs of the characters, keeps the tension going. Dialogue mastery: 4 If there is one thing I am proud of, it is my ability with dialogue. It seems to flow naturally when I’m in the character’s POV. The dialogue reflects the time it is in without being arcane. Exposition delivery: 2 Not sure about the exposition delivery. I may not have achieved the fine line between too much exposition and not enough. Narrative composition: 4 I tried to make the narrative composition equal among description of places as seen through the character’s POV, interior monologue and dialogue. I may have overdone the exposition at times. Cinematic imagery: 4 I think I have come pretty close to nailing this one. I see the story as if it were a movie playing out before my eyes and try to describe what I see. The descriptions of most places are told from a cinematic perspective. Proper point-of-view: 4 I use the point-of-view that I believe will best enhance the scene and I am careful to stay in that character’s POV. Wise use of craft technique: 3 I have studied a lot of craft. In addition to attending workshops and classes, I’ve read at least twenty books on craft, from structure (three act, four act, six act, plot points, pinch points, midpoints) to description and characterization. I know what each plot point is to achieve and where it goes in the story. Needless to say, I should have a pretty fair grasp of craft at this point. However, I’m a “pantser” so even though I use a brief outline, I’m not sure my plot points are accurate or well timed. Interior Monologue and rumination: 3 Interior monologue is a way to bring the reader closer to the character. It shows the emotion the character is having at any given moment. I’m aware that is a weak point of mine and although I have tried to develop the interior monologue as a way to experience the character’s emotions, I’m not sure I have achieved this effectively. BOOK REPORTS “The art of Fiction” by John Gardner How did the book help you as a writer? What overall aspects of it taught you something? Gardner obviously has a great respect for the art of fiction. He elevates it to a high level of moral responsibility. Although he says there are no “rules” for writing, he elaborated on some of the basic guidelines. For instance, character shapes plot, plot is discovered through exploration, characters must be interesting, fiction is art yet there are serious principals at work. I found his verbosity too heavy for me. It got in the way of the ideas he was attempting to get across. I thought he was very judgmental at times like when he said, basically a morally corrupt person cannot write a good book, which may or may not be true. He also implied the only way to become a good writer is to have a University Professor as your guide which fits well with his pedagogical approach. What two or three major lessons did you learn from the book that you can apply to your writing and/or your novel? The one aspect that was instructional to me was the idea of the “vivid and continuous dream” of the novel which must not be interrupted by the writer. He rephrased the idea of author intrusion into a more interesting context. Was there anything in the books that obviously conflicted with lessons and readings in our novel writing program? If so, what were they? Gardner does not talk about the structure of a story. “Writing the Breakout Novel” by Donald Maass How did the book help you as a writer? What overall aspects of it taught you something? I read this book many years ago. I have also taken a workshop by Maass. I was inspired by the concept of my novel being better than “good enough.” He introduced me to the idea of striving for “break out” status. He gives a practical guide for how to create subplots, multiple points of view, building interesting characters, inner and outer conflict and stakes that have what he calls “break out” status. What two or three major lessons did you learn from the book that you can apply to your writing and/or your novel? Good storytelling is the core of a successful novel. Conflict is the essence of plot. Word of mouth is the best advertisement. Continually escalate the stakes. Ask “what if” questions. Kill somebody. Was there anything in the books that obviously conflicted with lessons and readings in our novel writing program? If so, what were they? Nothing conflicted, although the approach was different. Maass described structure as elements of plot. He also stresses escalating conflict as one of the basics in writing a break out novel. “Write Away” by Elizabeth George How did the book help you as a writer? What overall aspects of it taught you something? This book was the most instructional for me of all the books on this list. George goes into detail about everything the writer needs to know in order to write a novel. She gives examples of her own and other’s writing to illustrate her points. Her diary entries at the beginning of each chapter make her seem as insecure as any writer. One does not expect such insecurities from a successful writer which made her all the more relatable. This is a good book to keep as a reference guide. What two or three major lessons did you learn from the book that you can apply to your writing and/or your novel? George gave excellent suggestions for how to develop character, the importance of place as setting, how to structure scene, the power of dialogue, and plotting. She broke each topic down using specific examples which were easy to understand and follow. Was there anything in the books that obviously conflicted with lessons and readings in our novel writing program? If so, what were they? Again, there was nothing that obviously conflicted with lessons and readings. But the topics were approached in more depth. "The Writing Life" by Annie Dillard How did the book help you as a writer? What overall aspects of it taught you something? My overall impression of this book the first time I read it was that it was depressing as hell. For example, on page eleven, she makes a most discouraging comment, “…your work is so meaningless, so fully for yourself alone, and so worthless to the world, that no one except you cares whether you do it well or ever.” I understand the sentiment here. But, she could have stated it in a more uplifting way, I thought. Then I picked up the book again in order to write this report and saw it in a completely different light. There are pearls of wisdom on the pages, also irony and humor. She said if you leave a work in progress for too long, it will turn on you. So true. Her stories of the typewriter that caught fire, the use and limits of coffee, revving oneself up to write only to take a break, the strange chess game, the story of the stunt pilot