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  1. Genre: YA Fantasy Logline: A spoiled noble girl with a good heart rebels against her parents to join a dethroned prince on his journey to build a team capable of reclaiming his throne and ridding the magical Islands of Rune of the injustices that plague them. Comparable to: It's can't think of anything with a similar storyline off the top of my head. I feel more comfortable saying I drew inspiration from Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, Inuyasha, One Piece, Ouran High School Host Club, and Bridgerton. Pitch: A spoiled noble girl with a good heart named Josie has grown tired of the way her parents treat those beneath their station. While she certainly enjoys the luxuries of being nobility, she sees no reason for senseless violence or to treat others in an undignified manner. One day, she meets Malachi, a half-demon, dethroned prince from the magical islands that lie off the coast of the kingdom she is from. He sees the kindness in her heart and invites Josie to join him on his journey to build a team capable of reclaiming his throne and ridding the islands of the injustices that plague them. When her good heart and longing for adventure pushes her to accept, her parents disinherit her as a result. Josie and Malachi begin traveling from island to island on his boat. Early on in their journey, Josie finds out that her line is descended from a great priestess that defended the mainland in a war long forgotten by her people. She reconnects with her roots and throughout their journey she develops her own spiritual powers. As the team grows, they are joined by Johanna, a warrior who can speak to nature spirits and falls hopelessly in love with Malachi, Kai and Cal, who possess ground runes and become involved in a poly relationship with Josie, and lastly, Jameson, Malachi's half-angel cousin who is also prince whose family is still in power and possess water runes. As the team comes closer to completing their goals, they find that they are sacrificing a lot in the name of the greater good. For some, it is their freedoms, for others, it is any chance at true love, and some even sacrifice their lives. Josie finds herself lost in a sea of pain and rage as a result of this, that is, until she is given new hope by a great chief who informs her that the prophecy he once gave her has not yet been fulfilled. When a visiting prince comes to negotiate a new alliance, the team sets out on a new journey to solidify it. Josie has another mission in mind as well: to find answers about the prophecy. This leads into the second book, which I've already titled 'Runes in Rallem'. Chapter One: In a world much different from the one you know today, a world of ancient ways and the most fascinating of skill sets, there lies the land of Loft. Loft used to be an average kingdom at the time they held no magic and because of that, the people of Loft were almost dangerously unaware of the truth about the world they lived in. Just a few miles off the coast was a group of five islands. These islands were called the Islands of Rune. They were beautiful and full of magical runes but hidden well beyond a cloud bank that never left. It protected the people of the islands from the people of the mainland so that mainlanders would never find out the truth about the islanders. Both the mainland of Loft and the islands had been riddled with many injustices, that is until one man decided to make a difference. Today, I tell the story of what happened all those years ago for the first time. In my old age, I have come to fear that if the histories of our lands are not passed on, future generations will come to repeat the mistakes of our past. Of course, hiding the truths of the world is how things got so messed up to begin with, so it makes sense I would feel this way. Therefore, I am writing this to document the truth of what occurred when the team now known as “The Inter-Kingdom Board of Peace and Foreign Relations” was formed. In truth, we started out as a group of kids with an impossible dream and a boat. I was about nineteen at the time. As most of you reading this will know, I was highborn. My father was first cousin to the Queen of Loft, his title was Duke, and I was the heiress to the title of Duchess. I was a spoiled child who had little regard for those beneath my station, though, even I was kinder than my parents in that sense. I suppose it did not help that my mother and father were who they were, they made me believe that my behavior was normal. They also saw being kind-hearted or caring as a flaw. They were also not the nicest people I have ever known; I honestly cannot say if they meant harm by what they did or if they were just ignorant to the harm had they caused because of the world they knew. It is not my place to judge whether harm was intended though, I did come to find that no matter one intentions, if harm if being done it is my place to stop it. That, my friends, is everyone’s place. Perhaps my biggest regret is never having an honest conversation with them. The beginning of this story goes back to a single moment, on a day that changed my life, I was walking through town when I met him for the first time. I remember it like it was yesterday. I was