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New York Pitch Conference - September 2021


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1) Story Statement

Avis must heal from her past, learn to love again, and believe in her own future.

Rafe has to accept his past and learn to let go.  

 

2) The Antagonistic Force: Their pasts 

For both Avis and Rafe, their pasts/themselves are the antagonistic forces in the story.

For Avis, her past is represented by her ex-fiance, Brad: a self-assured, conventional editor who discovered her. He is steady and confident and emotionally shallow. He wants commitment from Avis in a way she cannot give him and wants her to be someone she is not. Feeling like a misfit because of her parents disinterest in her, Avis’s attachment to Brad is unhealthy and keeping her trapped. 

For Rafe, his past is represented by the death of his sister and the way the memory haunts him. He cannot escape the fact he was involved in the car wreck that killed her and tries to drown the guilt in booze. His past is also represented by his Charleston-elite parents who have been disappointed in him since he was seventeen. He can never live up to their expectations and numbs his pain with denial. 

 

3) Titles

Ellison Island

A Woman Named Avis

Winsome Stranger 

 

4) Comparable Books

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens 

The Mermaid’s Chair by Sue Monk Kidd 

 

5) Hook Line/Log line 

A reclusive writer, torn between her attachment to her ex-fiance and her fledgling romance with a sensitive but alcoholic surfer, struggles to let go of her past and believe in herself. Can two drowning people save each other? 

 

6) Conflict 

Inner Conflict: 

Avis’s primary conflict is her one-sided attachment to her ex-fiance and her inability to believe in her potential apart from him. She is enmeshed in her relationship with him because he rescued her from assault and discovered her talent as a writer, later becoming her editor. She has emotionally tied her worth and her career to him and struggles to believe in her future without him. Her attachment issues are also triggered to her childhood trauma of being an unplanned pregnancy to parents that did not want children and ended up getting divorced. 

Rafe’s inner conflict is his guilt over his sister’s death in a car wreck and his ensuring alcohol addiction. 

 

Secondary Conflicts: 

Avis is extremely introverted and struggles to make friends. She also struggles to choose between the memory of her fiance, her real relationship with Rafe and the attentions of a doctor visiting town. She also has conflict with her roommate who is Rafe’s ex and with her boss who does not appreciate Rafe distracting her from her job.

Rafe has conflict with the local deputy, conflict with Lane (his ex girlfriend), and conflict with Avis for trying to draw her out of her shell, and finally conflict with Brad when he confronts him about Avis. 

 

 

7) Setting 

The book is loosely based on Sullivan’s Island and Charleston, where I live. 

I fell in love with this faded blue beach house on a back street of Sullivans Island and decided to write a book about it. It had sun-stained shingles and sagging from steps and a picket fence with peeling paint that was barely able to contain the waist-high weeds and wildflowers. 

The book is rich with the details of life in Charleston - the cookie-cutter McMansions next to half-falling down beach houses with fences covered in sickly-sweet jasmine, the smells of fried catfish and fresh bread, the thunderstorms lingering over the marsh grass, the soft, thick southern air that wraps around you like cashmere when you step outside. 

The stormy island and Rafe’s ramshackle house are the backdrop for Avis’s journey of self-discovery. 

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New York Pitch Conference:

Seven Short Assignments:

1.       Write your story statement:

Heather Furnas struggles to survive a hostile, macho surgical culture to become a surgeon and mother.

 

2.       In 200 words or less, sketch the antagonist or antagonistic force in your story. Keep in mind their goals, their background, and the ways they react to the world about them.

 

At the age of 15, Heather Furnas dreams of becoming a surgeon after watching her father operate as a Flying Doctor in East Africa. During medical school she questions her dream after being introduced to the sexual harassment and verbal cruelty woven into the U.S. surgical culture. Just five percent of surgeons are women, but when Furnas sees one of them operate for the first time, she reaffirms her goal.

 

As an intern working 120-hour weeks, she feels the loss of her old life, but she is proud of her growing skills. Working under a professor hostile to women, she slips into a depression. She is close to quitting when the surgical resident she later marries resuscitates her spirit.  

 

After residency, Furnas is pregnant when a doctor asks her to operate on his AIDS patient. Through a accidental needle stick infecting her, she can infect her unborn child.

The year is 1993, and no one survives AIDS. The law prevents doctors from refusing to care for AIDS patients, never considering that a surgeon might be pregnant.

 

Years later, when her children are grown, Furnas works within surgical leadership to improve conditions for women.  

 

3.       Create a breakout title (list several options, not more than three, and revisit to edit as needed.

“African Prayer: A Surgeon’s Memoir”

“Adventures with a Knife: A Surgeon’s Journey from East Africa to Stanford”

“Blood and Milk: A Surgeon’s Memoir”   

 

4.       Develop two smart comparables for your novel. This is a good opportunity to immerse yourself in your chosen genre. Who compares to you? And why?

1.           Letter to a Young Female Physician: Notes from a Medical Life, by Suzanne Koven. 2021. W. W. Norton & Company, New York. Koven writes a deeply personal, vulnerable story about her career as an internist. She experiences challenges unique to women, such as complications of her first pregnancy, just as I did, likely related to her long work hours. Like me, she is overwhelmed with work and balancing the demands of her children. She receives help from a therapist, and I find relief by extricating myself from unfunded, sleep-robbing emergency call.

Dr. Koven’s story occurs in the Northeast, in contrast to mine, which draws from my itinerate life. I am often an outsider looking into different cultures, observing parallels between East African tribal rituals and U.S. surgical traditions. Also, because I am the victim in an attempted murder, the near victim in a helicopter crach, and the expert witness in a murder trial, my book contains more personal drama.

2.           Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, Her Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed, by Lori Gottlieb. 2019. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, New York. Gottlieb weaves stories of treating her patients as a psychotherapist with her own experience as a psychotherapy patient. She explains concepts and historical facts about her specialty, as I do about surgery, to deepen the reader’s understanding of what she does. Her book takes the reader into the therapy sessions with patients, and mine takes the reader through surgical cases in the operating room.

Our books differ in that the field of psychotherapy is welcoming to women, and surgery is not. Gottlieb focuses on her professional life and her experience in psychotherapy after a breakup, revealing no professional challenges to being a woman. In contrast, my story shows how surgery’s male-oriented traditions have impacted me both as a woman and as a mother.

 

5.       Write your own hook line (logline) with conflict and core wound following the format above. Though you may not have one now, keep in mind this is a great developmental tool. In other words, you best begin focusing on this if you're serious about commercial publication.

In the world of surgery, where men make the rules, Heather Furnas fights to survive in a culture that belittles femininity and stigmatizes pregnancy.

 

6.       Sketch out the conditions for the inner conflict your protagonist will have. Why will they feel in turmoil? Conflicted? Anxious? Sketch out one hypothetical scenario in the story wherein this would be the case--consider the trigger and the reaction.

 

An AIDS patient’s doctor asks me to evaluate an open wound for surgical coverage. The patient’s exposed femoral vessels pulsate, threatening a fatal bleed. In 1993, before effective treatment, no one survived AIDS. Through an accidental needle stick, my risk of contracting the disease would be double that of having anal sex with an HIV-positive partner.

 

Any doctor who refused to care for a contagious patient could be charged with professional misconduct. My professors had driven the rule so deep into my ethical fiber that I never considered backing out—even though I was five months pregnant, and if I contracted the disease, I could infect my unborn child.

 

The rule made sense under normal circumstances. Throughout history, physicians had put their health at risk to care for others. Doctors who refused to do so magnified the danger for the rest. But the rule-making pundits made no allowance for pregnancy.

 

That night, my mind filled with images of needles burrowing into my flesh and scalpel blades slicing my fingers. I was on the verge of hyperventilating, and I hugged my belly, trying to calm myself. Sleep deprivation would make a needle stick more likely.

 

For years, I had studied and trained, and I had only just achieved my childhood dream, changing lives with a scalpel. Now I was trapped in a nightmare, playing Russian roulette with the life of my unborn child.

 

Next, likewise sketch a hypothetical scenario for the "secondary conflict" involving the social environment. Will this involve family? Friends? Associates? What is the nature of it?

 

I was a medical student on my first clinical rotation when my intern, Dan, warned me that our new resident, Alex, didn’t like women. I would make myself bullet-proof, I thought, reading about my patients’ diseases, knowing every clinical detail, and working hard.

 

Two days in, my plan seemed to be working. All was calm.

 

On Alex’s third day, he interrogated me about a patient’s medical condition. He concluded with “Do you know anything about your patient’s disease?” and succeeded in shattering my confidence.

 

Two days later, as he reviewed my chart notes, he exploded when he saw “meq,” an abbreviation correctly written as “mEq.” After his outburst, I speed-walked to the bathroom and burst into tears.

 

The next day, I met with the department chair to request permission to change teams. He said he was aware Alex verbally abused women, but the department rule forbade team changes. Frustrated that the chair failed to confront Alex and refused to give me relief, I burst into tears. I was furious with myself for being a stereotypical emotional female, but I got me my wish.

 

7.       Sketch out your setting in detail. What makes it interesting enough, scene by scene, to allow for uniqueness and cinema in your narrative and story? Please don't simply repeat what you already have which may well be too quiet. You can change it. That's why you're here! Start now. Imagination is your best friend, and be aggressive with it.

[Prologue: In a hospital]

The wound looked like a large, tri-tip steak left in the hot sun for days. Traversing the raw flesh, the inguinal ligament shone like a satin ribbon. Just beneath, the exposed femoral vessels pulsated, threatening a fatal bleed.

I approached the patient’s bedside, cradling his hospital chart in my arms. Dried saliva clung to his lips, and his pale skin hung from his jutting cheek bones. If I hadn’t known his diagnosis, I would have thought he was sixty years old.

[Scene change]

Stepping into the hallway, I zipped around a patient taking a stroll with his I.V. pole. I could feel my heart race as I thought about my patient’s surgery, and I wanted to flee the hospital, but I still had to write my consultation note. As I headed to the nurses’ station, an overhead speaker paged a doctor STAT to the I.C.U., and a woman in a white coat speed-walked in that direction. I dropped into a chair, opened the chart, and wrote Plastic Surgery Consultation Note. A wave of nausea washed over me.

[Chapter 1: Scene change]

I soared toward the Land Rover’s ceiling and then slammed into the seat, my long hair swirling in the East African wind. Yanking my seatbelt tighter, I anchored my summer dress with one hand, clutched the dashboard with the other, and pressed my feet into the floorboard, bracing myself for the next jolt. To my right, Dr. Silvio Prandoni wrestled the steering wheel to force the tires into the paired muddy ruts snaking between walls of six-foot grass. The tires jerked to the right as he released his grip, and he pushed his black-framed glasses up his sunburnt nose. An instant later, he pulled the tires into submission, the engine bellowing in protest.

It felt good to be back in Kenya’s Northern Frontier District. The year was 1979, and I was taking time off from college to work with Dr. Prandoni for two months.

[Scene change]

We lurched to a stop. Looming fifteen feet ahead was an enormous bull elephant charging straight at us trumpeting full blast, his long curved tusks tilting upward, his ears flapping like flags. I picked up my backpack and clutched it to my chest like a shield.

Dr. Prandoni thrust the gear shift into reverse and pressed the gas pedal to the floor. The vehicle vibrated, rocking forward and backward, but the tires spun nowhere. The elephant was now six feet away, and my heart was pumping like a piston.

Suddenly, the tires grabbed the earth, and we inched backwards, throwing clumps of dirt, until we gained solid traction. As we retreated, the elephant lumbered off into the grass, his trunk swinging like a pendulum. I inhaled, feeling the rush of air fill my lungs, and I set my backpack down on the floor.

[Scene change]

We rode in silence, and I stared out the window, admiring the beauty of the savanna. A herd of thin-striped Grevy’s zebras ran at the sound of our purring Land Rover. I craned my neck, watching them until they slipped out of sight. Twenty minutes later, an African boy herding goats waved as we drove by.

“There’s Matthew’s Range,” Dr. Prandoni said, pointing to a series of jagged peaks ahead. “We’re almost there.”

Soon we approached a small sketch of a village surrounded by flat-topped thorn trees and dry, red earth. The main road was the only road, and its surface bore more footprints than tire tracks. We turned into a compound of white stucco buildings—Wamba Mission.

[Scene change]

 A dusty path led to the church, its gray façade sweeping upward like a bridge span topped with a cross. In front, a dozen boys in well-worn blue-and-white school uniforms ran about, laughing and yelling, their dark skin and black eyelashes coated in chalky dust. The girls’ secondary school stood next to the church, and on the way to the hospital, we passed the nursing school.

“We make our own plaster for casts,” Dr. Prandoni said, pointing to a patio covered with white strips. “Sister Annunciata dips the pieces of cloth into plaster of Paris and dries them in the sun.” 

[There are multiple scenes in the book in Kenya, Boston, California, El Salvador—in my home, outdoors, in the African bush, in hospital operating rooms and emergency department, in a courtroom, and in a conference room.]

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Seven Assignments
Counting Bones: anatomy of love lost & found
(memoir)

1. Story Statement: 
On my 24th birthday, I had everything I ever wanted.  Climbing mountains and sea kayaking with my soul mate of four years, I looked forward to starting medical school that fall - life couldn’t get better.  Eight weeks later, August 3, 1986, an avalanche on Mount Baker Washington buried my first love Ian Kraabel and a companion, just a few weeks before the start of gross anatomy, the dissection of cadavers, as my first course.  Death was suddenly all around me.  Spinning from grief, and faced with the insurmountable challenge of medical school, I had no choice but to forge on. Counting Bones captures the abandon of first love, the depths of loss, and the rigors of medical training across a backdrop of natural beauty from the Cascade Mountains to cliffs and rivers of Minnesota to the Canadian Rockies. 

