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Algonkian Retreats and Workshops 2023 - Assignments


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Introduction to Pre-event Assignments 

New York Pitch The below seven assignments are vital to reaching an understanding of specific and critical core elements that go into the creation of a commercially viable genre novel or narrative non-fiction. Of course, there is more to it than this, as you will see, but here we have a good primer that assures we're literally all on the same page before the event begins.

You may return here as many times as you need to edit your topic post (login and click "edit"). Pay special attention to antagonists, setting, conflict and core wound hooks.

And btw, quiet novels do not sell. Keep that in mind. Be aggressive with your work.

Michael Neff

Algonkian Conference Director

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att.jpg After you've registered and logged in, create your reply to this topic (button top right). Please utilize only one reply for all of your responses so the forum topic will not become cluttered. Also, strongly suggest typing up your "reply" in a separate file then copying it over to your post before submitting. Not a good idea to lose what you've done!

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THE ACT OF STORY STATEMENT

Before you begin to consider or rewrite your story premise, you must develop a simple "story statement." In other words, what's the mission of your protagonist? The goal? What must be done?

What must this person create? Save? Restore? Accomplish? Defeat?... Defy the dictator of the city and her bury brother’s body (ANTIGONE)? Struggle for control over the asylum (ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST)? Do whatever it takes to recover lost love (THE GREAT GATSBY)? Save the farm and live to tell the story (COLD MOUNTAIN)? Find the wizard and a way home to Kansas (WIZARD OF OZ)? Note that all of these are books with strong antagonists who drive the plot line (see also "Core Wounds and Conflict Lines" below).

att.jpg FIRST ASSIGNMENT: write your story statement. 

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THE ANTAGONIST PLOTS THE POINT

Antagonist (Photo Javert from "Les Misérables")

What are the odds of you having your manuscript published if the overall story and narrative fail to meet publisher demands for sufficient suspense, character concern, and conflict? Answer: none. You might therefore ask, what major factor makes for a quiet and dull manuscript brimming with insipid characters and a story that cascades from chapter to chapter with tens of thousands of words, all of them combining irresistibly to produce an audible thudding sound in the mind like a mallet hitting a side of cold beef? Answer: the unwillingness or inability of the writer to create a suitable antagonist who stirs and spices the plot hash.

Let's make it clear what we're talking about.

By "antagonist" we specifically refer to an actual fictional character, an embodiment of certain traits and motivations who plays a significant role in catalyzing and energizing plot line(s), or at bare minimum, in assisting to evolve the protagonist's character arc (and by default the story itself) by igniting complication(s) the protagonist, and possibly other characters, must face and solve (or fail to solve).

CONTINUE READING ENTIRE ARTICLE AT NWOE THEN RETURN HERE.

att.jpg 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.

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CONJURING YOUR BREAKOUT TITLE

What is your breakout title? How important is a great title before you even become published? Very important! Quite often, agents and editors will get a feel for a work and even sense the marketing potential just from a title. A title has the ability to attract and condition the reader's attention. It can be magical or thud like a bag of wet chalk, so choose carefully. A poor title sends the clear message that what comes after will also be of poor quality.

Go to Amazon.Com and research a good share of titles in your genre, come up with options, write them down and let them simmer for at least 24 hours. Consider character or place names, settings, or a "label" that describes a major character, like THE ENGLISH PATIENT or THE ACCIDENTAL TOURIST. Consider also images, objects, or metaphors in the novel that might help create a title, or perhaps a quotation from another source (poetry, the Bible, etc.) that thematically represents your story. Or how about a title that summarizes the whole story: THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES, HARRY POTTER AND THE CHAMBER OF SECRETS, THE WORLD ACCORDING TO GARP, etc.

Keep in mind that the difference between a mediocre title and a great title is the difference between THE DEAD GIRL'S SKELETON and THE LOVELY BONES, between TIME TO LOVE THAT CHOLERA and LOVE IN THE TIME OF CHOLERA between STRANGERS FROM WITHIN (Golding's original title) and LORD OF THE FLIES, between BEING LIGHT AND UNBEARABLE and THE UNBEARABLE LIGHTNESS OF BEING.

att.jpg THIRD ASSIGNMENT: create a breakout title (list several options, not more than three, and revisit to edit as needed).

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DECIDING YOUR GENRE AND APPROACHING COMPARABLES

Did you know that a high percentage of new novel writers don't fully understand their genre, much less comprehend comparables? When informing professionals about the nuances of your novel, whether by query letter or oral pitch, you must know your genre first, and provide smart comparables second. In other words, you need to transcend just a simple statement of genre (literary, mystery, thriller, romance, science fiction, etc.) by identifying and relating your novel more specifically to each publisher's or agent's area of expertise, and you accomplish this by wisely comparing your novel to contemporary published novels they will most likely recognize and appreciate--and it usually doesn't take more than two good comps to make your point.

Agents and publishing house editors always want to know the comps. There is more than one reason for this. First, it helps them understand your readership, and thus how to position your work for the market. Secondly, it demonstrates up front that you are a professional who understands your contemporary market, not just the classics. Very important! And finally, it serves as a tool to enable them to pitch your novel to the decision-makers in the business.

Most likely you will need to research your comps. If you're not sure how to begin, go to Amazon.Com, type in the title of a novel you believe very similar to yours, choose it, then scroll down the page to see Amazon's list of "Readers Also Bought This" and begin your search that way. Keep in mind that before you begin, you should know enough about your own novel to make the comparison in the first place!

By the way, beware of using comparables by overly popular and classic authors. If you compare your work to classic authors like H.G. Wells and Gabriel Marquez in the same breath you will risk being declared insane. If you compare your work to huge contemporary authors like Nick Hornby or Jodi Picoult or Nora Ephron or Dan Brown or J.K. Rowling, and so forth, you will not be laughed at, but you will also not be taken seriously since thousands of others compare their work to the same writers. Best to use two rising stars in your genre. If you can't do this, use only one classic or popular author and combine with a rising star. Choose carefully!

att.jpg FOURTH ASSIGNMENT: - Read this NWOE article on comparables then return here.

- 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?

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CORE WOUND AND THE PRIMARY CONFLICT 

Conflict, tension, complication, drama--all basically related, and all going a long way to keeping the reader's eyes fixated on your story. These days, serving up a big manuscript of quiet is a sure path to damnation. You need tension on the page at all times, and the best way to accomplish this is to create conflict and complications in the plot and narrative. Consider "conflict" divided into three parts, all of which you MUST have present in the novel. First part, the primary dramatic conflict which drives through the work from beginning to end, from first major plot point to final reversal, and finally resolving with an important climax. Next, secondary conflicts or complications that take various social forms - anything from a vigorous love subplot to family issues to turmoil with fellow characters. Finally, those various inner conflicts and core wounds all important characters must endure and resolve as the story moves forward.

But now, back to the PRIMARY DRAMATIC CONFLICT. If you've taken care to consider your story description and your hook line, you should be able to identify your main conflict(s). Let's look at some basic information regarding the history of conflict in storytelling. Conflict was first described in ancient Greek literature as the agon, or central contest in tragedy. According to Aristotle, in order to hold the interest, the hero must have a single conflict. The agon, or act of conflict, involves the protagonist (the "first fighter" or "hero") and the antagonist corresponding to the villain (whatever form that takes). The outcome of the contest cannot be known in advance, and, according to later drama critics such as Plutarch, the hero's struggle should be ennobling. Is that always true these days? Not always, but let's move on.

Even in contemporary, non-dramatic literature, critics have observed that the agon is the central unit of the plot. The easier it is for the protagonist to triumph, the less value there is in the drama. In internal and external conflict alike, the antagonist must act upon the protagonist and must seem at first to overmatch him or her. The above defines classic drama that creates conflict with real stakes. You see it everywhere, to one degree or another, from classic contemporary westerns like THE SAVAGE BREED to a time-tested novel as literary as THE GREAT GATSBY. And of course, you need to have conflict or complications in nonfiction also, in some form, or you have a story that is too quiet.

For examples let's return to the story descriptions and create some HOOK LINES. Let's don't forget to consider the "core wound" of the protagonist. Please read this article at NWOE then return here.