young and my views about the world were so limited, my biggest concern was figuring out how to rid myself of the guard my parents had following me so I could have an adventure. Eventually, I produced a plan to disappear into a large crowd after creating a panic. I pretended to faint and people crowded around. The guard was overwhelmed trying to keep them all back, so I slipped away and made a run for it. He realized quickly, so I kept running in an attempt not to get caught. However, I turned a corner without looking much and ran into a young man. I fell into a puddle and got mud all over my clothes. I scoffed at him and said, “Watch where you are going, peasant!” He cleared his throat. “Excuse me, my lady, but I do believe you ran into me.” Then, he reached out his hand to help me up. I rolled my eyes and stood up ignoring his hand. I began to answer him, but then my guard caught up. He saw the state I was in and overreacted, grabbing the man by his shirt. “How dare you do this to my lady?” I saw where it was going so, I quickly interjected out of fear that my guards would harm him, even back then I was not a fan of senseless violence. “Put him down, now!” On my orders, the guard put the man down and said. “But my lady…” “But nothing!” I interrupted him, “This man did nothing wrong. It was a stunt I pulled so I did not get in trouble for running off. Now, leave him be.” I turned to the man. “My apologies, sir. Please, join my family and me for dinner tonight so that we may offer you a proper apology.” The man nodded. “Thank you, I’d be honored.” I nodded and began to walk away before turning back. “It’s the biggest house on Main Street, it should be easy to find, seven o’clock, okay?” Then I continued about my day. Right on time, he came to the house. I welcomed him in, saying, “I don’t believe I got your name earlier, sir.” “Please, stop calling me, ‘sir’.” He sounded annoyed, “My name is Malachi, I’m from the Island of Tendu, and you?” I gasped. “You’re from the Islands of Rune! I have always wanted to go! I hear no one from the mainland has ever been to one of the islands. You have to tell me all about them!” Malachi laughed. “Jeez, I just asked your name. What are you, crazy?” I froze in embarrassment for a moment, then pouted. “Hmph! I am Lady Josella Marie Spade Lucietta III. My friends call me Josie though.” Malachi rolled his eyes as we sat down. I guess he thought I was a bit obnoxious. I do not suppose it would have been complicated to think such a thing. We sat in silence for a few minutes waiting for my parents. It was an awkward silence. I did notice though, Malachi carried himself differently than most other peasants. I wondered about him. He was rather handsome. He had a bronze complexion and his skin was perfectly clear, but he was muscular and his hands were callused from labor of some sort. His hair was untamed, but kind of gorgeous in a way and he had blood red eyes. They looked unreal. When my mother and father entered, my mother said, “I am so sorry my dear, we got a bit caught up with the Kightington family. And you must be the young man my little Josie inconvenienced earlier. I am so sorry about her; she’s always been a bit eccentric for a noble lady.” Malachi looked surprised, “No, actually I find her quite lovely. She’s an exceedingly kind and brilliant young woman.” I was honestly a bit shocked that he came to my defense, at the time, I did not think he liked me much. As it turns out, Malachi did like me. My mother replied, “Well aren’t you just a gentleman? You better not flatter her too much, my dear boy. She already has an ego ten times her size.” Then my father added, “He is rather well-spoken too. For a peasant boy, that is.” “Father! That’s rude!” I exclaimed, “Both of you stop. I am not a child anymore and you can’t just speak to Malachi like he’s beneath you because of who his parents are.” “I am absolutely astonished at you, Josie.” My mother said, “We have a guest, and you are having these ridiculous outbursts. I’m sure Malachi understands his place in the world perfectly fine.” Malachi spoke up, “With all due respect, Madame, Sir, I do understand my place in the world. I am the man who is going to change it, once I assemble my team of course. I came here to find someone to represent the mainland and I decided that should be your daughter, Josie.” My mother and father laughed. “Young man, you will not be taking our daughter anywhere and you will not be changing a thing.” He chuckled in return. “Again, with all due respect, I do believe that is Josie’s decision to make. By my estimate, she is legally able to make those decisions for herself, am I correct?” At that moment, I do not know if it was spite, or just for the thrill, but said to him, “Of course, I’ll go. Thank you for the offer. Out of curiosity though, why me?” He explained, “Even though you act like one of those arrogant nobles, it truly is just an act. On the inside, you are driven to defend anyone you feel is being done wrong. That is why you stopped your guards and that is why you stood up to your parents. In a world like this, there are not many people I would be willing to put my faith in. But you have my full trust, even if I’m still earning yours.” I nodded and we left my parents’ home. I did not really