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Introduction to Pre-event Assignments 

Algonkian Conferences 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 and be aggressive with your work.

Michael Neff

Algonkian Conference Director


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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. 



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).


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.



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).



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?



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.



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?



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.


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.


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%.



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



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.



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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Assignment 1:

A notorious thief must find and steal the heart of the princess’s late betrothed while navigating a debt to a fire-breathing dragon and the vicious politics of the black-market trade.

Assignment 2:


The dragon, Arnevir, is a red herring antagonist.  He burns the protagonist, Odel, for pilfering his hoard and seals him to a debt that will end in Odel giving up the heart of his deceased beloved or falling slave to the dragon’s command.  But the dragon is testing him, for he knows Odel is more than a thief, but the heir to the Old Kings before imperialism destroyed the throne.

The true antagonists are Baron Vein and the Empress.  The Baron is the cruel leader of the heart peddling guild who manipulates Odel into stealing the most valuable heart in the Empire and trading it for the heart of his love.  Baron Vein is a womanizer, a crime boss, and motivated by his lust for flesh and coin.  He is but a puppet to his chief benefactor, the Empress.  She hoards the hearts the Baron collects and enslaves an army of half elves for their magic, which is fueled by said hearts.  She herself is secretly half elf and is determined to reclaim the immortality generations of human oppression have taken from her race.  But she wants all that power for herself, the rest of the half elves be damned.

Assignment 3:

The Heart Peddler

Thief of Hearts

The Heart Thief

Assignment 4:

The City of Brass by S. A. Chakraborty is my first comparison title.  This fantasy is set around a talented thief who has magical abilities she does not understand.  The thief embarks on a lengthy quest with someone of her ancestry who teaches her about the power she wields.  The setting for the first half of my novel is quite similar to Chakraborty’s – a land of desert sand where religion and magic intertwine. 

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo is my second comparable.  It is a thieving fantasy centering around an impossible heist, morally grey protagonist, and multiple antagonistic forces at play.  The utilization of flashbacks for character development is key to the storytelling.  Also, those with magic are feared, hunted, and enslaved, treated as second-class citizens or worse.  At the very end, there is a twist; a big reveal which unveils the true antagonist with a cliffhanger ending.

Assignment 5:


A desperate thief has been slave to the black-market heart trade for his entire life and seizes one final job which could grant him freedom.

Assignment 6:

Odel has a few drops of elven blood running through his veins.  He is still considered a half elf and identifies as such with his pointed ears and dark hair.  But he denies this part of his identity, hiding his ears like other half elves and disbelieving in the magical abilities his kind is rumored to possess.  His circumstances are grim, having been plucked off the streets as a wayward orphan and forced into a life of crime, he is constantly chasing freedom in the form of “just one more job.”  He must learn that chasing freedom is equivalent to running from it.

Hypothetical Scenario: Inner Conflict

Odel has taken “one more job” for the Imperial Princess and embarks on a journey with her to find and steal the heart of her late betrothed.  The Princess reveals to him that the Imperial line is not purely human as mandated, but tainted with elven blood and the magical abilities which come with it.  She is fully accepting of her identity as a half elf and attempts to teach Odel how to wield magic conjured from the memories held within the hearts he peddles.  In the hope of buying himself the freedom he so desperately desires, Odel tries to conjure coins from the heart, but the spell goes terribly wrong as he never truly believed in magic, only the power of gold.  He burns himself with the coins which turn to molten metal in his hand and must conjure another spell to heal himself.  The emotional toll of conjuring a memory of his own hand from the heart of his deceased love is overwhelming.  He angrily promises to never use heart magic ever again, the anxiety of coming face to face with the power he had denied his entire life and the shame of causing his true love’s death far too much to bear.  It is easier to continue chasing a life of freedom and deny his ancestral powers.

Hypothetical Scenario: Secondary Conflict

Odel’s lifelong love was killed by Baron Vein, the leader of his black-market heart peddling syndicate, and he subconsciously takes responsibility for gambling her safety on a risky heist.  Now he carries her preserved heart and is preparing to deliver it to the dragon to pay off his debt.  But he was again enticed by a job offered by the Imperial Princess to steal back the golden heart of her late betrothed – the same heart he peddled to the Baron to get his true love’s heart back in the first place.  He keeps this secret from the Princess and takes the job anyway.  Now he must return his love’s heart to the dragon and re-steal the heart of the prince-to-be for the Princess.

But Odel is falling in love… and of course denying it.  When the Princess sits up with him at night after an arduous day of battling their enemies, Odel holds her hand.  But in his pocket, he’s squeezing the heart of his love in the other.  He is feeling guilty for loving the Princess not only because he is in mourning for his deceased partner, but because the Princess is enduring the same loss.

Assignment 7:

The Empire of Gladius is rich in history.  Naervin, the continent to the North, is the ancestral land of the humans, who formed the Old Kingdom.  A greedy king stretched the Old Kingdom to the Southern continent, Sorros, the ancestral land of the elves.  With this imperial expansion, the Gladian Empire was born, and the power of the Old Kings lost to an undiscovered twin of the final King and first Emperor.  Humans slaughtered elves for fear of their magical abilities, but stole their anatomical religion and the practice of embalming the heart after death.  The Empress (or Emperor) rules Naervin and Sorros from Isle Meridi between the two continents, and the Imperial Princess lives in the Palace of Marion, Goddess of Women, in the farthest reaches of the South.  The heart of the prince-to-be, who met an untimely demise before his marriage to the Princess, went missing on its guarded pilgrimage to the Tower of Trell, God of Men, in the farthest reaches of the North. 

The embalming of hearts makes them particularly valuable for collectors, jewelers, and criminals alike for the precious metals and gems which decorate them.  The Hepatic Portal is the black-market heart peddling guild which controls the trade of these precious organs.  Heart peddlers are skilled thieves who make it their occupation to hunt hearts, uncover details of their former masters in life, and trade them for ample amounts of coin. 

The Imperial Princess is abandoning her duties to employ and accompany Odel on a quest to recover the heart of her prince-to-be, the heart Odel had just peddled away.  At every turn, Odel and the Princess are at risk of discovery not only by Imperial forces who would return the Princess to the shelter of her palace and execute Odel, but also from hired brutes enforcing The Hepatic Portal’s specific “no double dipping” policy.  Odel could get in serious trouble if he is caught trying to peddle the same heart twice, not to mention that he is keeping this fact a secret from the very intelligent, but naïve, Princess.

Odel is a Northern man with Northern customs, Naervin having been inspired by Anglo Saxon and Norse lands.  But he is thrown into the mysterious sands of the South, where the Princess is most comfortable, but he is not, forcing him to adapt to a culture completely alien to him.  It is a land inspired by Arabian myth and civilizations lost to war and time. 

Throughout their journey North through both continents, Odel and the Princess must challenge their cultural norms.  All the while, an all-powerful dragon is breathing down Odel’s neck for fulfillment of a debt and the nomadic descendants of the Old Kings are rampaging lost adventurers for their supplies in the remote reaches of the Empire.

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FIRST ASSIGNMENT: write your story statement.

To be free of the vampires and Empire that controls her homeland.

SECOND ASSIGNMENT: sketch the antagonist.

Set in a world where he did not die in 1476, Tsar Vlad the Impaler is the story's antagonist. Out of spite for the man who attempted to kill him (Sultan Mehmet), Vlad grew his empire to control most of the Asian continent, specifically its Muslim populations to fracture the empire Sultan Mehmet once had. With vast regions under his control, Vlad maintains subjugation of the people by use of vampires who feed on non-Russian citizens.

Vlad, however, is not satisfied with the vampires and his thirst for power makes him use human bodies (from the colonized areas) to experiment and create a more lethal monster. Vlad's only fatal flaw is his pride: he believes he is immortal, which blinds him to underestimate the protagonist.


THIRD ASSIGNMENT: create a breakout title 

Blood Eater 
Daughter of the Blood Hills

FOURTH ASSIGNMENT: - Two smart comparables for your novel. Blood Eater Vampires of El Norte
Vampires of El Norte


FIFTH ASSIGNMENT: write your own hook line (logline) with conflict and core wound.

A young woman becomes a vampire slayer to kill the Russian tsar who has taken over South Asia to free herself and her people.


SIXTH ASSIGNMENT: sketch out the conditions for the inner conflict your protagonist will have.

Primary conflict: rid the land of vampires
Inner conflict: in her desperation to be free, she relies on rage, which threatens her to lose her humanity (becoming something who only kills) 

Secondary conflict: her cousin is loyal to the empire, and some of the townspeople aren’t supportive of her revolutionary movement 


FINAL ASSIGNMENT: sketch out your setting in detail.

The book takes place in pre-modern Bangladesh and India during the early 1800s. Vlad has wrested control of it from its predecessors, and calls the entire region (Indian Subcontinent) the Southern Orient of Vlad, or Soov. The Russian Empire extends across most of Asia but stops at Arabia and Turkey since the Ottoman Empire has blocked Vlad from expanding.

Most of the setting is in townships and villages, including markets and hideouts for resistance. The time period includes an industrial revolution but is not as technologically driven. While there are automobiles and the introduction of electricity, most of the setting's advancements are replaced by a science-black magic combination instead. For example, Vlad's creation of the vampires is a mix of human enhancement and jinn possession. His later creation, a werewolf, is similar in vein.

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Shadows of Siphons // Young Adult Fantasy // 99,000 words


Assignment 1: The Act of Story Statement

Keep family safe while discovering potential within. 


Assignment 2: The Antagonist Plots the Point

Within this novel, there are two antagonists, one being the main focus while the other lurks in the background. 

Griffin is a Vogullon, a dark, shadow-like human turned demon and subordinate to the Darkness Wielder (the “big bad”). The Darkness Wielder found him on the streets, nearly at death, and bestowed a fraction of his power on Griffin. After restoring his lifeforce, the dark energy allowed Griffin the ability to shift from his human body into one more demonic with black, bat-like wings, crimson eyes like blood, and skin covered with patchy green scales.

He is one of hundreds of Vogullon, but is who the Darkness Wielder tasks with stalking the protagonist from a young age to capture and bring her to him so he can claim a power she unknowingly wields. 

Over the eighteen years he comes close to capturing her but is unsuccessful. Griffin learns of the protagonist’s capabilities and breaks free of his shackles from the Darkness Wielder to claim that power for himself. 

He aims to bring the same pain, suffering, darkness, and humiliation to mankind that was bestowed upon him in his mortal life. He allows his greed to consume him and attacks the protagonist in broad daylight, something he was forbidden from doing while under the Darkness Wielder’s control.


Assignment 3: Conjuring Your Breakout Title

-Shadows of Siphons

-Destiny Written in Shadows

-Irreverent Shadows


Assignment 4: Deciding Your Genre and Approaching Comparables 

Young Adult Fantasy

My first comp title is Legendborn by Tracy Deonn. Set in our modern, present day world, the protagonist finds herself surrounded by ancient magic and shadow creatures that hunt her, as well as others. She learns she has a power she was unaware of before. She also must uncover the secrets of an underground society which does not accept her, eventually discovering she’s tragically one of the main parts of that society.
Similar themes include: self-discovery, facing one’s destiny head on, grief, uncovering and learning to control a hidden power. 

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo is my second comp title. The protagonist is discovered to have an uncovered and incredibly desirable power, one that the antagonist seeks to claim as his own. The antagonist wields shadows and plays a direct role in the protagonist’s journey to discovering her true potential. The story also includes volcra, shadow creatures that were once human, that feed off dark energy.
Similar themes include: light and dark as opposing forces, the allure of power, and self-control. 