  • The Hand of Fatima by Ildefonso Falcones
  • A young Moor torn between Islam and Christianity, scorned and tormented by both, struggles to bridge the two faiths by seeking common ground in the very nature of God.
  • Summer's Sisters by Judy Blume
  • After sharing a magical summer with a friend, a young woman must confront her friend's betrayal of her with the man she loved.
  • The Bartimaeus Trilogy by Jonathan Stroud
  • As an apprentice mage seeks revenge on an elder magician who humiliated him, he unleashes a powerful Djinn who joins the mage to confront a danger that threatens their entire world.

Note that it is fairly easy to ascertain the stakes in each case above: a young woman's love and friendship, the entire world, and harmony between opposed religions. If you cannot make the stakes clear, the odds are you don't have any. Also, is the core wound obvious or implied?

att.jpg 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.

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OTHER MATTERS OF CONFLICT: TWO MORE LEVELS

As noted above, consider "conflict" divided into three parts, all of which you should ideally have present. First, the primary conflict which drives through the core of the work from beginning to end and which zeniths with an important climax (falling action and denouement to follow). Next, secondary conflicts or complications which can take various social forms (anything from a vigorous love subplot to family issues to turmoil with fellow characters). Finally, those inner conflicts the major characters must endure and resolve. You must note the inner personal conflicts elsewhere in this profile, but make certain to note any important interpersonal conflicts within this particular category."

att.jpg 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.

att.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?

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THE INCREDIBLE IMPORTANCE OF SETTING

When considering your novel, whether taking place in a contemporary urban world or on a distant magical planet in Andromeda, you must first sketch the best overall setting and sub-settings for your story. Consider: the more unique and intriguing (or quirky) your setting, the more easily you're able to create energetic scenes, narrative, and overall story. A great setting maximizes opportunities for interesting characters, circumstances, and complications, and therefore makes your writing life so much easier. Imagination is truly your best friend when it comes to writing competitive fiction, and nothing provides a stronger foundation than a great setting. One of the best selling contemporary novels, THE HUNGER GAMES, is driven by the circumstances of the setting, and the characters are a product of that unique environment, the plot also.

But even if you're not writing SF/F, the choice of setting is just as important, perhaps even more so. If you must place your upmarket story in a sleepy little town in Maine winter, then choose a setting within that town that maximizes opportunities for verve and conflict, for example, a bed and breakfast stocked to the ceiling with odd characters who combine to create comical, suspenseful, dangerous or difficult complications or subplot reversals that the bewildered and sympathetic protagonist must endure and resolve while he or she is perhaps engaged in a bigger plot line: restarting an old love affair, reuniting with a family member, starting a new business, etc. And don't forget that non-gratuitous sex goes a long way, especially for American readers.

CONTINUE TO READ THIS ARTICLE THEN RETURN.

att.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.

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Below are several links to part of an article or whole articles that we feel are the most valuable for memoir writers.

We have reviewed these and agree 110%.

MEMOIR WRITING - CHOOSE A SPECIFIC EVENT (good general primer)

NYBOOKEDITORS.COM

Are you thinking of writing a memoir but you're stuck? We've got the remedy. Check out our beginner's guide on writing an epic and engaging memoir.

MEMOIR MUST INCLUDE TRANSCENDENCE

MARIONROACH.COM

MEMOIR REQUIRES TRANSCENDENCE. Something has to happen. Or shift. Someone has to change a little. Or grow. It’s the bare hack minimum of memoir.

WRITE IT LIKE A NOVEL

JERRYJENKINS.COM

When it comes to writing a memoir, there are 5 things you need to focus on. If you do, your powerful story will have the best chance of impacting others.

MEMOIR ANECDOTES - HOW TO MAKE THEM SHINE

JERRYJENKINS.COM

Knowing how to write an anecdote lets you utilize the power of story with your nonfiction and engage your reader from the first page.

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AC Admin

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1.       THE ACT OF STORY STATEMENT-- develop a simple "story statement." In other words, what's the mission of your protagonist? The goal? What must be done?

 

When triggered by threats of losing her granddaughter and being dumped into a senior living facility, unresolved trauma begins to surface for unpublished writer Shelby Garrett and she sinks farther into the fantasy world of her fictional characters who have always helped her keep the past at bay. When intruders arrive to rob her and threaten her life, she is convinced the armed aggressors are her very own fictional characters, ones she can control. Unaware of the true dangers, she challenges the intruders and demands a rewrite. But as her hand is forced, the early trauma awakens, and she spirals out of control. One by one her delusions collapse and force her into the fight of her life.

 

2.     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.

Drystan Hewitt is a sociopath, abused and abandoned as a child. Raised on the streets, he has fought to survive by stealing, selling drugs, and terrorizing the weak. If life doesn’t go his way, he has no problem abusing or killing. He arrives on scene with intentions to harm and retrieve his girlfriend, Trudy. Although amused by the protagonist’s confusion with reality, tormenting the writer first then killing her will be an enjoyable task.

The secondary antagonist is Shelby’s own inner conflict and denial of the past. She has pushed her early trauma, grief, fear, and guilt so deep inside herself that she no longer acknowledges the truth or the uncomfortable realities of the present, despite the evidence, and buries herself deeper into her fictional world with every new stressor that arises. She is unable to leave her property since her husband died, and she lives through her characters. Though she understands her character's need to grow and change, she is unable to face her own need and brokenness. When the intruders enter her home, her fantasy world begins to unravel. Unless she is able to face the truth, deal with the past and live in the present, she will further destroy herself and lose her family, her life, and her sanity.

3.     THIRD ASSIGNMENT: create a breakout title (list several options, not more than three, and revisit to edit as needed).

1st choice for title is FICTIONAL CHARACTERS because this is the world the protagonist lives in and she believes the fictional characters in her novel have invaded her home.

Other possible titles are:

Hiding in the Knotweed

Wall of Stories

Watchmen in the Windows

4.     Fourth Assignment (read article) then— 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?

The Woman in the Window—this psychological thriller is about a woman who cannot face the reality of the past and so she has altered it until a present trauma forces her to face and accept the past and complete the grieving process in a healthy way.

My protagonist has erased the past and lives through her characters by forcing them to face their fears, and to change and grow. But, sadly, she is unable to do the same until a present trauma forces her to fight or die.

Secret Window, Secret Garden by Stephen King—In this psychological metafiction thriller, a writer has a psychotic break, disassociating and splitting into two different personalities which allows him to deny truth and obtain revenge without responsibility.

My protagonist is an unpublished writer who cannot cope with the reality of the past, the early trauma of her brother’s death, and the death of her husband three years earlier. Instead, she buries herself in her fictional characters and lives through them, thereby avoiding the responsibility of living. At times, she cannot distinguish her characters from living breathing people and has no awareness of the real danger she is in when the home invaders arrive and threaten her.

5.     write your own hook line (logline) with conflict and core wound following the format above. 

When the separation from her granddaughter and the threat of being placed in a nursing home threaten to disrupt writer Shelby Garrett’s obsession with her fictional characters, her psyche begins to wobble, then when an intruder arrives to rob and threaten her life, she is forced to face the lies she’s constructed that help her forget a past she cannot face.

6.     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.

Unpublished writer, Shelby Garrett, has created the perfect world where she controls her characters’ emotions, trauma, past and present. By delving deeply into her stories and fictional characters, Shelby can continue to evade her own reality by detaching from her traumatic past. She will stop at nothing to keep the lies alive and the past buried. When confronted and threatened by intruders, Shelby denies the reality of what is happening and believes these killers are her fictional characters.

In a desperate attempt to retain her protagonists safety in the current novel she is writing, she performs a rewrite by murdering one of the intruders nonchalantly. But when she connects with the surviving intruder and is required to help bury the body and ditch the car, Shelby reacts with absolute fear at leaving the property, which is beyond her comfort level, a a further threat to expose the traumatic past. She refuses to acknowledge the dangers of leaving the car and dead body in plain sight and how this could put her at risk of being caught and prosecuted a murder, which she convinces herself has merely happened inside her novel.

At all costs, Shelby cannot allow herself to see any of the events as real or to remember the past because that could finish her, causing her to lose herself forever. That is, unless her enemy can help her safely uncover the past without destroying her in the process.