and how she was struck by the beauty of the skill. I am a painter and I liked the way she often compared painting to writing. She observed and interpreted her life experiences and used them to illustrate aspects of writing. What two or three major lessons did you learn from the book that you can apply to your writing and/or your novel? I learned about the author’s life and experiences and how she viewed them in a grander scheme. She was awake to her life and that was an example to me. Was there anything in the books that obviously conflicted with lessons and readings in our novel writing program? If so, what were they? Nothing that obviously conflicted, but the authors approach to writing was more creative and non-academic. SELL SHEET (TITLE OF PROJECT) SELL SHEET Agnes and Charles (working title) 2. GENRE and COMPARABLES (please review the comp guidelines!). Historical Romance The Echo of Twilight by Judith Kinghorn The Last Summer by Judith Kinghorn The House at Riverton by Kate Morton 3. LOG OR HOOK LINE (this is crucial!) A British valet and an American heiress accidentally meet and fall in love. 4. SHORT PITCH SYNOPSIS (200-300 words - tight and punchy!) After Agnes Worthington breaks her engagement, she is sent to London to marry a British Viscount. The Viscount is living a secret life as an opium addicted homosexual, haunted by the ghosts of the monks from the old Abbey. Charles Stevens, the Viscount’s devoted valet protects the Viscount and covers for him. When Agnes and Charles accidentally meet in the park and spend time together, an attraction develops. At a dinner where Agnes is a guest and Charles is acting as a footman, they are shocked to see each other. With the differences in their social status, their relationship must end. Meanwhile, the courtship between the Viscount and Agnes is not proceeding. The Earl, who needs money, and is also obsessed by the desire to have an heir, becomes angry and orders Charles to intervene and make sure the Viscount marries Agnes. Charles is torn by this request because he knows the marriage will be a disaster and he loves Agnes and wants to protect her. When Charles and Agnes surrender to their passion for each other, Agnes becomes pregnant. Now she must marry the Viscount. Eventually, the Viscount dies by falling from the crumbling walls of the old Abbey. After the Viscount’s funeral, Agnes is faced with the decision to tell the Earl the child is not his heir, or let her child be in line for the earldom. Together, she and Charles realize they must not let the cruel Earl raise their child. They leave for America. 5. FIRST 500 WORDS (best of the best--make or break) LONDON October 1912 Charles Stevens pulled the worn coat tighter as the chill night air of the waterfront settled around him. The stink of rotting fish and brine washing up from the Thames seemed to coat the inside of his nostrils. He pulled out his watch and noted that he’d been standing here for one hour. The only light came from a yellow haze that encircled a street lamp, and the moon whose light could be seen behind strands of clouds. A sound alerted him to something crawling from the gutter. A tom cat emerged, its fur patchy and scratched, one ear torn. It reminded him of a boxing man he once knew. He laughed silently at that notion, watching as the cat ignored his surroundings and began twitching his whiskers sniffing the air. "Out for a late supper, old chap?" Charles reached in the pocket of his second hand coat and pinched off a piece of left-over cheese. He tossed the chunk down in front of the animal. It crouched, hesitating before stalking the cheese. The feline devoured the food and hastened away. “Quite right." Charles said. "No sense dithering. I should get on with the task at hand." Vaguely amused at himself, he blamed procrastination for the boredom that had him talking to cats. For a moment, Charles questioned why he was here. He asked himself why he was always in places he didn't want to be, disguised in old clothes, required to be patient as he waited in the shadows? But, he knew why. He had a job he took seriously, to protect the Viscount from harm. And that meant he must keep the Earl of Glennwell from finding out where his son, Robert, Viscount Forster spent his nights. The Earl was a cruel bully whose self-centered desire in life was to have an heir, a son who looked like himself, large and dark, and who liked hunting, shooting and womanizing. These were things the Earl could understand. He could not comprehend his son. And, indeed Robbie was not masculine in the way the Earl valued. Robbie was average height with light blonde hair like his mother. He was prettier than a boy should be. He was naturally thin and not the least athletic. Charles had never actually known a homosexual man, until Robbie. He first became aware that Robbie was attracted to men when they had gone swimming together, in the nude, and Robbie had an erection upon seeing Charles's body. At the time, Charles and Robbie were young men and Charles had just become Robbie's valet. Charles was lying on the blanket in the sun when he felt a hand on his groin. Shocked, he slapped Robbie’s hand away and jumped up. “What the blazes?” Charles said as he grabbed up his trousers and put them on. Barefoot and carrying the rest of his clothes, he stormed away, leaving Robbie by the river. 6. PLOT OUTLINE (bullet by bullet summary of all the major points from the Six Act, divided by Act--plot points, reversals, etc--one line only per point. This should be brief, please, but also label each bullet, e.g., Reversal #1, Pinch Point #2, etc.) Story statement: A lonely valet meets a naïve heiress and they fall in love. ACT ONE Set Up Agnes breaks her engagement, to avoid scandal she goes to London to marry a Viscount Conflict between Agnes and her grandmother regarding her marriage The Viscount has meeting with his father and is told he is to marry a rich heiress. Inciting incident: Charles and Agnes meet accidentally in the park. Exposition: Charles and Agnes continue to see each other and their attraction grows. ACT TWO First PP: Charles serves as footman and Agnes is guest at dinner. Conflict between Charles and Agnes over their differing social class; ACT THREE Minor Reversals: Charles and Agnes each feel betrayed and they know any future is hopeless. The courtship between Robbie and Agnes is not going well. The Earl instructs Charles to intercede on behalf of Robbie. Minor Complications: Charles must seem to encourage Agnes to marry Robbie. Agnes and Charles fall more deeply in love. Agnes and Charles succumb to their attraction and make love. ACT FOUR FIRST MAJOR REVERSAL and 2nd PP: Agnes discovers she is pregnant and decides she must marry Robbie. Agnes marries Robbie as Charles watches helplessly. Pinch point: The Earl belittles Robbie for not getting Agnes pregnant. Agnes tells Robbie she is pregnant. Agnes tells Robbie who the father is. Robbie is jealous that Charles loves Agnes. Climax: At the Abbey, Robbie climbs a crumbling wall where he falls and dies. Agnes has the baby boy. Agnes and Charles tell the Earl the truth about the baby. The Earl says he will accept the boy as his heir anyway. Agnes and Charles tell the Earl they will not let him have the boy. ACT FIVE Denouement Agnes tells the Earl she will marry Charles and return to America. The Earl becomes angry and tells her if she leaves, he will find her. Agnes and Charles leave for America. The Earl is angry and has a stroke which leaves him partially paralyzed Final Surprise In a letter, Agnes’s grandmother confesses her long time love for her butler. Tells Agnes to marry the man she loves.