Assignment 5: Core Wounds and the Primary Conflict

A young woman, after years of running, is filled with guilt after watching her friends become flooded with ancient magic and are now tasked with protecting the world from a shadow demon, all because of her.


Assignment 6: Other Matters of Conflict: Two More Levels 

Inner Conflict - Meira is driven by fear and anxiety, as her whole life has been spent running from humanoid shadows of the night that always appear to want something from her. Her grandmother packs her and her twin sister up any time Meira reports a sighting and takes them across the country to a new place. This happens frequently, and so often that Meira has lost her sense of belonging anywhere. After the shadows are revealed to be real and attempt to take her away, she finds her sister and friends are flooded with ancient elemental magic, and it’s entirely her fault. 

The others are taken to a magical facility to hone their magic. Meira is also dragged along, but she’s forbidden from seeing the others. And while they are being put on a pedestal by those around them for their magic, Meira is ridiculed and dismissed as a threat. Because of all this, and the numerous characters who express their strong disinterest in her being there, Meira struggles with a lack of belonging within this “world” despite being the sole reason that she and the others are there to begin with. 

Scene - In a scene where Meira sees her sister and friends for the first time in weeks, after being isolated from them, a side character who despises Meira rips her apart from them and tells her to “go where she belongs.” After some arguing and the other characters leave her, as she feels they always do, she replays the character’s words in her mind and states that she would go where she belonged if she knew where that was.


Secondary Conflict - Meira’s secondary conflict revolves around our sorcerer, Ryder. Ryder has known Meira and her sister since they were children, so upon his arrival, she anticipates their relationship to be the same as it has been; friendly, warm, genuine. Instead, she is met with a version of Ryder she’s unfamiliar with; one who is cold, standoffish, and can wield magic she had no idea existed before. She attempts to ask him questions about the things happening around her, but he is more concerned with the other four with magic. Upon arriving at their facility, Ryder casts Meira to the side and tells her he cannot help her. 

As the story progresses, Meira attempts to confront Ryder multiple times, growing frustrated and angry when she’s met with indifference. He even goes as far as to tell her he won’t speak to her as it’s for her own safety, which she doesn’t believe. After her own previously unknown powers awaken, she finds information on Ryder and thanks to her paranoia, believes him to be working with the villain. Ryder then informs her he’s going to take her away from where they are, separating her from those she cares about, which she believes is a way to keep her from stopping his plans to harm the Elementals.

Scene - While looking for someone, Meira stumbles into Ryder’s office and finds missing pages of a book highlighting that the Elementals, our four characters with magic, were the ones who created the villain long ago. These pages were previously missing from books she found, and upon finding them, she’s immediately suspicious and wants to know why he is hiding them.  She also finds notes within these pages with details about how the villain’s creation came to be, how it happened, and she starts to believe he’s hoping to recreate this process and that he’s secretly working with the villain. Ryder appears, and when she calls him on it, he responds by saying she doesn’t understand what she’s talking about, immediately followed by his announcement that he’s sending her away, permanently separating her from her sister and friends. Meira protests, but he gives her no choice, and then proceeds to tell her he has one reason for being in this world, and it’s to protect the Elementals from anyone, her included. 


Assignment 7: The Incredible Importance of Setting 

There are three main settings throughout the novel.

The story begins in downtown Denver, Colorado in modern day. We see Meira’s apartment; a tiny apartment with creaking floors and chipped paint, a kitchen so small only one person can properly fit at a time, and a dining room table and three chairs as the only real furniture. With the constant moving, they hardly have anything big to take with them, and anything accumulated within the time frame of being there is often left with the exception of the clothing they can fit into one or two bags each. Meira’s grandmother, the caretaker of her and her twin sister, has just enough money to help them survive, so technology is not a luxury they possess though it is present in the timeframe we’re in. It’s night time and incredibly dark, which makes Meira even more paranoid, as all the signs of seeing the mysterious shadows that haunt her are all around.

The second setting within our story is the setting found within a majority of the novel and comes following the catalyst events. Our sorcerer uses magic to transport our characters to Brooklyn, NY, and we find ourselves in a secret facility surrounded by followers of the Elementals. The magically warded facility is called the Center, and is one of our east coast locations for the Elemental’s Legion. The Center is a massive hexagonal training arena with halls leading down each side of the main arena. In its center we see multiple boxing rings and walls lined with weaponry the Legion uses in order to train and prepare to fight the Darkness. The ceiling is glass and allows the only access to the outside world, which later shows the dark clouds of the Darkness Wielder rolling inward as it closes in on the Center. 

All over the room Meira sees shields and banners with a golden six pointed star. Each member of the Legion, Meira included, wears gray and silver training suits with this symbol present, representing the elements. The Elementals wear similar suits but where there are silver accents on the Legion’s suits, the Elementals wear gold to match the symbol around the Center. 

Within the hallways around the hexagonal arena, each hall leads to something; sleeping quarters, the infirmary, the cafeteria. One hallway houses the Elementals and only captains or those of higher status are permitted to enter. This hall houses not only the living quarters for the four Elementals, it has an individualized training arena for each Elemental. The one we see most often is the water arena. This room is large and has pearl white walls and floors and water everywhere. The high ceilings are made of glass much like the main arena. Streams flow through the room and surround a central area for the water wielder to practice and train. 

Upon leaving the Center in the final leg of the novel, we return outside to the streets of Brooklyn, NY. The skies are dark and filled with black clouds that unnerve all below. Those clouds roll in and out of view as the fight with the antagonist persists, with them being more dominant as our protagonist is “losing,” and seeming to disappear as she is “winning.” All around we see destruction and debris from the Darkness, sirens from cars sound all around, and fire burns along multiple storefronts and buildings. Many structures are nearly flattened by the final battle. 

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Assignment 1, The Act of Story Statement:  

Catherine, captain of a secret supernatural order, must defy divine authority and partner with an unknowing human to save Santa Ana Island - and the world - from the effects of climate change.


OnHigh, the antagonist in DOTK, appears as a beautiful older woman with an unplaceable European accent on her English.  Her age sometimes skips back and forth. She is charming, laughs easily, but there’s no question that she will do what is correct.  In her mind, things are as they are and there’s nothing to do about it.  There are others like her, and a hierarchy of even more powerful beings above her.

She travels among all the worlds in all the multiverses, overseeing their progress toward justice and equilibrium.  She thinks of herself almost as an editor, and even though she doesn’t expect things to end well, when a world ends badly, her heart breaks.  However she discards it and never thinks of it again.  There are many other worlds to engage with and guide to a better place.  

She has soft spots for some of the losers.  When a Guardian pleads with her to save a particular world, she finds it as adorable as a misbehaving puppy, but it doesn’t change her focus and there’s no change in the outcome.

She’s lonely, and still remembers the time when she had the everyday concerns of a human being, and she still craves the comfort of an embrace, a shared meal, any kind of human connection.


Assignment 3, Titles:

Death of the Kraken

Death of the Kraken, A Love Story

Shape of an Island


Assignment 4, Comps:

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel, comparable because it involves people in an alternate future dealing with a world-changing catastrophe, trying to preserve what they can of the before-times.

Our Missing Hearts by Celeste Ng, comparable because its characters also live in a near future world of lost love and reduced circumstances, and they must fight to preserve their relationships and connections.


Assignment 5, Logline

In the year 2173 on an island protected from climate change, a 500 year old woman with supernatural powers defies divine authority to save the world for the child she never had.


Assignment 6, two examples of secondary conflict:

The first example of when Catherine feels inner conflict in a visceral way is when, having completed the removal of the ward the protects the island from sharks, a six year old boy is bitten.  He survives, but loses his right leg from the knee down.  Catherine is distraught.  She has done her duty, and it has resulted in grave injury to a child.

An example of secondary conflict also occurs around the fire, when she argues with one of the other Guardians, and he tells her to fuck herself before stalking away down the beach.


Assignment 7, Setting:

The island:

Shaped like a fat boomerang, Santa Ana lay just beyond the sight of the mainland, an arrow pointing east.  The northeastern shore rose to rocky bluffs where surfers lolled in the water, while to the southeast, wide flat beaches baked in the sun. On the western side of the island, the water was smooth and deep with a marina that was the center of town.  The fertile soil in the island's middle valley was fed. by underwater springs that filled a large freshwater lake.

Libertine, the house where the Guardians live:

The shadowed path onto Libertine’s drive was easy to find.  The two acres of lawn appeared before her as a shimmering green sea, with Libertine’s graceful shape rising in the near distance.  The smell of the thick even grass reminded her of watermelon, and underneath was the smell of warm clean earth.  

There were still lawns like this in formal public places, and in select conservatories and museums, but she had never seen one in the wild.  She bent down to run her hand over the smooth green, and it flattened and sprang back under her touch. “Oh,” she said. She didn’t know what she’d expected.  She remembered a book from the before time about guests at a party spilling out over a lawn, and the magic of that book fizzed out into the air and already this party felt like a place where something enchanting could happen.

She heard faint music from behind the house but didn’t see anyone so she slipped off her sandals and stepped onto the tickling grass.  Springiness, dampness.  She wondered if the greenness might rub onto her feet.  She turned around and tried to walk in the indentations of her footsteps so she wouldn’t mar the grass further.   

She slipped her shoes back on and floated up the drive toward the house, three stories of white stucco and a red tiled roof with wide front steps and arched doors, which were propped open.  To the right was a modern addition, also white stucco.  There was an arbor with climbing roses and set a little bit toward the back a stone cottage.  

The music led her through the open doors into a large foyer, and she walked through the house and out the French doors into the back garden.  There were tables of food set up along the patio, and steps down to another fresh lawn and a pool, bordered by a stone walkway and parapet. Beyond that was the sea. 









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The Act of Story Statement (Assignment 1)

An out of work seaman needs to survive a dangerous journey across Asia without financial assistance to complete a mission he has not chosen, and report about it.


The Antagonist Plots the Point (Assignment 2)

Levi Savage overcomes his and Luddington’s status as alternates on the mission by stealing attention and promoting his own importance at the expense the quieter Elam Luddington. Savage’s more wordy style nearly erases Luddington’s presence. But Luddington finds a comeback only to meet new antagonism in the strangers he is now dependent on.


Conjuring Your Breakout Title (Assignment 3)

Misrepresented: The Secret 1850s Asia Journal


The Secret 1850s Asia Journal

The Writing Seaman

The Unsigned Letter

The Accidental Letter


Deciding Your Genre and Approaching Comparables (Assignment 4)

Narrative Nonfiction History

American Zion by Benjamin Park meets The Anarchy by William Dalrymple


American Zion: A New History of Mormonism by Benjamin Park is a social exploration of the history of the Mormon faith and how it shaped the United States. Park critiques the faith while humanizing it in the context of evolving American socio-political forces.


The Anarchy: The Relentless Rise of the East India Company by William Dalrymple is a history of the political chaos of the British East India Company’s blunders in 19th century India. Dalrymple captures the humanity, sometimes comedy, but also the misjudgments of the British and South Asians as they struggle to maintain a role on the continent.


Core Wound and the Primary Conflict (Assignment 5)

A former seaman seeks to regain purpose after his chosen career comes to a halt by joining the Mormons, who in turn send him on a dangerous mission without money to Asia and forget him.