B. 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?

Due to grief and loss and an inability to face the past, Shelby is unable to leave her property and buries herself in the fictional world of her characters, disappearing from everyday life and interaction with family and friends. This alienation causes the protagonist to seem uncaring and aloof as well as detached from reality. Angered by Shelby’s refusal to attend off property functions and events and her inability to face the reality of her husband’s death, conflict arises. Because of Shelby’s delusions and emersion into her fictional world, not to mention the clutter and chaos of the home and property, Shelby’s daughter is left with no choice but to keep the granddaughter, Amy, from private visitations. Her hand is forced to begin the process of putting Shelby in a nursing home and getting her counseling.

As the home invasion escalates and Shelby is forced to face the truth, the past surfaces and Shelby spirals downward, losing control of her fantasy world and maladaptive ability to cope. She sinks into the past she has worked so hard to forget. Traumas converge and the lies she has told herself begin to crumble. Shelby will not emotionally survive the blows unless the surviving intruder helps her. Can two enemies help each other break free of the emotional chains of early trauma and erase a murder, thereby, bonding them together forever?

7.     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.

The setting of Fictional Characters takes place in an unnamed central Florida town in the country where the protagonist lives alone on an isolated property. The broken-down home is on the outskirts of town off a rarely used dirt road. The property is in disarray, inside and out, with the sheds and barns falling apart, the grass grown up around cluttered yard tools, and an overgrown and weed infested, neglected, and dying rose garden that the dead husband used to care for, as well as a dangerous old well that is similar to the well her brother died in. As Shelby’s psyche and social life have deteriorated, so has this property. When outside, Shelby believes there are watchmen at the property's corners, hiding. She sees shadows and images (the past is always begging to be exposed).

Unable to leave the property due to phobia’s and severe anxiety, she rarely ventures outside and when she does, she might walk the perimeter but never leaves the property. Everything outside is a trigger which she avoids, due to uncomfortable body sensations and a flood of sensory discomfort which trigger the rhyming and repetitive words she uses to cope and calm herself. Benson, one of her past characters, will shadow and present himself when she becomes triggered and he will talk her down.

On the isolated country property is an abandoned well that the protagonist refuses to go near. It is in the center of the back rose garden, which she refuses to tend to. When forced to help bury the body of one of the intruders’ in the abandoned well, Shelby’s early trauma fully surfaces. She is faced with ‘in your face’ memories of her brother who drowned in the grandparents’ old well when she was young as the daily train passed by the property. She blames herself because she was frozen with fear and could not get help fast enough. As the burial of the dead body in the well plunge her into the past, her psyche trembles and begins to deteriorate and the sound of that past and distant train returns to haunt her, the train whistle louder and louder in her head as she disintegrates. She recalls the train, the hideaway, the well, and her brother and husband’s death.

Forced to accept that they are dead and not still alive she falls completely apart. But not before the intruder forces her to help ditch the vehicle. As they drive, Shelby is faced with businesses she used to frequent years ago with her husband. These dark roads, stores, gas stations, and train tracks they must cross to ditch the car are all reminders of the past and the truth she has denied for so long.

The setting also includes a sickly fox (a representation of the brother) who watches her from across the road or from the hedges as they bury the body, and she believes the fox is there to bring her a message or to warn her in some way. She has seen this fox before and it is as he sits beside the knotted weedy edge of the woods that she begins to recall the knotweed fort of her childhood that always kept her safe. In the end, the fox was sickly and dies, as her brother did. But neither deaths were her fault and she will eventually accept this.

During the resolution, Trudy and Shelby pour concrete in the well to hide the body forever, swearing an oath to keep it secret. They clean and restore the rose gardens, creating beauty from the weeded mess, and clean up the property, inside and out.

Trudy leaves to live her life and Shelby is able to leave the property and resume a normal life, but Benson remains beside her, and an integral part of her life and psyche.

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1. Story Statement

When Michelle is arrested for kidnapping her children, she must prove her innocence in a small town judicial system known for corruption and backdoor dealings.

2. Antagonist Sketch

Driven by a cruel desire to dominate, Jeremy must punish Michelle for daring to defy him. Her freedom is an affront to his ego, forcing him to do whatever it takes to weaken her in order to maintain the status quo. Step-by-step, he begins laying the traps, gleefully disregarding the collateral damage he causes not only to strangers, but even to his own family.

3. Breakout Title

Water Bright As Day - (First Choice)

Voice Of Many Waters- (Second Choice)

4. Genre and Comparables

Haunted by constant poverty while residing in a lovely coastal city, my story has similarities to both Where the Crawdads Sing By Delia Owens as well as The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls.

5. Hook line

When Michelle finally musters up the gumption to flee an abusive marriage, she begins to build a new life for herself and her children. But what she doesn’t realize is that her accomplishments are being systematically dismantled at each and every turn. Her progress is thwarted and a trap is laid that will eventually land her in jail.

6. Inner Conflict Pt 1

What must she do to make herself holy enough for God to answer her prayers and give her justice in the court system? If she fails at holiness, will she ever be reunited with her children?

Inner Conflict Pt 2 (secondary conflict)

His stalking had invaded every part of her life. From her place of employment, to her doctor’s office, to the children’s school, her church leaders, her Sunday school class, her landlord, her friends, etc. People began to distance themselves from her. And after a while, she no longer knew who trusted her or who had become infected with his lies.

7. Setting

The sun gives us every drop of her light. It begins the moment she peeks over the marsh. As she heaves herself higher above the horizon, the grass is illuminated, yard by yard, changing from the pre-dawn brunette to a vibrant neon green. The waters turn to fire and flicker between the blades.

On a low tide, the marsh grasses temper the fiery waters. But when the tide is high, the tributaries and creeks burn like smoldering lava. On a high tide, the sun sees her glory. For the water is bright as day.

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Assignment 1.

A lifetime neglect of paternal responsibilities compels an ego-driven Glenn to make peace with his three daughters, who are unaware of their "half sisters" existence until they meet after his death.  Marta, his platonic partner of 20 years, agrees to carry-out the plan at his eastern Montana ranch. In exchange, she will inherit his place. In letters to each daughter, he assures that his death will provide them a life of financial freedom. In addition to the money, the middle daughter sees an opportunity to break away from her mother and their commune life; the youngest obliges in obedience to the convent that raised her and as a possible path to independence; the oldest wants the payback and seeks a final vengeance. Upon arrival, they learn that their inheritance must be earned by reading the individual journals he has created for each daughter. He structures his language to hit the deepest wounds and then soothes with the allurance of the endless skies and vast prairies. A few characters also help him execute the final closure. Coupled with these are small events that produce questions of what they really know about themselves, their relationships and him. Marta plays along with Glenn’s game, but the experiences the women share affects the execution of Glenn’s plan and alters their dreams and desires.

 


 

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Story Statement:

After a very public stint in a psychiatric hospital, teenage literary prodigy turned invisible housewife Julia Aldrich will do whatever it takes to show the world—and herself-- that she is smart, sane, and capable. If she can write and sell a hit novel under her married name it will prove that her early success was more than just some fluke. The problem is, she hasn’t been able to string two words together since her hospitalization almost fifteen years ago. But all of that is about to change. When her overbearing husband moves their family to the little town of Harlow, Massachusetts Julia is accepted into the prestigious Friends of Emily Peal writing club, where she is befriended by legendary author Clifton Penn Parker. Cliff promises Julia that he knows the secret formula to making her a famous author again—more famous, even, than she was before. Unfortunately, the more time she spends with Cliff, the more Julia suspects that his secret has something to do with the infamous 1963 disappearance of famed horror writer Emily Peal. As the pieces fall into place, Julia has to dig deep to ask herself what’s more important to her: seeing her name emblazoned on a book cover, or going down in history as the person who finally solved the mystery of Emily Peal’s disappearance, and brought her home—alive—after all these years. Whatever choice she makes will surely prove that her days of being remarkable are not behind her. But neither path forward is without risk, and things aren’t always as simple as they seem. Sometimes a victim is really a villain in disguise. And as everyone knows, it’s not often that a good deed goes unpunished.  