  4. Criteria Ratings 1-5 as follows: 1. Uncertain 2. Understand, But Item Needs More Work 3. Average and Must Evolve To Be Competitive 4. I Believe This Base is Covered 5. Superb and Clicking With Velocity MARKET VALUE: ▪ Originality, freshness, high concept 3. Average and Must Evolve to Be Competitive: There is a market for MG/YA stories with historical settings, although the stories that display a high concept lean toward Fantasy; e.g., HARRY POTTER, HUNGER GAMES, CHRONICLES OF NARNIA. LUCIUS AND THE ONLYS uses the familiarity of the Lost Boys of PETER PAN or the orphans from OLIVER, and mixes in Ander who serves as a HANS CHRISTIAN ANDERSEN. I’ve leaned towards a setting similar to Dennis Lehane’s A GIVEN DAY. The idea of 10 street kids living in a belfry of a Baptist Church is the hook, as well as the unique personalities of the Onlys. ▪ Clear target readership 3. Average and Must Evolve to Be Competitive: It’s always a challenge to write an MG/YA that is embraced by young readers. I’ve also tried to write the story so it would be equally interesting to adults. The way the Onlys live, their streets smarts (like OUR GANG for those who remember that old black and white serial), and the views of the world from a young Lucius, and how they he can be as wise and as sage as an adult are targeted to the younger readers. HANS CHRISTIAN ANDERSEN is beloved by young and old. So the goal is to hit both readerships. Have I achieved that balance? The jury is still out on that. I felt I accomplished what I set out to do, but a second opinion is required to validate or correct my assumptions. ▪ Hook 4. I Believe This Base is Covered: Ten street kids living in a belfry of a Boston Baptist Church in depression era Boston taking on the baddest and most corrupt cop on the police force. The Onlys are characters that MG/YA readers can cheer for (the same way they do for characters in THE HUNGER GAMES). And how many kids have fantasies of being able to teach adults a lesson or two. LUCIUS shows them how. Adults, especially teachers can latch on to the main idea of LUCIUS AND THE ONLYS that the “words are magic.” The Onlys come to realize that if they want to make their way in the world, they have to learn words, what they mean, and how to use them. They discover that words lead to stories and stories lead to imagination. I believe this part of the story will resonate with schoolteachers which I hope will bring this story to more MG/YA readers. So the plan for this story was carefully crafted to ensure it met the high standards of today’s MG/YA market. STRUCTURE: ▪ Act Zero backstory development 4. I Believed I Covered This Base: The best evidence that I succeeded in this area is to provide samples from the first 100 pages. Below are two. From the opening scene, Lucius recalls how he ended up as leader of the Onlys. Good night to skim street hawkers so he could shut up the youngins. Four of them: two boys and two girls. Not a one could talk, but they still raised the rackets when their bellies ached. He hated winter. Too hard for him to shake a leg when his feet acted as though he pulled them out of an ice truck. And not just for the little ones, but also for Dagger, Strudel, Fingers, Bumper, and Buttons. He found every Only, streeters like him, begging or dipping garbage, skimpier than scarecrows. They looked to him and made him responsible, not that he asked them to. Not that any Big Ones cared. In the second scene of the opening chapter, Lucius tells how he, with Dagger’s help, prepared the Onlys for life on the streets of depression era Boston. Not a one of them seen as many winters. He protected them, taught them to steal – with Dagger’s help – and how to avoid the Blues. Nasty flatfoots would haul streeters to juvy or the barn, most never heard from again. Big Ones hated Onlys almost as bad as whites despised blacks. Heard the coloreds in an alley, jacking jaws, spewing funny words. Mentioned something about a Great Depression. He didn’t know about that. Still, them coloreds traveled from the south thinking Boston would provide a better life, but their lives proved no better than the Onlys, maybe worse. So he took charge. Onlys acted like babies needing caring every day, all day. He became their mother and father. Learned quickly why youngins bit on Big One’s nerves. Always wanting. ▪ Concise, effective setup with inciting incident 3. Average and Must Evolve To Be Competitive: The inciting incident works (at least for me) because Ander refuses “the call” when the Onlys ask for his help. Lucius shows his belief in the teacher by following him (because Ander needs a second chance), rescuing Ander from being arrested by O’Doole in the Boston Store, hauling him back to the belfry from a frozen alley, and then convincing Ander to stay in the belfry where it’s warm so he can write his stories. The underlying desire Lucius has is revealed by skeptical Dagger. “Still think this fish can feed us?” Dagger crossed her arms the way Cue Ball had. “Or better yet, protect us from O’Doole?” It’s difficult to nail a score without being self-serving. What I can say is the decisions I made, such is Ander’s refusal, Lucius persistence, and Dagger’s skepticism, are all intentional. Technically, to me, this effectively sets up the story to come, especially when Lucius and the Onlys help Ander to get away from O’Doole. That establishes who’s on what side, who wants what (Lucius wants Ander to help, Ander wants to write his stories – and later to sell them, and O’Doole wants to bag the Onlys and get rid of Ander). I’ve engaged the techniques taught in the modules, but further practice is required to increase proficiency. However, I feel I accomplished what I set out to do. ▪ Plot line arc, and subplots (if appropriate) 4. I Believe This Base is Covered: (See