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New York Pitch Assignments - December 2021


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December 2021 -  NY Pitch 
Katie Bockino

 

1.     THE ACT OF STORY STATEMENT

Cerridwen is a quiet but tough 17-year-old with a past that’s a mystery even to herself. Stolen as a child from the land beyond the mountains—an unexplored magical realmshe now suffers the life of a servant, outcast by the small village that believes she’s a witch.

Determined to find a way out, Cerridwen thinks her fortune has changed when two handsome explorers arrive in her dreary, podunk town. They’re on a quest from the Empress to learn whoor whatresides beyond the mountains. The group has everything they need, except for any practical knowledge of the mysterious terrain itself. Seeing this as her only chance to escape, Cerridwen convinces the explorersTorin, the no-nonsense leader, and Riordan, the flirty second that she can guide their group. There’s only one problem: although Cerridwen knows she was born beyond the mountains, she has no memory of the path that brought her to the village as a child or what obstacles lie ahead.

As Cerridwen struggles with uncovering answers to her past—that reveal themselves whether she wants them to or notand her growing attractions to both Torin and Riordan, she must also learn to navigate the magical and often lethal dangers of the mountains. But she’s unsure what will consume her firsther lie about knowing the land to this ragtag group that is starting to feel like a found family, or the mountains themselves that, for some reason, want to kill her at every turn.

 

2.     THE ANTAGONIST PLOTS THE POINT

There are three antagonists. The first is the DeMoras, the family Cerridwen resides with in at the start. Mrs. DeMora’s first husband found Cerridwen on a failed expedition to cross the unknown mountains, pitied her, and brought her back to the village before he died. Mrs. DeMora and her new husband despise Cerridwen, but enjoy having a servant. However, when the cruel town recluse, Eamon, offers a substantial amount of money in exchange for marrying Cerridwen, their greed takes over. This spurs Cerridwen to find a way to leave town.

Eamon, the second antagonist, watches Cerridwen when she lives in town. He even tracks her down after she flees and tries to kidnap her when she’s with the explorers. This leads to her first lie (regarding why she truly wanted to leave town) to come out, causing a small rift amongst her and the group.

Lastly is Lorien, a draoidh and a lord, who resides on the other side of the mountains. He challengers Cerridwen in every way, questions her authority, her ideas, and even why she can’t access the magic he knows she possesses (she can wield shadows while her can wield sunlight/ light magic). Eventually when he kills her brother and tries to kill her friends, he is the driving force that makes her realize she is powerful. 

 

3.     CONJURING YOUR BREAKOUT TITLE

Title ideas for my YA fantasy book:

·       Beyond the Mountains

·       In the Land of Suns and Vines

·       Beneath This Visiting Moon

 

4.     DECIDING YOUR GENRE AND APPROACHING COMPARABLES

It is written to appeal to readers who have also enjoyed Cinderella is Dead by Kalynn Bayron and Girl Serpent Thorn by Melissa Bashardous. Cinderella is Dead because the plot parallels my book with the heroine feeling trapped, and thus she runs off to avoid her current situation. Furthermore, like Cinderella, my heroine in the start is a servant. However, she saves herself instead of waiting for a prince to do it. Girl Serpent Thorn because my heroine internally is similar; she also feels cursed and doesn’t understand the “magic” within herself.

 

5.     CORE WOUND AND THE PRIMARY CONFLICT 

Taken as a child from the unknown mountains, a shy but determined girl will do anything to escape and get back home, including guiding explorers through a land she doesn’t truly remember; but if the rumors of dark magic prove to be true, she isn’t sure how she will keep everyone alive.

 

6.     OTHER MATTERS OF CONFLICT: TWO MORE LEVELS

Primary Conflict: The first, primary conflict that drives through the start until the end is Cerridwen attempting to find her place in this world. This is why she lies about knowing the mountains and the land. She leaves the small town and the DeMoras because she doesn’t fit in there, and she knows (or at least hopes) that there is more for her out there.