 

Antagonist:

Clifton Penn Parker, respected elderly author of multiple bestselling horror novels, has a secret dark side that only a few people know about. The first person to see it was the mistress he almost strangled to death in the 1950s. The last person to see it is our protagonist, Julia. As his critique partner, Julia is privy to the full scope of Cliff’s darkness when he shares with her, chapter by chapter, the story of what really happened to famous horror writer Emily Peal, whose disappearance in the 1960s after the murder of her “roommate” Joanna has haunted authorities and fans alike for decades. But there’s something about Cliff’s confession that shakes Julia even more than the possibility that this man might have Emily Peal alive, still his captive after all these years. Why is he revealing these secrets to her, now? What’s going to happen to her now that she knows? And what are the chances that none of it is true, and Cliff is just trying to teach Julia some strange lesson on life and writing, playing on her history of mental illness to push her up to—and maybe even over-- the very edge?

 

Breakout Title:

WHAT HAPPENED TO EMILY PEAL (Cannot come up with even one single alternative that doesn’t sound cheesy as hell!!!)

 

Comp Titles:

WHAT HAPPENED TO EMILY PEAL is for fans of Colleen Hoover’s VERITY, Alexandra Andrews’ WHO IS MAUD DIXON, and BEHIND THE RED DOOR by Megan Collins

 

Hook Line:

A young housewife with a disturbing past must decide how far she’ll go and how much she’ll risk to propel herself back to the literary stardom she enjoyed prior to her unjust commitment to a ward for the criminally insane.

 

Conflicts:

Inner Conflict: Despite her vehement insistence that her hospitalization was a setup, Julia is deeply afraid that she might actually be crazy. Her efforts to prove that she is talented and remarkable are primarily a way of convincing herself that she is mentally competent. But the more entangled Julia becomes with Cliff and his methods and writings, the more she is forced to ask herself whether the things she is thinking and doing are appropriate, or if she is coming completely unhinged.

Secondary Conflict: Julia and her husband Nick are having marital issues throughout the novel. In the beginning, we get the impression that Nick has cheated on Julia. As the story progresses, the reader will start to wonder whether Nick’s affair was real, or whether it was something Julia imagined. The true scope of Julia’s mental illness is revealed in the third act when Julia confesses to Cliff that she stalked and would have murdered the woman she suspected of being involved with her husband, if Nick hadn’t intervened in time.

 

Settings:

Primary Setting: Harlow, Massachusetts

Harlow is a very small colonial town with a rural, tight-knit community feel to it, and dark, haunted undertones. It is the setting of a famous unsolved murder/disappearance, and the hometown of multiple well-known literary figures throughout the past century. Our protagonist grew up in Boston, and moving to Harlow is a culture shock for her. Her family is living in a large farmhouse that was built in the 1800s, and she is particularly unsettled by its distance from the neighbors and proximity to the dense forest and the wild beasts that lurk there.

 

Secondary Settings:

Boston, Massachusetts: At the beginning of the novel Julia is a city girl, more comfortable in the concrete jungle than she is in the suspiciously quiet town of Harlow. As the story progresses, it is clear how much trauma Julia has left behind in Boston. She grows accustomed to the simplicity of her new setting, and when she travels to Boston is overwhelmed by the lights, motion, and memories the city holds.

Cape Cod, Massachusetts: Cape Cod is two things in this story—a summer sanctuary, and the setting of a winter nightmare. Nick and Julia have a summer home in a bustling village on the water where they go to decompress. But in the third act, Julia is invited to Cliff’s second home on the Cape in the month of November. Cliff’s Cape house is imposing and isolated, located on a secluded spit of rock by a lighthouse. The bad weather, dangerously lonely locale and cavernous mansion make for a dark, sinister setting for the events of the third act to unfold.

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1. THE ACT OF STORY STATEMENT

Being groomed for rule her entire life gave descendant of English royalty Joan Beaufort the assumption she would wed a European Monarch. What she did not expect is that it would cause her to live in uncivilized Scotland. Yet upon meeting her betrothed King, she believes that she can not only love this man, but she also embraces her new role as Queen by putting the Scots on a cultured monarchal stage parallel to the rest of the international world. But imposed culture, lavishness, and dictatorial control fosters the highest level of resentment and revenge from the nobility, bringing about merciless actions from Joan that she knew not existed in herself. Her vindictive acts require she rectify her moral agreement with God, and secure distinctive betrothals for children before it’s too late.

 

2. THE ANTAGONIST PLOTS THE POINT

Margaret Holland; Duchess of Clarence

Joan has been groomed since birth by her pretentious and self-seeking mother, proven further to her when Margaret enforces an opportunity to raise their family’s status and England’s alliance against its foe France by wedding Joan to the imprisoned King of Scotland, a country she deplores. Once she is married and Queen of Scotland, she discovers that she makes the same choices for herself and her own children’s futures, and she needs her mother’s innate advice more than she ever imagined.

 

Murdac Stewart; Duke of Albany, Robert Graham; Nobleman, & Walter Stewart; Earl of Athol

Seeing Queen Joan and King James only as tyrants and interceptors to the Crown, hatred and resentment for the royal couple grows from their dictatorially enforced laws and extravagant spending. These Albany Stewarts, James’ family, and their kinsmen-supporters are either taken out by their Monarchs, or plot and recruit to take them out instead.

 

 

Prince Humphrey; Duke of Gloucester

Joan’s first cousin has always felt threatened by her Beaufort family’s connection to the throne. Son to the former English King, brother to the sitting one, he still resents them, as well as James of Scotland’s relationship with the two Kings.

 

3. CONJURING YOUR BREAKOUT TITLE

Queen Joan of Scotland

The First King James I’s Wife

Groomed to Rule

English Queen of Scots

 

4. DECIDING YOUR GENRE AND APPROACHING COMPARABLES

Historical Fiction (Historical Royal Fiction)

·       Anne O’Brien: The Queen’s Choice-This historical fiction novel depicts a lesser-known Queen of England who moved from France to wed a well-known King in the fifteen century. Although she was intelligent, capable, and highly regarded by her husband, her foreign bloodline dismissed her for rule in his absence. The author has clearly researched for accuracy and realism in the details of the story.

 

·       The Queen in my story is also based on a real person. She has been minimally recorded, and wanting a mostly accurate historical story, I have gathered facts through a variety of sources by researching information about the well-known people that would have assuredly been in her life. This book is also based in the early fifteen century, and similarly to Anne O’Brien’s novel, her husband loved and respected her highly, but most of the Scottish nobility did not see her capable due to her being female and of English blood.

 

·       Phillipa Gregory: Three Sisters, Three Queens-The story is about three real women who became queens in the sixteenth century. Of the two that are actual sisters of King Henry VIII, it is Margaret, who weds King James IV of Scotland. She moves there and finds that even with her English royal upbringing and her innate ability to rule even being much younger than her husband, she is rejected by the people of the land, as well as her own English family when she is in dire need of support.

 

·       With Queen Joan Beaufort also being of English royal preparedness for rule just like Queen Margaret Tudor, it is surprising to find minimal books about a Scottish Queen. Equally remarkable is that the Gregory novel requires the Scottish protagonist role to be shared with two other Queens: of England and of France. They both became Stewart Queens and share the direct descendant line of the future Mary Queen of Scots and her son King James I that united both Kingdoms. An important mutual element of Three Sisters, Three Queens and my novel is that they are both uniquely told in the present tense.

 

5. CORE WOUND AND THE PRIMARY CONFLICT 

An English descendant of royalty must wed a King of fifteenth century Scotland whose murder invokes merciless revenge and domineering decisions from her, leading to inner conflict with her faith and herself.

 

1.     Angered with her mother being self-serving and for arranging her marriage to be in Scotland.

2.     Accepts her fate and envisions changing Scotland to be the place she had wanted.

3.     She is living her perfect life, but at the cost of others.

4.     Resentment leads to the stripping away her of her perfect life when the Scot’s people kill her husband.

5.     Choices she makes from the anger spurred from them taking away her perfect life and husband cause isolation, and inner turmoil with her Faith.

6.     Reconciliation with God is necessary for her eternal beliefs.

7.     She fears her previous choices and being a foreign-born female are leading to her own death soon.

8.     In final resolve, she knows she must arrange her children’s futures, accepting that her mother had done the same thing.