below) Main Plot Line: When Lucius rescues Ander, he’s believes he’s found the Big One to help him rescue the Onlys. Even after Ander refuses to help, he persists in his belief. This is the First Goal: To convince Ander to help the Onlys. (The 2nd goal later in the story is deciding to get rid of O’Doole so the Onlys can be safe.) Lucius has to convince the Onlys, especially a skeptical Dagger to believe in Ander. The beginning of that effort takes place at the end of the second scene in Chapter 1. “It’s warm because the preacher gave us a second chance.” Down the street he watched Ander amble away, head slumped to his chest. He turned back and faced his friend. “Maybe that’s all he needs.” Subplot 1: Dagger’s skepticism of Ander. Dagger calls Ander a “cold fish.” She doesn’t believe the Big One can protect them from O’Doole. From the start when Lucius wants to throw a tomato to divert three bullies from abusing Ander in the Commons, Dagger challenges Lucius. Dagger snagged his wrist. “You going to waste perfectly good eats on that fish?” Later in the story, Dagger will blame Ander for ruining the Onlys. Her skepticism creates a divide between her and Lucius that grows to a final explosion just before the climax where Dagger challenges O’Doole but the cop bashes her head and sends her to the hospital fighting for her life. Subplot 2: Ander lost his job as a teacher at Hamilton Elementary when he refused to pass a failing student who was the son of a major benefactor for the school. His relationship with the Onlys is important, not only to his growth, but even more so to the growth of the Onlys as he becomes their Hans Christian Andersen, telling stories that teach the Onlys how words can stir imagination, open up their world, and lead to opportunities far beyond the belfry. The Onlys help Ander by pulling him from his depression, allowing him to teach again, and more importantly, write the stories that have been begging to be free. Subplot 3: O’Doole is a corrupt cop. He works protection rackets for Joe Lombardo, a local mob boss. To further supplement his income, he snags streeters and sells them to the Scotsman at Juvenile Hall where they are shopped out as cheap labor. These are his streets. When the Onlys and Ander embarrass him with Lombardo, O’Doole pledges (antagonist goal) to bag all the Onlys and sending Ander to Dead Man’s Field. The trouble begins in the Boston Store after O’Doole catches Ander stealing papers and pencils, but Lucius and his friend come to Ander’s rescue. Pencils in one hand, stationery in the other. O’Doole stopped twirling. He (Ander) gripped the nightstick’s handle so hard it squeaked. His dark eyes turned hateful. A few more steps and that hard club would crack his skull easier than a sledgehammer on a coconut. The doorbell jarred him. Pencils dropped and paper fluttered. Lucius and Dagger brushed passed as though they’d never met. They kicked around the mess on the floor. “Phew, Mister,” Lucius said. “Ever hear of a bath?” “Never mind the stinking fish.” Dagger held a finger under her bitty noise. “Where’s the money?” “I thought you had it.” Ding-a-ling. Strudel shoved Ander around him toward the open door and confronted his friends. “Where’s my candy?” His whine amplified. “I’m hungry.” “What?” Dagger said. “You ain’t ate in the last five minutes?” Ander slipped out the door. O’Doole hurried down the aisle but the Onlys blocked him. “You hear these guys?” Lucius said. “This one forgets the money and the other thinks it’s my problem.” “Out of my way.” “Aren’t you going to stand up for me? What kind of officer are you?” O’Doole raised his club. “Think I don’t know you? Heard enough about your thieving ways. Now move before I crack some coconuts.” They stepped apart and O’Doole rushed out the door. “Think he made it?” Dagger said. Lucius frowned at the closed door. “If he knows what’s good for him.” ▪ Well designed reversals (major and minor) 3. Average and Must Evolve To Be Competitive: Major Reversal: Ander agrees to return with Lucius to the belfry to write his stories after he had refused earlier to help the Onlys. Minor Reversal: Ander asks Lucius to teach him how to pinch. The first 50 pages are Act 1, which is a bit longer than the 1-30 pages recommended. The refusal by Ander to help the Onlys sets up Lucius persistence and a second rescue at the Boston Store and then a third in the frozen alley. Lucius persistence is rewarded when he convinces Ander to come back to the belfry (Major Reversal). Does it take too long to develop the story? The pieces fit together, but the hard question is will the reader allow the story to develop. Because of the uniqueness of the Onlys, I believe the readers will. ▪ Pinch points (at least two) 3. Average and Must Evolve To Be Competitive: Pinch Point 1: Lucius and his friends distract O’Doole in the Boston Store so Ander can escape before O’Doole can arrest him for trying to steal paper and pencils. This is a pinch point because it ties the Onlys to Ander and it’s clear that both are targets for O’Doole. Pinch Point 2: Lombardo tells O’Doole to solve the problem of the Onlys trashing the Five and Dime. O’Doole decides that he’s going to make some profit at the same time by bagging the Onlys, selling to the Scotsman at Juvenile Hall, and then sending Ander to Dead Man’s Field. Lucius and his friends don’t understand how dangerous it was to help Ander at the Boston Store, even when O’Doole tells them that he knows of their thieving ways but lets them go because he wants Ander at that moment. But O’Doole doesn’t forget and continues to hunt the Onlys, especially after Lombardo calls him out for allowing the Only to trash the Five and Dime, a regularly paying protection customer. Pinch Point Three: Lucius decides the only way the Onlys can be safe is to be rid of O’Doole. (Leads to the climax). Are these pinch points strong enough to propel the story forward? On the face, they appear to be. ▪ Catalytic situation driven 3. Average and Must Evolve To Be Competitive: The catalyst is Lucius persistent belief and actions he takes to prove his intuition is correct that Ander can help the Onlys. His willingness to follow Ander, and the fact he intervened in Ander’s behalf three time (the Commons, the Boston Store, and the frozen alley), as well as trying to teach Ander to pinch (the Five and Dime), illustrate his strong belief in the man. This belief is later tested, but never fails, even in the face of O’Doole’s evil. ▪ Conflict, tension, rising action, 4. I Believe This Base is Covered: The level of conflict, tension and action constantly rises through the first 5 chapters. From Lucius belief in Ander, to Dagger’s skepticism, Ander’s self-doubt, and O’Doole’s pomposity, each