2.  Antagonist(s) in 200 words or less:

Counting Bones has three main antagonists. First grief who I develop as a character named Mabel, second is an unrelenting systemically abusive medical training, third the narcissist named Dick with whom I had my first relationship post-avalanche.

Lesser antagonists include loving, sometimes misguided, parents, and generations of misogyny that railed against my love of exercise and career aspirations (I’m haunted by 1970s Enjoli commericials https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4X4MwbVf5OA), and my ever present inner critic/imposter syndrome.  

Societial and medical school goals are to protect the status quo, ignore suffering, and prevent change in behaviors of women and students; both systems span centuries, celebrate tradition, and instill beliefs that there is no other way to grieve or to learn; society and medical training administration’s reaction at the time was to shuffle things under the rug or suggest grievers were candidates for the “funny farm”.  The goal of narcissist Dick was to love bomb me to hook me, then to destroy/defame me, then move on to his next conquest.  The lesser antagonists are less malicious but more insidious.  

So whatever your challenges are, be kind to your younger self– be nice to yourself in general.  After all, I and you are doing the best we can at any given moment.

3. Breakout titles:
Counting Bones
Unburied
Lovely Grief

Grey's & Grief

4. Comparables: Counting Bones is if Wild & The Year of Magical Thinking met Complications.

5. Logline: 
The death of her fist love in an avalanche on Mount Baker crushes a young woman with grief just as she starts her harsh medical school training weeks later – a combination that threatens to destroy her life and career.

6. Inner conflict and secondary conflict.

Pummelled by the sudden death of my intimate partner in an avalanche that garnered national media coverage, starting medical school weeks later, and the discovery of his body mid-way through first term which included dissecting cadavers was the emotional equivalent of having my skin peeled off and being tossed into boiling water.  All the while my family and medical school administration was telling me to just move on.  There were many days that I did not think I would make it.

Secondary conflict was my relationship with a toxic narcissist that started the following year.  Narcissists smell empathy and emotional damage the way wolves smell blood; discarded by him for another after a few years, I was able to use my grief experience to put myself back together again.

There are layers of conflict both internal and external that span this story arc.

7. Setting:

Counting Bones starts in the pastoral town of Northfield MN – “cows colleges and contentment”, then moves to the cliffs and mountains of the Cascade Range in Washington State where the avalanche on Mount Baker took Ian Kraabel’s life in 1986.  I was on the mountain that day. Within weeks I am standing in a room full of cadavers in gross anatomy.  

Nature is another character in my story as I embrace winter snow, lovely rivers, and later the Rocky Mountains of Western Canada and the Northern Lights over Ghost Lake. I take a trip back in time to a six week wilderness trip in the tundra of the Northwest territories, where I travelled 625 miles on the Kazan River in what is now Nunavut – we saw a massive caribou migration, but no other humans for a month.  Running, skiing, climibing, hiking, canoing, and climbing in beautiful natural settings is the backbone of this story.

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First Assignment (Story Statement):

Samer must protect himself, his family, friends and Earth from a deceptive, gift-bearing alien.

Second Assignment (Antagonist):

Editor Tar belongs to an expansionist, galaxy-spanning alien civilization, and possesses mastery of a hidden force called aether, which allows him to control energy and manipulate others.

Made an outcast by the fall of his clan, Tar seeks to recover his name through guiding and entering combatants in the Cosmic Contest, the galaxy’s arbiter of fortune and fame. Desperate, he turns to Earth, which although a primitive backwater, is home to humanity, a ripe source of potential recruits to fight for him. To ensure a welcome with open arms, he uses his powers to steer human civilization to the perfect moment, then makes his entrance. Tar quickly becomes beloved by humans for his charming persona and technological gifts.

Tar has special plans for the protagonist to serve as his most treasured fighter, one whose prowess can launch him into the upper stratosphere of galactic society. Over the course of the novel, he skillfully positions the protagonist to quickly becomes a powerful user of aether, all while hiding his true intentions. At the same time, the ghosts of Tar’s past threaten to derail his plans. Will the protagonist fall trap to Tar’s schemes, or take control of his own destiny?

Third Assignment (Titles):

Saturn’s Call

Aliens Bearing Gifts

Black Teeth

Fourth Assignment (Comparables):

Winter’s Orbit by Everina Maxwell

Beset by demons from their past, young adults experience personal growth and must learn to trust each other, all while in a sci-fi setting, with elements of intergalactic politics, antagonists with hidden motives, and queer romance.

Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir

Action-packed science-fiction adventure, with a magical system and characters with mysterious motives.

Opening Moves by Cosimo Yap

A new science fiction paradigm is thrust upon Earth, and the protagonist must seek to quickly understand how to gain power while learning who to trust.

Fifth Assignment (Core Conflict):

His mother suffering from chronic illness and his confidence in his future shaken, Samer is spurred to accept an invitation from a charismatic alien. He will learn to train in the use of a hidden force that serves as the foundation of the universe. He must wrestle with the costs of gaining such power, including to his family, his beliefs and even his freedom.

Sixth Assignment (Inner and Secondary Conflicts)

Inner: Samer had a vision of his life that made sense, even if a part of him always wanted more. He’s a former basketball team captain that cares deeply for mother and sister, and he’ll do whatever he can to sacrifice for them. Once circumstances upend that and dent his self-confidence, he goes out on a limb and decides to leave Earth to join Tar, even as he questions whether he's making the right choice.

Once he begins his training up in the stars, he clearly demonstrates an extra level of talent in the use of aether. Tar pits Samer and his other recruits against each other, and Samer has to make sense of what it means to be successful in this new environment. He's drawn to his foundational desire to do right by everybody in his life, or he'll face feeling unmoored and overwhelmed.

Further, Samer is explicitly told he’s not meant to be a hero by a prophetic figure. He must come to an understanding what that means to him, and whether he can always bear the weight of others' burdens.

Secondary: Samer seeks to build upon his relationship with his sister, recognizing how independent and driven she’s become, while still feel strong brotherly instincts towards her. In the second half of the novel, he recognizes she’s becoming more assertive, maybe to a level he doesn’t expect, and he’s not sure what to make of it.

Samer’s father is reintroduced to his life after a prolonged absence and he must decide whether to forgive him.

His friend Elias is clearly suffering from a painful backstory, and Samer seeks to draw out information from him, hoping to comfort him and help guide him towards embracing his future.

Seventh Assignment (Setting)

In this version of the Milky Way galaxy, there are five dominant spacefaring civilizations, who collectively established a competition called the Cosmic Contest as a way to arbitrate peace between them. The civilization closest to Earth, the Dominion of Xarlogia, has strong Roman overtures (there’s an in-universe explanation for this), and is composed of many different clans. Earth’s history resembles real life closely up until a few years ago, when a Xarlogic initiates a visit. His presence leads to an increase in development across Earth, as he provides advanced technology.

A powerful force called aether exists within the universe and learning to use it allows individuals to progress on The Path. The Path has different steps, signifying new abilities, as well as four overall stages, each tied to a much higher level of proficiency. When a person first starts to use aether, they develop an affinity tied to a specific form of energy.

The bulk of the novel takes place on a space station orbiting Saturn called the Sanctum. There are visits as well to Saturn’s atmosphere and to the surface of the moon Titan. The station serves as a training facility, while possessing a large interior park, and is also witness to climactic battles near the end of the book.

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Assignment One

Story Statement: The road to that easy, promised American dream is right there but is threatened by one man who could ruin it all!

 

Assignment Two:

As the protagonist, Alex, fights to fulfill the plan their family has laid out before them, they begin to lose themselves and their identity. In one last chance, Alex meets the antagonist, John, a disabled elderly man who challenges everything Alex believes in. Through his times as a millionaire, a spy, a cop, and a father, John challenges Alex to live their own life, at whatever the cost. John pushes Alex as they lose their family, their girlfriend, and their home further and further to accept his truth. Is there the secret of life buried deep within John’s aged mind?

Additional information:

Further in the book, the reader discovers the real antagonist, Alex's grandmother. She becomes the bigger threat and the dominating force that keeps Alex from completing their goals.

Two rivaling antagonists fight to change the perspective of the protagonist. One seeks to control Alex’s life and have them stay chained to their family, while the other knows it may cost Alex everything, but you have to live your life, your way.

 

Assignment Three:

Babysitting Gandhi

Babysitting a Hero

Tending to Confucius

 

Assignment Four:

“A Man Called Ove,” A story with an unassuming man that still has a lot to offer. This book is funny, insightful, and emotional. Each of these aspects are highly comparable with my own novel.

“Finding Chika,” lets the reader know this is an inspirational tale with a lot of emotion. I chose this title as a comparable because it will, hopefully, conjure up memories of Mitch Albom’s other work, “Tuesdays with Morrie.”

 

Assignment Five:

Hook line: This book tells the story of an unreliable narrator that denies their transgender identity and slowly self-destructs. Their only salvation lies in the last place they’d look: an elderly man who hides vast wisdom within a lifetime of seemingly impossible adventures.

 

 Revised Hook:

A young trans woman hell-bent on the American dream denies their identity and their unborn child to appease their family; closer than ever before to that promised life, they meet an elderly man with dementia who claims to have been a millionaire and a spy shattering everything they've worked towards.

 

Assignment Six:

My novel features a great deal of conflict. One aspect of novel writing I prioritized was tension on every page. The novel opens with secondary conflict between the protagonist and their girlfriend as they pressure her into an abortion.

This leads to the main conflict that Alex has been told a plan by their family and will not jeopardize that plan no matter the cost. Alex’s “family legacy,” to be the new patriarch of their family and keep the family name going on.

Which leads to another conflict: Alex’s inner conflict and their transgender identity. A subtle plot line that reinforces the main theme of the story: to live your life the way you want.

This inner conflict is one of the reasons Alex can’t be a “father” to the unborn child. They need to come to grips with who they are and not who their family wants them to be.

All elements work in tandem to heighten the message, the motivations, and the character’s growth.

 

Assignment Seven:

The story’s setting has a good deal of intrigue and is fairly symbolic of their plight. The protagonist’s home is small, and claustrophobic as their world caves in around them. The primary setting of the elderly man’s residence is labyrinthian and houses many unique characters that have a lot to offer, but it is buried deep within. And Alex’s family residence is a disgusting perversion of nostalgia, legacy, and judgement. It is often described as a “stage” to illustrate that. Although contemporary, I have done my best to spin these familiar locations.

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STORY STATEMENT

A wannabe wedding influencer, Willa, will stop at nothing to get the wedding dress of her dreams-even if that means getting her ex-boyfriend involved in an elaborate reality TV show plot.

ANTAGONISTIC FORCE

The antagonistic force can be seen in Willa's insecurity, which envelops her like a heavy, suffocating blanket for most of the story. She often feels in competition with other's (people she knows personally or just from the internet) for social media attention. She bases her own happiness on the recognition and engagement her social media posts receive. All Willa wants is to amplify this persona of perfection and being "put together"-a goal that is put into jeopardy when she is fired from her job.

With her income diminished, Willa is terrified that she will not be able to pay for her perfect, Instagram-worthy wedding. The idea of not having her wedding "go viral" is the driving force for Willa as she concocts a harebrained scheme with her ex-boyfriend in an attempt to win over the hearts of producers of a wedding dress reality show to give Willa her dream dress, "Helena", for free.

At times, this antagonistic momentum is reinforced through the characters of her fiancé, Hugh, and her mother as both of them tend to question Willa's choices and are not afraid to voice their disapproval.

BREAKOUT TITLE

I have found that in the women's fiction wedding genre, the title often has wedding vocabulary included: Bride, wedding, committed, white dresses, rings, couples, etc. In addition, many women's fiction utilizes alliteration in the title. With these things in mind, I have thought about the following titles.

Original: The Mess with the Dress-this uses both alliteration and wedding vocabulary as well as gives a clear understanding that the book is based on shenanigans around a wedding dress.

Other:

Wannabe #WED-This title encompasses not only the social media aspects of the book but also the multifaceted word "wannabe". Willa is not only desperate to be married and a bride simply for the sake of being "married" and a "bride" but she is also a wannabe in that she strives to be an influencer with a following but she falls short.

Willa Will Wed or Willa Will Wed, Won't She-these titles use the alliteration to the extreme but also has a playfulness of having the title be in the form of a question, much like Can You Keep a Secret by Sophie Kinsella or Where'd you Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple

COMPARABLES

The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren. Parallels: Exes reunited in a plot where they have to pretend to be a happy couple but in a fun, fresh way

The Wedding Sisters by Jamie Brenner. Parallels: Public Persona is on top of mind while dealing with dramatic twists and turns behind the curtain.

HOOK LINE

After a scheme goes awry, a wannabe influencer has to pretend to get married to her ex-boyfriend on TV, all while making sure her real fiancé is happy, her Instagram pictures are perfect, and no one suspects anything. 

INNER CONFLICT

Willa constantly worries about how others perceive her. It is the driving force of her actions. When it comes to her mother, Willa knows that her mother disapproves of her "modern" life and how she wants it played out on social media for the world to see. Willa struggles to make her mother understand that this is her new life direction as she tries to harness the power of social media to become an Influencer. When Willa realizes there is no changing her mother, she tries to proceed with her life without her mother's involvement but still keeps in contact, constantly on edge because she can predict her mother's disappointed reactions to any life updates.

With her fiancé, Hugh, Willa just wants him to be happy. Willa goes above and beyond to make sure he is on board with any of her plans-whether it was her plan to become an influencer or to embark on the reality TV show with her ex in order to make money for her "real" wedding. As Hugh continues to remain steady in his emotions, Willa realizes that nothing she does will make a difference as Hugh is not invested in the relationship as she thought. Through the process of filming, Willa overcomes her obsession with appearances and begins to see that she does not need others' approval for her own happiness.