 

6. I. OTHER MATTERS OF CONFLICT: inner conflict your protagonist will have.

Joan Beaufort had been groomed in England for a life of high rule through marriage. Overhearing her family plotting to wed her to the imprisoned King of Scotland was too much to bear. She had assumed she would rule in a place of culture and sophistication. Scotland possessed neither in the early fifteen century. But once she had accepted her fate, she was determined to make Scotland a realm of international respect. Her choices created resentment that led her to decisions she never thought she would be making.

 

 

6. II. OTHER MATTERS OF CONFLICT: "secondary conflict" involving the social environment.

Would the people of the Scotland accept her? She knew personally two other foreign-born Queens who struggled in their new roles, and they both were allowed lives in her beloved England, but forever resented for their non-English blood. Added to that, those of Scotland that had disallowed their own anointed King his return to justly rule. She found they more than despised both of them once on their thrones. While she endlessly worked to cultivate and control the land to liken greater European kingdoms, her personal gain from such lavish display of wealth from the existing Scots people led to the worst resentments.

 

7. THE INCREDIBLE IMPORTANCE OF SETTING

The setting begins in 1420 at London’s Windsor Castle as Joan Beaufort is hurrying to her private chambers after overhearing an upsetting conversation. Once in her chambers with her lady companions, she plans to travel to Leeds Castle for advice. This takes her travelling in a carriage scene that allows her to share her royal lineage through memories from ten – fifteen years earlier at Corfe Castle and Smithfield for an important jousting tournament. The smells and sights of these places prior, during, and after the ride allow an understanding of her emotions.

Her obligations then take her to Troyes France to witness King Henry’s wedding and meet the new Queen of England who becomes her close friend. This relationship permits living descriptions for the next years in London, and her acceptance and embrace of King James of Scotland because of Queen Katherine’s coronation at Westminster as well as her residency and James’ confinement at Windsor Castle. Joan too has chambers at Windsor with her royal family status, but she also stays her mother’s royal manor houses. All these castles and manors have elaborate gardens that Joan spends times in with both her ladies and with James, making for both intimate and playful scenes.

Her own wedding is at a Saint Mary Overie Church with her banquet and wedding night detailed at Westminster. From there, James is released from imprisonent, and they have travel stops on their journey north to Brancepeth and Raby Castles in Durham. Scenes consisting of meeting with many English and Scots nobles are conducted here before they travel over to Melrose Abbey and she first encounters Scotland and the story’s most villainous antagonists. From there they arrive through a glorious procession along the streets of Edinburgh and its Castle.

After their double coronation ceremony and first parliament meeting at the Blackfriars Priory in Perth, she returns to spend time at the castle setting up her Scottish retinue. At the same time, the existing Linlithgow Castle burns down, and they focus on rebuilding it into a Pleasure Palace to live, entertain, and raise their children. They also choose to build a Carthusian Priory with a mausoleum for their eventual deaths, and they choose to lavishly adorn all of these places on monies promised to England for his previous captivity and from taxing Scottish lords. With resentment already existing in Joan and James’ positions in Scotland, an assassination is successful and Joan must take her young son, now king, and flee to Stirling Castle and conduct parliament herself for justice. With now 7 children and widowed, she uses all of her knowledge of castle-life and monarchy-rule to betroth her children, trying to also save her own life that she knows is in danger.

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The Algonkian Writers Retreat (March 2023) – Seven Assignments

1.      First Assignment - Story Statement:

An ambitious 18th century colonel battles his peers’ arrogance as he trains his overlooked broodmare to become a successful racehorse in colonial Maryland.

 

2.      Second Assignment - Antagonists summary:

Colonel Benjamin Tasker, Jr.’s antagonists:

1.      William Byrd – Socially gracious but flawed, the wealthy, spoiled Virginia lawmaker has no respect for those who are beneath his social level. He uses his prize Thoroughbred racehorse Tryall to win local dispute races and maintain his prominence and ego, in addition to satisfying his gambling addiction. Aware of Col. Tasker’s horse Selima’s racing success, Byrd attempts to ruin Selima’s chances to participate in a critical horse race against Tryall.   

2.      The Ridgely brothers and their friends – They have hereditary privileges that allow them to own the finest farmlands and purchase the finest racehorses. They belittle Tasker’s social rank, his horse, and his attraction to a beautiful wealthy horsewoman.

3.       Governor Samuel Ogle – Because Tasker is the grandson of an indentured servant, Governor Ogle uses his brother-in-law as his estate manager, horse trainer, and other tasks of servitude. The governor later learns to appreciate Tasker for his ambitions and success with Selima.  

4.      Elizabeth Worthington – The beautiful, wealthy horsewoman quickly rejects Colonel Tasker’s early romantic interest because of his involvement in trade and lack of hereditary privileges. She is condescending to him at social occasions, but she later sees him in a different light.

 

3.      Third Assignment - Breakout Title:

Tasker’s Chance

Horse of the Colonies

A Faith Called Selima

 

4.      Fourth Assignment - Comparables:

Tasker’s Chance is like National Velvet meets My Name is Resolute, except with male protagonists.

Tasker’s Chance is like Seabiscuit meets Poldark.

Tasker’s Chance is like Marguerite Henry’s King of the Wind set in 18th century Maryland.

 

5.      Fifth Assignment - Hook/Logline (Primary Conflict)

A socially rejected but determined colonel of 18th century Maryland battles the arrogant malice of his peers, especially from a wealthy, powerful Virginia statesman, as trains his broodmare to become a successful racehorse.

Secondary conflict(s) – Core wounds sketches

Colonel Benjamin Tasker, Jr constantly experiences social rejection from the privileged gentry of 18th century Maryland because of his low birth status (he is the grandson of an indentured servant). Others in high social ranks make Tasker feel that he is good, but not good enough to be fully a part of – and benefit from – their circles of privilege and wealth. Tasker’s grasp of his broodmare Selima’s potential to become a successful racehorse is a means to 1) prove his self-worth to society, and 2) provide a chance to Selima to become successful. He is brilliant with horses but unlucky with women.

1.      The Colonel Tasker (protagonist) initially has conflicts with his brother-in-law Governor Samuel Ogle (antagonist). Ogle is a brusque English aristocrat who is not completely happy about being a governor of the American Maryland colony. He is married to Tasker’s sister and yet often sees the Tasker family as socially inferior due to Tasker’s grandfather being an indentured servant, and that Tasker is involved with the spice trade. The governor treats Tasker almost like a plantation manager. He is not pleased that Tasker’s seven-year-old broodmare Selima outperforms his new stallion, Othello, and his other racehorses.

2.      Colonel Tasker has bad luck with women; his fiancé died of smallpox and he has a problematic relationship with beautiful, aristocratic horsewoman Elizabeth Worthington (antagonist). She rebuffs his polite attempts to court her. Despite their mutual interest in horses, they scorn each other, until Tasker is compelled to rescue Elizabeth when her horse runs away with her. Only after a female rival displays romantic interest in Tasker and Elizabeth’s forced marriage to an older landowner does Elizabeth realize, too late, that she loves Tasker.

3.      William Byrd, (antagonist) a spoiled, wealthy landowner, presents problems for Tasker as well. Byrd is a charming successful politician, but he has a gambling problem and reputation as a cheat. Although Byrd meets him only a few times, he feels threatened by Tasker’s success with Selima. When a bridge collapse delays Selima’s and Tasker’s participation in an important horse race, Byrd attempts to prevent Selima from racing by bribing the racing monitors to remain silent to race officials when Tasker’s messenger informs Byrd of Tasker’s delay and his intention to race.

4.      Tasker also faces scorn from sons of several wealthy plantation owners (antagonists) who are set to inherit wealth. The Ridgelys and Dorseys treat him as someone beneath them socially because of his low birth. They ask him to train their mediocre racehorses to become successful on the race track and they make fun of Selima. They also become rather jealous when Selima develops into a successful racer. 

5.      Henry Talbot, (a second [sub?] protagonist) and Colonel Tasker’s jockey, has his own conflicts as he finds success with riding Selima. A temperamental stablemaster torments Henry as the slave works his way to becoming a jockey. Jealous of his rising stature, fellow slaves get him into trouble with his owner, Governor Samuel Ogle of Maryland, and rob him of his jockey earnings, Henry’s means of purchasing his own freedom. Henry resorts to running away after Ogle refuses to honor his freedom purchase despite the theft, risking Henry’s jockey career.