Then, she wants to fit in with the group/ explorers. She wants to be able to be creative and fight and brave and have that solid companionship with each other that they all possess. But her lie prevents that. Cerridwen is also worried that her lie about being able to successfully guide a group of explorers will come out, and if it does, she will be without supplies and money in a dangerous and unknown land. She would have to go back to the town that hates her, as well as possibly marry the horrible, mean, and cruel town recluse because she has nowhere else to go. As the confusing and terrifying mountain magic keeps manifesting itself, attacking the group and Cerridwen, she has to keep coming up with more lies in order to keep up the façade and keep them alive. She also is starting to bond with various members of the group, and feels guilty for lying so much to them. She never felt close to people before, so she is also anxious about losing these connections because of her lies.

Lastly, she wants to be able to belong in the new realm and be able to wield magic. When she reconnects with her brother and finds out she is one of the last members of a lost noble family, she begins to feel like a failure because she can’t summon her shadow magic like him.

But in the end, she is able to realize she can do and have all of this. Cerridwen becomes confident in herself and her abilities.

Secondary Conflict: Cerridwen is falling in love with two different people in the group, and doesn’t know what to do. On one hand is Torin, the charismatic leader of the explorers. He is a former military general, a lord, and a writer. He is loyal to the empress, and is determined to explore the unknown mountain lands fully on her behalf. Cerridwen and Torin’s friendship forms slowly, and they rescue each other numerous times. Their quiet conversations about life and dreams gives her with such joy. On the other hand is Riordan, the flirty, brooding, artist who is Torin’s best friend. Also a former army officer, Riordan hates the empire and the mission they’re on. Their friendship is hot and cold from the start, but he pushes her to be her best self and he helps her with her panic attacks. They rely on each other and bond over their past. She feels a sense of home with him, even though he endlessly annoys her. She realizes though that she’s becoming between their own friendship, and knows she should distance herself from both of them. And yet, she’s never felt this way before about anyone, and doesn’t want to lose these new and exciting feelings.

 

7.     THE INCREDIBLE IMPORTANCE OF SETTING

The empire is a cold, gray wasteland that has been ravaged by war and famine. The empress’ desire to vanquish her enemies, and stop them from invading her kingdom, never ends. Many have forgotten which war they are even fighting at this point. Most people live and die in the same small town, never traveling anywhere else. Rumors of the luscious capital, filled with gardens and buildings that soar into the sky, feel more like a myth than an actual destination. When presented with the opportunity of leaving her small town on the edge of the empire, and traveling through the dark forest and into an unknown mountain realm, Cerridwen doesn’t hesitate before deciding to risk it all.

The mountains, and the lands beyond them, are filled with flowers with heartbeats, scaled foxes, and color-changing frogs. The sky isn’t only blue, but seeping with every shade Cerridwen has ever dreamed of. Even the grass is as soft as the most comfortable bed, while the wind keeps her at the perfect temperature. At times, she can’t believe how gray and lifeless her old life was.

On the other side of the mountains isn’t only an unexplored, colorful land, but another realm as well. A magical kingdom ruled by an emperor whose strict control on the various territories has left many impoverished and overturned. The Land of Suns and Vines – the territory Cerridwen and the group find themselves in – is looking to overthrow the emperor.

The various landscapes also are metaphors for her life. The emptiness of the empire represents her old life and who she was, while the mountains and beyond represent who she can become.

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Eight Months

1.       Story statement

a.       Eight Months covers one of the most interesting stretches in the life of Mitchell Watkins, his sophomore year of college. Mitchell is often disparaged by his football teammates and fraternity brothers due to his autism and androgyny, and feels like an outcast in his own home. He wants to enter into a new committed relationship this school year with someone who cares deeply for him, and meets a freshman named Molly who dotes on him. She is very fixated on him physically and emotionally, and both grow a quick aversion to birth control.  