HYPOTHETICAL INNER CONFLICT

During one of the early days of filming, Willa feels that the producers are not reacting to her interviews as they should. Instead of finding her charming and spunky, Willa worries they find her vapid and trite. Interpreting their tight smiles as condescension, Willa works herself up into a panic attack and hides away in her bedroom as the crew leaves for the day. Travis calms her down as he talks to her through the bedroom door. He convinces Willa that they loved what she had to say; that she is a joy on camera; and there is no way they are going to cancel the show because of something she said. Willa feels relieved and feels ready to face the cameras another day.

HYPOTHETICAL SECONDARY CONFLICT

Willa and Travis have to pretend to be a couple who reunited and are getting married for the TV show. Although they ensure their friends and families that it is just for TV and there are no real, lingering feelings, Willa's mother takes it to the next level. Convinced that Willa and Travis have "unfinished business", Willa's mother takes to telling people that the pair have reunited for real. Willa has to endure countless calls and texts from people saying that "they knew it" and "they were meant to be". She has to examine what this reaction means: Is there unfinished business between the two of them? She had been feeling strange urges to embrace Travis but that must be loneliness and missing Hugh, right? All these confusing emotions are just down to the craziness of filming and having to live in the same apartment...isn't it?

But then there is the second question Willa must face-did anyone ever like Hugh? Why are all the people in her life so relieved when it sounds like she broke up with Hugh for real? They might not have been a perfect match but they worked together...didn't they?

SETTING

There are two major locations (Willa's apartment and the Bleu Bridal salon) in the novel with various others (Willa's office, the El train, Willa's mother's house, Macy's, The Drake Hotel, etc) speckled throughout, all based in Chicago.

Main location one: Willa's apartment. While an apartment might not seem the most exciting location, it serves as the only thing that ties any of these rotating cast of characters to the ground. We start with Willa and Hugh happily living in the apartment together as a couple planning their wedding. When Willa is fired, she is alone in the apartment during the day, her "bleak" future smack dab in her face as the emptiness of the rooms matches her emptiness of her life direction. After the producers fall for their scheme and offer them a TV show, Travis moves in with Willa to give the illusion that they are truly "back-in-love" and planning a wedding together. When Willa's life seems to crumble even more when she and Hugh break up for real, Justin the producer swoops in to fill the empty energy of the apartment. It almost becomes a character itself as the one constant through out the highs and lows of Willa's many relationships-including the epilogue scene with a very important Zoom meeting.

Main location two: The Bleu Bridal wedding salon. Will is invited to appear on Say I Do-a reality TV show where brides are filmed trying to find their perfect wedding dress. When they find their perfect gown, they utter the signature phrase, "I can't Say I Do, without my something from Bleu!". Appearing on the show is Willa's dream. When she cannot afford her dress, she works with her dramatic ex Travis to come up with a scheme to win over the hearts of the producers to try and giver her a discount. Several of the scenes in the novel take place in the salon as Willa gives interviews, tries on other dresses (the show producers add to the drama by hiding away "Helena, Willa's dram gown, causing a slight panic), and where Travis's grand "proposal" occur. It serves as the start of her journey as well as the end. Willa returns to the salon for a fitting after producer Justin clued into the charade. Where the salon was once heavenly and inviting, Willa now finds it oppressive and constricting. Trying on her dress again causes Willa to burst from secrets and reveal the truth to the crew. 

 

 

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1.      STORY STATEMENT

Tella must defeat the most powerful tyrant in her Kingdom to save her father, the last living member of her family

2.      ANTAGONIST PLOTS THE POINT

Basorun Ga learned very early in life that justice is blind when it involves power and influence. An orphan and a bastard, he worked his way up to become the Prime minister of Eyeo Kingdom which makes him the second most powerful man in the Kingdom in theory. He is however, in fact, the most powerful man.

He was only five summers old when King Atikupo, King of Eyeo Kingdom at the time, sentenced his mother to death. King Atikupo accused his mother of poisoning him. With the help of the high priests and oracles, he declared her a witch and sentenced her to death.

Ga was ten summers old when he found out the truth. That his mother was no witch. That she had been King Atikupo’s concubine. That she had fallen in love with another man and would not give him up. That the King, inflamed, made sure that if he could not have her, no one else would.

Ga was fifteen summers old when he tried to clear my mother’s name. He tried every avenue but was denied justice. He was informed that even if his mother was innocent, she had been the King’s Scar-head and he could do with them as he pleased.

Now that he has gained power and influence, he has made it his mission to get his revenge by destroying the royal family and making his son King.

3.      BREAKOUT TITLE

Scar-head

Black Kite

The King’s Scar-head

4.      GENRE AND COMPARABLES

Black Sun

A Song of Wraiths and Ruin

5.      CORE WOUND AND THE PRIMARY CONFLICT

A princess seeks to flee her Kingdom to avoid a forceful marriage to the son of the prime minister and the man who killed her mother. When she uncovers the prime minister’s plot to kill her father, she gives up what could be her only chance of escape to save him.

6.      OTHER MATTER OF CONFLICT

PRIMARY CONFLICT: Tella plots her escape from Eyeo Kingdom to evade marrying Basorun Ga's son, Adan. Her mother was killed by Basorun Ga, which makes her father is the only family she has left.

While putting her final plans of fleeing the Kingdom in place, she finds out Basorun Ga's plot to kill her father. Will she flee her Kingdom and save herself from marrying Adan? Or will she stay to find a way to save her father's life even if it means losing her only chance of escape and marriage to Basorun Ga's son?

SECONDARY CONFLICT: Toure is the man Tella loves, and the man she hopes to marry. He is a foreigner and the captain of the ship meant to spirit her away to freedom.

While he has done everything to prove his love for her, she still doubts his love for her. Toure is hiding his past from her and the truth behind his curse.

Is he helping her because he loves her or because she is his only chance of breaking his curse?

7.      SETTING

The story takes place in Eyeo Kingdom, one of the most powerful Kingdoms on the Black Continent, a continent based on historical Africa. 

Scenes take place in lush gardens, palaces with numerous courtyards and shrines of the old gods who once walked the continent.

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Story Statement:

In response to his brother's quest for a retrial, a young man in prison must defend his innocence while plotting to murder one of the guards.

 

Antagonist Plots the Point:

Likely a victim of abuse himself, Dan, the abusive step-father, torments Edom's childhood and threatens the safety and hard-won happiness of Edom's older half-brother.

When Edom is old enough, and when the prospect of Dan's intrusion into his brother's serene and idyllic family looks unavoidable, he tries to kill his step-father - a seemingly justifiable deed that lands him in prison.

The ironic freedom Edom has procured by nearly killing the novel's primary antagonist is overturned by the presence of a prison guard who emerges as the present-day antagonist - in Edom's mind, his monster resurrected. Confronted, anew, by the lingering physical and psychological effects of his step-father, and asked to recount them by his well-intending brother, Edom considers the new-found control he has over the antagonists in his life.

 

Breakout Titles:

1. My Own Keeper

2. Esau, I hated

3. Dear Brother, This might excuse everything.

 

Comps:

Gilead, Marilynne Robinson

Anything is Possible, Elizabeth Strout

 

Conflict Line:

Incarcerated for attempted murder, a young man wrestles with the offer of reconciliation and fights feelings of guilt while plotting the murder of a prison guard.

 

Two more levels of conflict:

Inner Conflict Sketch: The protagonist wrestles with the sense of his own guilt and how to convey degrees of innocence and culpability to his brother. To a certain extent, he feels his imprisonment is just; or in the very least, an acceptable trade for the life he left behind and for the deed he did to leave that life. But in the face of his brother's quest to have his sentence overturned, he finds his toughest challenge to be his own reluctance in revealing the ultimate truth of his situation.

 

Secondary Conflict Sketch: The protagonist is obviously incarcerated, though he seems oddly at ease with almost all aspects of prison life: lack of control, lack or privacy, lack of freedom, failing health, psychoanalysis. His attitude approaches a general resignation that is almost wise - with one exception: a single prison guard who reminds him of his step-father, the ultimate antagonist of his pre-prison life. As is such, an enemy he thought was behind him has, in a way, followed him into a prison - a place where, ironically, he thought he might be free.

 

Setting:

The story begins in a prison as a young man decides to write a letter to his brother. From there, the story wanders back to when he first came to prison: getting off the bus, going through intake, interacting with staff. We get a tour of the facilities through his experiences: his cell, solitary confinement, the cafeteria, the rec yard, the doctor's office - and in each of these settings is detailed the degree of his confinement and isolation.

As the prisoner writes his letter, the story returns at times to his past, to the life-shaping events of his childhood and to the events that landed him in prison. We see confinements here too, in his house and hiding places, though the events in each set the tone for his seclusion more than walls and doors and dark places.

 

 

 

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Project: Centaurus Bound - The Lost Ship book 1
Status: Complete
Word Count: 94K
Genre: Science Fiction / Space Opera
Series Status: Book 2 complete (100K words), Book 3 in progress.

1. Story Statement

To survive aboard a heavily damaged warship millions of light years from home, Lieutenant Wade Garin must uncover an ancient secret that threatens the fate of two galaxies.

 

2. Antagonist

Antagonist 1, Setting: The setting and consequent isolation and despair from being stranded in a distant galaxy with no way home are the primary antagonists for the early parts of the story.

Antagonist 2, The Scourge: There is a seemingly malevolent force at work in the Centaurus A galaxy—a civilization known colloquially as the "Scourge” is intent on repressing the technological development of nascent civilizations. They invade, destroy infrastructure and leave behind orbital surveillance and strategic weapons to eradicate those civilizations who do not comply with their edicts. These entities are the primary antagonist for the bulk of the story.

 

3. Breakout Title

Centaurus Bound

I will try to think of more, but I am irrationally attached to this one. It fits perfectly and reminds of titles from The Expanse by James S.A. Corey.

 

4. Comparables

The story is a blend of Dennis E. Taylor’s Bobiverse series (Book 1: We are Legion (We are Bob)) and Taylor Anderson’s Destroyermen (Book 1: Into the Storm).

Like Bobiverse, it is extremely approachable and easy to read science fiction that, at first, seems like a lighthearted sandbox adventure. However, an intricate plot quickly unfolds, with a healthy dose of social commentary and speculation about how we can become better versions of ourselves, and the steep price we would have to pay. The resemblance to Destroyermen is more direct—a super advanced warship is stranded in an alien galaxy where the level of technology is not nearly as sophisticated, with the consequent ability to alter the balance of power. What seems at first to be a simple conflict between two civilizations soon unfolds into an ancient ideological struggle that threatens to expand into other galaxies, including our own.

 

5. Hookline

Short:

Stranded on a heavily damaged warship twelve million light years from Earth, Lieutenant Wade Garin's struggle for survival places him at the center of an ancient conflict with the power to decide the fate of two galaxies.

Long:

Stranded on a heavily damaged warship twelve million light years from Earth, Lieutenant Wade Garin finds himself at the center of an ancient conflict with the power to decide which side will win—if he can survive long enough to repair his ship and unearth a secret that has devastated an entire galaxy and now threatens his own.

 

6. Inner and Social Conflicts

Inner Conflict: When he realizes that there is no way to get home to his family and that he will probably never see another human being ever again, Wade faces a degree of isolation and loneliness that no one has ever had to endure. As the story progresses and Wade meets and interacts with other beings, his limitations as a member of the genetically modified species homo sapiens melius (improved wise man) pose unique challenges to dealing with the wildly irregular problems that arise. Homo sapiens melius are unable to rationalize their actions and choices—they cannot tell themselves a story in which they are the good guy, an ability that is perhaps the defining characteristic of homo sapiens sapiens.

Social Conflict: Realizing that he cannot cope or even survive on his own, Wade implements an emergency protocol and creates a sapient Artificial Intelligence. The protocol is a last resort and comes with ominous warnings about the potential instability and unpredictability of such beings. Learning to get along with and live with the AI is an ongoing conflict. As Wade explores the Centaurus A galaxy, he meets a variety of alien species, each with their own psychology, culture and unique perspectives. Though perhaps the most alien species he encounters look just like him—a lost colony of homo sapiens sapiens.

 

7. Setting

Except for the early chapters, the primary setting is the Centaurus A galaxy. Exploration factors heavily into the story, with several new and unique worlds discovered in every book in the series. Each world explores several possible variations on Earth life, from mirrored chirality to alternative chemistry, such as methane-solvent hydrogen breathers. Interesting planets (e.g. “Hot Jupiters”) and stellar phenomenon add color to this setting, which allows for nearly limitless possibilities and creates a rich and dynamic backdrop for the story.

The bulk of book 1, Centaurus Bound, takes place in a system called Theta Bellator, Bellator being a constellation named by Wade and his AI based on star patterns visible from outside of the galaxy. Theta Bellator contains two habitable worlds, one of which is Theta Bellator 4, home to a technological civilization that Wade names Thebans (short for Theta Bellatorians). Observing the Thebans, learning to translate their language and understand their culture are important aspects of this setting. The Theban home world is under observation by a hostile civilization that they call the “Scourge,” who showed up almost a century before and destroyed their space stations, aircraft and all other advanced technology. TB4 is constantly watched by a ring of observation satellites and guarded by armed drone ships capable of eradicating all life on the surface. Wade stumbles into these orbital systems, unaware of their nature, and sets off a series of events that may lead to the destruction of the Theban civilization.

Another persistent setting throughout the series is the Solar Republic warship SRS Astraeus. When Wade and his AI sail into the Theta Bellator system, the Astraeus  is barely functional and incapable of superluminal travel. Learning its complex systems and repairing them factors heavily into the story and as integral aspect of the setting.   