character has their own wants and desires that are in opposition with the other characters: the correct recipe for conflict. Even when Ander is sleeping and Dagger clicks her switchblade, the tension the Onlys feel is thick in the belfry. She clicked the blade closed, the Onlys flinching with the sound. “Sorry. Yous know we’s need this.” “He ain’t gonna hurt us,” Lucius said. Their squinting eyes didn’t agree. The tension ratchets when O’Doole catches Ander stealing in the Boston Store but is released when the Onlys rescue him. While the Five and Dime “squeeze play” is humorous, the tension is there when the store manager arrives as described by Lucuis. A roly-poly manager whirled around the back counter, bobbing toward them, his face riper than a tomato, neck pipes bulging. He yanked his tie down for air and then shrieked worse than a workday whistle. The scene with O’Doole in Tataglia’s with Lombordo has a sharp edge when O’Doole makes the money drop and screws with Lombardo until the mob boss challenges him to get the kids who trashed the Five and Dime. O’Doole is still human, even with his inherent evil, as shown by his relationship with his parents. Even that relationship is strained as shown by his mother’s reaction to O’Doole kissing her cheek. “Red birds be by again in a wee bit.” He leaned down and kissed her cheek. She shoved his face away. “Shut your cake hole. How you be squeezing your own? Working for those people. And you playin’ like you’re a police officer. It’s a wonder Pa ever comes home.” I worked hard at ensuring each character had their own wants/desires to create conflict and tension and add to the rising action. That’s why I chose the above score. ▪ Every scene relevant (i.e., to driving plot forward) 3. Average and Must Evolve To Be Competitive: Scene 1: Lucius rescues Ander in the Commons and believes he can help the Onlys. Scene 2: Lucius finds the pouch with the papers and thinks the words that they can’t read might help when Ander wakes and explains them. Scene 3: Ander refuses to help. Lucius decides to follow Ander. Scene 4: Lucius learns that Ander lost his job and home and decides he needs a second chance like Pastor Johnson gave the Onlys. Scene 5: Ander tries to steal paper and O’Doole catches them. Lucius and his friends divert O’Doole so Ander can escape. (Pinch Point) Scene 6: Lucius finds Ander in a frozen alley and with Daggers help brings him back to the belfry. Ander asks Lucius if he can teach a teacher how to pinch (minor reversal). Scene 7: Lucius plan to teach Ander how to pitch blows up under a pile of No. 2 pencils. Ander uses words to rescue the Onlys. Lucius convinces Ander to come back to the belfry where it’s warm to write his stories. (Major Reversal – Beginning of Lucius 1st goal). Scene 8: O’Doole is with is Mom before work and she hates that he’s squeezing the locals for the mob when he’s supposed to be a police officer. Scene 9: O’Doole meets Lombardo to make a money drop and Lombardo wants him to take care of the kids who trashed the Five and Dime. Each scene builds to support the next from Lucius finding and believing in Ander, to his persistence belief in the Big One to the point of following and rescuing the man three times. It convinces Ander to stay in the belfry. O’Doole is upset that he didn’t catch Ander and the Onlys are tied to the teacher since they helped him escape at the Boston Store (and he later learns they are responsible for trashing the Five and Dime). The sequences feel logical and one MG/YA readers can easily follow. That’s the reason for the above score. ▪ Effective, believable climax 3. Average and Must Evolve To Be Competitive: The climax is when Lucius convinces Dickens to change side and sets up a meeting at Fenway Park, but it goes south when Dicken’s is late with the Chief of Police. Lucius goes to the backup plan that places him, Ander, and the Onlys in an alley with O’Doole and his posse. While I like the climax, I’m not sure if it’s strong enough, there’s enough action, and if the setting add to the tension and pushes the story forward. ▪ Resolution 3. Average and Must Evolve To Be Competitive: Lucius persistent belief in Ander convinces the Big One to return to the belfry. This is the start of Lucius obtaining his first goal: to get Ander to help the Onlys. That doesn’t happen completely until later in Act II when Ander tells the Onlys the story THE MAGIC BOOK and then agrees to be their teacher. I find the scoring system challenging because I know exactly what I wanted to do during the writing of the novel, followed my two-goal six act outline with some consistency, made a concerted effort to apply the techniques taught in all the modules, and felt that the decisions I made were for specific and exacting reasons to propel the story forward. CHARACTERS: ▪ Antagonistic force 5. Superb and Clicking With Velocity: The only time you’ll see this high a score. O’Doole is one of the two best antagonist I feel I’ve ever created. He has a human side in that he takes care of aging parents, even if his parents disagree with the way he goes about it. The reader gets a sense of just how hard a man O’Doole is when the cop catches Ander stealing in the Boston store. The nightstick slamming twice on the counter froze him. “You’ll be wantin’ to pay for those, I’m sure.” The Irish tenor voice sounded ready to sing. He cocked his head toward the mirror above the back counter with an excellent view of the aisles. O’Doole stuffed the envelop into the inside breast pocket, the bulge elevating his badge. He twirled his nightstick with practiced skill. Run, his mind screamed, but someone must have spread glue on the floor. “You be havin’ permission to steal on my streets?” His head shifted side to side. No idea where he found the courage. Pencils in one hand, stationery in the other. O’Doole stopped twirling. He gripped the nightstick’s handle so hard it squeaked. His dark eyes turned hateful. A few more steps and that hard club would crack his skull easier than a sledgehammer on a coconut. The antagonistic force is also on display as O’Doole taunts Lombardo at the Italian restaurant to the point that the man wants to shoot him. O’Doole handle’s this tension casually when he says, “Joseph, if you mean to shoot me, do it quickly and get on with your lunch.” I purposely used syntax and cadence to reflect his Irish accent. I worked hard so that the reader could hear that Irish tenor wanting to sing. This is a character the reader will remember long after they finish reading the story. ▪ Consistent opposition 3. Average and Must Evolve To Be Competitive: You can never have too much conflict. Even the simple things like Lucius asking Dagger and Strudel why they didn’t stay in the