2.       Antagonist sketch

a.       Mitchell encountered a very large, crass, autistic classmate freshman year, whom he keeps at hands length because "He is utterly terrifying." He refers to this classmate as "Vampire" due to "Vampire's" long hair, lack of hygiene, and constant, stumbling drunkenness, as he does not know his real name or origin, yet feels sympathetic due to this imposing character's lack of friends and willingness to blame their shared autism for his loneliness. Mitchell would tell "Vampire" of his prior history in relationships, including repeatedly cheating on his high school girlfriend, which makes "Vampire" both jealous of Mitchell's social success and enraged at his infidelity. "Vampire" often manipulates Mitchell out of spite, especially once he learns that Mitchell cheated on a pregnant Molly, and has started a new relationship. Vampire seeks to ruin Mitchell's life completely, by way of gossip, manipulation, and threats. 

3.       Breakout title

These titles are remarkably tenuous

a.       Option 1 – Eight Months

b.       Option 2 – Did you Hear About that Kid?

c.       Option 3 – What a Waste

4.       DECIDING YOUR GENRE AND APPROACHING COMPARABLES

a.     

The Bride Test by Helen Hoang centers an autistic man named Khai Diep who feels he is incapable of reciprocating his lover's affection, much like Mitchell. Mitchell's actual level of care for his lovers is very questionable, as he prefers to provide women with what society tells him they generally want so they will pay him compliments and love him unconditionally. In other words, he is in love with the idea of being loved. Both Mitchell and Khai suffer from insecurities, and holding a very absolutist definition of an abstraction such as romance.   

b. Mitchell's profound androgyny and nonchalance towards social norms draws strongly on such works by DH Lawrence as "The Rainbow", as well as contemporaneous works such as Jeannette Winterson’s "Written On the Body", and LGBTQ+ works such as "None of the Above" by Gregorio, I. W. Others make their thoughts on Mitchell's feminine physical features and overtly sexual dress and mannerisms known. He must also beware of predatory advances made upon his person by by large, burly men such as "Vampire."  "Vampire's" innate sexual attraction to Mitchell and uncertain sexuality are a frequent conversational point. 

c.       Eight Months takes place at an insular university with a more traditional set of expectations in relationships. This relationship dynamic hearkens back to Victorian and Gothic Literature such as Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. Here, an innocent Gothic heroine such as Molly dates a flamboyant and extravagant character such as Mitchell, in spite of how he hides his autism and history of infidelity, much as Mr. Rochester hid his former fiancée in the attic.

5.       CORE WOUND AND THE PRIMARY CONFLICT 

a.       In August, Mitchell Watkins had a scholarship, wealth, teammates, and a new lover. Eight months later he has debt, no home, no friends, and two pregnant ex lovers. 

Core wound
Mitchell feels that he needs to form a new committed relationship to fill his need for approval and affection. He behaves like a recovering addict: living in self denial to overcome his history of infidelity, hard drug use, and escapism. 

6.       

Sketch the inner conditions for the protagonist’s inner conflict

a.       

The primary conflict in Eight Months is Mitchell struggling to keep his autism and history of cheating a secret from Molly. Mitchell's autism very much colors the way he views others and the world around him, such as struggling with self-awareness, or how he views the world in very concrete terms, and lacks empathy. But he wants to emphasize that he is not socially awkward, nor does he have obsessive, unproductive or age inappropriate fixations, as he is quite apt to deny himself any sort of escapism, and looks down on others who take to these unproductive hobbies. He believes stereotypes color the way others view autism, and that by revealing his autism, he will come across as a stereotypical social leper, or "Sperg." For instance, Mitchell gets defensive when Molly brings up his understated, blunted emotional state, and inconsistent eye contact. 

Mitchell is only occasionally aware he does not care much for Molly, and is using her devotion to supplicate his ego. Mitchell only grasps social norms on a "Letter of the Law" sort of level, and understands that he should try not to harm her or make her feel uncomfortable, but many of these are just half measures with little emotional investment. He also believes himself to be sterile, and that he will not get Molly pregnant, no matter how many times she asks him to come over to her room, or on dates. Three months in once Molly reveals her pregnancy with their daughter, Mitchell feels some emotional attachment to his unborn child, but only on the level that his daughter to be is his family, and he feels obligated to be a breadwinner husband for his new family. This is still a stated improvement, and shows that Mitchell is capable of being emotionally attached to his partners, such as in his relationship in which his new partner, Malee, or May is not forthcoming about her intentions with him beyond physicality and will dodge Mitchell's concerns about her wellbeing. This gets worse when she reveals she too is pregnant with Mitchell's daughter, and she suffers from bouts of emotional pain, and crying, with no explanation given. This culminates with her dropping out of school and repatriating to her home country, with no reason given. 

b.     