believe in what he was doing at the time, but it seemed like the type of adventure I needed in my life. My parents disinherited me. All I had to my name when I left was whatever I could fit into my travel trunk. I did not know where I was going, but I knew I was not coming back to that house. Malachi and I spent a few days after that stocking up on supplies and loading them onto his boat. I never knew how much went into sailing; I had never paid it any mind before. Malachi asked me as I was looking at some spices, “Can you cook?” I replied, “Yes, of course. I am a woman. Regardless of social class a woman should know how to cook. My mother feared that if I did not learn to perform womanly duties that I would not marry well, therefore I was trained by the best all because I am not as eye catching as some of the other noble woman, particularly in the bust and the romp. I can’t help it that I have a smaller frame though.” He nodded. “I agree, but I can’t cook. So, do you mind doing the cooking on the ship? If I do, it'll taste terrible every time.” I giggled. “Well, of course. I figured I’d have to pull my weight.” He laughed. “I honestly didn’t plan on having you do anything. We are friends, friends take care of each other. So, even if you did not have anything to offer, I’d take care of you.” “Friends, huh?” “You’ve never had a friend before?” “Not really.” “It’s okay, I’ll teach you.” We smiled at each other. Given the circumstances; Malachi seemed like a nice guy. There was something magnetic about him. He was the type of guy who was just good-natured. I started to think that if someone could fix all the things wrong with the world, it would be him. I then thought, it was impossible for anyone to do, even with a team behind them. Reality is the world is a horrible place because people suck. I was sure even Malachi had major downfalls. Perhaps he was a liar, cheater, thief, or something of that sort, either way I felt that genuinely good people were far rarer than they are. Not to say that good people are not still flawed, but they try to correct their behaviors and do better. By the time we finished readying the ship for departure, it was late and we were both tired so we decided to rest for the night to get a fresh start and a full day at sea tomorrow. Malachi showed me to my cabin on the ship and made sure I had everything I needed. After he left, I sat on the bed and looked around. I started to doubt myself. Could I really live in such different conditions from what I was used to? The cabin was so small, the bed was hard, and I could feel a draft. But then it hit me, Malachi really lived like this every day and he still felt he had enough to share with me even though I had no money without my parents? I must do this; it is the right thing to do. From that moment, I had made up my mind, I was going to walk this path and be strong enough to face everything ahead of me, no matter how impossible it seemed. After a while, I fell asleep with a powerful resolve in my heart. Early the following morning, Malachi knocked on the cabin door. He called out, “Josie! It is time to get moving! Wakey, wakey!” I groaned, “Ugh, okay! I’ll be out in a minute to start breakfast!” I stumbled out of bed and got myself together for the day. When I went on deck, Malachi was hard at work to get the ship out to sea. He paused when he saw me and said, “Well, good morning. You finally decided to join the land of the living. We have a long trip ahead of us so make sure you make a good breakfast.” I asked, “Where are we going next, out of curiosity?” “I think we’ll go to Pallentine first; we can collect another teammate easily there. The Pallentinians are rather friendly if you do not judge their culture. We should be cautious though, Pallentine is hard to navigate. The rainforests there are so thick that only the natives bother. Once we dock, we should try to always stay with a guide from the village. Otherwise, I can’t promise we will find our way back to the ship in one piece.” That made me far more nervous to hear than I cared to discuss with Malachi. “Okay, well, I’ll go start the food. Just eat once we are set on course, I guess.” I became anxious as I thought about the possibility of getting lost in such a place. I wondered why anyone would want to live in such a place. Then I caught myself, I was judging them without even realizing it. I thought about it and concluded that there had to be difficulties to living anywhere. I could not look down on others for their lifestyle choices. Besides, who knows? I was free of my parents finally; I had no clue what kind of place I would choose to settle down in once we finished our journey. Malachi nodded then continued messing with ropes as I headed toward the kitchen. After a little while, the boat began to move. Malachi called out, “Hey, bring the food up here and eat with me!” So, I made some plates and carried the food up to the deck where Malachi had a table and some chairs set up for us. I sat down with him and looked out at the sea as we started our journey. I smiled and said to Malachi, “We should make a toast.” “To what?” “We’re two friends set out on a magnificent adventure to change the world, take your pick.” “I’ll drink to that.” I raised my glass to his. “To friendship and adventure!” “To friendship and adventure!” And with that, our adventure began. We had many challenges to come. We would cry many tears, meet many people, lose other people, laugh, and cry in the weeks and months to follow. However, one thing was for sure: our friendship and our hearts would set the course for a new future, a better future. I could not wait to find out what was next. At the time, I had no clue how ill prepared I was for the journey I had agreed to go on. ---------- Contact: marialevato6@gmail.com