 

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1)      Story Statement

Two nineteenth-century women must find the courage to combat a celebrated surgeon’s syphilitic lies and obsessions.

 2)      The Antagonist

In this narrative nonfiction, Green Bay, Wisconsin’s “Great Imitator,” Dr. John R. Minahan, successfully hides his true self behind his narcissistic mask. He is the most powerful member of his nine-sibling clan that will dominate the city’s professional, business, and political arenas for sixty years. His goal is to achieve material success and manly peer recognition while crushing anyone who gets in his way. He is the attending physician and surgeon for the city’s only hospital, and he controls the doctors who can operate, creating many enemies. On the surface, he displays considerable charm and a keen sense of humor, attracting women. But behind closed doors, he physically and mentally abuses them. Since he rejects the suffocating autocracy of church and state, he easily lies and believes he is beyond the law. He thinks most women are immoral, and by default, they have contracted syphilis. He obsesses over that sexually transmitted disease, also called “The Great Imitator,” since it mimics other diseases and its bacterium is yet to be discovered. He uses those facts to destroy two women. 

3)      Breakout Title

The Great Imitator

The Great Imitator: A Powerful Surgeon, his Syphilitic Lies, and his Female Victims who Fought Back

The Crimes of Dr. Minahan

4)      Comparable Titles in Narrative Nonfiction

As in Kate Moore’s two books, The Radium Girls (Sourcebooks, 2018) and The Woman They Could Not Silence (Sourcebooks, 2021), my book incites compassion and horror in the reader while blending historical, scientific, and personal female narratives. Each digs deep to expose wrongs that still resonate. That is evident based on the twenty-first-century memoirs, Know My Name by Chanel Miller (Penguin Books, 2019) and A Beautiful, Terrible Thing by Jen Waite (Plume, 2017). Chanel’s sexual assault and Jen’s narcissistic abuse mirror those of my two nineteen-century female protagonists.

5)      Hook Line:

The syphilis bacterium remains a mystery in 1893, and a powerful surgeon uses that fact to victimize two women, but as the science behind that disease advances, both women must find the courage to fight back.

6)      Internal and Social Conflicts

There are two female protagonists in my book. The first is Mary Cenefelt, Dr. Minahan’s illiterate maid, and the second is Minahan’s college-educated wife, Mollie Bertles Minahan.

Internal conflicts for Minahan’s maid, Mary:

Mary deals with internal shame from two rapes by Minahan which she can’t report for fear of her life. She also deals with a resulting pregnancy and whether to abort her child or give it up for adoption. After Minahan savagely aborts Mary’s child without her consent her womb becomes infected, while Minahan claims her problem is syphilis. After struggling for four years, she finally fights back and takes Minahan to court three times. But all the while, she deals with many internal struggles as she must speak on the stand, time after time, about her humiliating rapes and heartbreaking abortion while suffering from PTSD symptoms.

Social conflict for Minahan’s maid, Mary:

In that era, even if Mary had initially reported her assaults, the following proof was required: she was a virgin, she immediately told a third party, evidence of physical injury, and evidence that she had resisted. Mary fears what the community, friends, and family will say when her claims come out in the press. As a virtuous woman, most believe Mary should have avoided rape in the first place, and she would be shunned when she gives her sexually explicit testimony demanded by the court. Those social conflicts anguish Mary at her three trials.

Internal conflict for Dr. J.R. Minahan’s wife, Mollie:

Mollie’s internal conflict revolves around some anonymous letters Minahan receives claiming she is “easy.” He believes she contracted syphilis prior to their marriage, but there is no way for Mollie to prove him wrong. Each of Mollie’s five pregnancies cause her constant internal turmoil. Three are miscarriages where Minahan claims she’s to blame because she is syphilitic. Even after delivering two healthy boys, Minahan continues to torment Mollie with his syphilitic accusations, impacting her physical and mental health. When she discovers he’s treating her boys with syphilitic drugs, Mollie finally realizes she must fight back to save not only herself but her sons.

Social Conflict for Dr. J.R. Minahan’s wife, Mollie:

As the narcissist’s victim, Mollie feels isolated, too ashamed and mortified to have her abusive experiences validated by friends, family, and society. Most women of that era consider divorce an “unmitigated evil,” a confession of failure. But when Mollie realizes divorce is the only option, even though her husband’s syphilitic claims about her will come out in the press, she financially can’t follow through. The feminist Victoria Woodhull said, “a woman’s ability to earn money is better protection against the tyranny and brutality of men than her ability to vote.” Before marrying Minahan, Mollie had that protection as a teacher, but only unmarried women could teach.

7)      Settings – I have included a few from my book.

The cities of Green Bay and Fort Howard in 1893: The Civil War veterans had returned to the two thriving communities in 1865, the rail yards and wharves clogged with shingles and lumber. The buzz of steam and water-powered saws had been the sweet sound of money. Both cities had enjoyed a vibrant social life, much of it centered in their fourteen churches. But gin mills and “houses of ill-repute” had also flourished that catered to the sawyers, lumberjacks, and lake sailors. Three decades later, saloons and “disorderly houses,” where the much-feared “unmentionable diseases,” like syphilis, could be caught, continued to thrive. Green Bay had emerged as the region’s premier service and transportation hub, with a population of nearly 8000. Fort Howard conversely had developed into the Fox River Valley’s manufacturing center with hopes of surpassing Green Bay in size.

Dr. Minahan’s home: Heavy drapes encased the double-hung windows. Shelves of medical books lined one wall. A coal-burning stove ticked, its dirty scent stitched into the air. A candlestick telephone, a Green Bay status symbol, stood on a table beside a leather chair. Above it, a painting of a lion hung, its mane the color of Dr. Minahan’s hair.

Dr. Minahan’s private medical consultation room: Minahan’s private office’s focal point was an oak-framed leather chair one might find in a parlor. He would ask a female patient to sit down and lean back for a procedure like a pelvic examination. Her weight would extend the chair horizontally, and metal stirrups would pop out where he would secure her feet. A table held small instruments: a speculum, a probe, and a little curved knife to open boils. No others were required. Minahan conducted all patient surgeries at St. Vincent Hospital to provide a sterilized environment, anesthesia, and nursing care.

Washington Street: Horse manure and garbage scents oozed from puddles following a recent downpour. That weather had not stopped the Salvation Army. The women in their gray ribbon-tied bonnets and the men in their pillbox caps were out in force to wage war against hunger and sin. The idea that Minahan should be in their sights, not Mary, could have crossed her mind. 

Mary’s hometown farming community of Cooperstown, Wisconsin, twenty-five miles south of Green Bay:  The horses whinnied as Mary’s coach pulled up across from St. James Church. A tornado had recently torn off its roof, leaving the white steeple intact but destroying the house of worship’s interior. Even though it was under repair, the community still calculated the time of day by the tower’s bell that rang at noon and six. To Mary’s left was the Wanish General Store, owned by her brother-in-law, John, and her eldest sister, Catharine, where a surprise awaited around every corner. In the spice-scented store, the couple displayed provisions like flour, hardtack, and coffee on shelves. Candy was stored inside the glass counter at a youngster’s eye level. There were cigars for men and fabrics for women. There were lamps and utensils and even stoves for furnishing a kitchen. Near the front door, three farmers chewed tobacco by a spittoon. The store served as the local information center. After Sunday church service, families stocked up.

Minahan’s new home, the former St. Vincent Hospital: The large front room had been transformed into a Ladies Home Journal fashion plate. The front room’s Art Nouveau furnishings, purchased at Chicago’s Marshall Fields & Company, were upholstered in opulent velvet, tapestry, and leather fabrics. Massive pocket doors opened into a wallpapered dining room with a black walnut table. But the prime attraction was the host. Elegant in a black tailcoat, a white bib button-down shirt, wingtip collar, bow tie, and U-neck vest, Dr. Minahan welcomed Mollie, his pale-blue eyes zoning in on her.

The Minahan Building: The six-story Minahan Building, the finest and most imposing in the city, included eighty offices, first-floor retail space, two elevators, and an innovative “letter-shoot” where mail could be dropped from any floor and conveyed to a central ground-level box. Minahan had chosen the best grade of St. Louis pressed cream-color brick for the exterior, fancy-cut stone, and terra-cotta trimmings. Behind the 160-feet of sidewalk prism windows, Maes Haberdasher offered custom and ready-to-wear men’s clothing, and Kathryn O’Malley’s Beauty Parlor provided “hairdressing and removing moles, warts, and superfluous hair.” Additional first-floor tenants included a drug store, a buffet, and the weather bureau, which utilized the Minahan Building’s six-floor roof height for sending flag and light warnings to sailing crafts.

Mollie’s medical treatment center for rheumatism (although Minahan claims she has syphilis): The Mount Clemens, Michigan water, according to advertisements, cured rheumatism, syphilis, jaundice, obesity, polio, and liver problems. The city, aesthetically similar to Mackinac Island, had eleven bathhouses, luxurious hotels, and numerous boarding houses. Mollie checked into the Park Bath House and Hotel for treatment, considered the most exclusive, with spacious verandas, promenade halls, grand lobby, elevator, and private bathrooms. Each day an attendant pushed Mollie’s wheelchair from the hotel through a grand eighteen-foot-wide marble-floored hallway to the attached bathhouse. Mollie soaked in a dark, rotten-egg smelling tub of mineral water in her private bathing area, heated to about ninety-eight degrees. The water allegedly released toxins from her opened pores to soothe her pain. Afterward, she underwent a vigorous massage before being wrapped in heated towels and sent to the hotel’s solarium to relax or nap. The treatment’s entire course took about twenty-one sessions over the same number of days.

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1.      Write a Story Statement:

 

San Francisco Homicide Detective Reed Prettyman must find and stop a serial killer who hunts his victims within the identity bending world of online social media.

 

2.      Write an Antagonist Sketch:    Keep in mind their goals, their background, and the ways they react to the world about them.

The prime antagonist in the story is the cruel, vengeful, and homicidal psychopath known only by his online name TNDR (Tender). He operates an infamous internet revenge porn website while hidden behind encryption software, where he propagates and empowers the poisonous culture of trolls, hackers, and creeps who use it for their own selfish pleasure by posting private, embarrassing, and humiliating videos of their victims. His moral depravity, founded in a childhood full of abuse, is bottomless and he seeks revenge by inflicting his own trauma on others. He is consumed by his self-imposed isolation, a victim of his own mind and sense of persecution. He kills as an act of power over others, to satisfy his paranoia-soaked narcissism, protect his precious anonymity, and exert ultimate control over his victims. His need is insatiable. Each victim quickly becomes an empty victory that feeds his hunger for more.

TNDR’s acolyte in the story is a man called EYESHINE. Eyeshine is a small-time convicted hacker, voyeur, and stalker who makes and posts his own explicit videos on TNDR’s site. He knows what’s what and how things work on the dark web. Reed must team with Eyeshine as her guide as she searches the web underbelly, even when he betrayals her and threatens to expose her secret.

 

3.      Create a Breakout Title:

Tender

Alter

Let’s Play Pretend

 

4.      Develop two Comparables:

The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris.  A female FBI agent must play both hunter and prey to catch a serial killer while both roles chip away at her carefully constructed psychological state of being.

             Zodiac by Robert Graysmith.  The true story that reads like fiction, features a killer who relishes the publicity his killings garnish when he starts toying with and taunting the police.

 

5.      Write a hook, (logline):

 

San Francisco Homicide Detective Reed Prettyman must overcome personal and professional crisis after her private sex tape goes viral on a revenge porn website to hunt down the site’s mysterious operator when he becomes the prime suspect in a series of murders.

 

6.      Sketch the conditions for the inner conflict the protagonist will have and second, sketch a hypothetical scenario for the “secondary conflict” involving the social environment.

 

The prime inner conflict in the story is Reed’s hunt for a serial killer. She’s driven to do it to fulfill her base need as a police officer, to be a protector of innocent victims and deliverer of justice. In fact, her very existence depends on doing it.

In the social media world where people can create any online alter persona they want, Reed’s secret is that she is not who she seems to be either.

When Reed was a young girl, she was called Zoey and she suffered abuse. The way Zoey survived was to conjure up her own kind of alter ego personality, someone to confide in and commiserate with, someone to protect her and deliver the justice she’d never be able to get for herself.

Zoey called that person Reed, and at some point Reed took over. It’s called a Dissociative Identity, a dual personality. The two of them are aware of each other, living in balance, but Reed’s existence relies on her performing her single duty. If she fails Zoey, and all victims, or she gets found out, it will destroy her career, and her.

The secondary social environmental conflict Reed faces is that unlike other dual personality stories when having one or more alter identities is a threat to the character that ultimately unravels and destroys them, Reed’s existence is good.  She embodies the helpful and healthful practice of role playing and self-identity creation often critical as a social coping mechanism and even for survival. Reed is our hero, and Zoey’s. She believes she’s real, she has to. She possesses the same human characteristics as anyone else, self-doubt, the need for validation, a desire for meaning…and flaws…while an unknowing world of unfair challenges and betrayals continues to try to expose and destroy her.

 

 

7.       Sketch out the setting in detail: “the environment”

 

The original promise of the internet and social media sites to connect us, empower us, and better our lives also has a dark side. The perpetrators who used to lurk in parks, malls, and among the people we know are closer now, online, watching for the careless, the curious, and unsuspecting. Anonymous usernames, passwords, and malware scans give an illusion of privacy, security, and control that don’t really exist. Instead, it often empowers anonymous mob cruelty, has crushed the degrees of separation that protected people, creates opportunity and means at the click of a mouse, and has forever twisted that old adage about the inescapable facts of life, like death and taxes. Now, if you post photos of yourself on vacation your house gets robbed. Reply to the wrong email and your personal data gushes into cyberspace. That secret dating site you joined to cheat on your spouse will get hacked, and, if you make a video of yourself having sex, someday, somehow, it’s going to end up on the internet. No one is immune. San Francisco Homicide Detective Reed Prettyman knows that from personal experience. Hers went viral.