Other Matters of Conflict: Two More Levels (Assignment 6)

Inner Conflict

Elam Luddington is meant to preach as a Mormon missionary in Asia but he fights the stigma of being chosen as an alternate and lacks the religious zeal of his counterparts. He finds the social and political oddities of Asia more interesting than his purpose, which further relegates him in the others’ eyes. He must find something to report that matters and may redeem his role on the mission. He finds a mid-ranking British sergeant with just such a meaning and purpose for his writings, though no one else understands what the import is or why he’s chosen a different path.


Secondary Conflict

Luddington determines his work has been fruitless and wants to return home but the journey is still far and he has already begged his way through the last days in Siam. Merchants and other Christian missionaries see his rough sea voyages as an ill omen for his conversion to Mormonism and won’t support him. He is conflicted by his status and values as a missionary and the rougher crowd of opium dealers and sex workers willing to sustain him. His status among the British in Hong Kong is too low to access the assistance he needs to cross the ocean back to California. Until someone changes their mind.


The Incredible Importance of Setting (Assignment 7)


 In 1854 it is not a given yet that Britain’s empire would follow the sun around the globe. The British East India Company still generally sees itself as a company in bed with, but separate, from the crown back home in England. Asian leaders are now making the decisions as to how they will engage with the British. For some there’s still time to find a path that preserves their sovereignty and remain on the throne. Siam is in the throes of these critical choices. Where most histories divorce Asian countries from their neighbors, this one travels through multiple countries, and their dilemmas, all watching each others’ moves to model a response to the British. And now we know that due to an unsigned letter from Elam Luddington Siam’s king takes an unexpected turn.


Monsoon winds and ferocious storms at sea nearly drown Elam Luddington and alter his path. His lack of funds and the difficulty of the journey leads him to engage with society, which he might not have, from the ships’ crews to the British governors of Pinang, Singapore, and Hong Kong, to American diplomats about to sign the treaties that will become infamous. It’s this setting that allows him to write what no other first person historical journal has recorded about this tenuous time.


The dismissal of his Mormon identity and the lack of success on his mission, from both Mormons and non-Mormons alike, has kept his writings from taking any role in mapping out this history with otherwise few reliable sources. Yet it is also the influence of Mormon leaders who require him to write the detailed and one of a kind reports that, as a seaman in his prior life, he would not have. We see Asia in the 19th century like we never have before—some of which has only been imagined—but until now not with an authentic primary source. In as much color and drive as the stormy seas and a backdrop of several Asian countries deliver, Luddington’s journal surprisingly survives, and for the first time, comes alive in this narrative history.



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Assignment #1: “A fish and a bird may indeed fall in love, but where shall they live?” A girl and a boy from different classes must escape an oppressive society that aims to control and torment them so they can finally be truly themselves.

Assignment #2:  Oriana must face a few antagonists and one main force. The first antagonist is Odon, a half-blood tyrant who threatens her life and the lives of those she cares about. He at first appears as a God-like force to Oriana, until she learns of his true nature as an actual person. She constantly questions if he can read her thoughts and is watching over her. He becomes her own conscience.

Then she faces individual antagonists throughout her journey who force her to reflect on her “goodness.” Azura causes her to question herself as the protagonist of her own story because to the rebels she is an enemy. Her sister Lenora is an antagonist who gives her up to the authorities at the University. We see through her eyes how each individual in a corrupt society can become an antagonist through their limited perspective and depending on the agenda of those in power.

Assignment #3: 

  1. Oriana’s Eyes: Book One of the Great Oak Trilogy
  2. Oriana’s Rebirth
  3. The Half-Blood’s Destiny

Assignment #4: 1984 by George Orwell but make it a YA fantasy novel. This story is The Giver meets The Hunger Games, meets Romeo and Juliet. Perfect for readers who loved Delirium, Divergent, The Cure and The Selection.

Assignment #5: A girl questions the inescapable oppressive University and is drawn to the secrets that a forbidden young man can offer her about the outside world. As their Rebirth draws nearer a secret transformation could be their one opportunity to overthrow Odon and free her people from his tyrant grasp.

Assignment #6

Oriana is a pureblood Winglet who has grown up under Odon’s rule. Her existence was confined to the University where purity and obedience are commended. Her conflict begins when she meets Dorian, a forbidden half-blood boy who shows her a world outside the University’s walls. She struggles with her awakening love and the reality and truth of the world she lives in. The more she learns about the world beyond the University, the more she realizes that escaping is only a small piece of the puzzle.

When Oriana finally escapes and goes from being the highest revered race to the enemy, she must face the truth about her people and how they have been treating those “beneath” them. She also must face that everything she grew up learning was a lie and propaganda. 

Assignment #6 Part 2:  The secondary conflict that Oriana faces is that although she has escaped there are others still trapped inside the University and under Odon’s control. She must now join in the fight to overthrow Odon and free her friends. This is at great risk to her own life and freedom. Similar to Plato’s cave scenario, Oriana escapes and becomes enlightened. She then must return to the cave to try and save the others. 

Assignment #7: Oriana’s Eyes takes place on an imaginary planet that is being controlled by half-blood tyrants. Oriana's world is much smaller, she has no idea what the outside world is facing. Her perspective is limited to the inside of the University, ruled by Odon. A University is usually known to be a place of education, instead Odon's University is a place of mind control and oppression with the illusion that it is teaching valuable lessons. 

The University is stark white and futuristic in its cold, minimalistic design. The physical coldness of the stone and metal keeps its students on edge and uncomfortable. They are forced to be on high alert constantly to maintain obedience. 

Everything in the University reminds students of the importance of purity. They are divided by their race to maintain this purity. The modern design also defies the chaotic randomness of nature. It shows the need for control and order that Odon is trying to force on his subjects.

The University represents the desire for perceived perfection through sameness, repetition, and order. Rather than uniqueness and diversity.

The University has one place of escape, a garden, walled in by protective hedges. This is a stark contrast to the University and the natural world, which Oriana desperately yearns for. She fears making a mistake and stepping out of line, which is wearing her down.

When Oriana is captured and brought into the caves beneath the University, she is trapped in darkness physically, but ironically she wakes up to the illusion that the University provided. Whereas the brightness of the University should coincide with clarity, it was blinding. The caves represent a modality to enlightenment. She finds herself in the underbelly of the true darkness that Odon was trying to hide. 

Rather than being oppressed though, Oriana is reborn. When she escapes the caves it’s like she is awakening to the truth and seeing the light for the first time. She finds herself in the wilds of nature, which includes variation, disorder, and death. Undesirables are no longer hidden away. Life becomes raw, honest, and real.

Lastly, Oriana is introduced to the Great Oak. This is the location of the rebels' hideout. The Great Oak is a massive tree with an extensive network of platforms and homes set among its branches. The Great Oak represents both a family tree and the tree of life. Oriana finds a new life and is awakened to the deep knowledge of her ancestors at the Great Oak. It holds the connection between the people and their planet as well as the perfect place to remain hidden.

In some ways, the Great Oak is both a setting and main character in the book. She is the embodiment of Mother Nature and is personified through the love of her people. 

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Assignment 1:

I have two POV characters.
Hektur: An orphan must slay monsters to cure his terminal illness.
Akylien (‘Kyl’): An ennui-afflicted, soul-crafting prodigy leaves his utopic home to rescue a prince.


Assignment 2:

Hektur’s storyline:
Primary Antagonist - Septimus
In nearly every sense, Septimus acts as a foil to Hektur. At the novel’s start, Hektur is physically weak, underestimated by his peers, and lacks connections to societal power. He is also unconditionally supported by his older brother, best friend, and his best friend’s family. Conversely, at the novel’s start, Septimus is physically powerful, is well-regarded, and his mother is an influential figure within Vulcarian society. Unbeknownst to the reader at the novel’s start, unlike Hektur, Septimus is only validated for his achievements and has no one that gives him unconditional emotional support.

The inciting incident in the Hektur’s story is the Fabremile Trials, a dangerous test of inborn ability and mental fortitude. Hektur’s mental fortitude holds, but his body fails. Septimus suffers the opposite fate. 

Septimus sees Hektur’s partial victory as a personal insult, as it makes him look weak by comparison. Before Septimus flees town in shame, he attacks Hektur and nearly kills him. Septimus isn’t physically present for most of the rest of the novel, but the threat of his return and his influence still propels Hektur forward.

Secondary Antagonist - Beastmen
The beastmen are the ancestral foe to Vulcarians, and all of humanity. Vulcarian society is centered around warring with the beastmen hordes, and Hektur is roped into this conflict in the last third of the book. The reader figures out midway through the book that beastmen are Challaens (the Challaens are an alliance of sapient non-humans).

Akylien’s storyline:
Primary Antagonist - katarari
Akylien tek’Thetis’s story starts in the utopian Phethian grove. Like all hadiians, Kyl lives in abundance and practices the shape-shifting magic of soul-craft. While Kyl is well-respected by his community, and talented in soul-craft, he feels stifled by the comfortable confines of his world. His best friend, Petra, is a psywren, a race of beautiful, telepathic humanoids. The psywrens are also a generally well off, unlike the sators, bear the brunt of the ‘savage’ katarati’s aggression (the reader discovers halfway through the novel that the katarati are Vulcarians). 

Suddenly, seemingly without cause, a psywren encampment is brutally attacked by the katarati, and a psywren prince is kidnapped. The Challaen Alliance organize a rescue mission to save the prince. Kyl volunteers, both to support his best friend and as an excuse to have an adventure.

For much of the novel, the katarati are a brutal, faceless enemy that signify senseless violence. As the novel progresses, Kyl sees hints that the katarati may be more than mindless savages.

Secondary Antagonist - Ambasador Torvas
Torvas is the sator ambassador to the Challaen Alliance, a sator prince, and leads the mission to rescue the kidnapped psywren prince. Unbeknownst to Kyl, he is responsible for instigating the attack that led to the psywren prince’s capture and is using the situation to further his political goals and to fulfil the terms of a secret prophecy. 

As a hadiian, Kyl feels a strong sense of superiority toward the other Challaen races. This feeling is reinforced by soul-craft, as one of the abilities inherent in soul-craft is that hadiian’s can read a person’s emotional state with their soul-sense.

Using soul-craft, Kyl can see that Torvas is earnest in his convictions and unwavering in his loyalties. The flaw in Kyl’s reasoning is that he makes incorrect assumptions about those convictions and loyalties. Another major contributor to Kyl’s blind spot for Torvas is that he feels a sense of self-congratulatory progressivism in how generously he treats Torvas, a ‘mere’ sator,’ which blinds him to Torvas’s manipulations.

Assignment 3: 

Memories of a Soul Thief
The Ismari Incident
Beings That Lived

Assignment 4:

Brandon Sanderson is a master of crafting rich second worlds with hard-magic system that are both breath-taking and internally consistent. My novel is also set in a world with a deep history and hard-magic system, and holds many themes present within Sanderson’s work: magic as a developing ‘science,’ clashing cultures with limited understandings of a shared, complex history, ‘inhuman’ characters that challenge our assumptions about humanity and otherness.

James Islington creates worlds that feel grand in scale, with magic systems and histories that make readers hungry to turn the page. The Licanius Trilogy is a world-altering epic full of twists and turns that follow characters as they confront a seemingly unstoppable evil. The world’s development, and the central place that the characters end up playing in this world, is very similar to the scale that my novel goes for.

Assignment 5:

Terminally injured by a failed attempt to join the elite legion his parents died serving, a sickly orphan is forced to choose between pitiful subsistence or hunting monsters for a chance at becoming something greater.