  2. AS II – Module 8 Book Reports "The Art of Fiction" by John Gardner (a great primer for this commercial program) 1. How did the book help you as a writer? What overall aspects of it taught you something? This is the second time I’ve read this book. It should be the first book any writer reads on the craft of writing. It validated the areas of craft that I’ve been studying for the past eight-plus years. The book taught me that you have to know the rules of craft and master them before you can break them or create your own. 2. What two or three major lessons did you learn from the book that you can apply to your writing and/or your novel? a. The technique for telling a story through multiple points of view (a technique masterfully used by Larry McMurtry in Lonesome Dove).The most effective way is to have the character do an action. This signals the reader that they are about to enter into another character’s mind. Then, just as we learned in AS II – Module 1, use the four levels of POV to draw the reader closer to the character until we are in their mind. b. Removing needless explanation; or as we like to say in my local writers group: Resist the Urge to Explain (RUE). You find these excess words usually at the end of sentences. Or as Gardner writes, “Needless explanation or explanation where drama alone would be sufficient are other irritants. c. Avoiding dialogue tags that attempt to prop dialogue; e.g., “he hollered” or “he exclaimed.” A simple “he said” works just fine. The same for “he questioned.” If the character says, “Where are you going?”, no need to say “he questioned” as the the questions is already obvious and the dialogue tag is redundant. “He said” works just fine. 3. Was there anything in the books that obviously conflicted with lessons and readings in our novel writing program. If so, what were they? I’m not sure I’d say it conflicts, but Gardner leaned toward the three-act Syd Field model of storytelling. While it has some similarities, it doesn’t prepare you fully for the two-goal six-act novel that is at the heart of the novel writing program. However, every novel has to have structure, the bones that allow it to stand on its own. When I took a novel writing extension course at the University of Oklahoma, my professor tried to teach me structure. I didn’t grasp the concept and my writing suffered. I’ve since learned structure, and the readings in the novel writing program have also added innumerable amounts of structure that will benefit me as I continue to write and improve in the craft. "Writing the Breakout Novel" by Donald Maass (another good primer) 1. How did the book help you as a writer? What overall aspects of it taught you something? Like Garnder’s The Art of Fiction, this was the second time I’ve read Maass’s book. What I really enjoyed was learning about the relationship between writer and agent and writer and editor. He presented not just the craft side, but also the business side. Many writers believe that once they’ve finished writing, that’s it, just schedule them for the book tour and off they go. Not even close. I’m fortunate to know NY Times bestselling author Steve Berry and his wife Liz. I’ve followed his career and whenever Liz talks the business side of writing (she’s one of the best at it), I listen and I learn. This validates the lessons Maass is trying to teach. 2. What two or three major lessons did you learn from the book that you can apply to your writing and/or your novel? a. Stakes. This is an important chapter in the book. Maass wants writers to ask themselves, “What the worse that could happen to your character? What’s worse than that? Even worse than the second thing? This simple exercise allows you to think about events that will have the most impact and true character is revealed in crisis. b. Multi-dimentional characters. Maass refers to these a layers, like an onion, the more you peel it, the more you discover. The writers who don’t publish have protagonists that don’t act, but react, or antagonists that have no redeeming qualities so the readers can’t connect with them. People are complex. Our characters should be, too. Who wants to read about a character who’s always happy, has no problems, and life is good. Boring. People have flaws, ticks, or as Rocky Balboa said, “don’t get mentally irregular.” c. Maass said, “a useful princple for making place an active character is to give your characters an active relationship to place.” He says writers have setting just to have it, to paint a picture. But fiction is action, like a movie, and the place, like the character, needs to propel the story. The exercises in novel writing program enhance this point and the exercises were wonderful at developing this important technique. It’s an area that’s still a weakness, but with practice, I can turn it into a strength. 