belfry like he asked. Ander’s refusal to help is a constant opposition to Lucius persistent belief that he can. There is no scarier opposition than O’Doole, and that’s well established in the first 50 pages (the sample of the Boston Store with Ander above illustrates this). Again, my scoring is conservative for a reason. While I made the decisions and believe my choices are reasonable, I’ve written enough to know that there are always opportunities for improvement. At this point I may be too close to the story and need that outside objective viewpoint to identify holes, issues, or poor technique. ▪ Protagonist’s goals 4. I Believe This Base is Covered: Lucius persistent belief in Ander that he can help the Onlys “shows” clearly to the reader why Lucius keeps pushing Ander to thelp them. It’s even more clear when Lucius gets Ander to agree to come back to the belfry. He didn’t let Ander run far. “A might warmer in the belfry to write them words, if yous can do it with the Youngins makin’ the rackets.” Ander returned. He bent over and looked him in the eye. “No one has ever believed in me. Why should you?” “Mayhap we could believe in each other.” Ander straightened and extended a hand. Lucius gripped it as hard as his strength let him. He hoped it was enough. ▪ Sympathetic protagonist 4. I Believe This Base is Covered: One paragraph shows how much Lucius wishes he could be like the regular kids instead of a streeter. Easier on his own, sliding between tall wool coats, their warmth slowing him enough to wonder what it be like for one of them to hold him close for real. Lucky kids they were, with covers that didn’t have holes, gloves warming all the fingers, wool scarves circling the neck, and stocking caps over the ears. They looked as toasty as being by the fire in the belfry. Another paragraph illustrates the role of leader thrust on Lucius and how hard he found it to act like a Big One to take care of the Onlys. So he took charge. Onlys acted like babies needing caring every day, all day. He became their mother and father. Learned quickly why youngins bit on Big One’s nerves. Always wanting. I believe LUCIUS AND THE ONLYS are characters that MG/YA readers will root for as they read the story. ▪ Protagonist’s arc 4. I Believe This Base is Covered: While we see how Lucius has to take on the role of leader of the Onlys and acting like a Big One, it’s Ander that demonstrates that he still has a lot to learn. “And what’s your story?” Lucius didn’t know what Ander wanted. “Everyone has a story,” Ander said. “Are you the oldest?” “Mayhap,” he said. “I’m the tallest, though.” “Not by much,” Dagger said. “Don’t pay her no mind.” “Looks like they eat more than you do.” Ander’s eyes trailed along the other Onlys. “We find eats where we can.” The Big One stood and circled. Lucius shifted on his feet turning with him. Ander fingered his hair and he pulled away. “Do you know the color?” “Like fall leaves,” he said, “just softer.” “You know what I think?” He did and didn’t want to know. “Maybe twelve, maybe thirteen. Need to eat more. Be a sight more useful to the others. You’re quick, I’ll bet.” The Onlys giggled, except for Dagger. She squinted and followed Ander, her face stiff and angry. “Like me, you could use a bit more sun.” Ander looked to Dagger. “And you certainly don’t know about girls.” Heat spread through his cheeks. He didn’t like the Onlys’ grins or Dagger’s glare. “Think you know a lot, don’t you?” Ander leaned and he stepped back. “But you don’t know as much as you think.” Why was this Big One doing this? He was supposed to be helping them. Lucius sets the example for the other Onlys. As Lucius goes, so goes the Onlys. What’s even more interesting is watching a child teach an adult (Lucius teaching Ander how to pinch). Also in this exchange where Lucius surprises Ander with his street wisdom. “What’d you want the paper and pencils for?” The Big One’s face stretched in odd directions. He couldn’t tell if Ander was mad or sick. Still hard to call him Ander like he asked. Mayhap time would come, but not today. “You’re betting on a slow horse.” Ander warmed his hands over the flames. “Why didn’t you pinch yourself food?” he said. “Yous need that a sight more than paper.” “How do you know what I need?” “You’re alive.” He slid away from the fire, still feeling the heat, and not all of it from crackling flames. “I suppose you think I should be grateful.” “Mayhap you forgot what you need.” “You wouldn’t understand.” “We’re here. It’s warm. We understand more than you think.” “Remember the words I showed you before.” Buttons shook his fist, the plastic clicking. He lifted his red freckles into firelight. “On them papers we tried to burn.” The Big One flushed, but his color came back quick. The Onlys could grow on you, just like they did with him when he’d found them on the streets. “I had more words I needed to write. Important words.” “Them words more important than feeding your belly?” “You’re too young to understand,” Ander said. “Big Ones, as you call us, see the world differently.” “Never seen anyone eat words.” Ander wanted to take back what he told the boy. Astute beyond his years. If he ever wrote the stories in his head and sold them, then yes, he could feed himself. This arc continues through the novel and jumps exponentially when Ander teaches Lucius words and the leader of the Onlys learns how to read. ▪ Supporting characters 4. I Believe This Base is Covered: I know the direction about not hyping or high scoring ourselves. However, I feel blessed to have discovered these characters: Dagger, Bumper, Buttons, Fingers, and Strudel. The youngins don’t have speaking parts until the end when Ander finds their parents and they are able to go to their real home. In the third scene of the opening chapter I chose to go into the minds of these characters so the readers could see what they thought about Ander possibly helping them. Dagger’s skepticism is strong internally and externally. The other Onlys show a timidity toward the Big One, but defer to Lucius because he takes care of them. Each has their unique flavor and wants/desires. Dagger: Carries the switchblade, the Onlys protection. As Lucius says, she can act a boy and a girl before she even finishes a sentence. She thinks Ander’s cute, but not enough to trust him. Bumper: A chunky black kid with a huge heart. He’s never faced discrimination because the Onlys treat him as family (that happens later when a group of teens beats Bumper up for being black). He wants to fit in and be special. Buttons: Strawberry hair and freckles, and carries red and blue plastic buttons that he uses to play tidily-winks. A playful child. Fingers: Long fingers and long blonde hair. Girls make his skin prickle