 

6.      Sixth Assignment - Inner conflicts

Inner conflicts of:

Colonel Benjamin Tasker, Jr. – An expert horseman, Tasker is frustrated by his peers’ social rejection and is not sure of what to do about it. He wants at least to be treated with more respect. He is aware that a way to earn respect and improve a reputation among the colonies’ privileged class is to have a fast horse that wins races. Tasker places himself wholeheartedly in this endeavor when he is able to own Selima, a broodmare of champion bloodlines that wins races. Tasker does indeed begin to earn respect from Governor Ogle and (to some extent) from Elizabeth Worthington, and the jealousy of a rival from William Byrd. However, Tasker begins to question this respect’s superficiality – do others respect Tasker for his good character as a person or simply that he is the owner of a successful racehorse? This is bold new thinking in 18th century colonial America.  

William Byrd – A loyalist to the English king, Byrd is charming, wealthy, young, privileged, a successful Virginia statesman and landowner yet he has severe gambling problems and is insecure with others’ success. He is unhappily married to a wealthy plantation owner’s daughter. He values the idea that a fast horse ensures a high reputation for its owner, and he treasures his undefeated racehorse, Tryall for mostly that reason. However, he feels threatened by the success and strength of those beneath his social status, such as Colonel Tasker and his successful racehorse Selima (how can a broodmare be faster than a young stallion?) and the imposing, hot-tempered farmer Ewan Lemont. Byrd organizes a grand horse race and puts himself at risk and stress by requiring an enormous wager that he himself would struggle to pay if his horse lost – and is insecure enough to try to ruin Selima’s participation in the race.

Henry Talbot – Henry desperately wants to move on from being a slave to becoming a jockey, but he is frustrated by the contempt of his fellow slaves who are jealous of his success and the strictness of his cantankerous owner, Governor Ogle. He is often lonely – torn between achieving a higher status in life or remaining friends with his peers. He feels wronged by the governor when he refuses to grant him his freedom after a slave steals Henry’s earnings and the means to purchase his freedom. Out of anger, he runs away to a boarding house for jockeys, and faces more rejection when the jockeys scorn him for illegally fleeing his owner. Henry finds peace and solace with riding Selima, with whom he formed a bond and at times seemed to be his only friend.

Elizabeth Worthington – Worthington, the spoiled shallow only daughter of a wealthy planter, wants to marry one of the dashing young handsome aristocratic but superficial men in the countryside, but is discouraged when her father insists that she marry an old, boring, established, wealthy plantation owner. She rejects mild flirtations from Colonel Tasker when she learns that he is of low birth, in trade, and is a horse trainer and beneath her social status. When Tasker rescues her from a runaway horse, Worthington is grateful for his actions and begins feel attracted to him, which confuses her. She is also conflicted by Tasker’s question, when he approached her - is she feeling favorably towards Tasker because his victories with Selima or for his good character? She fights these conflicting feelings (it’s often too much for her to think about!) until a female acquaintance shows an obvious romantic interest in Tasker, and Worthington’s feelings grow into jealousy. She realizes too late that she is in love with Tasker, and is forced to marry the old wealthy plantation owner.

 

7.      Seventh Assignment - Settings

Most of Tasker’s Chance takes place in colonial Maryland from early autumn 1751 to early winter 1752. The epilogue takes place in 1789, after the Revolutionary War and in the southern portion of what is now the State of Maryland.

The story takes place in the following scenes in rough chronological order.

Bel Air, Governor Ogle’s estate near the settlement of Collington, west of the Maryland capital of Annapolis: Most events take place on the vast Bel Air estate near Collington, MD. The Bel Air estate consists of an enormous elegant house, 2500 acres or tobacco and pasture, large fine stables, seven or eight slave cabins, and extensive barns and other outbuildings.  Outside of Bel Air, the population is very sparse, the roads are few and muddy, communication is slow.  The few estates and towns are separated by vast acres of farmland, pastureland or dense woods, where Indians are occasionally seen. 

Tasker Farm, Galesville, Maryland: Some activity takes place on the Tasker Farm, is a small 60 acre farm near Galesville, south of  Annapolis and close to the Chesapeake Bay shores. Bel Air is about a day’s ride away from the farm.

The elegant Wandlebury Stables near Newmarket, England: Large pasturelands extend from the prestigious Wandlebury Estate and Stables. The stables are large and luxurious accommodations for horses; royalty and the aristocracy frequently came here to purchase their animals.  

Westover, the enormous Virginia estate of William Byrd:  Westover is a larger estate than Bel Air and is located on the James River near Williamsburg, VA.  Byrd frequently hosts barbecues and horse races on this estate.

Annapolis, the small but prosperous capital city of Maryland: 1751 Annapolis is a sophisticated city of cobblestone streets, brick townhomes, and large, elegant houses.  Governor Ogle owns a house here, and the Taskers are frequent guests.  The colonial aristocracy usually congregates in this city, and the less-affluent locals tease them as “more British than the British.”

The Virginia wilderness near the Rappahannock River: Miles of forests, meadows and swamps exist here with poorly built roads and bridges.  The civilization in this region are the tiny settlements of Fredericksburg, XXX, and Gloucester.

Anderson’s Race Grounds near Gloucester, VA: Anderson Race Grounds is the new form of circular race track that was becoming increasing more popular with horse racing.  The sloping hills from the grounds provide the perfect viewing point to watch the races.

Mt. Airy Farm in Upper Marlboro, MD: The denouement of the story takes place here at Benedict Calvert’s farm in 1785, two years after the Revolutionary War ended.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Hi, I am Martie Liter Ogborn.

My father and author Bob Liter, a retired copyeditor with the Peoria Journal Star, passed away in 2008. I now have the rights to his manuscripts. As an independent publisher, I am releasing his work under my imprint, Bancroft Mysteries, LLC. His five Nick Bancroft Mysteries are Murder by the Book, August is Murder, Death Sting, Point of Murder, And the Band Played On; most are available as eBooks, paperbacks, and audiobooks.
The series is set in Centrel City, Illinois, a fictitious community similar to Peoria. Detective Nick Bancroft, the protagonist, has a love/hate relationship with bowling and Cubs baseball. Delving into my dad’s books, I have discovered the similarities between the author and his character. I think my dad developed the Bancroft character to express his alter ego. It’s given me a better understanding of him.
I am reissuing my dad’s mystery novels and writing a sequel, Murder Inherited, challenging myself to expand on the characters he created—including Bancroft’s love interest, Maggie Atley, modeled after my mother, Lillian. I hope my books will have as much meaning to my sons as Dad’s books have meant to me. This is an exciting way to leave a legacy and have some fun.
1. THE ACT OF STORY STATEMENT-- develop a simple "story statement." In other words, what's the mission of your protagonist? The goal? What must be done?

  The tension between competing trucking companies, Fox Transfer and Twinkler Trucking, in Centrel City is heating up. Malicious pranks, unexplained events, and dangerous situations are happening. Are these just run-of-the-mill incidents, or is there something more?
  Even though J.B. promised herself she would never return to Centrel City, she owes a favor; Miss Bancroft heads her rig north to help a friend. Natasha, Operation Manager for Twinkler Trucking, is facing problems at work. Her boyfriend, the new hire, Zach, has been AWOL for over 72 hours. In the trucking industry, “You may know where you are, and God may know where you are, but if your Dispatcher doesn’t know where you are, You and God better be on very good terms.”
   The afternoon J.B. arrives in town, she is grabbed from her rig and stuffed into her refrigerated trailer. Captain Andrew Brown is called to investigate and rescues J.B. He is surprised to discover while taking J.B.’s statement that she is the heir to Nick Bancroft’s detective agency.
   Because she can’t stand an unsolved puzzle, J.B. is in a situation that engulfs her curiosity. She cannot leave without finding Zach, finding who left her to freeze to death in her refrigerated trailer. And find out why a stranger left her AAA Investigations? Answering these questions might help her discover mysteries from her past, who she is, and where she is going.
2. 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.
3. THIRD ASSIGNMENT: create a breakout title (list several options, not more than three, and revisit to edit as needed).