 

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1.       Story Statement:

Marian must follow the voice in her head to find those she can trust to prevent her father from taking over the last chance of peace for what life is left in the Kingdom of Ephorus.

2.       Antagonist Plots the Point:

Nance is a merciless and powerful Lord of Steinigen with the command of fire at his fingertips. His desire for control lays beyond the simple pursuit of domination in life. Taking the power he has and combining it with that of ancient beings, he seeks to control what life may exist beyond death, destroying any hope for peace and tranquility other than his own. The domination of eternity is his goal, and he seeks to use Marian to break the barrier between life and death to subjugate all forms of existence.

3.       Breakout Title:

Happenstance: A Fantasy Adventure

4.       Comparables:

Christopher Moore: Fool

Neal Shusterman: Scythe

5.       Core Wound and Primary Conflict

Dwelling in the shadows of torture and fire that consume her life, Marian can’t avoid the horror she has come to know. Nance, the Master of Steinigen, where she resides, is her adoptive father and the precursor to all her worst fears. His ambitions to crumble the line that separates life from death to harvest all power from both worlds sparks the fire within her to challenge his endemic reign. Escaping his grasp, Marian must trudge through the remnants of civility in Ephorus in hopes of following the voices in her head to find those she can trust to face down Nance’s wretched nature, and topple his lust for control of all existence.

6.       Inner Conflict and Secondary Conflict

Inner: Marian must conquer the fear and anger that lives within the fire born within her. Her lineage is of destruction and is constantly pushing her toward anger and abuse of her power. Fighting her way through the cavalcade of inset desires, she must also learn to trust and rely on others, shaking off the innate fear of punishment that came with trying to form a connection with anyone when she was a child.

Secondary: As Marian finds her way along the path to stopping her father she struggles to understand the complexity of friendship, trust, and love. Without the ability to stop him on her own, she can’t avoid finding a semblance of resolution with these conflicts for fear of losing her grip on the path to stop her father.

7.       Importance of Setting

Happenstance takes place in Ephorus, an isthmus cut off from the surrounding lands by a volcanic set of mountains to its north and untraversable seas to its sides. The lands beyond the mountains are wastelands devoid of recognizable life, filled with venomous spirits brought to life by existence lasting beyond its time to be returned to darkness for creation to begin anew.

Inside Ephorus is a forested landscape filled with humans and fantasy creatures living amongst the muck-ridden and hobbled villages save for the few strongholds of money held onto by the rich and merchant class. Buffeting the western portion of the isthmus, and the major driver for keeping the land from slipping into darkness is the Aurian Hills. Within its densely packed forest are the remnants of magical creatures that once worked to keep the land peaceful and prosperous. It also contains Sorrow Falls, the link to the beginning of creation for the inhabitant’s world, and the link to the life that extends beyond in the realm of death and natural existence.

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1. Story statement. Reconcile with past and find self. 

2. Antagonist. Tess begins the story at a low point; anxious, consumed by memories of the past. She presents as nervous, little confidence in herself. She places too much emphasis on what people think. Dominated by internal thoughts that belittle and degrade herself. Natural people pleaser who doesn’t speak up for wants and needs, would rather keep the peace.  As the story commences, we see Tess having to start making decisions albeit it small; from paying by cash or card, to directions. Midway, we start to recognize her poor decision making; some might think a little delusional (or annoying) as she presents a need for gratification or band aid solutions to mask feelings of her past. 

As Tess continues to make less than ideal choices, we see a shift in her own insights coming to the surface. Usually displayed through her own awareness of her actions. Along the journey and through a series of events, Tess is required to demonstrate strength, courage, and voice. As the story ends, we see a new Tess who has reconciled with her past, and regained strength and worth for her own self. Rejuvenated with a new sense of self. 

3. Titles: (1) Again. (2) Are we there yet (3) The furthest place I can run. 

4. Comparables. Exciting Times by Naoise Dolan, Penguin 2020Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert, Penguin 2006. Both stories provide elements that I believe are weaved into mine. Dolan’s millennial protagonist (and author), directness in language and travel scape, combined with Gilbert’s deeper emotional elements to finding self.    

5. Hook. A 28-year-old domestic violence victim turned mistress travels to South America, in a bid to run from her past. Joining a tour group where fellow passengers are all dealing with their own secrets, she realizes that the only way to escape her past is to confront herself. 

6. Inner conflict. Primary conflict includes trauma (memories of past) and internal dialogue (anxiety/low self esteem/worth/love for self. Tess sits down at a restaurant on her own. Picking up the menu she scales the choices. Her internal dialogue of thoughts telling her she can’t eat X or Y because she’s not worthy. This is fueled by memories of past with ex-partner calling her fat while they were eating out. She begins to feel anxious and overwhelmed at not being able to decide. Does she or doesn’t she pick something to eat? And if she does, does she pick the salad or a pizza? The waiter disturbs her thinking. She’s flustered at being forced to decide, laughs nervously while feeling under pressure. Decision point: Select something to eat or leave the restaurant.  

Secondary conflict (poor decision making; quick pick me ups that come from lack of worth, trying to numb pain of past). Tess sits at a bar and orders a drink. She catches the eye of the man on the stool next to her and smiles. He smiles back, introduces himself and they converse. Tess notices he’s wearing a wedding band but ignores it. The conversation continues over drinks. She can feel the attraction between them build, her desire to connect burning. All memories of her past forgotten in a haze of alcohol and lust. He invites her to his hotel room for more drinks. Decision point: Say no to the temptation and leave or proceed to his hotel room.   

7. Setting. The story starts and concludes in an airport in Melbourne, Australia.  The journey moves through South America (Chile, Argentina, Peru, Ecuador, Brazil). The setting is varied - from the bus journey itself to cities/towns of the countries and relevant interactions and dialogue with others. The setting provides the reader with a unique lens of being elsewhere, but not detracting from the character driven narrative. 

 

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Story Statement
 

Jeremy Peoples must do whatever it takes to find forgiveness and make peace with the past.
 

The Antagonist Plots the Point

Stacy Ramone is a former marine, married, with one son, a flawed family man with a heightened sense of loyalty and a rapidly declining mental state.  His ultimate plan was to use the money he and his wife were making by selling narcotics and stolen pharmaceuticals to buy a local bar until he is betrayed by Jeremy. Several years later, Stacy remains unseen, a dormant facet of Jeremy’s complicated and violent past, until a series of events leads him to coincidentally reach out while everything else is falling apart in Jeremy’s life.  The truth is slowly revealed to both Stacy and Jeremy, each seeing things as they are truly are, but far too late to alter the chain of events that has been set into motion.
 

Conjuring Your Breakout Title


“Recollection.”
Def: a) the action or power of recalling to mind, something recalled to the mind. b) religious contemplation or tranquility of mind
 

Deciding my genre and approaching comparables

A Thriller with Upmarket Potential

“A Prayer for Owen Meaney.” – John Irving. (the spiritual exploration of predestination).
“We Need To Talk About Kevin.” – Lionel Shriver. (dealing with the tragedy of a school shooting).
“Talked To Death: The Life and Murder of Alan Berg.” – Stephen Singular. (the controversy of talk radio).
 

Core Wound and the Primary Conflict


A young radio talk show host with a perfectly autobiographical memory must make peace with his past (and those that he’s wronged) to stop his downward spiral … and prevent another impending tragedy.

When a school shooting survivor decides to use his radio show as a platform to find forgiveness, he unwitting sets himself on a path to confront the violence in his past, and in his future.
 

Other matters of conflict: two more levels


1. Returning to his hometown for the first time since the school shooting.  The overlay of memory with the present is overwhelming – amplifying devastating and terrifying emotions that are as fresh in the present as they were nearly seven years earlier.  The guilt of responsibility, the depression and helplessness, and the stress that is physically pummeling the protagonist prove impossible to stand up to as the replay of a result that can’t be stopped or forgotten unfolds inside the school where the mass shooting took place.
 
2. Getting caught having an affair with his best friend’s wife. The protagonist’s need to feel love (to feel anything) again, to forget (even for a moment) the loss of the girl he loved the most, his unending hopelessness, all overrule his loyalty and friendship.  A moment of vulnerability between Jeremy and his best friend’s wife leads to a one night stand … that continues day after day through a toxic bond of loneliness and despair.  Their discovery leads to further betrayal, violence, and banishment, losing the only friends he has, and the only woman he’s had feelings for since the tragic events years earlier.  This conflict of needing to feel alive again, while doing so at the expense of a friend’s trust, destroys the few positive things in his life that unfolded in the years after the shooting.

 

The incredible Importance of Setting

 

“Recollections” moves deftly between a rural Wisconsin setting between 1992-1995 and Washington DC on New Year’s Eve, 1999.  Jeremy caroms from a radio station studio, an unfamiliar club, bathrooms and backseats and a sterile apartment, then a road trip takes him across the country (including a stop at a South Chicago diner) to the same small town he grew up in.  He visits the scene of the crime – his old High School, now condemned – and returns to the shabby house trailer outside of Madison, Wisconsin where he and Stacy reconnect under vague circumstances.  Culminating in a small United Methodist Church as the snow begins to fall, Jeremy and Stacy are each brought to a key moment of decision when the truth becomes apparent.

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  1. The act of the story statement

Shadow Baelfiyer is a thief living on Chicago’s South Side. She is plagued by dreams of a world that has magic and dragons and a family she knows to be dead. Her aunt tells her these are just dreams. However, on a daily thieving hunt Shadow runs into two strangers who make her rethink all she has known. They are from a world called Elspeth where magic roams, people transform into lions; a world where she was born, and was taken away from, where she too has magic. These strangers take Shadow on a journey to find her past, but a great threat is uncovered that threatens the life she is building for herself in Elspeth and those who live there.

  1. The antagonist plots the point

Ten Fates, sisters, strong and powerful, created the world of Elspeth long ago. They bore magical creatures such as the Great Phoenix. Once humans walked the grounds, the Fates granted a chosen few with powers, they are called the Shattered. Many people cherish the Fates and those who are Shattered, however, a zealous group called the Forge is dead set on murdering the most powerful Shattered, in particular those in power. They believe the Shattered were put on their world to be slaves, not revered soldiers and kings. Ward Greevy, a deranged assassin is sent by the Forge to murder King Aeoden Kenyia of the Kingdom of Terris. When he is unable to kill the king, he world-walks to Earth. General Ryah Entyheart and Commander Victorian Halliday are sent after him. They run into Shadow, who wants answers, and helps them capture Greevy and bring him back to Elspeth for justice. It was the Forge who were responsible for her parents death, and for Shadow being sent to Earth, and she wants to know why. Soon it is discovered that Ward Greevy has a partner, and the king remains in danger. As Shadow grows into her own powers, Ryah realizes her magic is the key to saving their king, and Shadow realizes the truth of her past. Together Ryah and Shadow discover that the accomplice is a member of their own kingsguard. There is a battle between betrayal, love, and destiny as Shadow and Ryah attempt to defeat the Forge to save themselves and their kingdom.

  1. Break out title

FATE OF THE SHATTERED

  1. Genre: Fantasy

Compariables: 

Throne of Glass

The Red Queen

  1. Core wound and primary conflict (hook)

Caught between the world she has always known, and one where magic resides, Shadow Baelfiyer is thrust into a journey to find her past, and in doing so realizes she is the key to saving a king in this magical world; it is her destiny, her past, and her future, though she tries to fight it. 

  1. Two more levels of conflict

When the Fates created the world of Elspeth they also created a prophecy: they would build the world and creatures of magic, and beings would be born that should their creations wreak havoc, these beings would have the power to either save their world, or end it. These beings are called Whispers, and they can commune with the three sacred Whisper Animals of Elspeth; the Sybear (half-tiger, half-snow cat with wings and the power to kill with darkness), the Great Phoenix (a giant phoenix with fire powers), and the Arith (a giant stag with the power to manipulate nature). Unknown to her, Shadow is a Whisper, and this destiny calls to her, it also puts a target on her back. The Forge is after the most powerful Shattered, and Whispers are the most powerful Shattered. The Forge sends a Shadow-walker, an evil monster who can travel through darkness to trap and kill, to abduct Shadow. Shadow has lots of inner conflict as well. She has never truly trusted anyone, so when she begins to fall in love with Ryah it makes her want to run far and fast. She has never felt like she belonged in Chicago but she is terrified that she will not belong in Elspeth either, the world she was born in, so she uses sarcasm and a hotty attitude as defense mechanisms. This creates strangled relations with Starq Agate, a Lieutenant in the kingdom of Terris. Starq rebukes thieves, and has had it out for Shadow from the beginning. However tenuous, the two must work together, and eventually they form a friendship. Shadow also struggles with the search for her brother. She thought he died, however, like Ward Greevy, her brother was a world-walker. Once in Elspeth she discovers world-walkers can sometimes get lost in their power. This is another reason for her being eager to go to Elspeth, she believes her brother is alive and never gives up searching for him. 