and he hates it when Lucius plays against that when they execute a pinch. Strudel: He’s the eating machine, especially if it’s sweet. He’s always hungry. But he’s loyal and will do anything for his friends. They are all sympathetic characters, the kinds that MG/YA readers (and adult parents) will relate to. NARRATIVE DEVELOPMENT: ▪ Scene length and structure 2. Understand, But Item Needs More Work: I’m a firm believer in “get in late and get out early” in scenes. En media res (in the middle of the action). I worked at applying the lessons from the modules, but still feel I’m in a development stage as it relates to those techniques. I understand that scenes need to have a beginning, middle, and end and I believe that my scenes do. Each scene has to propel the story forward. Use the setting to develop the characters and advance the story. Some of the techniques are intuitive, others I have to consciously think about. The length of the scenes in the first 50 pages I feel are the correct length. The actions the characters take, the conflict, and how it propels the story were intentional and specific. I’m hopeful the above answers to the other sections of this score sheet illustrates that. The story is linear in nature, but not surprising since I’ve worked for the military for 38 years and that life tends to ingrain linear thinking. I still think I need work at developing setting within the character actions and decisions so that I get the most out of my settings and propel the story. ▪ Effective transitions 3. Average and Must Evolve To Be Competitive: I feel as though the transitions used between scene and chapters were effective and accomplished what I intended them to do. I also tried to have chapter hooks that were strong enough to make the reader not want to put the book down. I believe I still need work in this area and that transitions and hooks could be stronger. ▪ Clarity of spatial set 3. Average and Must Evolve To Be Competitive: To be honest, I’m not sure what’s meant by this section. I’m making an assumption that this is the POV module and where we’re talking about what John Gardner called “psychic distance” (the distance between the reader and the character). The modules in this area were excellent, as were the exercises. I feel that experience translated into the first 50 pages, but could be improved upon. I have no problem getting deep into the minds of character, allowing them to ruminate and consider, and then act. I consider this area still a work in progress. There are samples in this score sheet that illustrate internal monologue and rumination to support this score. ▪ Comprehensible prose narrative 3. Average and Must Evolve To Be Competitive: I’m careful not to go too deep into narrative summary as I believe MG/YA readers tend to want more action. I could use additional camera long shots that create the panoramic (cinematic) imagery that would add to a reader’s fictive dream. The module on this area was excellent, but my experience is lacking and will improve with practice. One part where I think I was able to capture this was when Lucius described the church tower where the belfry is located. People scurried to flee the chill. Most were headed to Boston First Baptist. The white glow from Mister Moon bathed the church’s tower, a square-stoned finger pointing toward Heaven. Amazed him how anyone could stack stone on stone until he could see over the trees from the belfry. Whoever built this place liked arches, including three in front that churchgoers in long coats, old suits, and hand-me-downs walked through. People looking for spiritual guidance – as Pastor Johnson liked to say – or mayhap they lived each day like him and the Onlys, hoping for a miracle. Still a work in progress. ▪ Tension on the page 3. Average and Must Evolve To Be Competitive: The goal is tension on every page. I’m not confident I hit that mark, but I do feel I created a good deal of tension in every scene and chapter. When Lucius leaves his hiding place to face the Big One he just splattered with a tomato and lies to the guy telling him the person who threw the tomato ran off, the tension is strong. It’s also evident when Lucius is introducing Ander to the Onlys as shown by the Onlys internal thoughts about Ander (the reason I chose to be in more then one mind in that scene). When Ander is caught by O’Doole stealing paper and pencils, the tension is very high. The same when O’Doole is in the restaurant with Lombardo and he taunts the mob boss enough that he’s almost shot. So I feel I have achieve a level of tension in the story, but I’m undecided as to whether it’s written to a competitive level. ▪ Dialogue mastery 3. Average and Must Evolve To Be Competitive: Dialogue is not everything that’s said, but the essence of what’s said. It needs to draw the characters, incite action, and propel the story forward. Below are samples of dialogue where I thought I achieved this, but still believe it could be improved to make the dialogue pop of the page. “Thought I told you to lay behind?” he said. “And listen to the brats whine?” “Don’t be callin’ them that. They’s youngins for a reason. And they’s hungry just like yous.” “Well I’m hungry, too.” Strudel waddled from behind a Big One near as tall as the belfry tower and eyes wondering what they were up to. He wanted to yell but that wouldn’t do a difference. “Come on,” he said, “afore someone knows we’re streeters.” “Like that ain’t obvious,” Dagger said. Glaring at her and Strudel didn’t convince them to go back to the belfry. “Yous might regret the cold.” They eyed their stomachs. More important than being chilled. Even he had to admit that. “It’s warm in the belfry,” he said. “Yous know what a dead fish smells like?” Dagger leaned, hands on her knees, squishing her face, mayhap for the smell, even if the fish weren’t really dead. Then Strudel surprised him, using some street smarts for a change. “He’s a big one all right. Be a sight of trouble lugging him to the belfry.” Widest grin he’d had in a year and all thanks to his best pals. “Always knew yous two were good for something.” “And what’s your story?” Lucius didn’t know what Ander wanted. “Everyone has a story,” Ander said. “Are you the oldest?” “Mayhap,” he said. “I’m the tallest, though.” “Not by much,” Dagger said. “Don’t pay her no mind.” “Looks like they eat more than you do.” Ander’s eyes trailed along the other Onlys. “We find eats where we can.” The Big One stood and circled. Lucius shifted on his feet turning with him. Ander fingered his hair and he pulled away. “Do you know the color?” “Like fall leaves,” he said, “just softer.” “You know what I think?” He did and didn’t want to know. “Maybe twelve, maybe thirteen. Need to eat more. Be