3. Was there anything in the books that obviously conflicted with lessons and readings in our novel writing program. If so, what were they? I didn’t see anything that contradicted or conflicted with the lessons or readings. In fact, a good deal of what Maass writes is reflected in the modules. What I like about the novel writing program is the structure of the two parts, eight modules each, with each module building toward the next until the final module where we put it all together. "Write Away" by Elizabeth George (a no nonsense primer, and humorous) 1. How did the book help you as a writer? What overall aspects of it taught you something? My favorite of the four books. The two areas I wanted to improve dramatically in were the preparation phase before writing the first draft, and then self-editing the draft to a ready-for-publication work. Ms. George book had exactly what I was looking for when it came to preparing to write a novel. 2. What two or three major lessons did you learn from the book that you can apply to your writing and/or your novel? a. Dialogue tricks. Getting the dialogue to work for you, to create emotion, reactions, and most importantly, propel the story forward. b. Step Outline. Ten to 15 scenes from start to finish of the novel. I’ve actually done this with other novels I’ve written, but Ms. George focuses the process, giving it structure that will be useful going forward. c. Attitude. Voice, is what Ms. George refers to. The story has a sound, a rhythm, a feeling. That was very important in my novel because of the time and place. d. Bum glue. It really works (even for Novel Writing Programs). 3. Was there anything in the books that obviously conflicted with lessons and readings in our novel writing program. If so, what were they? Ms. George plotting process is different than the two-goal six-act process, but it still contains the important plot points, pinch points, minor reverals, major reversals, climax, and denouement. She did address MacGuffins, which was a plus. "The Writing Life" by Annie Dillard (a look at the struggle) 1. How did the book help you as a writer? What overall aspects of it taught you something? The main thing from this book is that it confirmed a lesson my local writing mentors has said numerous times: don’t butt write. What Ms. George did was to experience life and when she did, she was able to give her words life on the page. This was especially telling when wrote about Dave Rahm, and aerial demonstration pilot who flew airshows and gave Ms. Dillard the ride of her life. I’m very familiar with these performers as they flew at the Naval Air Station Jacksonville (Florida) air shows every other year. Some good friends that I came to know are no longer with us, just like Mr. Rahm. This part of her book was spot on and beautifully written. 2. What two or three major lessons did you learn from the book that you can apply to your writing and/or your novel? a. No matter the adversity, you can perservere. She spent a good deal of time in primitive conditons that today’s writers would find objectionable. Probably the toughest of all is writing long-hand. Who does that these days? And when you meet someone who does, what’s your reaction? It proves that writers who really want to write, can do it anywhere, anytime, and don’t have to wait until inspiration strikes. In fact, you have to use the bum glue, sit, and force yourself even when you think the writing is awful. Keep going. Never stop. Or my favorite saying, “Always forward, never backwards.” b. I enjoyed her writing, her metaphors, the imagery she created, and the courage to go after what she believed. She possess great courage. I hope that type of writing is present in my work. 3. Was there anything in the books that obviously conflicted with lessons and readings in our novel writing program. If so, what were they? No conflicts. An enlightening look at the writing life of a Publitzer Prize writer.
  3. 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 You must apply the above ratings to each of the criteria below, one at a time, and post the results here in your own personal topic. You must also support your ratings with references, discussion, and examples as appropriate. For example, you will simply not say, "Yeah, I'm good at dialogue, and I give myself a high five." No. You must reference the module that demonstrates the great dialogue. If you are reading this now while still working through your modules, you might want to consider this process ahead of time. NOTE: This is my second time through the Novel Writing Program. It's been outstanding in that it reinforced the lessons I learned the first time through. It also forced me to be objective (as much as any writer can with a project they've worked on for nearly 4 years) on craft and storytelling require to make my novel a commercial and sellable piece of fiction. HIDDEN TREASURES is my 10th novel. I've been with my local writers group for more than 9 years and with AS since December 2011. I have no problem continuing to pay my dues until I prove I'm ready to be a working writer. Thank you. The category of MARKET VALUE is most crucial. _____________________________________________________ MARKET VALUE: Originality, freshness, high concept ​4 - While pitching LUCIUS AND THE ONLYS at the NYC Pitch Conference, Caitlin Alexander asked about my 2nd place for HIDDEN TREASURES that I'd won in a 2007 writing contest (an earlier version of the novel). When I pitched the log line, she said the story was HIGH CONCEPT. I still believe that's true today. HIDDEN TREASURES compares well to my comparables INKHEART and INKSPELL by Cornelia Funke, and NEVER ENDING STORY by Michael Ende, because the protagonist is pulled into imaginary worlds that he must fight his way through in order to find the meaning of the story. [*]Clear target readership ​4 - I'm confident the story works well in the Young Adult Fantasy market, especially as it relates to those first adolescent emotions of love. In such constant peril, Christopher has to trust someone, and while he's hesitant, that person is Becka Wellington. The combination of the unique worlds and situations, combined with the relationship of the protagonist and the love interest, will entice a diverse group of readers. While Christopher is pulled into the stories just as Meggie is in INKHEART and INKSPELL, it's the originality of The Reader's Hole spinning and with the help of Harcourt Thigpen's imagination that will engage readers. It's also the unspoken message of how reading inspires the imagination that can attract middle and high school teachers to add the book to their reading lists. [*]Hook ​5 - Strongest part of the book is the idea of a bookstore carved into a magic white oak tree. A bookstore with no breaks, cracks, or dividers, created in one single piece. A work of magic and imagination. STRUCTURE: Act Zero backstory development ​Somewhere between 3 and 4 - With Christopher unable to rescue Becka from the stories by the end of this book, it's obvious that this is a series. In AS 1 - Module VIII, it was asked: What are the loose ends remaining? Anything left unresolved or unanswered? There must be some. There were a host of them (see below). Why did Tess Hamilton leave Becka Wellington in the stories? Why did Tess Hamilton visit HIDDEN TREASURES? Will Christopher go back and rescue Becka? What is the secret of the white oak that will save Becka and free Harcourt Thigpen? What will Harcourt Thigpen do if he is free? Turn to ash? Or turn the real world into a fictional one? Will Roger still be able to talk is he is free and doesn’t turn to ash? Will Thornbridge die or find an heir to replace him as the Keeper of stories? If Christopher rescues Becka, will she be a teenager or as old as his mother upon her return? ​The initial backstory was provided in AS 1 - Module VI and I'm very confident in that backstory and the ability to answer the above questions as the series progresses. [*]Concise, effective setup with inciting incident ​5 - Module VI asked about the inciting incident. It begins en media res in the opening of the story when Christopher is imaginatively pulled from his class and finds himself with Harcourt Thigpen aboard the Mayflower floundering on a stormy sea. By the end of the chapter (long, but it clearly establishes the beginning of HIDDEN TREASURES) the reader learns it's all an elaborate invitation. [*]Plot line arc, and subplots (if appropriate) ​5 - a high score, but here's why. Each character has their own wants and desires and that creates conflict. See the list below. ​Christopher - Doesn't want to read. Tess Hamilton - Wants her son to be a good student; but doesn't want to know that she'd been to HIDDEN TREASURES and left Becka Wellington, her best friend, behind. Barrister Thornbridge - He needs an heir to maintain the long line of Keepers. Harcourt Thigpen - He needs Christopher to discover the secret of the white oak so he can be free of his attic prison. ​Becky Wellington - Wants to escape HIDDEN TREASURES to get back to the real world. [*]Well designed reversals (major and minor) ​3 to 4 - Going through this again I feel there may be have sufficient reversals. The major reversals are when Christopher has to read in order to learn the secret that will open the invisible door in The Reader's Hole. The second major reversal is when Thornbridge changes the story during KRAKEN'S MAZE thereby changing the rules. Christopher attempts to do the same, but fails during SNATCH. I'm worried I may be too close to the story, even after letting it sit and coming back to it through the Novel Writing Program and that another set of eyes is required to help decide if the reversals are effective. [*]Pinch points (at least two) ​4 - In Module VII I listed the pinch points: While making their way to the North Pole, Peary (Thornbridge) wants to rescue Christopher and allow Stonewall (Thigpen) to die. Lord Kraken (Thornbridge) changes the story in an effort to cause Christopher to fail to rescue the princess. And then Sammy (Thornbridge) lays a trap for Christopher at the Gin Mill where the mob boss is holding his mother. [*]Catalytic situation driven ​5 - This relates to theme in AS 1 - Module 5. This is a coming of age story where Christopher discovers himself (as most people do in crisis). What I like about this theme is that the knowledge is not on the surface, it's underneath (the words or inside the person). [*]Conflict, tension, rising