  1. Importance of setting

The story begins in Chicago, with a familiar world. However, magical properties are introduced and suddenly Shadow finds herself in Elspeth. Elspeth has no electricity, for the magic interferes with it. There are the three kingdoms of Terris, Maroe, and Arabeth where the whole first novel takes place. However there are also Dragon Pirates that control the seas, Rune, a continent across a red sea, and The Tibysian Islands which float above the ocean. There are the Shattered, who are Fate chosen people each with their own unique powers. There are also the Amalin, people who can turn into the animal they are birth-marked with; Ryah, for example, is marked with a tattoo-looking lion on his shoulder, and can transform into a lion at will. There are Lost Monsters in Elspeth: Shadow-walkers who crawl through shadow and make deals of the damned, Food-singers who disguise themselves as children and beg for food, then ransack everything around them. There are also gentle creatures, such as the Fleurs, which are floating organisms that help the Shattered find their way. Setting is very important because Elspeth is different from Earth in drastic ways, which is why Shadow has a hard time fitting in in Chicago. Setting also amplifies the risks these characters journey towards, and builds the fantastical elements in the story.


 


 

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October 2021 Part I assignments:

1.    Story line: a skeptical woman struggles against a powerful man bent on world domination to retrieve her family from lost history and protect her world.

2.    Sketch of the antagonist 

     Conrad Hunter III: white male, CEO of the powerful Pangaea Consortium, a collection of businesses spanning the globe.  Conrad III is driven by two consuming obsessions: 1) living up to the cherished legacy of his grandfather, who rose from serf to pirate to founder of Pangaea, acquiring vast wealth and power over the course of a three-hundred-year lifespan, and 2) destroying ShenNong, the mysterious organization with the power to extend the lives of his grandfather and father and responsible for their violent deaths, leaving Conrad III with a normal lifespan. 
     At 60 years old, Conrad III is desperate to extend his life and produce a son to help him control the world for the next several hundred years (he has one adult daughter who doesn’t matter). He believes the power to extend life and control the world will come through five ancient brooches once owned by his grandfather but stolen from his father by ShenNong. Conrad III will stop at nothing to obtain the brooches and spends large sums of money in his quest. He is prone to tantrums, not as crafty as he thinks, and seeks loyalty and friendship but, because he thinks of people as tools, is always disappointed. 

 

3.    Breakout title:
•    The Universe of Turbulent Events
•    Turbulence Unbound

4.     Two genres: these two sci-fi/fantasy series are fun, humorous, push boundaries, and are creative in using history, time, stories, fairy tales to merge with modern-day situations and science: 

·      The Rivers of London series by Ben Abramovitz: this UK detective series set in the present, mixes magic/fantasy with science.  A new detective discovers the widespread existence of magical forces when he unknowingly interviews a ghost and is assigned to the secret police department that manages magic—criminal and otherwise. His boss, and teacher, is a powerful magician growing younger instead of older. He dates a river goddess, becomes police liaison to the Fae community, and clashes with the long-simmering, magical anger of Punch (of Punch and Judy).   

·      The Thursday Next series by Jasper Fforde: alternative reality set in 1985 UK where time is policed and literature reigns supreme.  A literary detective discovers her unique ability to jump into fiction where she meets a whole new bureaucracy populated with characters-- good and evil-- from her favorite novels.  She joins the fiction police force- Jurisfiction- and is apprenticed to Miss Haversham. She battles the Jabberwock, befriends Captain Nemo, and stops an evil maniac from destroying one of fiction’s most beloved heroines.

5.     Logline: core wound, tension

·      Confronted with abnormal, unruly forces shattering her world and threatening her family, a skeptical woman must make choices that save her loved ones but alter past and present realities. 

6. Conflict- secondary and inner

Secondary: Lily Yoshinobu kidnaps a CIA analyst, Denzel Sheely, out of fury, fear, and confusion to escape capture by the CIA and Hunter.  She is burdened by the responsibility of hostage-keeping as they travel to Tibet Paradigm with Dr. Oka, and very annoyed that Den Sheely is happy about it.  Lily doesn’t trust him but won’t abandon him.  Shortly after kidnapping Den, she is left with him to cross the Black Sea on an illegal fishing trawler; they are to meet Dr. Oka on the other side. Lily isn’t sure Dr. Oka will show up as promised and is frightened and angry.

Scene:
     “Hostages are not allowed to communicate without my permission,” Lily announced.  “We found your little toys in your cabin, and I know they’re fakes. There is no point in trying to tell the CIA where we are so you can turn me in.”
Den opened his mouth to respond but Lily continued through him.
     “Well, you won’t succeed, you creep, because I won’t stand for it,” she was shouting now. “We’re going to Tibet Paradigm on my terms, not the damned CIA’s.  And where in god’s name did you hide those items?”  
     “On your terms, what a joke,” Den shouted back. “You have no idea who these people are or where you’re going.  Who is Dr. Oka and why does he so conveniently show up and then disappear, leaving you with sleazy Alexei, who most definitely is KGB, when he hasn’t hired himself out.  I suppose he told you those were fakes and you believed him.  They aren’t, but they were hidden so that only trained spies could find them.  And he sure did.  I’m just an analyst, not a field agent, but you forced me into the car, not the other way around and I’m trying to help you get out of this mess alive.”
    “I don’t need your help,” Lily said, still shouting.  “And you’re not fooling me.  Your only thought is to take advantage of being my hostage.”
    “Yeah, and you’re not a hostage?” Den snorted. “You’re totally in control, you know exactly what is going on and you completely trust Dr. Oka to show up wherever the hell we are.”
     “Lovers’ quarrel?”  Alexei appeared, along with his grin, and leaned nonchalantly against the railing with a new beer.  Lily strode to him and slapped him hard across the face. 
     “Don’t smirk,” she said, “yes, we’re at your mercy, we must trust you because of Dr. Oka, but don’t smirk at us, damn you,” and raised her arm to slap him again.  “Shoot him, Sheely, goddammit.  If you are a true spy you’d just shoot him right now.” Alexei caught her hand, preventing the slap, still grinning.  
     “Not yet, Lily,” Den said, “we need him to get us to shore and meet Dr. Oka. He can take care of Alexei.” 
     “And you,” Lily shouted and jabbed her finger into Den’s chest, “you are still my hostage; you don’t kill anyone without my permission. And that’s Dr. Yoshinobu, goddammit.”  She turned and stalked away, raging.  She didn’t notice the squall gathering strength off the starboard side drawing closer to Alexei. 

Inner: Lily’s resistance to changing her comfortable and conventional view of reality—where time is linear, the universe follows set rules, and never do you abandon practical and known methodologies when trying to solve the apocalyptic problems of the present. This perspective has worked well for Lily, professionally, and has allowed her to ignore anomalies in her life as insignificant.  These anomalies come back to bite her as she finds herself confronting non-linear, turbulent forces that alter reality and her memories, not to mention her status as a legal person.  Lily struggles to accept new types of knowledge but mostly struggles with learning more about herself, her past, and how she views the world.

Scene:

     “Perfect art cannot and should not be kept in the dark, hidden from view.  The passion involved in creating such beauty turns into a twisted power if constrained for too long,” Madame Kong said.  “These brooches have been hidden and abused for centuries.  They’re angry.  We must let them express that anger.”
    “You’re saying the brooches are powerful because they are perfect,” Lily said.  “How do you measure perfection?”
    “You have a wonderful sense of irony, Lily dear,” Madame Kong said smiling, while her birds frowned.  “You were serious, weren’t you? Only a true adherent to scientific economics would seriously consider perfection a thing to be measured.”
     “All right,” Lily said.  “But simply using it as a label gives it no real meaning, no foundation or structure.”
     “The five brooches, when combined, are capable of power without structure. An opaque, fathomless power that defies definition, judgement and value.  A power so immense, it erases history, leaving gaping holes.  Such power can only be perfection,” Madame Kong said.  
     She removed the brooches from the case and watched Lily’s face as the jewels gleamed through the dissipating wax, pulsating with soft light in concert with Madame Kong’s brooch, performing a finely choreographed sequence.
     “How did ShenNong find this power?” Lily said, entranced.
     “The stone in each brooch came from deep inside the legendary Jade Mountain, home to the great Queen Mother of the West.  This is jade in its purest and most divine state.  It is more than just special,” Madame Kong said.
     “Special because it’s divine,” Lily said.  “How did it become divine?”
     “Feel the power without form or structure emanating from the brooches,” Madame Kong whispered.  “Power that embraces your entire being, coursing through your veins, infused in your memories.  Feel the power of the mountain, the earth, ancient and knowing.  Feel the power of waves crashing the shore, of fire that was captured from stars, and the whispering wind that gives rise to all life on earth.  This is perfect power.”
     Lily stared long at the shining jewels, seeking the abyss of perfection. Nothing. 

Scene:

     Lily felt the chaotic turbulence caused by the rotors of the helicopter but didn’t bother to think about it, just as she didn’t bother to consider the intense pressure build-up. She didn’t think about the 30-foot gap between the edge of the cliff and the helicopter. She didn’t think about the helicopter moving away from her and she didn’t think about what it might feel like to fall 5000 feet. She didn’t worry about the gunfire peppering the rocks and snow around her and what would happen if those murderous thugs got to her.  She simply ran, followed Dr. Oka and jumped, humming the entire time, wondering why she wasn’t screaming. Just as she landed inside, the helicopter banked sharply, throwing Lily hard against the far wall.  It hurt, a lot, and she needed a few moments to breathe but, hell and damnation, she made it.

     ”Well done,” Dr. Oka said, sitting next to Lily. “You learn very quickly.”

     “Dr. Oka,” she said, “jumping across a bottomless chasm onto a moving helicopter while people shoot at you is not a learning kind of a thing. Normal people do not learn how to do things like that.  In fact, normal people learn not to do such things.”

     ”I’m glad you didn’t stop to ponder the boundaries of normality before jumping. You knew, intuitively, that landing the helicopter was not an option for survival,” Dr. Oka said. “This could be called learning.”

     ”Ha, ha,” Lily said. “How did you know I wouldn’t hesitate.  You never once looked back.”

     “I had full confidence in you,” he said.

     ”Dammit, you’re not off the hook,” Lily said.  “But I have so many questions, I don’t know where to begin.” She wasn’t ready to say she saw Keso thump Den on the head, take his arm and jump onto the helicopter. Everything was blurry from debris swirling from the rotors and Lily was distracted. And, worse, Lily wasn’t sure if that was good or bad.  It may have been easier than trying to explain to Den what the hell they were doing.  She wished somebody had thumped her on the head so she wouldn’t be left contemplating time and space, not to mention her grip on reality.  Lily winced.  Maybe somebody did.
 

7. Setting: near future, 20+ years.  
     The oceans are fighting back, rising 3 feet in two decades.  In the ensuing chaos, states have given way to empires, federations, and unions, all vying to control dwindling resources and, with massive population movements to higher elevations, closing borders and buying weapons in the name of security.  Global telecommunications have collapsed with governments now controlling internet, satellites, and radio.  The two most powerful political and economic entities are the Nihon Federation, composed of countries along the Pacific rim and much of the Indian Ocean, and very powerful due to country-sized floating platforms; and the Qing Empire, covering much of higher elevation Asia and Africa, since it lost its highly productive coastal resources.  
     Economies have collapsed, along with rule of law. The extreme polarization of wealth has led to the emergence of business consortia forming private militia, private internet and satellite coverage, and bypassing laws established by increasingly authoritarian and isolated governments.  The UN is now dominated by a six-member Security Council very much at odds with one another and is barely more than a shell of its former self.  Nonetheless, UN staff continue their professions as much as they can, holding meetings, announcing partnerships, and presenting plans to save humanity from itself.  

Scene:

     Finally outside, with seawater swirling past her knees, Lily waded through the garbage-filled, flooded streets of New York to reach her office. She slogged by abandoned storefronts, teetered on the rickety, elevated sidewalk platforms constructed, temporarily, twenty years ago.  Suddenly, or so everyone liked to recall, the ocean began surging its way across Manhattan Island, sweeping aside everything in its path, toppling old buildings and sending most people in search of higher ground or upper floors.  Helicopters hopped from building to building, accommodating the shrinking class of business executives, celebrities, and politicians with the wealth to keep living or working on top of the city, leaving the streets to the whims of the Atlantic Ocean.    
     New York was not the only victim of extravagant flooding.  Coastal cities across the globe were overwhelmed, prompting a flurry of finger-pointing when it was finally determined that sea levels had risen three feet in the past two decades, and were still rising. Politicians blamed each other, radicals, environmentalists and the unemployed, while CEOs blamed government oversight, unions, and environmentalists. Economies collapsed and everyone blamed economists. But most fingers pointed at hapless scientists, who wrung their hands in dismay at the utter failure of their projections. 
     In the meantime, a noisy chaos was taking place. People swarmed around landlocked cities, staking out whatever dry land they could protect.  Some got back to the business of living: buying, selling, politicking and reproducing.  Others kept moving, spurring a mass exodus to higher elevations and land became more limited, more expensive, more gated, and more guarded. 
     Yet, people were their usual selves: violent, greedy, kind, caring and frightened. And blaming everyone but themselves for the current state of the cities, the oceans, the garbage, everything. Despite all the kicking and screaming, human beings were slowly adapting to the environment they had created through misuse and neglect.  To Lily Yoshinobu, Ph.D. Economics, people were simply engaging in typical economic behavior and, thus, typical economic analysis would figure something out. And so Lily toiled away, oblivious to the possibility that reality could change, because people never changed. 

Scene:

     Istanbul glittered and hummed with busy cafes, markets, and nightclubs. Water taxis swept up and down the Bosporus, spraying delighted tourists, and helicopters buzzed through the night carrying diplomats and business executives enjoying one of the few cities open to all and thriving as a result.  As the new site of UN Headquarters, the city was declared a special international zone, independent of all empires, unions, federations, organizations, and states.  Businesses, banks, embassies, and lobby groups quickly followed, enjoying minimal oversight over financial transactions, duty-free imports and exports, and global internet coverage, a rarity following the backlash against social media.  Satellite wars had destroyed much of the world’s WiFi capacity and all governments strictly controlled internet access and mobile telephones within and across borders.  As the world reverted to slow and limited forms of communication, a degree of privacy ensued that bewildered many people between the ages of 30 and 50 years.
 