a sight more useful to the others. You’re quick, I’ll bet.” The Onlys giggled, except for Dagger. She squinted and followed Ander, her face stiff and angry. “Like me, you could use a bit more sun.” Ander looked to Dagger. “And you certainly don’t know about girls.” Heat spread through his cheeks. He didn’t like the Onlys’ grins or Dagger’s glare. “Think you know a lot, don’t you?” Ander leaned and he stepped back. “But you don’t know as much as you think.” ▪ Exposition delivery 3. Average and Must Evolve To Be Competitive: I think I’ve been doing exposition intuitively based on reading the assigned books, as well as novels by excellent writers (Cormac McCarthy, Peter Matthiessen, Larry McMurtry, etc.). The Module on Exposition helped me understand the process more clearly. I worked at incorporating it into the first 100 pages. Here’s a small sample: People scurried to flee the chill. Most were headed to Boston First Baptist. The white glow from Mister Moon bathed the church’s tower, a square-stoned finger pointing toward Heaven. Amazed him how anyone could stack stone on stone until he could see over the trees from the belfry. Whoever built this place liked arches, including three in front that churchgoers in long coats, old suits, and hand-me-downs walked through. People looking for spiritual guidance – as Pastor Johnson liked to say – or mayhap they lived each day like him and the Onlys, hoping for a miracle. He liked the arch high above the doors, the one with the circular window set inside, with eight blades, almost like a fan. During the day, red, blue, and gold tinted glass added color to the brown and yellow stones, a brightness that felt like hope. If not for First Baptist and Pastor Johnson, he and the Onlys would be living on the streets, more so than they already did. I believe I still need more exposition and to look for additional opportunities to include exposition through the novel that will enhance its feel and the reader’s connection to the story. ▪ Narrative composition (quality of set, tension, cinema, character interactions) 3. Average and Must Evolve To Be Competitive: The quality of the set could use work. It’s a constant effort to find the right words that adds a concrete image to ground the reader so tightly in the fictive dream that they feel they are part of the story. I feel as though I’ve done an effective job a creating tension and building it over the first 50 pages. However, there’s always room for improvement. The cinema (setting) still could use some work to improve the imagery, adding more effective nouns and verbs, metaphors, and use of the senses to ground readers in 1937 Boston. The language, syntax, and cadence of the dialogue adds to the feel, but a better drawing of the “place” will improve the writing further. ▪ Cinematic imagery (static and dynamic) 2. Understand, But Item Needs More Work: My weakest area. Little pieces of good work such as the Exposition sample above, but I still need to develop this skill further so it becomes a natural part of the story. The static cinematic imagery in the first 50 is Boston’s First Baptist Church, the tower, and the belfry. The dynamic is the Five and Dime when Ander tries for his first pinch and the squeeze play is blown up by a falling stack of No. 2 pencils. The stage setting was okay, but I still feel it could be more natural, moving smoother through the scene like a moving camera. Still some work to be done. ▪ Proper point-of-view 4. I Believe This Base is Covered: This is a strength for me. I can say that because my Jacksonville, FL, writing mentor is one the best I’ve ever met at POV. The POV Module validated all the lessons I’ve learned over the past eight years. I’m confident in my ability to be in the correct POV. What the POV module did was illustrate how I can more effective movie through different POV levels from long shot to in the mind, to add character, increase tension, and propel the story. I’ve worked to incorporate that in the first 50 pages. Also, I went into multiple minds in the third scene of Chapter 1 intentionally because I wanted the reader to know what the Onlys thought about Ander after Lucius brought him to the belfry. The only other time I chose to move into more than one mind was in the climax because the major characters were there and it was important to see the story to the finish. ▪ Wise use of craft technique 4. I Believe This Base is Covered: I have a good deal of confidence in my ability with the craft of writing because I have been diligently studying the craft for more than 8 years (the last two with AS). I kept any open mind with each of the modules and worked to faithfully complete them as designed, to soak up as much as I could from them and to apply them to the first 50 pages. I believe I was reasonably successful at using the techniques taught in the modules throughout the first 50 pages. I don’t believe I know everything and even what I do know, I still need to practice many more times until it become intuitive. The above scoring and samples should illustrate that I’ve have a good working knowledge of the craft of writing and continue to learn and work to improve in all areas. ▪ Interior Monologue and rumination 4. I Believe This Base is Covered: My study of craft, in particular POV, has helped develop skills in these areas. The best way to show that is with interior monologue and rumination samples below: He liked the arch high above the doors, the one with the circular window set inside, with eight blades, almost like a fan. During the day, red, blue, and gold tinted glass added color to the brown and yellow stones, a brightness that felt like hope. If not for First Baptist and Pastor Johnson, he and the Onlys would be living on the streets, more so than they already did. He snatched his wrist from her grip. She glared in that girly way, enough to cause shivers. Where did dames learn that stuff? Didn’t seem fair. He pushed his girl problems aside, cocked his arm again, and zeroed in on the tallest Big One shaking the cod enough that he might my drop coins. The fish should fight back, but he didn’t. Mayhap he lost his care. Lucius leaned on a square pole, sharp edge creasing his coat, ignoring the hurt because it helped him think. The Big One didn’t mind kids, didn’t want to run off, and didn’t look at him as though he had a sickness he should avoid. Not as sad today. Tried to think of other Big Ones with tired, lonely faces like the one he saw last night. Couldn’t do it. Black stubble spotted this one’s chin and neck. He’d missed some meals. Lucius shivered remembering days when he and the Onlys did without before they found the belfry and Pastor Johnson.
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