Bored beyond belief in a stifling utopia, a soul-crafting prodigy ventures into the dangerous outside world on a mission to rescue a kidnapped prince.


Assignment 6:

Primary Conflict:
Hektur’s primary goal is to overcome his terminal illness. His older brother, Cass, wants him to address his illness in the safest manner possible. If Hektur followed his brother’s direction, he would be permanently stuck in poverty and sickness: relying on expensive temporary cures. The alternative is to slaghunt: extract the cure himself, and gain superhuman power, by hunting dangerous monsters.

Midway through the novel, Hektur has slaghunted his way to tentative heath and has the option to limit his slaghunting to safe levels. Hektur’s ambition is slightly less potent than his sense of familial duty, so he follows his brother’s wishes and choses to not pursue the great power that slaghunting could offer. This decision is short-lived. His boyhood tormenter’s cronies find Hektur and maim his best friend. This traumatic experience convinces Hektur that he needs to be strong enough to protect himself and those he loves, driving him back to slaghunting.

Secondary conflict:
An undercurrent within Hektur’s storyline is that the beastmen war is ongoing a close, but safe, distance away. Suddenly, when beastmen attack Hektur’s home, he must decide how to respond. His slaghunting mentor urges a self-centered mercenary’s perspective, while his Hektur’s brother represents a more dutiful, patriotic approach. Hektur was teetering on the edge of this decision, but was pushed over the edge when visiting the brutal carnage Kyl caused during an attack on a Vulcarian supply caravan.

Primary Conflict:
Kyl starts the novel feeling lost and bored by his insular circumstances. His decision to join the rescue mission is a stark departure from his comfortable life, and Kyl must learn to navigate the dangerous outside world. Unlike the Phetian Grove, the stake are real and permanent, and the consequences of his carefree, reckless attitude are far more dire. After Kyl makes the rash choice to use soulcraft in an experimental procedure to increase his regenerative abilities, Kyl is forced to question his overconfident nature. A conversation with Prince Torvas gives Kyl the validation he need to reject any serious self-reflection of change.

Secondary Conflict:
Kyl is superficially tolerant of the other member-races of the Challaen Alliance, and is blind to the ways he looks down on others. Slowly, as he is shown proof of the capabilities and worth of others, and through his close friendship with a member of one of these races, he is forced to challenge his beliefs.

Assignment 7:

Memories of a Soul Thief is set in a war-torn world shaped by Chaos—the primordial force seeded within all life that pushes for growth and change. The human (Vulcarian) and non-human (Challaen) societies have different understandings of Chaos, which informs their cultures and Chaos-based magic systems.

The Vulcarian Imperium is the last free human civilization, named after Vulcaries, god of fire and metalworking. Vulcarians use two forms of magic: Kushkui, a half-lost language that directs the power of Chaos, and tempering, a process of ingesting raw and filtered Chaos that imbues superhuman strength, durability, and various magical abilities.

Hektur’s scenes are set within or around the outskirts of Castralimes, the largest and most strategically important frontier city near the ever-expanding warfront against the ‘beastmen’ hordes. Within Castralimes, most scenes are set around the Quench Tank, a tavern run by Hektur’s best friend’s family. Other settings like the palestra, a training ground for Vulcarian citizens, and a couple of different important neighborhoods, are also featured. 

Many of Hektur’s scenes are set outside of the city proper. Hektur’s slaghunting and Kushkui scrivening mentor has a cottage within the outskirts of Castralimes, which becomes a second home for Hektur. A good number of his scenes are set within or around the cottage. There are also a few different wild landscapes bordering Castralimes in which Hektur goes monster hunting.

The non-human races (Challaens) have a diverse range of magical abilities. Hadiians, the most influential Challaen race, are capable of soulcraft—the ability to modify the souls of living organisms. Their soulcrafting abilities have made hadiians a near-immortal species of shape-shifting craftsmen, artisans, academics, and statesmen, and their culture, bearing, and environment reflect such an ideal situation. 

The hadiian homeland, the Phethian grove, is a magical, utopian forest that has been soul-crafted over centuries to be the ideal environment for hadiians. Soul-crafted mushrooms (selenospores) fill the air with glowing spores that are nourishment for hadiians and poisonous for all other lifeforms. 

This environment is upheld through costly labor extracted from the less stable Challaen peoples, who are reliant on the hadiians for moonfruit, a crop integral to the survival of these ‘lesser’ races. While Kyl understands this oppressive system, and is generally more critical of it than most of his people, his disapproval is a self-congratulatory, ‘progressive’ disapproval that is more cerebral than pragmatic.

When Kyl leaves the Phetian Grove, he spends some time on a greatship traveling across the Median Sea (modeled after the Mediterranean) with other Challaen member races. Eventually, the greatship lands on the Sarvyian Peninsula, which is katarati (or Vulcarian) land.

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Assignment 1


Glamorous matriarch ViVi dies, leaving behind a scandalous video detailing the terms of her will and launching her four grandchildren into a global scavenger hunt that will force them to confront their demons.


Assignment 2

There are several antagonists in this story: 

Vivi, herself, is the main antagonist. After watching her grandchildren allow themselves to be held back by their own traumas and conflicts for years, she uses her death and the instructions in her will to manipulate them into a global scavenger hunt where she leverages people from her past to force each grandchild to confront their trauma or conflict - in sometimes brutal and painful ways. 

Rodney, Mallory’s husband, is a lesser antagonist. He wants to keep her bound to him and their superficially perfect life in the upper class of Manhattan, through emotional abuse and manipulating her depression and drug addiction. 

Another, lesser antagonist is M, the artist who lures Ellis’s girlfriend Helen into a compromising position and then arranges for Ellis to witness it, leading to their breakup. 

Luz’s abusive mother is an antagonist whose brutality has resulted in Luz’s inability to connect intimately with other people, leading to panic attacks when she tries. 

Yet other, almost faceless antagonists are the two men who trick Marcus into a dangerous situation where he is isolated and vulnerable to their brutal hate attack


Assignment Three:

You Shouldn’t Say That

The Pussy Statue 

In the Act of Becoming 


Assignment Four:

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara (shortlisted for the 2015 Man Booker Prize, finalist for the 2015 National Book Award for Fiction) - For its representation of trauma;  including gay hate crimes, depression and suicide, addiction, betrayal, abuse, and parent/child dynamics. Both books make you feel deep emotions through the intimate character development, showing flawed, damaged, yet inherently good protagonists — and the salvation that can come through love from unexpected places. The setting of New York City encompasses both the underlying poverty and excess wealth, and the desperation with which both classes struggle to survive. 

The Sun Sets in Singapore by Kehinde Fadipe ( selected for the TODAY show’s Read With Jenna List)- This novel by an up and coming author depicts the unique challenges and privileges of women living as ex pats - and the deep bonds of friendship that form between them. It also demonstrates wealth and class across a rich global background, and connects four very different protagonists with varying levels of inter and intra personal conflict. 


Assignment 5:

Their grandmother’s dying wish forces four grandchildren on a global scavenger hunt where, in order to win, they must painfully face the trauma, conflict or betrayal that is holding each of them back. 

Assignment 6:


Marcus is facing the damage that was done to him in a brutal hate crime attack, and the way it’s affected his ability to give and receive love with his long suffering partner, Pablo. He also struggles to resolve the blame he feels towards Luz for leaving him alone the night of his attack. Can he finally forgive her? And can he be the lover Pablo deserves?


Ten years ago, Ellis watched his childhood sweetheart Helen betray him with another man, and he walked out of her life without giving her a chance to explain. When he sees her with a nine year old boy who could be his doppleganger, how will he react? He knows that he still loves her - but is love enough?


Luz was brutally abused by her mother, who was herself a victim of sexual abuse. She’s never been able to be intimate with anyone as a result, often suffering panic attacks when she gets too close. When she runs into a pre teen girl named Jazzmin in Central Park who suffering similar abuse at the hands of her father, Luz steps in to help. But she can’t be what this girl needs if she can’t heal herself. Can Luz work through her trauma to be there for Jazzmin - and learn to trust a handsome stranger?


Mallory was seduced by a rich and glamorous sexual predator named Rodney when she was sixteen. After she marries him, he takes over her life through emotional abuse, instigating and feeding her drug addiction. When Mallory discovers that, twenty years later, Rodney has impregnated another sixteen year old girl and denied her any support, she steps in to help the woman and her baby get back on their feet. The inheritance from ViVi would be a way for Mallory to go to a fabulous rehab and have enough money to leave Rodney. When it all falls apart, Mallory falls into despair and takes her own life. Will her death be enough of a wake up call for her remaining family members to resolve their differences? 


Assignment 7:


This novel starts in New York City, exploring the boardrooms, penthouse apartments and entertainments of the rich, as well as the gritty streets of the unhoused, the mentally ill, and the humble transitional homes of those in struggle. 


From there, our characters travel the world: from Basel to Barcelona to the Canary Islands, from Singapore to London to LA. There is a flashback to a natural disaster in Marrakech and luxurious vacations in places like St. John. The four grandchildren land together in the vibrant city of Istanbul, where the conflict between them explodes. 


A dramatic funeral in Long Island brings this emotional novel to a climax. When the remaining family members finally decide to take the exodus to Paris, it culminates in, if not complete resolution, a celebration of hope and possibility. 


The rich, international background of this story keeps the reader intrigued and supports the drama that is unfolding across the world. 



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 1.) The Act of Story Statement

 Stop her violent thoughts from manifesting in reality before they can do irreversible damage. 

2.)   Antagonist/Antagonistic Force

The primary antagonistic force in The Fog Descends is Leila Howard’s own thoughts. From the moment we meet Leila, the violent thoughts that are product of her OCD are the power that stands between her and peace. When her father dies, this force explodes in magnitude as her thoughts begin to actually affect the physical world, causing irreversible harm.

Jamie Franklin provides another antagonistic presence. Though Leila and Jamie wouldn’t necessarily be categorized as antagonists by themselves, they become each other’s antagonists upon meeting. Leila’s abilities short-circuit Jamie’s fact-driven mind and she becomes the obstacle that stands between him and his ability to cope with reality. Meanwhile, Leila desperately needs someone to believe her, show her kindness, and help her escape the torments of her mind. However, Jamie’s cold treatment of Leila leads him to become a major obstacle to her healing.

3.)   Breakout Title 

The Fog Descends 

4.)   Comparable Titles

In Excess of Dark visits Midnight Mass while paying fiery homage to Carrie.

5.)   Logline

When a young woman’s violent thoughts begin physically manifesting in reality, she confides in a man whose desperation for understanding and hunger for control will put countless lives at risk and leave her more dangerous than ever.

6.)   Conditions of Inner Conflict


Internal conflict is the dark heart of this story. Since this story is told from two POVs, there are two driving internal conflicts:   

Leila Howard Intrusive, violent thoughts have plagued Leila’s entire life, eating away at her psyche until, at a tragically young age, she stopped believing she was a good person. Upon being diagnosed with OCD, Leila learns to cope with her pain, motivated by the knowledge that she is not alone and that they “are just thoughts.”

When her father is killed, everything changes. The depth of Leila’s grief unleashes a power within her that causes her greatest fear to come true: her intrusive thoughts begin physically manifesting in reality. As Leila becomes a danger to everyone in her life, she is slowly torn apart by the undeniable fact that she isn’t experiencing the nightmare: she is the nightmare.    

Jamie FranklinJamie’s childhood has left him obsessed with control and understanding. He believes that people are nothing more than concoctions of chemicals and has spent his career as a psychiatrist fueled by the knowledge that there is always an explanation. However, when he encounters a patient who displays abilities he cannot comprehend, his worldview teeters on the edge and he desperately attempts to keep it from plummeting.