The secondary conflict comes between Mitchell and "Vampire",  who makes no effort to hide who he is from others, and sees Mitchell as self hating and a hypocrite. He will coerce Mitchell into producing methamphetamine for his enterprise, and spread much worse rumors about Mitchell's person after Molly leaves him for his infidelity. Mitchell comes to realize how vindictive and and cruel "Vampire" is. But only after he remorselessly ruins the lives of many classmates and other local college students with disguised methamphetamine, as well as Mitchell's new relationship with May by intimidating her out of the school and country. Once he has bankrupted and socially isolated Mitchell, "Vampire" takes out his aggression by provoking Mitchell to fight, and beating him into a coma.

7.       Setting

a.       The timeframe is 2006-2007, making this a period piece for the mid to late 2000s. There will be a very limited number of pop culture reference from the time, mostly to point and laugh at how tacky this era was. The setting is Connecticut Polytechnic Institute, or CPI, an elite, fictional private engineering University located in the desolate small city of Waterbury Connecticut. Waterbury suffers from having one of the highest poverty rates and lowest average amounts of sunshine within the otherwise very wealthy United States eastern seaboard. Unlike its older sibling engineering schools of the northeast such as MIT or Worcester Polytechnic, CPI was established in the 1980s, and formed by reclaiming abandoned warehouses and factories of the troubled city. This paints shades of drab, postindustrial grey for a depressing story where not only do many of these characters find themselves in self-imposed poverty by the end, the villain also wins, consequence free.  

The only moments spent outside of Waterbury or CPI are when Mitchell returns to his hometown of Darlington, SC, a small, dying tobacco town of the deep south for December break. Here, his parents are divorcing and moving, his childhood friends who did not leave are spiraling into drunkenness and criminality, and Mitchell sees he has no reason to maintain any connection to his roots. 

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AFFLICTED by DG Lewis

Pitch Conference Assignment Work

 

First Assignment – Story Statement

A year after a virus known as the Affliction has decimated humanity, a group of ordinary survivors must brave a dangerous post-apocalyptic United States to follow the clues left behind by its creators in hopes of finding a vaccine for Leah, who is the only human ever known to display resistance to the Affliction, before she succumbs to it and takes what could be humanity’s last chance to develop a vaccine with her.

 

Second Assignment – The Antagonist / Antagonistic Force

In the novel, the role of Antagonist is fluid. The group of survivors is made up of clashing personalities, and they are in often conflict with each other, pushing each other’s arcs forward and progressing each other as characters. The character of Jay is a good example of this. He is as much a brother figure as he is disparaging, foul mouthed unwilling mentor to Ben, and as much a protector as a figure of distrust towards Leah.

The Afflicted are the constant Antagonistic Force. They are humans mutated and driven mad by the Affliction. As far as the characters know, the Afflicted only have two goals: spread the virus, and infect or kill every human they encounter. This makes them in constant conflict, with the Afflicted driving every aspect of the group’s adventure. In truth, the Afflicted are a far more complex force then they know, something that is hinted at throughout and brought to the forefront in the final act. Part of this force is a particularly dangerous type of Afflicted the group call a ‘Boomer’, who has been chasing the group since their first encounter in Philadelphia to their final conflict in Chicago, and who plays a large role in expanding their understanding of the Afflicted later on.