Pitch: The Universe of Turbulent Events

Sci-fi thriller

     In the near future, history has gone awry, but no one knows it.  Certainly not practical, efficient Lily Yoshinobu until she meets the murdered woman and her ancient, glowing brooch. Suddenly, Lily’s childhood memories change daily as she struggles to survive a mad CEO bent on world domination, gravity unhinged, turbulence unbound, paradoxical felines. But mostly, Lily struggles with her own stubborn resistance to look beyond conventional reality to explain what the hell is going on. 

     All this happens as Lily braves snow camping, fishing boats and camels to find ShenNong, a society oddly dedicated to sorting out history, among other things.  Here, Lily discovers she and her family fell into the wrong history, a history that killed her mother and produced a messy, flooded present lurching toward world war.  Apparently, Lily and five ancient, glowing brooches have the power to fix history.  ShenNong has three, and Lily. But Conrad Hunter, CEO of the world's most powerful business consortium, holds two and covets the power to control history. 

     Lily just wants to retrieve her mother and return to her normal life. But the law of unintended consequences doesn’t make it easy, and Lily must deal with random, shifting outcomes as history grudgingly settles into place or whatever the present actually is.
 

 

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I          Story Statement

In the religion of Voodoo, Baron Samedi is an all powerful death god. His function is to keep the dead in cemeteries and prevent the rise of zombies. But even Death has his limits especially when he gets bored.

II         SECOND ASSIGNMENT: in 200 words or less, sketch the antagonist or antagonistic force in your story. Keep in mind their goals, their background, and the ways they react to the world about them.

 Baron Samedi has finished his nights work, dumping a child murderer’s soul into the bowels of hell. A spirit who enjoys rum, sex, and Cuban cigars, Baron Samedi is just about to call it a night when his Soulkeeper, Zadie, tells him that he has one more soul to escort into the afterworld. The spirit of the young boy who had been killed by the previous criminal. Exactly at that moment, Samedi decides he has had enough of the dead children, homicides suicides, and decrepit old people. His entry into the mortal world is a freshly dug open grave. He jumps in feet first and lands in Newark, New Jersey. Samedi realizes he needs a “blood sack,” a human body in order to truly enjoy living amongst mortals. A voodoo priestess prayed to him for revenge, so Samedi seeks out the body of a Newark lawyer who had cheated her out of money. Now on the road to debauchery and a good time, he ignores his duties as the precious keeper of the dead, leave the Underworld in an imbalance.

 

           

IIIfile:///C:/Users/Owner/AppData/Local/Temp/msohtmlclip1/01/clip_image001.jpg THIRD ASSIGNMENT: create a breakout title (list several options, not more than three, and revisit to edit as needed).

Death Spirits Rising

The Book of Samedi

Imbalance

 

IV. FOURTH ASSIGNMENT: Develop two smart comparables for your novel. This is a good opportunity to immerse yourself in your chosen genre. Who compares to you? And why?

            I love the work of Jim Butcher, particularly his Dresden Files. He was my original inspiration for writing urban fantasy, where the worlds of “normal” people collide with the mystical. Harry Dresden, a wizard in Chicago, my Baron Samedi, a Voodoo God disguised as a corporate lawyer in Newark. I very much enjoy blurring the lines between mortals, spirits and demi-gods.

            I love the work of Preston and Childs. I will not compare my writing to theirs…they are simply brilliant, and I am humbled by their work. But what is remarkably enjoyable and fascinating is the way they develop their characters. Many of Preston and Child’s characters, especially the beloved Agent Pendergast, who have a somewhat mystical bent about them, and find themselves placed into realistic and at times, gritty settings,

 

V. FIFTH ASSIGNMENT: write your own hook line (logline) with conflict and core wound following the format above. Though you may not have one now, keep in mind this is a great developmental tool. In other words, you best begin focusing on this if you're serious about commercial publication.

            He likes booze, sex and good food. But who keeps the dead in their graves, when a Death God walks out?

 

VI SIXTH ASSIGNMENT: sketch out the conditions for the inner conflict your protagonist will have. Why will they feel in turmoil? Conflicted? Anxious? Sketch out one hypothetical scenario in the story wherein this would be the case--consider the trigger and the reaction.

            On a lark, Taroen Magus-Stewart agrees to help his best friends sister, who he has a crush on, to enter a desolate cemetery at night and grab some graveyard dirt off from a murderer who died in 1902. In the process,  Taroen sees a spirit, Lady Simba, who traps him into helping her on a mission in the mortal world--- to find Baron Samedi, a Haitian god of the cemetery, who has quit his job as a keeper of the dead. Taroen Magus-Stewart is a young Jamaican high school student whose only concerned is finding a girlfriend, getting good grades, and surviving high school.An unwilling participant, he’s dragged into a scenario of being the “bait” in order to lure a powerful death good back to the Underworld.

            As if things aren’t complicated enough, the Baron’s absence had opened the door for the rise of a witch and a Bokor, a zombie king and death spirits of legend are being killed. The only person who can stop this is Baron Samedi who refuses to return home, having made a new home among mortals.

file:///C:/Users/Owner/AppData/Local/Temp/msohtmlclip1/01/clip_image001.jpg Next, likewise sketch a hypothetical scenario for the "secondary conflict" involving the social environment. Will this involve family? Friends? Associates? What is the nature of it?

VIIfile:///C:/Users/Owner/AppData/Local/Temp/msohtmlclip1/01/clip_image001.jpg FINAL ASSIGNMENT: sketch out your setting in detail. What makes it interesting enough, scene by scene, to allow for uniqueness and cinema in your narrative and story? Please don't simply repeat what you already have which may well be too quiet. You can change it. That's why you're here! Start now. Imagination is your best friend, and be aggressive with it.

Death Spirits Rising(working title) has multiple settings.

As the story opens, Baron samity is in his graveyard with one final open portal he is about to close. the area surrounding the grave is dark and misty. When the evil soul, who has just been executed realises that the portal he will be entering leads to hell, he has to be coerced into leaving. This amounts to Baron samity hitting him on the head with the back of the shovel that has been digging graves. When he is informed that he has a dead child to escort into the underworld, he decides that he's had enough an jumps feetfirst into the town of Newark NJ.

In order to fully enjoy himself, Baron Samedi assumes the body of a corporate lawyer, Danny Vinho, employed by a law firm in the city of Newark. Upon arriving in Newark, he is not entirely happy about the environment, and complains that the lawyer couldn't have been from Los Angeles, London, New York or Paris. Baron Samedi, who now goes by the name of Danny, lives between Newark and Jersey City New Jersey.

Danny's journey also takes him to an old mansion set in a beautiful park in Newark. The name of the home/mansion is called “Waterfields”. This mansion once belonged to robber barons in the 1900, but a voodoo priestess who purchased it as a tax sale in the 1960s. When she passed on, she  bequeathed it to her daughter, Izillda Montague, also a voodoo priestess. He spends time there because he loves the opulent setting. Danny also realizes that the priestess owes him a favor and is happy to exchange romantic sunrises and sex as the payback. Initially, he views her as just another mortal in a long line of conquests, but when he starts developing real feelings for her, he becomes confused.

The final violent conflict between good and evil, occurs in the basement of an old abandoned factory building which has been converted into a place of sacrifice. Baron Samedi and other death spirits storm the build for a final confrontation in what was once an old bomb shelter. Danny realizes he must go back to the Underworld as Baron Samedi because there are consequences.

 

 

 

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  1. Story Statement: If good is to triumph over evil, one must be willing to abandon personal goals and desires for the greater cause.

2. The Antagonist is Ren, the lord of darkness. His goal is to kill four-year-old Timothy Hatcher, whom Ren realizes is The One.

But there are rules. Ren cannot personally bring harm to Timothy, nor can the demons over whom he rules. He must employ humans for this task. To conduct the mission of eliminating Timothy, Ren visits an old acquaintance and calls in an overdue debt. This character is referred to as ‘the man’ throughout the book, enticing the reader to narrow down the list of suspects as the plot unfolds.

Ren’s engages his agent in several plots, including a car bombing and two shootings.

When Ren’s agent continually fails to kill Timothy, Ren alters the plan. With single mother Jenna out of the way, Timothy will become easy prey. Ren frames Jenna for murder.

Although Ren occasionally morphs into a frightful demon, he prefers to blend with society. When surrounded by children and soccer moms in a park, he’ll wear Under Armour jogging attire. Other times he’s clad in his favorite attire: black leather. He indulges in the many earthly pleasures, including cigarettes, booze and motorcycles.

Although no one can like an antagonist whose goal is to kill a child, Ren, at times, is difficult to hate. Whereas Mr. O, the lord of light is traditional and serious, Ren can be witty, charming, and fun-loving.

 

3. Title(s)

  1. The Boy With Fire On His Chest
  2. Timothy
  3. The One

 

 

4. Genre and Comparables

Suspense.

Comparable: Any of the Pendergast novels by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child—murder, suspense and intrigue laced with the supernatural and metaphysical.

 

5. Conflict

 

 

Jenna Hatcher’s future couldn’t look brighter. After performing a complex placenta previa-percreta surgery, saving both mother and child, she is recognized nationally as a rising star in obstetrics and gynecology. It’s a dream beyond her wildest imagination when offered an assistant chief-of-staff position at the prestigious Saint Philomena’s Hospital for Women and Children.    

 

The twenty-nine-year-old single mother views life as a tapestry of absolutes. She refuses to recognize that her four-year-old son, Timothy is bestowed with special powers and talents, abilities that science cannot explain. Nor is her mind equipped to comprehend what O, the lord of light and Ren, the lord of darkness already know—Earth is facing cataclysmic changes, and Timothy is designated as The One, the future savior who will lead humanity in restoring civilization.

 

The cocoon that Jenna has constructed around Timothy and her begins to unravel when they narrowly escape a car bombing. In the following four weeks, Timothy, under the tutelage of O, works to strengthen his defenses against Ren, while Jenna mourns her recently deceased father, receives death threats, is framed for murder, and falls in love with investigative journalist, Nick Giarelli. By the time she accepts that Timothy is no ordinary child, and that the danger targeting them stems from forces too dark to fathom, the atheistic Jenna makes a pact with God—give back her son, and she will dedicate her life solely to Timothy. But it appears that her revelation comes too late. It will take sheer determination, as well as a miracle of Red Sea-parting magnitude to save her son and the future of humanity.

 

From the above, we see that Jenna Hatcher, has two inner conflicts to resolve. The first is that of motherhood. As a single mother, she has double the responsibilities, and she had no good role models for relationships/parenting from her parents. The second inner conflict is that of opening up her mind beyond what science can explain.

 

Jenna has plenty of opportunities to test both of these inner conflicts, culminating in the decision of a lifetime. Does she forego everything she has always believed and step out on faith? Can she really abandon all personal and career goals, as well as the only man she’s ever loved in order to seek out an unconventional and assuredly lonely life that is devoted to her son?

 

 

 

 

6. Setting

 

The story begins (and ends) in the sacred Halawa Valley on the island of Molokai. It is a region lush with vegetation and adorned by waterfalls coursing down buttressed ridges. This side of the island is devoid of electricity, stores and houses. Its only resident is an old kahuna who prophesies about the boy who will one day wear fire on his chest.

The next few scenes are set in Colorado Springs, CO. Ren (antagonist) discovers four-year-old Timothy Hatcher and realizes he is The One. At the same moment that Ren is declaring Timothy must die, Timothy’s mother, Dr. Jenna Hatcher, recognized nationally as a rising star in obstetrics and gynecology, is offered the position of assistant chief-of-staff at the prestigious Saint Philomena’s Hospital for Women and Children in Colorado Springs.

Three scenes are set among the red rocks of Arizona, where Timothy is infused with an exorbitant amount of power after a lightening strike, as well as a permanent Lichtenberg imprint of red flames on his chest.

Because of a vacation that goes haywire, the bulk of the story takes place in Mobile, Alabama, where we see the full gamut of life in the deep South—from the river and ocean front beaches, to the old magnolia aristocracy with their mansions and country clubs, to the shabbiest of trailer parks. Mobile is a city that designates the haves from the have-nots. Things are slow to change in this region of the country, social attitudes and prejudices notwithstanding. Below is a passage in which when Ren, Lord of Darkness is describing it to one of his agents.

“I always feel at home here in Dixie. Southern hospitality and all those high-flown manners. Cotillions and debutante balls. What a delicious reminder of class inequality. Speaking of delicious, the down-home cooking, yeah that’s another plus. Grease, grease, and more grease. Enough to send the arteries squealing for mercy. And I simply adore how those crosses light up a front yard, hell, an entire neighborhood. Saves on street lights and electricity. Living green at its finest. What’s not to like?”

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  1. Story Statement: If good is to triumph over evil, one must be willing to abandon personal goals and desires for the greater cause.

2. The Antagonist is Ren, the lord of darkness. His goal is to kill four-year-old Timothy Hatcher, whom Ren realizes is The One.

But there are rules. Ren cannot personally bring harm to Timothy, nor can the demons over whom he rules. He must employ humans for this task. To conduct the mission of eliminating Timothy, Ren visits an old acquaintance and calls in an overdue debt. This character is referred to as ‘the man’ throughout the book, enticing the reader to narrow down the list of suspects as the plot unfolds.

Ren’s engages his agent in several plots, including a car bombing and two shootings.

When Ren’s agent continually fails to kill Timothy, Ren alters the plan. With single mother Jenna out of the way, Timothy will become easy prey. Ren frames Jenna for murder.