Hypothetical Scenario (Leila) – On the night of her father’s funeral, Leila’s thoughts physically alter reality for the first time. As her drunk mother stumbles away, Leila is overcome by grief, anger, and abandonment. Suddenly, a “fog descends” and reality is replaced by a terrible image. Pain and heat engulf her mind and even as she can feel her body stationary on the couch, she watches a horrific scene unfold that leaves her mother hospitalized.   

Hypothetical Scenario (Jamie) – While trying to acclimate to the small town of Citrine, Colorado, Jamie decides to attend service at Saint Peter’s Church of All Faith: the local church with an infamous history. During the service, the young pastor sermonizes that “knowledge could not expand without darkness to expand into.” The very reminder that there are things in the world beyond comprehension triggers Jamie, causing him to flee the church as he remembers the patient whom he could not save.


The secondary conflict is the relationship between Jamie and Leila. While they both share the same goal of putting a stop to Leila’s preternatural abilities, the inherent conflict between their motivations gives rise to dangerous resentment.

Leila is living proof of something beyond comprehension, which is Jamie’s greatest fear, while Jamie’s cold treatment of Leila as some terrible mistake only fuels her violence and anguish.

Hypothetical Scenario – Jamie is convinced that if he is able to see Leila’s brain activity, he will be able to understand her “episodes” and diagnosis her “illness.” He pulls strings and juggles lies in order to gain use of an fMRI machine at the hospital. When the scan shows brain activity that is utterly impossible, Jamie confronts the doctor and is left humiliated. After dragging Leila from the hospital, Jamie speeds down the mountain roads that claimed the life of Leila’s father, and Leila breaks down in tears, asking Jamie why he didn’t just stay away from her in the first place if he hated her this much. Jamie responds with a heart-wrenching blow: “staying away would not have changed your existence. And that is the problem here.”

7.)   The Incredible Importance of Setting

Citrine, Colorado is the epitome of a small town: insignificant to the world, yet so full, it is its own world. With a population of just under 3,000, Citrine rests on the shore of Lake Stephen, a magnificent body of water, cradled within the mountains.

Citrine’s Main Street spans only four blocks. Some of the storefronts and restaurants are reminiscent of other places and times: the town’s only club could have been designed by Gatsby himself; the bizarre surf shop looks like a misplaced piece of California; the cozy Irish Pub could be in the highlands; and the local coffee shop’s twinkling lights and fresh French pastries invoke dreams of Paris. Other buildings are pure Citrine: The small antique shop; Sam’s Hardware Store; The Old Theatre and it’s burnt out marquee; the strangely elegant and well-kept Town Hall; and the white Oak walls of Saint Peter’s Church of All Faith, the town’s infamous place of worship.        

While Citrine used to be a summer tourist destination for families living in Denver and Colorado Springs, it now has more past than future. The commercial hotels on the outskirts of town have been shut down and scheduled for demolition and an entire block of storefronts sits boarded-up and abandoned. Everything that remains – though still charming – has an underlying sense of decline.

But the part of Citrine that reeks strongest of decay are the very roads that lead in and out of town. Tormented by the harsh winters, the cement has been left fractured, split open, and covered with potholes the size of craters. During the harshest days of winter, the roads are often left untreated, becoming so treacherous that the town becomes inaccessible for 24-72 hours at a time. No one goes in. No one gets out.

Luckily, there is a bigger town called Fayetteville just 12-miles away (though the twisting, winding roads make it feel much further). Fayetteville is a familiar suburban sprawl. Many residents in Citrine work in Fayetteville and rely on it for everything from grocery shopping to getting their teeth cleaned. Citrine’s heartbeat is slowing, and Fayetteville is like it’s pacemaker: providing enough support to keep the small town running. Except, that is, during those periods in the dead of winter, when Citrine is truly on its own.     


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Many women struggle once we have children to define where the need to nurture ourselves ends and the responsibility to our children and by extension, our community begins. I was inspired to begin this project because I wanted to explore these relationships and how trauma and self-doubt can skew our sense of self and our view of reality.

SOUL WATER SOLE HEIR begins as a devastated woman discovers her missing child is being held in a parallel dimension ruled by a tyrant seeking the final stage of immortality. This ruler must absorb the Soul Water of a direct descendant of pure Nepheshite blood in order to achieve his goal and this woman is his last remaining option.

Risking her freedom and her life, the woman navigates dangers in an alternate dimension triggered by greed, indifference, indignation, and politics to save her child only to learn more is at risk. She must decide if it is her responsibility to join the fight to end civil war in her newly discovered native home world and prevent the destruction of the world she calls home.



Chancellor Barzel, ruler of the Nepheshites, seeks the final stage of immortality reserved for the elites. He must consume the Soul Water of a direct descendant and complete the ritual within the coming year or lose this zenith of existence forever, but no descendants live in his world.

After decades of searching, the Order of Absolution locates Barzel’s sole heir living in the Realm of Humans. This heir, Eliana Fortner, is Barzel’s granddaughter who was whisked away as an infant by Hokmani, one of Barzel’s most trusted courtesans. Hokmani took the infant from the arms of her dying mother. She couldn’t bear to have her last surviving child subjected to a life of serving as Barzel’s breeding courtesan or worse, being interned in the River of Souls. Then Hokmani with her own surviving child, Kavua, joined the Balamsian rebels fighting the bloody war to end the brutal quest for immortality.

The passage of an adult between the Nepheshite world and the Human Realm requires the individual to open and enter a Pyramid of Radiance portal willingly. So in a desperate attempt to facilitate Barzel’s ascension, the Order of Absolution kidnaps Eliana’s daughter and uses her as bait.



River of Immortal Souls

Soul Water and Sole Heir

Soul Harvester: River of Immortality



Missing Daughter by Rick Mofina (2019) for missing children & mystery meets The Library of the Dead (2022) for portal travel & lost souls

The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Real Magic by Emily Croy Barker (2013) for female protag, family & portal travel

Witchmark by C.I. Polk (2018) for fantasy, romance & world war

NOTE: The project might also appeal to fans of N.K. Jemisin (The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms), Samantha Shannon (The Priory of the Orange Tree), Tasha Suri (Empire of Sand), Robert Jordan (Wheet of Time), and Terry Brookes (Shannara Series)



The sole heir of an interdimensional tyrannical ruler must stop the consumption of her missing daughter’s soul and prevent the enslavement of humanity.



Inner Conflict: Eliana needs to feel loved in spite of being betrayed by her husband who is moving on with a pregnant fiancé even though the divorce isn’t final. She blames herself for asking Paul to pick Deidre up from school instead of leaving her job as originally planned. She blames herself for not being strong/good enough to hold onto Paul through the pain of losing Deidre. And she even wonders whether there was something wrong with her that caused her biological mother and father to throw her away. Maybe she doesn’t deserve to be loved.

Hypothetical Inner Conflict Scenario: Deidre is safe in the Balamsian camp but has been brainwashed to believe that Eliana abandoned her in the woods, leaving her to die. Eliana and Deidre argue causing Eliana to question whether all this happened because she failed as a mother. Eliana’s response is to run away and sulk providing the perfect opportunity for Deidre to sneak out of their confined quarters in an attempt to run back to Barzel. When Deidre is recaptured by the Balamsian patrol and taken to Hokmani, a wise mother who suffered great loss, Eliana listens to Hokmani explain the error of Deidre conclusions. In the process, Eliana begins to evaluate how she feels about her worthiness to be a mother.

Secondary Conflict: Eliana wants to be in control, often at the expense of reading other people’s feelings. This is a protection mechanism to stay her fear has served her well in her goal of being totally self-reliant and doing so with the precision of a perfectionist.

Hypothetical Secondary Conflict Scenario: Eliana drops out of Pyramid of Radiance portal in the woods near home like a sack of potatoes landing with a thud. Half crawling and limping, she drags herself up the back stairs of the house with only enough strength to lay on the porch and bang on the locked door with frustration. Who the hell locked the door that she deliberately left open since she was only going for a short walk!?!?!? To her surprise, Cameron cautiously looks through the glass and rushes to help her into the house. He stayed at her house, searching the woods, and praying for her safe return even though the police and Paul hadn’t taken his concerns seriously. When he tries to console Eliana or offer aid, just like when they were kids, Eliana shoves him away and talks over him, ignoring his attempts to show her how much he cares. She’s oblivious to the pain in eyes or the bent shoulders from the rejection and she charges ahead to activate a plan to get back to Deidre. No woman is an island, but she doesn’t seem to understand that.



Human World: Eliana’s home base is located in the Pacific Northwest on a thickly wooded small island with approximately sixteen thousand inhabitants. There’s a small village near the ferry docks with a few much-appreciated restaurants, a well-stocked grocery store, and boutique shops. Eliana is the principal at the one public high school that is highly regarded throughout universities across the country. She lives within walking distance of the 240-acre Grand Forest which is a setting steeped in local mystical legends where some have been known not to return from.

Land of Nahar Am: The hidden land of Nahar Am is accessible through a portal open only to those tied to the mystical world of water. It was once a beautiful and peaceful land benevolently ruled by the magical Iyrin who were worshiped by the Balamsians. The Iyrin Temple was located in the middle of a jungle but visible from the sea to the west. It was an honor for any Balamsian to make the annual pilgrimage to the temple to present the fruits of their labors. Life was simple and the Iyrin prevented pestilence and disease, providing for the basic needs of the inhabitants. Technological advances were few and weapons other than swords and spears used to defend against wild animals was all that was needed.

Life as the Balamsians knew if was destroyed when the Nepheshites from a distant kingdom adjacent to Nahar Am invaded seeking the secrets held by the Iyrin for an eternity… the secret to immortality. The Nepheshite conquerors killed all but a handful of the Iyrin forcing them to uncover how to adapt their science for use by the Nepheshite elite.  The Nepheshites saw no reason to destroy the temple, so it fell into disrepair with only the shell to represent what has once been a great civilization.

Nepheshite Supreme Ruler Barzel was so enthralled with achieving immortality that his only interest in the Balamsians was interning the young in the River of Immortal Souls to achieve his ultimate goal. He ordered Balamsians slaves to extend the Iyrin complex over the River of Immortal Souls and called it the Citadel. In this place he set up his home and installed a garrison of elite soldiers to allow the Iyrin research to continue without interruption. And he harnessed the volcanic fires on the island to the south of the Citadel for power. A walled city for the Nepheshites was created to the west of the Citadel where all manner of temptation and vice was entertained without question.

The surviving Balamsians fled during the war forming four clans: Bal Clan of the North, Bal Clan of the Green, Bal Clan of the East, and Bal Clan of the Seas. But one rebel group made the decision to fight for freedom. Beyond the ruined remains of a Balamsian village far to the west, they uncovered a secret passage behind a waterfall. Descending more than 100 steps from the plateau, the passage opened into a forested area.  The Balamsian rebels built a raised encampment in the tree canopy to house their warrior Protectors and families. Life was hard living in the trees, but it afforded them critical protection and allowed them to conduct clandestine patrols and launch attacks against the Nepheshites. So had life continued in the land of Nahar Am for more than three hundred years, but change is the horizon when a young mother discovers that she was born in another dimension and her child has been kidnapped to lure her back.

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FIRST ASSIGNMENT: write your story statement.

A young woman sets out to find a missing girl to try to forgive herself for the cousin she couldn’t save a decade ago.