1st choice for title: MURDER INHERITED

2nd choice for title: MURDER BETWEEN THE HIGHWAYS, which would work for the lead-in to sequels like MURDER BETWEEN THE TEAPOTS, MURDER BETWEEN THE ICE, MURDER BETWEEN THE CHAINS, and MURDER BETWEEN THE BEANS. https://www.pekintimes.com/story/news/2019/12/05/bancroft-mysteries-set-for-relaunch/2147039007/

4. Fourth Assignment (read article) then—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?
5. Write your own hook line (logline) with conflict and core wound following the format above. 
6. 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.
B. 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?
7. 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.

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FIRST ASSIGNMENT: write your story statement. 

In her memoir, Valerie Woods tells her story of the scarred childhood she and her six siblings endured and has kept hidden for most of her life. Their beautiful but disturbed mother, Patricia (Patty) will go to any lengths to garner attention and love from the theater world and its strangers hidden within, placing her children in various and difficult stages of homelife and mostly neglect. Hope arrives when Patricia brings home famous actor, Jeffrey Lynn whose long burning desire for a warm family life lure him into marriage to melodramatic Patricia. Jeffrey begins to play father to her seven children until Patricia sees beyond more than even he can provide. Her uncontrollable and recurring desires toss the children from a small coal mining town to the suburbs in Connecticut to Los Angeles in the late 60’s. Carrying the wounds of childhood emotional neglect, Valerie begins to fight her own demons until she finds a light at the end of the tunnel.

 

 

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.

 

            Patricia D is the second daughter of western PA couple, Charlie D and his wife, Leona.  As Patricia develops into a bright and beautiful young woman, she finds herself longing to be part of every school production her high school stages. A bright girl, Patricia has no problem excelling in all her classes, but it is the dramatic world she dreams of in her room and in the local movie theaters downtown.

            During her senior year, Patricia applies to a prestigious dramatic academy and is accepted. The dilemma for her life is that in between stage roles, her yearning for attention creates a vulnerability to Larry, an older boy just out of college. Their passions take control and Patricia finds herself pregnant. Her hopes of the acting school are dashed as she and Larry must marry and set up a home to welcome the new infant. Larry’s intense attraction to Patricia results in six more children. 

            Her repressed dreams and desires begin to break through as Larry finds himself home with the children at night, while Patricia begins her desperate pursuit of all she has been denied.

 

3. THIRD ASSIGNMENT: create a breakout title (list several options, not more than three, and revisit to edit as needed).

 

            Family, Stage Left

 

            And Along Came Mother

 

            

 

 

4. Fourth Assignment (read article) then—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?

            Lit, by Mary Karr – Mary Karr tells the story of her abusive family life and her own demons and addictions with honesty and grit. I only aspire to write as well, but I believe the depth of neglect and pain in her family life have a somewhat similar complexion to mine.

 

            The Year of Magical Thinking, by Joan Didion – I find Joan Didion’s writing soothing, as if I’m reading a kindred spirit. If I can write even a fraction as beautifully, well, that won’t happen but I hope that my work will have glimmers inspired by her. She writes about an difficult time in her life with the eyes and ears of a poet in the body of a journalist, allowing ideas to float out and then come back.

 

 

 

 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.

 

 

         A young girl struggles to make sense of a world rocked by prolonged upheaval and neglect by her beautiful but psychologically damaged actress mother.

 

             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. 

I’ve gone over it thousands of times. I was neglected and abandoned along with my six siblings, with no understanding of what childhood could and should be. Any sense of understanding as to why our mother did what she did is obliterated by the fact that the emotional imprint from absence of mothering is permanent. It is a scar and no matter how it fades, even when it is imperceptible and only the tiniest dot, barely seen by the human eye, it is there. And I will feel it forever.

            

 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 withdrew from the throng and sat on Grandpa’s chair in the corner, wishing I had brought my Christmas doll with me. The “creature” that was my mother and whom had bounced in and out of our lives was approaching. Her beauty never made me happy. In fact, it had the opposite effect. Other mothers weren’t like her. She had a posture that seemed formal and even her smile seemed posed. Like a stranger. Dad and his child bride had begun warning me about the hazards of being with my mother, as if something bad could happen. Their words rang in my ears as she stood before me.

 

 

 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.

 

            The gray soot from the Christmas day chimneys floated by us and mingled with falling crystals of snow as we marched the four blocks from Dad’s house to Grandma’s. I had never been outside our house on Christmas day. We were supposed to be in our pajamas for most of the day, playing with new toys and fighting over who was sentenced to clean up of all the torn and crinkled holiday paper which strewn about the living room floor. After Dad shoveled some coal into the furnace, he would have been starting the meatballs and sauce. A day long project which would be simmering for hours and which was liquid gold to us. Each of us would tear a piece of bread to dip into it and gobble down in secret, or so we thought. “Kids, not another piece or you all go to your rooms!” Dad would yell from the living room as we dispersed in different directions. But today, we were walking in the snow and it didn’t feel right. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Assignment 1 THE ACT OF STORY STATEMENT

The story is a romance, as the state of the world in the early twentieth century changes the lives of the two protagonists, bringing them together in strife and ultimately separating them in love.

The primary goal of Gretel, a well-born German woman, is to find love and her place in the world after World War 1, and its after-effects destroy much of what she has known and loved. Having lost her fiancé and family’s fortune, she immigrates to rural Minnesota for a new start.

William, a liveryman raised on a farm in Minnesota with a love and affinity for horses, suffers from shell shock and exposure to mustard gas from the same war. As he tries to reenter a changing world, he perceives a world full of injustice.

His goal is to learn to live with the damage he has suffered from the war and reconcile the changing world around him as his health deteriorates.

 

Assignment 2 THE ANTAGONIST PLOTS THE POINT

Overall, the antagonist is the tendency of human nature to prefer one’s own tribe and to consider those different as inferior. This tendency is exemplified through the excessive military nationalism of Germany but is not exclusive to them.

This flaw of human nature is personified through several characters that move the plot at different stages of the story. Several antisemitic, misogynist and nationalistic villagers appear post-war and show their true colors in the pivotal year of 1923 Weimar Germany, including, to a lesser extent, Gretel’s own father and brothers. Some of these characters evolve through strife, while others don’t and are hardened in their prejudice.

 

William’s antagonists begin with his brother Martin, a firebrand Lutheran pastor whose fundamental Christian beliefs contradict William’s more tempered belief system and doubt. Affected physically and mentally by the war, William wrestles with his memories of horror and guilt over decisions made concerning horses under his care.

Upon returning to life in Minnesota, William begins to perceive the racism and prevalent prejudice in American society against blacks, native Americans, Jews, and a rising anti-German sentiment. These forces are personified in Martin, various members of the rural community, and William’s business partner.

 

 

 

 

Assignment 3 CONJURING YOUR BREAKOUT TITLE

A Note in my Coat Pocket (my original choice)

The German Immigrant

Ordinary Sins

 

Assignment 4 DECIDING YOUR GENRE AND APPROACHING COMPARABLES

While I worry it’s presumptuous to name All the Light You Cannot See by Anthony Doerr as a comparable novel, I think it’s valid from several perspectives. The best seller traces the paths of two protagonists from different cultures as they are affected and eventually brought together by events of World War 2. They are countered by various antagonists, formed mainly in the hands of racism and greed in German culture. The irony of the final conflict brought on by bombing by Allied forces accentuates the cultural clashes. An interesting fact is that a criticism of the book is that its portrayal is too soft on the sins of Germany. I intend to show equally even-handedness.

The manuscript spends most of the pages following the two protags as their lives change from the effects of World War 1 and its aftermath. There is plenty of irony, as Gretel’s two loves of her life, both German,

 

My second comparable is The Bohemian Flats: A Novel by Mary Relindes Ellis.

It is a story about an emigrant family's journey from Germany to The Flats in St. Paul, Minnesota, and the conflicts of nationalities forced to live together. The tale is told from a hospital bed of a shell shock victim in a non-linear way, with highly vivid detail. The family eventually needs to balance anti-Germanic sentiment and guilt from the culture's sins.

