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PostPosted: 06 Feb 2016, 22:57 
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Algonkian Writer Conferences - Pre-Event Writer Assignments

For the St. Augustine Author-Mentor Novel Workshop attendees only

Below are seven assignments which include readings and links. All of these are vital to reaching an understanding of what elements go into the writing of a commercially viable literary project, whether novel or narrative non-fiction. There is more to it, as you will learn at the conference, but this is for starters and a good primer.

You may return here as many times as you need to edit your topic post (login and click "edit" at the bottom of your post), even following the pitch conference. Pay special attention to antagonistic force, breakout title, conflict issues and setting.

Quiet novels do not sell. Keep that in mind.

Michael Neff
Algonkian Writer Conference Director
http://algonkianwriterconferences.com
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Instructions for Posting Responses

After you've registered and logged in, read the assignments below, click on "Post Reply" on the upper left of the page and enter your responses in the box provided, then click "submit." Once done, your reply will appear in this topic. Please make one reply for all of your responses so the forum topic will not become cluttered.

Strongly suggest typing up your reply in a separate file then copying it over to your post before submitting. Not a good idea to lose what you've done!


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THE ACT OF STORY STATEMENT

Before you begin to consider or rewrite your story premise, you must develop a simple "story statement." In other words, what's the mission of your protagonist (hero/ine)? Their goal? What must be done? What must she or he create? Destroy? Save? Accomplish? Defeated?Defy the dictator of the city and bury brother’s body (ANTIGONE)? Place a bet that will shake up 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 or catalyze the plot line going forward. More on that later.

If you cannot conceive or write a simple story statement like those above (which will help define your story premise) then you don’t have a work of commercial fiction. Keep in mind that the PLOT LINE is an elaboration of the statement, of this "primary complication" of story statement. Also, look over the brief summaries of these novels in the Author Connect Deal News. These contain the simple statement, but more elaborated into a short hook.

FIRST ASSIGNMENT: write your story statement.

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THE ANTAGONIST PLOTS THE POINT

Since the antagonist in most successful commercial fiction is the driver of the plot line(s), what chances do you as a writer have of getting your manuscript, regardless of genre, commercially published if the story and narrative therein fail to meet reader demands for sufficient suspense, character concern, and conflict?

Answer: none. But what major factor makes for a quiet or 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, rather like a fist hitting a side of cold beef?

Such a dearth of vitality in narrative and story frequently results from the unwillingness of the writer to create a suitable antagonist who stirs and spices the plot hash. And let's make it clear what we're talking about. By "antagonist" we specifically refer to an actual fictional character, an embodiment of certain traits and motivations who plays a significant role in catalyzing and energizing plot line(s), or at bare minimum, in assisting to evolve the protagonist's character arc (and by default the story itself) by igniting complication(s) the protagonist, and possibly other characters, must face and solve (or fail to solve).

CONTINUE READING ENTIRE ARTICLE HERE: http://www.authorsalon.com/page/general/AntagonistsInLiterature/

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

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CONJURING YOUR BREAKOUT TITLE

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

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

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

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

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DECIDING YOUR GENRE AND APPROACHING COMPARABLES

Did you know that a high percentage of new novel writers don't fully understand their genre, much less comprehend comparables?

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

There is more than one reason for this. First, it helps them understand your readership, and thus how to position your work for the market. Secondly, it demonstrates up front that you are a professional who understands your contemporary market, not just the classics. Very important! And finally, it serves as a tool to enable them to pitch your novel to the decision-makers in the business.Most likely you will need to research your comps. We've included some great starter websites for this purpose below. 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!

FOURTH ASSIGNMENT:

- Read Caitlin's Comparables on Author Salon: http://www.authorsalon.com/craft/view/62/
- Develop two smart comparables for your novel. This is a good opportunity to immerse yourself in your chosen genre. Who compares to you? And why?


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CONSIDERING THE PRIMARY CONFLICT - COMING OF THE "AGON"

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 (esp in fiction), at all times, and the best way to accomplish this is to create (or find them in your nonfiction story) conflict and complications in the plot and narrative.

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.