SECOND ASSIGNMENT: sketch the antagonist.

The antagonist of my story is a drug dealer named Lucifer. He is the one that Fiona witnesses kidnap the missing girl, but a twist comes in the final battle scene revealing who he is conspiring with. Lucifer is an antagonist to two different women that Fiona becomes, giving her two perspectives of him and his capabilities. He’s a tattoo-covered skinhead, small and scrappy, seeking power and control wherever he can get it.

The reader also learns about Lucifer’s back story through third-person POV threaded throughout the novel, which gives insight into who he was before he went “bad” ahead of when the protagonist figures it out. The third person POV gives more information about Kevin, the supporting character/love interest/missing girl’s brother, and informs the reader that Lucifer was Kevin’s best friend turned nemesis. Lucifer kidnaps Kevin’s sister (the missing girl, Hannah) in retaliation.


The Vicarious Life of Fiona Ferguson

The Lonely Life of Fiona Ferguson

The Mystical Mind of Fiona Ferguson


FOURTH ASSIGNMENT: - Two smart comparables for your novel. 

Genre: Magical Realism (could be marketed as Mystery or Book Club fiction)

Comps: Oona Out of Order by Margarita Montimore meets All the Missing Girls by Megan Miranda  


FIFTH ASSIGNMENT: write your own hook line (logline) with conflict and core wound.

When a socially awkward young woman gets the power to immerse herself in the past lives of clothing in a secondhand store, she accidentally witnesses a missing girl’s kidnapping and embarks on a journey to find her, and in the process, battles the inner demons that have haunted her since childhood.


SIXTH ASSIGNMENT: sketch out the conditions for the inner conflict your protagonist will have.

The primary conflict is to find Hannah, the missing girl, whom Fiona witnessed being kidnapped. Fiona feels more like an underdog than a heroine, but her cousin’s unsolved case drives her forward despite her inferiority complex.

Inner conflict: After being depressed for a decade, Fiona struggles with self-doubt and insecurity.  After ten years of seclusion, she feels left behind and like an outcast among her peers who have all grown up and built lives for themselves. Due to her lack of real-world experiences, she's older on the outside but still feels like a child within. 

When Fiona runs into an old friend and hears about the girl’s family and career, Fiona feels small, unaccomplished, and insecure. While others were building their lives, she was secluded from the world and missing out on life. She must grow beyond her victim mentality to become a victor, move forward, and get what she wants out of life.

Secondary Conflict: Fiona and her mother have a difficult relationship. Her mother's neurotic behavior and hypervigilance toward her daughter strain their ability to connect. This conflict is subtle, but their interactions are ungenuine and forced when they see one another. Fiona's mother never gives her the encouragement she needs to become the woman they both want her to be. As Fiona grows throughout the story,  her mother stays the same, but  Fiona's newfound understanding of her heals their wounded relationship.


FINAL ASSIGNMENT: sketch out your setting in detail.

The setting of my novel takes place in a small town in New Jersey. Freeman is a made-up place modeled after a little town along the Delaware River just over the border from Pennsylvania. Built upon Native American soil, the town is filled with ancient stories about early settlers who built their fortunes by establishing the area’s first railroad system, their ancestors continuing their legacy of wealth and power, generation after generation. The town is similar to many small American towns where everyone is connected somehow—through work, school, church, etc. My story is set in the present day, but in an effort to make it timeless,  I did not incorporate the use of too much modern technology.

Much of the story occurs at Second Chances, a thrift shop where Fiona works. Here, she finds the enchanted sculpture that turns her life upside down.

Fiona’s apartment is also part of the plot. It is a little garage that she moves into early in the story as her parents urge her to be independent.

Many other settings in my story are briefly visited as Fiona travels into the lives of others—an alleyway, a burger joint, Princeton, a lavish estate, a nightclub, and a gym, to name a few. The settings change to different places, periods, and seasons in New Jersey, with one exception briefly taking Fiona to the West Coast. When Fiona travels into the former life of donated merchandise, each new setting is vividly described as she experiences the moments she’s vicariously living, embracing them with all of her senses.

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Assignment 1: Act of Story Statement
To save humanity aboard the spaceship Igaia

Assignment 2: The Antagonist
Senator Aules sponsored Guadalupé to join the ruling Corporation’s religious Order. Her meteoric success is a point of both pride and envy for him.  

The Senator is the architect of a secret Corporation plan to enslave the farming community who joined Igaia to escape oppression on Earth.  When Sister Guadalupé learns she has been his unwitting accomplice, she must face the true nature of their relationship and the mission.

Aules reports to Patron Jones, the charming Elite funder of Igaia’s mission, virtually present on board via Walker Jones.  Neurological alterations and implants allow Walkers to link to their Patrons, so that the reclusive ultra-rich can experience what their Walkers do.  Guadalupé has ‘served’ Patron Jones regularly through Walker Jones, and has strong affection for both.

When Aules’ secret plot is revealed, we learn that the Patron has a contingency plan to destroy Igaia and all on board, thus enabling a new narrative on Earth in which the Patron is the hero who safely disposed of Earth's greatest enemies. Revealed now as the greater antagonist, the Patron sexualizes the countdown, demanding Guadalupé’s presence as he links to his heartbroken Walker, to extract the ‘Ultimate Gift’ climax at the moment of death.

Assignment 3: Breakout Title
Dea ex Machina
Hymn to our Stars
Semper Supra 

Assignment 4: Genre and Comparables
Genre: Sci-Fi

In a bold sound byte: Beyoncé’s Run the World (Girls) meets Brave New World, an eco-feminist 2001: A Space Odyssey

Light from Uncommon Stars by Ryka Aoki
Similar in bringing to life complex characters, centering women and LGBTQ+, driven by love and adventure and conspiring to help each other in impossible circumstances and a speculative context - whose joyous, page-turning story also invites us to forgive and better ourselves and our society.

Cloud Cuckooland by Anthony Doerr
Similar themes of future climate crisis and institutional/governmental use of technology to ‘get us through’ the trauma of a dystopian future, with a story of surprising hope driven by complex, highly intelligent characters willing to sacrifice for love, our planet, our future and as atonement.

Assignment 5: Hook Line (logline)
Spiritual leader to a colony bound for a distant planet, Sister Guadalupé must face the truth that her religion has been weaponized to impose the destructive social order that is dooming humanity.

Assignment 6: Inner Conflict and Secondary Conflict
Inner Conflict
Sister Guadalupé is a High Priestess of the Order, pop-star meets preacher meets sex worker in the new religion of ‘self love’. Kind and friendly, she struggles with the selfishness her role is intended to promote. She believes in the tenet of Free Love, and wrestles with the degradation she feels in some contexts of this ‘service’. Lupé has been admonished for her intellectual pursuits and reprimanded for pushing the boundaries of spiritual-societal concepts of the Order. Igaia’s mission gives the priestess the freedom to live into her potential and beliefs, more than she expects or may be ready for.

Scenario 1: We meet Senator Aules 
As Guadalupé revels in the spectacular journey through space and in meeting the ship’s crew on the bridge, Senator Aules arrives and interrupts.  He jovially insists on a hug, while Sister Guadalupé is ‘intensely aware of the crew's eyes on them, as she was of the Senator's hand sliding rapidly down her back to a less avuncular position. The priestess skillfully slipped back and held the older man's hands at arm's length, masking the defensive move with a coquettish smile.’ Lupe tries but ultimately fails to cover her embarrassment at his repeated broadcasting of sexual and social ownership of her.  They leave together, taking a circuitous public route, his ‘pet priestess on parade’, as usual.  In the end, she’s grateful for the extra time for her Service Pill to take effect, so that by the time they reach his chambers, she’s ready and willing to service him as expected.

Secondary Conflict
People all around Lupé underestimate and demean her because of her appeal and her role in the very religion they all subscribe to.  Whether it’s Aules treating her like his property, Lieutenant Kali assuming she has no understanding of science or technology and is a tool of the Corporation at best, or the Patron angrily reprimanding her for daring to think she has the ability to understand much less the status to question the plans of the Corporation. Yet Guadalupé, to a fault, responds by trying to connect, however she can.

Scenario 2: Kali uncovers a sinister connection
Lieutenant Kali is a top coder with the Military Protectors, on board with a tight group of friends and a Captain she’d follow anywhere.  Following the trail of barely detectable aberrant code, Kali and her friend Will uncover Aules’ plot and a connection in it to Guadalupé.  Immediately suspicious, Kali then stumbles upon Lupé leaving Will’s quarters. Spurred on by jealousy, the coder ignores facts and gaps in data to assume that Guadalupé is a collaborator in the plot with Aules.

Assignment 7: The Incredible Importance of Setting
Dea ex Machina opens with an unattributed letter to an unidentified friend.  In it, the writer proclaims, ‘The Mars colony failed.  Catastrophically.  This is the truth the world must believe.’  Our story begins some twenty years later, aboard the first interplanetary colonization expedition since.

On Earth, humans live in an Epoch of Distance, characterized by an extreme caste system, with the reclusive ultra-rich Elite at the top. In the words of Creator Duanna, ‘We looked away as laws were re-written to turn billionaires to trillionaires, and the rest of humanity to an indentured workforce. We cleaved that caste chasm with our own labor, feeding it with our colonized data and debt and selling our voices in government. Elected officials and judges became corporate hires.  Pop stars became sex idols, sex became religion, and religion married business. Together they embraced and excelled at disseminating opiates to the masses of the ever poorer global working class.  Daily life went on. And the earth was slowly consumed.’

Our story occurs on board the spaceship Igaia, transporting a complete colony and all necessary equipment to a distant planet, to begin the extraction of fuel resources desperately needed back on Earth. Among the passengers, the Agrarians aim to learn from terraforming the new planet so that they can return to Earth with new advancements in adaptive regeneration.  The Corporate Senators speak in other rooms of the planet as a possible new home for humanity, should efforts to rehabitize Earth to our needs fail.

Igaia is the AI running the eponymous ship, in partnership with its inventor, Creator Duanna. The spaceship’s adaptive intelligence, revolutionary regenerative fuel use, and iterative well-care for passengers, all while moving at unprecedented speed, make the expedition possible. We learn that the AI was born of necessity, designed by Duanna to save her own life.  The two function symbiotically, as both aggressively evolve. Duanna wrote our opening letter, and at the moment of crisis and opportunity on the ship, she exposes the annihilation of the Mars colony by the Corporation. In the final chapters of the book, we discover that Duanna secretly assembled her most beloved people on Igaia, so that they all might escape Earth to create a new kind of society.

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Story Statement:

Find the missing cross and the murderer without getting killed by narco-ranchers and return the cross to its rightful home in the wild borderlands.





Wade Baudette knows that God chose him for great things. Born into poverty to shiftless, heathen parents, he left home the day after graduating high school and travelled Central and South America, scraping by on odd jobs, learning the language and connecting with the people. He learned that he was endowed with three undeniable qualities that propelled him to be an instrument of the Divine: faith, eloquence and ambition. Over the next two decades, he built his Miracle Ministry into an international brand and multimillion-dollar juggernaut, filling stadiums and proclaiming the “Prosperous Miracle of Belief.” He’s a true believer who never took a false or dishonest step.

Then came the pandemic. Unable to fill stadiums, travel, or sustain his Dallas mansion and megachurch, he and wife Sharon decamped to her family’s ranch in West Texas. Even in the depths of poverty as a boy, he never knew the kind of desperation that consumed him as he watched his empire collapse. There’s nothing he won’t do to fulfill his destiny and re-establish his rightful position atop the spiritual hierarchy, even if it means the sacrifice of lesser lives. 