Although Ren occasionally morphs into a frightful demon, he prefers to blend with society. When surrounded by children and soccer moms in a park, he’ll wear Under Armour jogging attire. Other times he’s clad in his favorite attire: black leather. He indulges in the many earthly pleasures, including cigarettes, booze and motorcycles.

Although no one can like an antagonist whose goal is to kill a child, Ren, at times, is difficult to hate. Whereas Mr. O, the lord of light is traditional and serious, Ren can be witty, charming, and fun-loving.

 

3. Title(s)

  1. The Boy With Fire On His Chest
  2. Timothy
  3. The One

 

 

4. Genre and Comparables

Suspense.

Comparable: Any of the Pendergast novels by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child—murder, suspense and intrigue laced with the supernatural and metaphysical.

 

5. Conflict

 

 

Jenna Hatcher’s future couldn’t look brighter. After performing a complex placenta previa-percreta surgery, saving both mother and child, she is recognized nationally as a rising star in obstetrics and gynecology. It’s a dream beyond her wildest imagination when offered an assistant chief-of-staff position at the prestigious Saint Philomena’s Hospital for Women and Children.    

 

The twenty-nine-year-old single mother views life as a tapestry of absolutes. She refuses to recognize that her four-year-old son, Timothy is bestowed with special powers and talents, abilities that science cannot explain. Nor is her mind equipped to comprehend what O, the lord of light and Ren, the lord of darkness already know—Earth is facing cataclysmic changes, and Timothy is designated as The One, the future savior who will lead humanity in restoring civilization.

 

The cocoon that Jenna has constructed around Timothy and her begins to unravel when they narrowly escape a car bombing. In the following four weeks, Timothy, under the tutelage of O, works to strengthen his defenses against Ren, while Jenna mourns her recently deceased father, receives death threats, is framed for murder, and falls in love with investigative journalist, Nick Giarelli. By the time she accepts that Timothy is no ordinary child, and that the danger targeting them stems from forces too dark to fathom, the atheistic Jenna makes a pact with God—give back her son, and she will dedicate her life solely to Timothy. But it appears that her revelation comes too late. It will take sheer determination, as well as a miracle of Red Sea-parting magnitude to save her son and the future of humanity.

 

From the above, we see that Jenna Hatcher, has two inner conflicts to resolve. The first is that of motherhood. As a single mother, she has double the responsibilities, and she had no good role models for relationships/parenting from her parents. The second inner conflict is that of opening up her mind beyond what science can explain.

 

Jenna has plenty of opportunities to test both of these inner conflicts, culminating in the decision of a lifetime. Does she forego everything she has always believed and step out on faith? Can she really abandon all personal and career goals, as well as the only man she’s ever loved in order to seek out an unconventional and assuredly lonely life that is devoted to her son?

 

 

 

 

6. Setting

 

The story begins (and ends) in the sacred Halawa Valley on the island of Molokai. It is a region lush with vegetation and adorned by waterfalls coursing down buttressed ridges. This side of the island is devoid of electricity, stores and houses. Its only resident is an old kahuna who prophesies about the boy who will one day wear fire on his chest.

The next few scenes are set in Colorado Springs, CO. Ren (antagonist) discovers four-year-old Timothy Hatcher and realizes he is The One. At the same moment that Ren is declaring Timothy must die, Timothy’s mother, Dr. Jenna Hatcher, recognized nationally as a rising star in obstetrics and gynecology, is offered the position of assistant chief-of-staff at the prestigious Saint Philomena’s Hospital for Women and Children in Colorado Springs.

Three scenes are set among the red rocks of Arizona, where Timothy is infused with an exorbitant amount of power after a lightening strike, as well as a permanent Lichtenberg imprint of red flames on his chest.

Because of a vacation that goes haywire, the bulk of the story takes place in Mobile, Alabama, where we see the full gamut of life in the deep South—from the river and ocean front beaches, to the old magnolia aristocracy with their mansions and country clubs, to the shabbiest of trailer parks. Mobile is a city that designates the haves from the have-nots. Things are slow to change in this region of the country, social attitudes and prejudices notwithstanding. Below is a passage in which when Ren, Lord of Darkness is describing it to one of his agents.

“I always feel at home here in Dixie. Southern hospitality and all those high-flown manners. Cotillions and debutante balls. What a delicious reminder of class inequality. Speaking of delicious, the down-home cooking, yeah that’s another plus. Grease, grease, and more grease. Enough to send the arteries squealing for mercy. And I simply adore how those crosses light up a front yard, hell, an entire neighborhood. Saves on street lights and electricity. Living green at its finest. What’s not to like?”

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Story Statement:

 Eighteen-year-old Riley James, the greatest female, half-pipe snowboarder in the world, is changing career paths and entering the dangerous and exciting world of backcountry snowboarding. Until she’s nearly killed in an avalanche and shatters her leg. An injury she’s told will end her snowboarding career. Forever. But while recovering in her hometown of Aspen, Colorado, Riley discovers that’s not quite the truth. Not only will she be able to continue snowboarding, she has developed something else. Extreme endurance. Super strength. And the strangest thing of all. The ability to heal herself. 

An ability that draws her into her father’s world. The world of synthetic blood clinical trials which are being conducted at the local hospital. And a clinical trial she finds herself a part of. But not in the traditional sense, when she’s kidnapped and experiment on by her father’s jealous colleague. All of which put Riley on the verge of Near Death while she battles to harness her newfound abilities to escape with her life.

 

Antagonist:

a.     The avalanche that breaks her leg and ends her snowboarding career, until she learns that she’s inherited a special gene responsible for her newfound abilities.

b.     Kenneth-her father’s colleague, who kidnaps Riley to harvest her blood and use it to create the first synthetic blood substitute, all for profit.

c.     The death of her mother two years prior which caused her father to become a work-a-holic and left Riley to navigate life on her own terms.

 

Breakout Title:

a.  Near Death

b. The Blood Gene

c. The Twenty-First Chromosome

Comparable:

 The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo enters the dangerous world of backcountry snowboarding and evolves as a Marvel Superhero who must battle the forces of greed to save herself and humanity with her special healing blood.

Logline:

What if a backcountry snowboarder survives an avalanche only to discover she’s developed special healing blood which could revolutionize modern medicine, until she’s kidnapped, experimented on, and drained of her special gift?

Conflict:

Riley is bored with being the best half-pipe rider in the world. And without her mother no longer alive to guide her, she lies to her father and and enters the dangerous world of backcountry snowboarding with her coach (who she also has a secret crush on). Which leads to her breaking her leg, only to discover through her recovery that she has super strength, extreme endurance, and the ability to heal herself with her special blood.

Setting:

Set in the snowy mountains of Jackson Hole, Wyoming and Aspen, Colorado, the setting is in itself a character in this novel, which proves to be as big as a battle as Riley’s battle to escape from her captor.

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Working Title:  Bitcoin Trust

Author: Elizabeth A. Nichols

Pre-Workshop Assignments:  (Also provided as MS word attachment)

Assignment 1.  Write your story statement
Following the discovery that her brother Tripp stole $3 million of her 85-year old mom’s money, leaving her destitute, previously disconnected daughter Cary is consumed with fear for her mom and guilt for her neglect. She vows to save her mother, recover the family fortune, and bring Tripp down.

First, Cary, a Ph.D. mathematician and successful Internet entrepreneur, plays it straight. That fails. Then she discovers that Tripp is sitting on a secret stash of bitcoin worth over ten million dollars. She recruits an off-beat group of geniuses including two teenage crypto whiz kids, a bounty hunter, former IRS and FBI agents, a private detective, and a few Chicago-style magicians. Together they engineer an elaborate sting. But things don’t run smoothly, requiring some last-minute improvisation by the undaunted Cary and her team.

(133 words)
Assignment 2.  In 200 words or less, sketch the antagonist or antagonistic force in your story. Keep in mind their goals, their background, and the ways they react to the world about them.

  • Primary antagonist: Cary’s psychopathic younger brother Tripp 
  • Secondary antagonists:
    • Tripp’s hideous wife Bea and incompetent son Chase.
    • Cook County Courts
    • Illinois States Attorney
  • Primary antagonistic force: Greed. 
  • Secondary antagonistic forces:
    • Flawed US justice system
    • Politics
  • Tripp’s goal: To acquire material assets and appear to be as successful as the other men in his family
  • Tripp is his father’s only son and bears his name – Henry Stewart Cromarty III. 
  • From early childhood, Tripp has been a constant disappointment – from setting a neighbor’s house on fire when he was three years old, to shop lifting, to failures at school, to personal bankruptcy, and ultimately to financially and physically abusing his vulnerable mother. 
  • Tripp has never stopped depending upon his parents to bail him out of trouble. 
  • Notwithstanding these flaws, he remains his mother’s favorite child.
  • Tripp lives minutes away from his mother. Cary lives in Virginia, preoccupied with her life there.
  • After his father’s death, Tripp has unfettered access to his mother’s money which he steals. 
  • None of Tripp’s failings are his fault. In his mind, he is the victim. He has no conscience about the damage he has inflicted, nor does he feel any desire or responsibility to make amends. 
  • Tripp proves to be a worthy adversary, when Cary fights him for restitution and revenge.

(200 words)


Assignment 3.  Create a breakout title (list several options, not more than three, and revisit to edit as needed).

  • Bitcoin Trust
  • Get Tripp 
  • Tripped

Assignment 4.  Develop two smart comparables for your novel. This is a good opportunity to immerse yourself in your chosen genre. Who compares to you? And why?

Genre/SubGenre: Suspense/Techno

1. Bitcoin and baby boomers:

  • Like big con movies, “Ocean’s 11, 12, 13, 8” and “Sting” but with intra-family dynamics and bitcoin (instead of old crime buddies and gold bullion)
  • Like Janet Evanovich/Lee Goldberg Fox and O’Hare Series books – big cons and stings plus father-daughter family dynamics but no bitcoin.
  • “Bitcoin Billionaires” by Ben Mezrich – involves bitcoin, family dynamics, betrayal and redemption, but no big con or sting
  • “Bitcoin Clowns: A Novel” by Vann Chow (Appears to have been self-published, 2019) – cryptocurrency crime fiction inspired by true stories


2. Intra-Family struggles + Sandwich generation challenges

  • “Heaven’s a Lie” by Wallace Stroby, Mulholland Books (April 2021) – Lacking baby boomers and bitcoin, but shares family, financial pressures, and illegal temptations

Assignment 5.  Write your own hook line (logline) with conflict and core wound following the format above. Though you may not have one now, keep in mind this is a great developmental tool. In other words, you best begin focusing on this if you're serious about commercial publication.

  1. Devoted daughter leads a gang of baby boomers in a sting to capture bitcoin, save her mom, and bring down her despicable brother. (23 words)
  2. Baby boomers conduct a bitcoin sting to avenge wronged mother. (10 words)

Assignment 6.  Sketch out the conditions for the inner conflict your protagonist will have. Why will they feel in turmoil? Conflicted? Anxious? Sketch out one hypothetical scenario in the story wherein this would be the case--consider the trigger and the reaction.

Inner conflict: 

  • The protagonist Cary feels guilty because she could have prevented her brother from looting her mother’s trusts, if only she had paid more attention. Also, she is terrified that she will go broke supporting her destitute mother, and thirsty for revenge against her unrepentant brother

Secondary conflicts: 

  • Cary turns to the US justice system for help and fails. Out of disappointment and desperation, she resorts to an illegal option – namely a sting operation that can exact both restoration and revenge. Unfortunately, the scheme also risks exposing her teammates to criminal liability.
  • Cary’s extended family:  Her mother is distraught that her two children Cary and Tripp are fighting. Other family members take sides creating permanent rifts between spouses, cousins, aunts and uncles.

Assignment 7.  Sketch out your setting in detail. What makes it interesting enough, scene by scene, to allow for uniqueness and cinema in your narrative and story? Please don't simply repeat what you already have which may well be too quiet. You can change it. That's why you're here! Start now. Imagination is your best friend, and be aggressive with it.

Primary settings:

  • Lake Forest, Illinois:  A very wealthy bedroom community north of Chicago, Illinois, unfortunately located within the jurisdiction of the infamous Cook County courts.
  • Tripp’s McMansion:  Ridiculous, over-the-top features built with no consideration of cost, time, or egregious budget busting overruns. Note: The definition of McMansion = a large ostentatious house lacking in architectural integrity
  • Kensington Place:  An upscale lifecare community with all the amenities needed to grow old with grace – except protection against greedy family members
  • The Chicago Magic Lounge:  
    • An award-winning speakeasy Chicago-style magic bar, theater, and lounge located in the Andersonville section of Chicago, Illinois, offering exotic craft cocktails (e.g. ‘Smoke and Mirrors’, ‘How Houdini Died’, ‘Sleight of Hand’ and more) plus small plates along with up-close, table side performances of some of the best working magicians of the day. 
    • Additionally, CML is equipped with a comprehensive, high-tech security system, making it perfect as the site of the bitcoin trust sting.

Secondary Settings:

  • Various Chicago Landmark Buildings: Law offices and court rooms where settlement conferences, depositions, and a trial take place
  • Various parks and beaches on Lake Michigan:  Where Cary goes to find peace, reminisce, and think
  • Lake Forest Police Station: Where Cary works with police on criminal investigations
  • Hospital Emergency Room: Where Cary’s mother is treated for suspected physical abuse at the hands of Tripp and other medical problems
  • Onwentsia Country Club: Exclusive country club founded by past scions of the booming Chicago business scene, and site of a charity ball and chase scene that contributes to the success of the sting
     

EA_Nichols_PreWorkshopAssignment.docx

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