action, ​4 - In AS 1 - Modules VI and VII, the goal is to avoid the lazy, sleepy middle that kill novels. There are opportunities for the reader to catch their breath, but for the most part, Christopher is in constant jeapardy from the opening scene until Thornbridge lets him leave HIDDEN TREASURES. The driver of that is that each character has a different want or desire. [*]Every scene relevant (i.e., to driving plot forward) ​3 - This may be the area that needs attention. The primary target will be KRAKEN'S MAZE. It's the longest of the three stories and the most fantasy-driven. What makes it relevant, again as AS 1 - Modules VI, VII, and VII attempt to teach us, as that each action as to be tied to Christopher's discovery of who he is. He sees things about himself (like his ability to know things without being told, like the classified code on the paper in his father's office), but yet he struggles with Becka because he has no real experience when it comes to girls. The key to his escape is learning the meanings of the three stories (again, a good model that school teachers will want to share with students) to learn the secret to open the invisible door. Question: Is there too much story that deludes the main goal of finding the clues that leads to the stories meanings? Or, as with most good stories, the meaning is under the words as a whole, grasping the inference rather than being directly told. I believe it's the latter, but need another set of experienced eyes to confirm it. [*]Effective, believable climax ​4 - It appears as though when Christopher escapes The Reader's Hole he's free, but Thornbridge has yet to understand that the boy must choose to stay on his own, not be forced. That's why the ladders disappear and then Thornbridge is even willing to destroy that which he's supposed to protect in order to make Christopher stay. It's when Christopher shows little regard for the books, dropping them, that Thornbridge realizes his mistake, catching the books and returning them to the boy. [*]Resolution ​4 - If the reader is looking for a concrete ending, they won't be satisfied as the remaining questions from AS 1 - Module VIII will not have been answered. However, if the reader is hoping to read more about Christopher and HIDDEN TREASURES, then they'll be happy to know the stories will continue. CHARACTERS: Antagonistic force ​5 - Thornbridge works as an antagonist as outlined in AS 1 - Module II, but he is sympathetic enough because of the job he has and how long he has to do it (a thousand years). However, his brusque and formal nature has a sharp edge that's not well received. Also, Harcourt Thigpen is Thornbridge's unwitting antagonist foil because he too wants something from Christopher (as all the characters in the story do). Thigpen plays well against Thornbridge because they both want different things and that creates conflict with Christopher stuck in the middle. [*]Consistent opposition ​5 - Because of each of the characters wants something from Christopher, this creates constant tension and conflict. The conflict is compounded as he deals with these characters in the midst of three stories that by their nature are inherently dangerous. Even Thornbridge at on point questions Thigpen about whether his story choice was right for a child. Then again, they want to know if Christopher is "The One," so the most strident test is required. Protagonist’s goals ​5 - Christopher has two goals. His first is not to read. When he's trapped inside The Reader's Hole, he has no choice but to revise his goal by reading the books to he can learn the meanings of the stories and discover the secret that will open the invisible door (so he can escape - his revised goal). [*]Sympathetic protagonist ​5 - In Module IV, I noted five things that made Christopher sympathetic using direct verbiage from the story. There is a line that needs to be crossed for a young reader between boredom and imagination. Once you tilt them to the imaginative side, then they'll read the story. That's what happened to Christopher and that's what I believe will happen to young readers who discover HIDDEN TREASURES. [*]Protagonist’s arc ​5 - In Module IV, I outline the character arc for Christopher, much of it having to do with building his confidence and his relationship with Becka. There are no major leaps in his character as this is the beginning of the series; however, by the time he enters SNATCH, he has the courage to challenge Becka to admit she's not a character in the story. He's more willing to act and has the confidence to even deal with adults. [*]Supporting characters ​5 - Harcourt Thigpen, Tess Hamilton, and Becka Wellington round out the small supporting cast. The characters are unique, they have their own dictionary in their head, they don't sound alike, and they each want something from Christopher. Having a talking mouse was risky, but I believe Roger Williams works because he serves as the protagonist's sidekick, a Robin to a Batman, and the mouse's strong English accent and sense of humor add levity and support throughout the story. It's another level of the fantasy element, but with much of the human foibles we see in people. NARRATIVE DEVELOPMENT: Scene length and structure ​4 - A good deal of effort and attention