Breakout Title:  Border Cross




Daughter of None

American Girl

Not Molly

Border Babe






Winter Counts by David Heska Wanbli Weiden [2020, DEBUT fiction]

Comparable to Border Cross in the following ways:

·      Setting: small town, rural, fairly isolated community but vast in terms of geographical area

·      Protagonist: recently returned to birthplace, where he must confront his own murky past and about which he has mixed feelings; minority identity; seeks justice

·      Spiritual element/theme/undercurrent

·      Cross-cultural and Indigenous themes

·      Drug issues and drug cartel

·      In the end, protagonist learns about his/her heritage and finds personal redemption

·      Gritty and raw, but with a heart



Old Bones [2019] and the Nora Kelly series (Scorpion’s Tail [2021], Diablo Mesa [2022] and Dead Mountain[2023]) by Preston and Child

·      Set in American southwest

·      Historical artifact with cultural significance is at the heart of the mystery

·      Wilderness and nature play key role in atmosphere, mystery, themes, character and resolution

·      Within that context, (wo)man vs. man remains the primary conflict

·      Strong women characters with inner conflict 

·      Long-hidden history erupting into present



Hook Line:

A deputy sheriff must overcome a desperate killer and confront the truth about her own birth in order to expose the narco-ranching operation, recover a priceless artifact and return the artifact to its home in the remote US-Mexican borderlands.



Inner Conflict


Terra grew up as Teresa Flynn. She has known from a young age that she was adopted. She has always had a small cross that her parents told her was with her at the time of adoption. They knew nothing about her biological parents. Raised in an Irish-Catholic family, she was lovingly taught to be color-blind and to disregard her light brown skin, black hair and dark eyes. She was no different from her fair-skinned, red-haired parents and (not-adopted) sister. Growing up, these earnest reassurances were undermined by manifest realities—e.g., she was short and restless, her sister statuesque and scholarly—and by her own feelings. Through her teenage years, the physical, emotional and psychological gap between her and her family became harder for her to ignore. The appreciation she felt for their attempt to elide the differences was supplanted by questions and resentment. When she joined the military after high school, she decided to research her adoption and discovered that her given name was Terra and that her birthplace was someplace called Hades, Texas. Google Maps showed a small town east of El Paso and not far from the Mexican border. Under “Mother’s Name” and “Father’s Name,” the papers indicated “Unknown.” She decides in that moment to call herself Terra, but her newfound knowledge brings mixed feelings and more questions: she wanted to learn more but was afraid of what she might find. She desperately wants to know more about her origin and identity, and possibly forge a connection to people—Does she have blood relatives?—and a place. But will her efforts only drive a greater wedge between her and her adopted family? And what if she learns something that only makes her feel like more of a misfit than she already is? Should she, instead, put her energy into repairing ties with her parents and sister and trying to forge more of a connection with them? She decides to take a job that will put her face-to-face with all these questions—and more.



She knows she is “from” this town but doesn’t feel like it, feels nothing like a sense of “hometown” or roots. Since moving to Hades six months ago, people ask her where she’s from and she doesn’t know what to say. What did she expect? Before, she had always said Boston. Since researching her adoption papers, the question of origin has become hopelessly complicated. 

After Alma (the woman who cared for her as an infant foundling) provides more details (trigger)—namely, that she was found as a newborn in the arms of her dead mother somewhere in the borderlands along the Rio Grande, that a migrant came upon her and rescued her, along with the small silver cross that hung from a chain around her mother’s neck—Terra’s first impulse (reaction) is to get away from this town, this job. As far away from the border as possible. She feels more intrigued by her own origin story and drawn to explore the borderlands, and yet horrified, saddened, afraid to learn more. Moreover, Alma tells her that the Atrial Cross stolen from the church must, like Terra herself, return to its origins. And that Terra herself must undertake that journey.

Terra knows little about her origin and birth. Her adopted family has told her next to nothing, and despite her skin color and features, they tell her she’s as Irish Catholic as they are. As she grew to adulthood, she could no longer deny the feeling of disconnect from them and their whitewashed sense of her identity. Flouting her family’s expectations of her, she joins the Army after high school. She quickly earns a reputation for extreme toughness and a no-nonsense attitude. Hoping to learn more about who she is, after her discharge from the Army she has taken a job in the West Texas town where her adoption papers say she was first found. She wants to learn everything she can about her background and parents, though something tells her it’s complicated and that she may not like what she finds.


Within a few months of beginning her new job, Terra accompanies the sheriff on an emergency call to the border. Border Patrol is asking for assistance with a group of migrants on the run, some of whom are reportedly injured. When Terra arrives on scene, her heart is pumping. Something visceral stirs in her gut. She feels some kind of connection to these strangers fleeing for their lives. Without consciously deciding to do so, she finds herself disregarding the sheriff’s order and undertaking an arduous and treacherous effort to reach two migrants rimrocked in a canyon. Risking her own life, Terra eventually reaches a young mother clinging to the side of a rock face gazing down at the lifeless body of her little girl a hundred feet below. Terra calmly and skillfully harnesses herself to the mother and leads her to safety. Throughout the emotional ordeal of laying the child’s broken body in the woman’s arms one last time, then staying with the woman as she was taken to the county hospital, Terra remained more composed and self-controlled than most of her male colleagues. 

Later that evening, upon arriving home, Terra closed her apartment door, removed her gun, curled up in a ball on the floor and sobbed as she had never done before. She wants to be here, to search out her origin story, to ask the hard questions, but does she want the answers? She wants to do the law enforcement work, but does she want to see the pain, let alone feel it?


Secondary Conflict

An unremarkable cross hanging at a side altar of the Holy Angels Catholic Church in Hades, Texas, has recently been attributed with the power to work miracles. Desperate believers are flocking from afar to seek miracle cures, putting the town in the national spotlight. While Deputy Sheriff Terra Flynn finds such claims to be nutty, she can’t deny the cross’s importance: when the cross suddenly goes missing, the parish priest reveals to Sheriff Cal Wetter and Terra that it is actually a rare and valuable Aztec artifact with a complex origin far beyond Holy Angels. Belying her initial impression, the cross fascinates Terra with its unusual, hybrid identity. Early in the investigation, she begins to suspect that her boss, Sheriff Wetter, may have stolen it. He has been sheriff for many years and is leading the investigation, and she’s relatively new to the job and Hades, putting her in a delicate and tenuous position. What should she do about her suspicions? How can she pursue them without alerting the sheriff or one of his allies? What if she’s wrong? The extraordinarily rare cross captivates nearly everyone, and Terra knows that it must be recovered, no matter the cost.



Hades, Texas. Population 7,238. Cutler County seat. A couple hours east of El Paso and an hour from the Mexican border. Summers are hot and dry, winters cold and windy. The horizon feels a long way off and skies are endless. Ranching is big around Hades, but it draws a smattering of tourists, adventure seekers and artists. 


Some key sub-settings depicted in the novel:

·      Known as an artsy town with galleries selling unusual gems, paintings and one-of-a-kind handcrafted products. Proud of its quaint downtown, with a handful of cafes, restaurants and coffee shops and a historic library overlooking the peaceful and inviting village green. A short drive from canyons, rock faces, mountains and the Rio Grande, it provides the perfect base for hikers, rock climbers, off-road cyclists and outdoor enthusiasts looking for wilderness adventure away from the crowd.

·      From the beginning, which depicts migrants on the run from cartel thugs while being pursued by a US sheriff’s deputy, to the end, where that same deputy, our protagonist, is being pursued by the villain, himself a collaborator with the cartel, the novel takes readers into rugged wilderness in its varying landscapes and topography. Between Hades and the border, vast open stretches of Chihuahuan Desert sit side-by-side with rolling hills that give way suddenly to dramatic cliffs and rock faces which, in turn, spill open and cascade down into the variable waters of the Rio Grande itself. Near the novel’s first plot point, the body of Cutler County Sheriff Cal Wetter is found along the banks of the Rio Grande.

·      Big Bend National Park and Big Bend Ranch State Park: two enormous areas of rugged natural beauty and deadly terrain rarely if ever trodden by human feet. Deep canyons, sheer drops, dramatic rock outcroppings, remote and little-known slot canyons. 

·      Zino Ranch: 50,000 acres that span the distance between Hades and the Rio Grande. A vast spread of majestic isolation where it’s not unusual to stumble upon a carcass—even a human one—which could go undiscovered for days, weeks, or indefinitely. Home to Patsy Zino, whose husband of 55 years died of COVID two years ago. During his illness, it also became home to their daughter, Sharon and her husband Wade Baudette, who live in a separate house on the ranch. The ranch consists of numerous houses and guest houses along with countless other buildings and facilities, including barns, stables and, since COVID forced him out of his expensive Dallas location, a small bakery that produces Wade Baudette’s communion wafers for his Miracle Ministry. Zino Ranch is ostensibly a normal Texas ranch, on whose southern border are security cameras that help the US government catch drug smugglers. What the government doesn’t know is that the ranch foreman runs a narco-ranching operation. Herds of cattle are legally brought across the border onto Zino land, after which select heifers are herded and prodded into stalls where they are injected with a vaccination against Blackleg—all of which is normal and legal. During the vaccination, however, bags of fentanyl are swiftly and deftly extracted from the heifer’s vagina. The fentanyl is then moved to the bakery facility, where it is baked into communion wafers and distributed throughout the Southwest in unassuming station wagons marked with the Bread of Heaven logo.

·      In the two years since Wade and Sharon have lived on the ranch full-time, the Big House has become a reflection of Sharon’s extravagant taste. While the views from its generous windows and wrap-around porch are expansive and breathtaking, the visitor’s eye is drawn at least as irresistibly to the interior furnishings thoughtfully procured from around the globe.

·      For the past several months, claims have been made that a small cross in Holy Angels Catholic Church has been the source of miracles. These claims have gone viral, bringing a steady stream of hopeful and desperate pilgrims from near and far to the small town of Hades—and with them a throng of media. Outside the church, a long line of these miracle-seekers snakes around the church and down the block, a mix of migrants and Anglos, rich and poor, young and old, many manifestly hobbled, sick, weak or disabled. Once inside, they kneel before the cross and submit written prayers and petitions. Some pray in breathless silence, others wail and cry out, all with desperation in their eyes. Hades is ill-equipped to handle the spectacle, and conflict ensues: among the miracle-seekers, jostling and vying for position; for Holy Angels pastor, Fr. Tim Day; and especially for Sheriff Cal Wetter and his deputies, who have their hands full.

·      When the cross goes missing, Wade Baudette has an idea for shifting attention from Holy Angels to his own Miracle Ministry. He will host a Revival weekend. It is a spectacle attracting several thousand participants who gather beneath enormous marquee tents to be inspired by Baudette’s unique brand of preaching. Loudspeakers, huge video screens, cameras that livestream the event, port-a-johns, food trucks, and emergency medical people/vehicles, which come in handy when people start swooning and passing out (either from the Holy Spirit or the stifling heat, depending on one’s viewpoint).