 

Third Assignment – Breakout Title

The title of this novel was one of the first ‘decided’ parts about it. Since the story revolves around one of the survivors getting the Affliction, to me it only made sense to call the novel an iconic title:

AFFLICTED’

Or

AFFLICTED PART ONE’

 

Assignment Four – Genre and Comparables

Part of the initial concept for the novel was that I felt as though I’d identified an area of the market that could be oversaturated with low quality, but very much underrepresented in high quality. The novel is broadly a science fiction, action adventure-thriller, with its sub-genre determined by its setting: a Post-Apocalyptic United States of America. I wanted to incorporate certain story elements that were more familiar to readers and fans of the post-apocalyptic genre, but otherwise tried my best to have unique or not widespread concepts (such as Leah, a POV, being ‘resistant’ to the Affliction, and her arc consisting of a firsthand look for the reader into how the virus changes a person). If I had to, from my knowledge, describe Afflicted compared to other media, I would call it “The Last of Us meets I Am Legend with a sprinkle of Dune.”

This isn’t a novel, but instead a video game franchise called The Last of Us by Neil Druckman and Naughty Dog is my favorite comparison to Afflicted. The franchise has won many awards and has sold over 50 million copies worldwide, and is being made into a TV series at HBO for 2022 starring Pedro Pascal. The ‘vibe’ of the world setting of The Last of Us has influenced how I see the Afflicted world; nature reclaiming the structures of humanity, a very open, sparse world where death can occur with one careless move, and one in which most of humanity is either dead, or ‘turned’, with very little left of our race. The fact that the antagonistic force in both titles isn’t ‘undead’, but mutated humans that can further mutate into more dangerous and powerful versions of themselves. The familiar trope of ‘the journey’ in this genre is also on display in both titles, but the comparable between these is that both journeys undertaken are forced by an external event impacting the characters so that they can’t ‘go home’ or ‘stay where they are’.

I am Legend by Richard Matheson is also be comparable in the ghostly nature of the setting. The character of Jay bears some similarities to Robert Neville, and a theme of ‘infected’ people being much more than they seem, enough to be intelligent and capable of a society, is one that will become prevalent as my series goes on. In my novel it is merely hinted at until the final act. The deserted feel of the world is also similar to my novel.

While certainly not a comparable for story, I’m including Dune by Frank Herbert for two reasons: structure similarities, and the hero’s journey. As Denis Villeneuve has done with the recent film adaptation, Dune can easily be structurally split into two halves that, while they make up a fantastic whole, are also two quite independent stories of their own right. My novel follows a similar structure, wherein the first two Acts could essentially be their own novel outright, and two large events occur at the end of Act 2 that fundamentally changes the direction of the story, and ‘forces the issue’, so to speak, making characters undergo a change in their arcs and driving the plot forward. The hero’s journey and development of Leah also bears resemblance to that of Paul Atreides in Dune. Both are forced to evolve by extreme circumstances, and both face the prospect of unknown powers and abilities not normally present in a human, and both grapple with the knowledge that in their future they face a terrible purpose that does not necessarily make them ‘the good guy’.

While there may be other comparables I am not aware of, these are what I think of when I review the novel, and where I draw the most influence from.

 

Assignment Five – Logline

 A year after a virus known as The Affliction has brought humanity to the edge of extinction, a young woman finds out she is resistant to the virus. Together with the remaining survivors of her group, they must find a way to work together to follow the trail of a long dead virologist and survive the trials of the post-apocalyptic United States in the hopes of finding a vaccine before she loses her mind and becomes one of the Afflicted monsters who haunt their every step, and takes the world’s last chance of salvation with her.

 

Assignment Six – Sketching Inner Conflict & Secondary Social Conflicts

The main protagonists and POV characters of the novel are Ben Colefield and Leah Hogan.

Ben is haunted by survivors’ guilt, which motivates his more morality focused actions and views. He struggles with the hypocrisy of doing whatever it takes to survive, and staying true to his idolized values of humanity, which he clings to out of fear that he isn’t worthy to be alive in the Afflicted world, and that he’s only alive and wasn’t trapped in Philadelphia with his family by pure luck.

A broad example of Ben’s survivor’s guilt and unwillingness to abandon his principles is displayed in Act 2. After the incident at the hospital, where they find the proof that Alex was telling the truth about who he is and what his quest it, he offers Jay and Ben the chance to join his journey. Jay accepts readily, but Ben is extremely conflicted and initially refuses to go. He believes the members of the group back at the farm will be helpless without Jay, and he sees leaving for a cause, albeit a ‘higher’ cause, as abandonment, and he believes that abandoning those who are weak just because it’s convenient is wrong.