was placed on the end of scenes, ensuring an interesting hook that would induce the reader to keep going. Story breaks within chapters were clear due to a change in time, location, or POV. The scenes tend to be longer because the unique worlds Christopher traveled to required greater attention to detail. The concrete detail added verisimilitude and pushed the story forward. [*]Effective transitions ​4 - Careful attention was paid to POV and time and place. Story breaks were effective transitions. Staying with the focal POV character rather than mind-hoping avoided reader confusion and keeps the reader tight in the story. Also, based on AS 2 - Module I, I applied the techniques using all four levels of 3POV. A good example was the River King Model applied to Thornbridge on board SS Roosevelt plowing through ice-covered seas and then drilling down until we are in his mind showing his aggravation that Thigpen has pulled him into such an intemperate climate. [*]Clarity of spatial set ​This is not clear in the module (unless I missed something). I went back through my modules and couldn't find this listed. So answering this would be a guess. I remember having trouble with this during my first time through the Novel Writing Program. If I could receive a better explanation, I would be able to answer this area. [*]Comprehensible prose narrative ​5 - The FIGHT CLUB exercise in AS II - Module V is my favorite. I reposted what I'd written the first time because I'm very happy how that came out. The River King model narrative was a pleasant surprise. Like so many of the exercises, I wasn't sure going in, but as my confidence grew, I attacked the exercise, and the result was good enough that I knew I needed it to be part of the current story. The best part of the exercise is that I proved to myself that I could do it. [*]Tension on the page ​5 - A high score, but I'm confident because each of my characters wants something different and when they do, tension is on every page. [*]Dialogue mastery ​4 - AS 2 - Module I was good at forcing me to write a scene from different character POVs. It also should be reflected in they way they spoke. Each character has their own dictionary in their head. It's developed based on where they come from, who they interacted with, and even what they've read. It drives how they speak. Remembering that ensures that characters sound different. Even Thigpen, when he is in the role of Nickerbaud Stonewall in ICE WORLD speaks with a heavy Scottish baroque. The key to good dialogue is that it's the essence of what is said, not everything that's said. Also I try hard to avoid direct answers to questions. The dialogue, like all the other parts of the craft, has to push the story forward. [*]Exposition delivery ​5 - Just as was required with the FIGHT CLUB exercise, it's evident that the reader will be tight in Christopher's mind, or in the minds of the other characters when the story demands it. My goal - which I believe I accomplished the majority of the time, was the reader will be so deep into the fictive dream that when Christopher sees the twenty-foot-tall Lord Shido Kraken, the reader thinks I just saw twenty-foot-tall Lord Shido Kraken. [*]Narrative composition (quality of set, tension, cinema, character interactions) ​4 - There may be more opportunities for the River King cinematic approach. Moving through he 3POV model through all four levels helps heighten the tension and highlight the interactions between characters. A significant improvement to setting from the original to the revised version. Character interactions are the strongest as each has their own wants and desires and that creates tension and conflict. [*]Cinematic imagery (static and dynamic) ​4 - The FIGHT CLUB and River King exercises brought out the best in this area as shown by the version from my novel using the River King model. It allowed me to revise the story looking for opportunities to enhance the cinematic imagery and make the scene more dynamic and true to life. [*]Proper point-of-view ​5 - I'm pretty confident that I avoided POV issues, and was happy at how I applied the four levels of 3POV. Based on my first time through the course, I paid close attention to the use of the characters' names and pronouns to avoid potential reader confusion. [*]Wise use of craft technique ​4 - Anyone who claims a "5" even after the final 100 pages is lying. Sorry. Just a fact. I can always improve my craft. Even after I'm published, the craft of writing will be a continuing study. I have confidence in my ability having studied the craft of writing for the last nine years with my local writers group and three years with AS. The main goal is the mission of AS, to write stories that agents and editors will fall in love with. [*]Interior Monologue and rumination ​5 - I placed A good deal of effort on drawing tight into the minds to feel-taste-hear-smell-see what the characters do. From the confusion that Christopher faces when he's first pulled into Thigpen's story on Mayflower, to Thornbridge's aggravation at having to be in Thigpen's stories, to Becka's reticence about telling Christopher that she'd been was left behind.
  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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