·      In several scenes, the reader is taken behind the small house that the Dzul family has called home for over 100 years. Its current resident, Alma Dzul, is a 69-year-old artist, craftswoman, woodworker, stone-carver and blacksmith. She is a member of Holy Angels parish but also a practitioner of Indigenous and Aztec (spi)ritual dance. She privately performs this dance at night within a carefully cultivated and curated bower on the edge of her property that borders but is indistinguishable from an endless landscape of desert and mountain. In and around the well-stocked workshop that she first constructed as a young girl and has lovingly re-fashioned and extended ever since, she exercises her craft, using an array of chisels, knives, hand saws and hand planes, hammers and mallets, files, carving gouges, rasps and countless other tools and implements. Hanging from the walls and ceiling are colorful drawings of Aztec gods and figures, along with objects hewn from stone and carved in wood, earthy as well as brightly-colored objects and works of art depicting the sun, moon and figures from Aztec religious practice.



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Assignment 1. Story Statement:
A scientist must choose between protecting her daughter or stopping the disease destroying America’s food supply.

Assignment 2. Antagonists:
Primary protagonist Tracy Hart’s antagonist.
Senator Ransom Stone (primary antagonist) has an undiagnosed form of Derealization Disorder where he takes on the personality of characters from novels—the condition brought on by a radical, unlicensed addiction cure used on him by the CIA. Rather than a hinderance, the ability to be whoever he wants or needs to be, helps him become wealthy and get elected to the Senate. Using information from his days in the CIA and his position on the Senate Intel Committee, he has his private bioresearch company illegally resurrect a cancelled government program to develop a fungus genetically engineered to attack coca (cocaine) plants. He releases the fugus into the South American fields intending to extort the cartels for the cure which the protagonist, Dr. Tracy Hart—who is completely unaware of the disease’s origin or Stone’s plans—has developed. But someone has altered the disease. No longer susceptible to Tracy’s cure, it is spreading to food crops.
The cartels learn the disease was lab created, and believing Tracy does have a cure, send their most lethal killer (secondary antagonist) Rojas Gordillo after her. Needing to satisfy his cartel overlords, Gordillo kills everyone who worked on creating the fungus, then kidnaps Tracy’s daughter to force Tracy to cooperate and provide the cure.
With his plans falling apart, Stone covers up his connection to the lab and sends his own hitman, Earl Tinmen (another secondary antagonists) to eliminate anyone left, including Tracy.

Secondary protagonist Michael LaCroix’s antagonist.
Earl Tinmen—Michael’s handler when he worked as a government field agent—is one of Ransom Stone’s operatives. Unknown to Michael, acting on Stone’s orders Tinmen was responsible for the death of his daughter, the distraction intended to cause Michael to fail on a mission Stone wanted ended. But when the cartels begin killing people at the lab, Stone tasks Tinmen with finding Tracy Hart a bodyguard who won’t—or can’t—ask questions. Tinmen approaches Michael and threatens to destroy the lives if Michael’s friends if he doesn’t take the job. When Stone decides to bury his connection to the lab, it is Tinmen who takes on the job of eliminating both Tracy and Michael.

Assignment 3. Titles:
White Plague 
Open Wound
The Meaning of Anything

Assignment 4. Comparable Thrillers:
Whiteout, Ken Follett 
Contagion, Robbin Cook
Bloodstream, Tess Gerritsen 
The Andromeda Strain, Michael Crichton
Clear and Present Danger, Tom Clancy

Assignment 5. Hook Line/Conflict and Core Wound:
A scientist who lost her military husband because she chose the career she loves over moving when he was transferred must now choose again, this time between protecting her daughter or staying on the job to stop a disease destroying America’s food supply.

Assignment 6. Inner and Secondary Conflict:
Inner Conflicts. 
Mycologist Tracy Hart (primary protagonist) has spent her life working to reach the top of her field, overcoming prejudice about women in science from nearly everyone, even her mother. Determined to keep her dream job, her last conversation with her military husband before he was killed is an argument because she chose to stay in Seattle with their daughter rather move when he is transferred. But now her lab is ground zero for stopping an unknown disease destroying America’s food supply and she must again choose. Stay on the job at which she excels or leave it to protect her daughter from the danger posed by killers hunting her research team. 
Tracy’s internal wounds and struggles are shown in scenes with her laboratory boss, her daughter, Michael, and flashback memories of conversations and arguments with her mother and husband.

Former government agent Michael LaCroix’s (secondary protagonist) inability to save his daughter drove him to give up violence for life as a jazz musician. But when his former handler, Earl Tinmen forces him back into the field as Tracy Hart’s bodyguard, Michael must decide how deeply to immerse himself in the world of brutality he renounced. He is forced to ask himself what he is capable of to protect Tracy and her daughter, Melisa—who reminds him of his own child—and what will it cost him if he fails.
Michael’s inner struggles are shown in scenes with Tinmen, Tracy and Melisa, a flashback, and a climax confrontation with the primary antagonist, Stone.

Secondary/Social Conflict.
Tracy and Michael struggle to work together. Their old wounds and prejudices line up to ignite each other’s hot button issues. Tracy doesn’t like taking direction and is appalled by Michael’s underlying anger and automatic recourse to violence at the slightest hint of danger. For his part, Michael is frustrated by Tracy’s inability to comprehend that the people after her—the same kind of people who killed his daughter—are far more violent than anything she can imagine. When Malisa is kidnapped, they struggle to find a way to work together if they are going to save her.

Assignment 7. Setting:
Primary setting: Seattle and Western Washington, Christmas time, the cold dark skies and rain contrasting with the holiday lights.
    Specific Washington Settings:
    Two Seattle craftsman style homes, Tracy’s with a ‘lived in” look, Michael’s immaculate, with pristine restoration details, the difference between the houses a metaphor for the inherent conflict arising from their disparate personalities and lifestyles while hinting at where on a deeper level they overlap. 
Research Lab on a university campus/Tracy’s safe place, until it isn’t.
Downtown Seattle jazz club/Michael’s safe place, until it isn’t.
    Hurricane Ridge, Olympic National Park
    Friday Harbor, San Juan Island
    Various locations around the city, including ferry docks, music venues, a sleazy motel, an apartment, and the airport.
Secondary Settings:
    Ransom Stone’s private/isolated Minnesota lake mansion 
White House and Camp David
    Mexico City and South American coca fields 

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Assignment 1: Story Statement

Find a way to get her boss, the actor/musician, and his agent agree to a cover story to save her career. 


Assignment 2: Antagonist

The main antagonist in the story is James Burkhold, Ben’s agent. A short, bald, stout man, James is brash and controlling. He’s a sort of modern-day Colonel Tom Parker- older, but exceptionally skilled at his job, using his expertise to manipulate and control those around him. Nothing gets passed him without his approval. So, when Leah tries to make an initial connection with him, she is literally brought to tears when he rejects her by telling her to “piss off!” Moreover, when he finds out that Leah has gone through Ben to get the interview, he is furious and tries to make Ben’s time with Leah as uncomfortable as possible. For example, he attempts to hijack her charity event by bringing his own photographers, who have nothing to do with her article. He questions her qualifications, demands to see the articles before it is published, and tries to prevent Ben from leaving the awards show to see her. 


Assignment 3: Breakout Title

Running Down a Dream

Taking the Lead

The Perfect Cover


Assignment 4: The Comps

Genre: Romantic Comedy 

Romantic Comedy by Curtis Sittenfeld

  • Sally Milz is a 36 year old comedy writer, who hasn’t been in a relationship in a long time, starts to work with musician and guest host, Noah Brewster, on the show. Sparks start to fly between them when they start to work on a comedy sketch together.
  • Both novels center around mature women writers who have a professional relationship with a celebrity, repressed feelings turn romance. 
  • Both novels start off with the pitch!

The Fastest Way to Fall by Denise Williams

  • Britta is a freelance writer for a lifestyle website. Her latest assignment has her reviewing  a hot new fitness app, which could help her advance her career in working for the company full-time. Wes Lawson is the CEO of this app, who among other things is struggling in his personal relationships, so he decides to go back to what he loves: personal coaching, and Britta is his first client. They begin by corresponding Online, but when they start to work out in person, their harmless flirtation challenges them as they try to maintain a professional distance. 
  • Both novels have their female protagonist trying to use their present assignment to advance their careers. 
  • Both novels have their main characters trying to keep their relationship professional. 


Assignment 5: Hook line with conflict and core wound

A GenX expatriate American rock music journalist, struggles to earn a cover story to save her job and career. 


Assignment 6: Other matters of conflict

Inner Conflict:

Leah hasn’t had one of her pitches approved in months, but with faster, quicker, younger colleagues, it’s getting harder and harder to keep up. Jeffrey, her editor, who has been at the magazine as long as she has, reveals he is being pressured to make cuts sans the “first one in; first one out” protocol. It will come down to sheer performance. Who is not bringing in the money for the business? Leah is struggling to get off that short list. She has to do something bold to make herself stand out. 


When Jeffrey later approves her pitch, he does so with the condition that she include Krystal, Ben’s ex-fiance and current co-star, in the piece; however, Ben only agrees to it by leaving Krystal out of it and making it mainly about the music. 

Leah arrives at Ben’s flat unannounced because he has started to ignore her calls and texts. She is pretty much ready to write the article, but needs to make one final attempt to get him to agree to include Krystal in the piece. Among other things that occur during this visit, he asks her to help him private message Krystal because he is not too familiar with how social media works. After asking him a few probing questions, Leah tells him Krystal is fully aware that he looks at her social media page because Instagram lets the creator know exactly who views their “Stories” leaving Ben embarrassed at his whole misunderstanding of not learning how to work the app better.

 At this point, James arrives for a meeting. 

Before Leah leaves she makes her big push by trying to reason with him by saying that if Krystal already knows he is keeping up with her every move on Instagram, it’s not going to be a big shock that he reveals in the article that his flame has not extinguished for her. Ben wavers, but ultimately agrees. Overhearing their conversation, James enters the room in a rage and belittles Leah telling her that she is taking advantage of a vulnerable man to get what she wants. He then warns Ben that making this move, is going to ruin his negotiations with Krystal on their TV series contract that is on hiatus. Ben shows little backbone in this scenario and agrees with James leaving Leah more frustrated than when she arrived. 


Secondary Conflict: 

Leah is falling in love with Ben. The more she learns about him; the more she admires and falls in love with him. 

One scenario could be when they are talking about his upbringing, she realizes he is sharing more than he has ever shared. She asks him why she hasn’t heard any of these stories before in previous interviews or on his wikipedia page. He tells her that he is usually a very private person. That’s why he doesn’t have an official social media page. He only uses his current one to “stalk” (humorously) his ex. She realizes that he is comfortable with her and is not afraid to be vulnerable with her. She struggles with having the privilege to hear about his private upbringing, but is careful in what aspects she will include in her article as his tangents were technically all “on the record.”  


Final Assignment: Setting

The story takes place in London, England. Many of the scenes in it take place in Leah’s flat where the story begins. One significant detail at her place are the displays of photos and decor, which Ben later notices and plays a critical part in their personal relationship. 

The first scene begins in Leah’s bedroom. This is her workspace where the primary conflict begins as well. However, it is also where she makes connections with Ben. It is where Ben arrives in the middle of the night. It is where she cooks for him and plays a meaningful song for him. It is where they make love. It is where he arrives to try and talk to her after getting back with Krystal. It is also where he finds out she is sick. And finally, it is the place where he returns to try and win her back. 

Leah’s flat is located in Camden. The borough is very unique with a myriad of cultural diversity. It is where she meets her best friend Janice who exemplifies the quirkiness of Camden Town. 

Notting Hill is where Leah sees Ben for the first time in person at his concert. There is a young crowd there and she is once again confronted with her age and how being older is not necessarily an advantage. She confronts Ben’s agent for the first time at the Notting Hill hangout and clearly shows her she is out of her league. 


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