Leah’s abandonment issues and early childhood death of a parent has led to her becoming an independent young woman who is also quite selfish in terms of her actions and how she reacts to most other people. She is constantly determined to be seen, and that leads to her determination to prove that she ‘knows best’. On top of that, she constantly evolving both physically and mentally due to the Affliction, and she is struggling between what she is expected to do – fight it, remain human, verses what she knows she must do – accept the best of both worlds knowing it will drive her to insanity.

An example of Leah’s selfish nature occurs in Act 1 of the novel when, despite orders to go home immediately after her Patrol is done, she disobeys and sneaks off the property to the nearby creek for a swim. As she is leaving the property, Hannah asks to go with her, but Leah refuses, not wanting an eleven-year-old to deal with, and doesn’t make sure she gets back to her Dad, instead only caring about her adventure and just leaving her. Thinking that she’ll hear or see any threats at the creek, she doesn’t take proper precautions, which leads directly to the confrontation with Afflicted that causes her to become infected with the virus.

 

b) Secondary

It is alluded that Leah is attracted to Jay in the story; however, it is very much not reciprocated. Jay views people as risk/reward, and even before Leah became Afflicted, he considered her too selfish to be reliable, only caring about herself and her need to be ‘right’ or ‘the independent lead’ in a given situation. This leads to an altercation where, separated from the group, Jay threatens to kill her, and tries to make her see that her selfish personality puts all of them at risk when she doesn’t consider anyone but herself. This is important for Leah’s development, when she begins changing and realizes how selfish she is. The tension between them remains constant throughout the novel, with both often exasperated with the other’s attitudes.

For Ben, at a certain point in the novel, the group find a safe place to stay for the night with a pastor and his family and grandchildren. He sees a family in a safe environment and proposes that Hannah stay with them. He projects his own, “Old World” beliefs into the situation; Hannah is a child, they can’t keep her safe, she should have a childhood, etc. The group reacts poorly to the suggestion, especially Hannah, who runs away in tears. Ben is forced to deal with his hypocritical beliefs, old world verses new world: the Afflicted world doesn’t care how old you are, Hannah herself has at this stage already saved all of their lives, does age equal immaturity anymore, etcetera. He is forced by the social conflict to examine his own attitude and prejudices. There are more instances where Ben tries to revolve a conflict or view a situation as he would ‘Pre-Affliction’, but ends up realizing those views are no longer compatible with their new world.

 

Assignment Seven – Setting

The setting for Afflicted is a post-apocalyptic United States of America. The story is a product of its setting. I do mention some specific locations, and take some liberties with the interiors of those locations, but I try and keep city layouts and exteriors as faithful as possible (I have also at least walked past, if not been inside, many of my locations in real life. Using the comparables in Assignment 4, it does help that there is a popular, more visual medium that the audience for the novel can fall back on to aid their imagining of the setting. My goals with setting is more about the feeling of it, how does it change character’s actions and emotions, what feelings can I evoke?

The Affliction was a viral wildfire that tore through the world and left billions of dead in its wake. The world is presented through the eyes and knowledge of the main characters. As far as they’re concerned, there is no governmental structure left, no militaries, no operational power grids; no society: just a small number of humans in hiding, living off the land and scavenging what they can find to survive. As the characters world expands and the story progresses, the world will naturally evolve and open up as they travel.

The story begins at close to a year after the months where humanity collapsed. The Afflicted world is a haunted world, where death is a constant, and monsters stalk from every shadow. With no human caretakers, nature has already begun to reclaim the land, but that process is only in its infancy, so most of the destruction is man made from the initial short lived ‘war’ with the Afflicted. Many places appear deserted from the outside, but buildings often hide Afflicted within. Physically, roads are generally packed with abandoned vehicles, overgrown vegetation, trash, and decayed bodies. Mentally, for the characters, the world feels like an abandoned ghost town to which they are uninvited strangers. Indoor environments are meant to feel tense and menacing, and for a ‘we’re a day late for the party’ feel to their condition. Altogether it is meant to project a world that is harsh, bleak, and unforgiving. The characters are a contrast to the world, in that they fight against the negative emotions the world projects upon them. They choose to believe in the hope that they will succeed.