 

Assignment 5 CORE WOUND AND THE PRIMARY CONFLICT 

A Note in my Coat Pocket by Victor Frailing

 

A young German woman widowed by World War One and a young German immigrant from Germany in the United States, shell shocked from fighting in that same war struggle to overcome nationalistic pride and doubt, individually and ultimately together, by love, faith, and through recognizing and rejecting the nationalism and intolerance that caused world conflict.

 

Assignment 6 OTHER MATTERS OF CONFLICT: TWO MORE LEVELS

Both of the protagonists will face several inner conflicts. The following are specific examples.

 

Gretel, having been raised in a reasonably wealthy family environment, will be faced with her own pride and intolerance, trying to survive as a homeless pauper to find love in the land of her previous enemy.

 

To understand the cause of his battle induced shell shock, William must reconcile his fundamentalist faith with the new technique of diagnostic hypnotism recommended by his doctor.  His brother the Lutheran minister gave a famous sermon calling the practice satanism.

 

A secondary conflict arises in William due to the pervading racism in Jim Crow United States in 1919. Having been raised on a rural Minnesota farm, he had little experience with black people besides a few newspaper articles. Riding the train back to Minnesota after the war, he encounters and befriends a former black soldier with whom he has much in common. A great deal of personal maturity needs to happen to replace his naivety with wisdom.

 

 

Assignment 7 THE INCREDIBLE IMPORTANCE OF SETTING

For the better part of the book, the protagonists are in separate worlds:

Gretel’s story begins in 1919 in their family’s Tudor-style home in Northern Germany, as Gretel’s brothers return from a day f looking or work singing. They are drunk. Once resplendent in Biedermeier furniture, the house is now somewhat threadbare and faded. Late afternoon light slants through the windows, illuminating flecks of meandering dust set alive as the patriarch strides in to demand an explanation. Gretel and her sister sit and mend castoff clothing piled neatly at their feet.

The next scene is in the village market square of Vlotho, Ostfreisland, Germany, a small village near the North Sea. A once proud and brightly colored town square, it is now populated with a spectrum of people of a decimated society.  Women are most obvious, selling scrounged goods, used furniture, and items from various home enterprises. Most of the men hang around the beer tents, drinking, singing, and arguing about politics, sometimes loudly. The conversation centers around the Armistice, Americans, Jews, the French, bankers, and whom to blame for the current state of affairs.

The day is typically beautiful, with sparkling skies and the smell of beer and sausages permeating. A fancifully dressed few, enriched by the black market, prowl for innocents for prostitution and other vices. 

The next scene is in a hospital across the Weser River that cares for the returned and defeated soldiers, many of whom are amputees. It is a former stone monastery with damp cold individual chambers and a large central room where doctors perform surgeries with beds around the periphery.

Gretel’s sister is a nurse here, and Gretel volunteers in an auxiliary society, rendering what aid she can to the women, wives, mothers, and children. Because of social mores, she is not allowed to talk to men—lots of echoes.

Following scenes: Relief center in town, passenger boat to United States, Lutheran Church in Minnesota.

 

 

William’s story has scenes in;

The gangplank of troopship disembarking from France, wandering streets of Brooklyn, train (Lakawana Express)  Chicago Central Train station, hospital at Camp Dodge, Iowa. Livery stable,

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Seven Assignments

1. Story Statement

 

A lifetime neglect of paternal responsibilities compels an ego-driven Glenn to make peace with his three daughters, who are unaware of their "half sisters" existence until they meet after his death.  Marta, his platonic partner of 20 years, agrees to carry-out the plan at his eastern Montana ranch. In exchange, she will inherit his place. In letters to each daughter, he assures that his death will provide them a life of financial freedom. In addition to the money, the middle daughter sees an opportunity to break away from her mother and their commune life; the youngest obliges in obedience to the convent that raised her and as a possible path to independence; the oldest wants the payback and seeks a final vengeance. Upon arrival, they learn that their inheritance must be earned by reading the individual journals he has created for each daughter. He structures his language to hit the deepest wounds and then soothes with the allurance of the endless skies and vast prairies. A few characters also help him execute the final closure. Coupled with these are small events that produce questions of what they really know about themselves, their relationships and him. Marta plays along with Glenn’s game, but the experiences the women share affects the execution of Glenn’s plan and alters their dreams and desires.

 2. Antagonist Character Sketch

 

Glenn is a drifter who was obsessed with possessing women by tapping into their sexual desire. It is how his daughters were conceived. ( Clarification: He is not a rapist.) As he ages, he settles down on his isolated prairie ranch where he meets Marta, and their platonic relationship guarantees his chores will be done, animals cared for, and his food prepared. For years she assists him in his quest to continue to seduce women, but now they pay him for the privilege.  He finds entertainment in operating as a mystic. For Marta, the truth is known but it benefits her to support him. His use of language and landscape to retrofit any hindering negative perceptions is consistently successful. He is a clever mechanic in that way.  When he realizes that he has developed an incurable illness, he uses his pending death to beckon his three illegitimate daughters to his ranch where he will retrofit their histories to fit a narrative that makes him almighty again. Their presence and cooperation includes a cash value and pays significant rewards to “honor” their accomplishments. Glenn thrives in pushing his daughters to anger, wonder and heartache; his death protects him from consequence. He pits them against each other: One is his nemesis, the other his triumph, and the last, his humility. He wants to die the most clever man. But he has underestimated the universe--and Marta.


 

3. Three Titles

  1. The Sorrows of My Sister

  2. Bluestem, Needle Grass, and Sorrow

  3. Beyond the Cache and the Coulee

 

4. Two Comparable Works in Literary Genre

Jack By Marilynne Robinson

Olive, Again by Elizabeth Strout

 

5. Hookline

A dying grassland farmer and his Metis companion bribe his three estranged and unrelated daughters to his isolated spread for their inheritance, but he requires tasks that challenge their perceptions of self as daughters, sisters and lovers.

 

6. Inner Conflict

Marta, a young Metis woman, meets the antagonist,Glenn, when he finds her severely beaten in an abandoned schoolhouse near his ranch. He leaves her at a hospital but she returns and trades her freedom for his safety and security. She uses her agrarian skills and cooking talents to assure her long term survival and a chance to inherit the ranch; they both agree to a platonic relationship. For years, she supports his sexual ventures with female scientists who come to his “Mystic Ranch”  to be enlightened. He loves discussing these experiences with Marta, who because of years of abuse by local women, feels no compassion for them and relishes in his conquest. He admits to her that the “Mystic Ranch” is purely a longitudinal study of women scientists and sexual vulnerability. This gives her a sense of security: he will never marry, and she will never be a victim in his games. But when the his dying bed he decides to bring his three unrelated daughters to the ranch–two of whom she didn't know existed–to see their father and collect their inheritance, she rethinks her safety and security. She is terrified of their arrival, but needs to maintain a civility to please Glen: she needs the women to sign off on the will in order for her to keep the ranch.

Other Conflict:

 

Marta employs the neighbor Joe, a popular bachelor cowhand who rents a small house on a neighboring ranch, to help her retrieve the daughters from the train station when her wagoneer refuses to start. ( She also wants support but can’t express it to him.) On the 60 minute drive, they have intimate conversations about her relationship with Glenn, the loss she feels and her future. She dreams of having a future with Joe, but it is a guarded conversation. Marta is in love, but won’t express it and would never want Glenn to know. Shealso dismisses the practicality of them ever getting together because he “drinks too much”. She wants to be his special girl. He is an easy flirt and captures the attention of Glenn’s youngest two daughters who entertain his whimsical nature like younger sisters. Glenn’s oldest is more feisty and hard: She smokes, drinks, swears. She is angry and demanding. She wants an immediate ride out of the bleakness of her father’s stead when she gets her money. Joe sees her as a character full of flaws and he comments immediately about her being a fighting fighter. Marta is consumed with jealousy. She is a fighter, but she is kind and gentle. She is adventurous, but needs the security of the ranch.  She wants Joe to love her, and so long as she is in her safe abode and on her soon-to-be 60 acres, he can see who she really is and will love her. She worries about what these three women will take from her.

 


 

 


 


 

 


 

 


 

 


 

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