 

SPECIFIC SETTINGS USED IN ACTS

In Act 1 and 2, the story flips between Ben and Jay, who are in Philadelphia on route to Jefferson Hospital, and the West Chester farmstead the group resides on, and where Leah remains. The city is alien and dangerous in contrast to the safety and normality of the farmstead.

Philadelphia is presented through Ben’s eyes. It is his hometown, and his first time back since the end of the world. It is hard for him to contrast the decaying city he sees to the vibrant home he knew before. They can just about navigate the streets in a vehicle, and there aren’t many roaming Afflicted. The Three main settings in Philly are:

Jefferson Hospital – while I’m sure I’ve taken liberties with the interior layout; the hospital is the perfect ‘starter building’ for Ben to earn his stripes. It is presented as chaotic and crowded with gurneys, medical equipment and remains scattered within, though has windows so has natural light and easy to see. It also has limited power, so flickering lights illuminate the dark spaces.

Chestnut Street – The main road between Jefferson and Penn hospitals, which Ben and Jay have to walk after Jay’s car is stolen. It is presented as a ‘valley in the shadow of death’, and allows Ben to get a closer look at the buildings and damage to the city street.

Penn Hospital – Penn is presented as, at first, a military stronghold, known as ‘The Noah’s Arc of the Apocalypse, that was massacred in the early days of the Afflicted. As night approaches, the atmosphere becomes darker, more foreboding, and more claustrophobic. As Ben and Jay help Alex explore, they find a secret underground lab hidden within the hospital. This hidden lab jumps all of the above to the extreme, adding in the limited power that only powers the deep red emergency lights, bathing the tight corridors in an ominous glow, foreshadowing the violence to come.

Even when outside in Philadelphia, the atmosphere is presented as close and claustrophobic. Every environment is designed to emit the tense and anxious feelings that come with that closeness, to produce the feeling like you are trapped with no way out, and the sense that it is only a matter of time before something goes awry.

The Farm, in an undisclosed area of West Chester, Pennsylvania, is presented as a rural farmstead that is isolated enough to generally not be noticed.  The house itself is a modest, aging home that can just about fit all 12 of the group inside of it. From the main barn that serves as a lookout post, one can see most of the main property. The group have tried to plant crops, but it is all done by hand without farm machinery. A forest surrounds the property on all sides. It is a recluse; a haven from the post-apocalyptic nightmare of the Afflicted world, a safe(ish) space for the characters.

Part 3, set on ‘The Open Road’, encompasses a few different locations. A common theme of the novel is this: the further west you go, the worse the condition of the environment gets. As they travel west out of Pennsylvania, many of the roads prove difficult to drive on, with nature beginning to reclaim the rural areas. Many of the more rural they go turn out to be deserted, even without much Afflicted presence lending to the eerie, haunted sense of the world.

Chicago is where Act 4 and Act 5, the climactic acts of the novel, take place. Chicago is presented as different from Philadelphia in that it is a ruined city that never had a real quarantine, but instead had many small factions of the armed forces and private citizens ‘holding’ different ‘zones’, and as a result the city is largely an impassable logistical nightmare clogged with wreckage. Specific locations in Chicago are Cornell Square Park, a small park in the South Side set up as a safe zone and CDC camp (long abandoned by the time the characters arrive), and the John Hancock building/360 Chicago, a well-known tourist destination in real life (I have been to it) which presents a unique ariel view of the city as well as having a cool restaurant on the 95th floor of the building. The setting here goes hand in hand with the notion that the characters, upon arriving, get to broaden their ‘view’ of the conflict they face, and Leah becomes further enthralled with the Affliction and is able to more broadly sense her new found abilities.

AFFLICTED Assignment Anwers NYC Event Dec 2021.pdf

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