And now, onto the PRIMARY 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") and the antagonist (a more recent term), corresponding to the hero and villain. The outcome of the contest cannot be known in advance, and, according to later 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 CONFLICT LINES. Note these come close to being genuine hook lines, but that conflict is present regardless of genre.

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 Djinni 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.

FIFTH ASSIGNMENT: write your own conflict line following the format above. Keep in mind it helps energize an entire plot line and the antagonist(s) must be noted or inferred.

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OTHER MATTERS OF CONFLICT: TWO MORE LEVELS

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."

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.

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


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THE INCREDIBLE IMPORTANCE OF SETTING

When considering your novel, whether taking place in a contemporary urban world or on a distant magical planet in Andromeda, you must first sketch the best overall setting and sub-settings for your story. Consider: the more unique and intriguing (or quirky) your setting, the more easily you're able to create energetic scenes, narrative, and overall story.

A great setting maximizes opportunities for interesting characters, circumstances, and complications, and therefore makes your writing life so much easier.

Imagination is truly your best friend when it comes to writing competitive fiction, and nothing provides a stronger foundation than a great setting. One of the best selling contemporary novels, THE HUNGER GAMES, is driven by the circumstances of the setting, and the characters are a product of that unique environment, the plot also.

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

CONTINUE TO READ THIS ARTICLE THEN RETURN: http://www.authorsalon.com/craft/view/97/

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

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PostPosted: 08 Feb 2016, 03:51 
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Marilyn Housner

First Assignment: Story statement:
When you hear the river, you will find your heart.

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.
Judge Vesser, the Antagonist, is a man who, for over fifteen years, harbors a deep grudge against Jamie Matthews (the protagonist). Judge Vesser’s judgement is not to be questioned by anyone. As a young law student, Jamie Matthews presents information in a case allowing a murderer to go free. Judge Vesser is furious and humiliated, as this was the only murder conviction he had ever lost. Now, fifteen years later, Jamie returns to her hometown to defend a divorce case and Judge Vesser is the presiding judge. Judge Vesser has decided has decided that he will not allow Jamie Matthews to humiliate him ever again. But what are the consequences if Jamie does win her case? To what extent will Judge Vesser go to take revenge on Jamie Matthews?

Third Assignment: Breakout Title
Option 1: Always In My Heart
Option 2: When My Heart Goes Home
Option 3: The Songs of the River

Fourth Assignment: Author Comparison
Genre, Contemporary Romance Novelist
I would compare my work to that of Nora Roberts. We both envision a key character in our work.
Another writer I found that I enjoy is Jamie McGuire. Her characters are realistic and there is complex plotting within the novels. I use that same approach in my writing.



Fifth Assignment: Write your own conflict line following the format above. Keep in mind it helps energize an entire plot and the antagonist(s) must be noted or inferred.
Will Jamie sacrifice everything she has worked tirelessly for and return to hometown to face the judge she had humiliated many years earlier.

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.

After Jamie had concluded the divorce case for Delaney, Jamie and Dean made plans to spend the evening together, along with his family. On the same evening, Jamie’s mother (Dar) made plans to spend the evening with her longtime boyfriend. However, Dar’s car was unavailable so Jamie allowed her mother to drive her SUV. As she is driving, Dar suddenly notices a vehicle following close behind. She pulls off the main road to take an alternative route and the vehicle behind her also turns and continues the close pursuit. The vehicle becomes closer and closer and suddenly bumps into the back of the SUV. Dar’s vehicle swerves but she able to maintain control. She reaches for her phone, but the vehicle bumps into the back of her vehicle again. The second time, Dar loses control and the vehicle rolls several times before landing in a ditch. The vehicle that had been in pursuit, paused for a brief moment, then continued on. Dar is seriously injured but is able to get to her cell phone and contact Jamie before passing out.
Jamie is inconsolable as she realizes her mother was injured because of her. Jamie knows she was the target. Although Jamie had amassed a number of enemies, who would be responsible for carrying out such a vicious attack.

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.
Courtroom: As soon as the judge was seated, everyone in the courtroom returned to their seats, and there seemed to be an overwhelming deafening silence in the room. Jamie could hear the creaks and strains from the ancient wooden and cushionless straight back chairs when people tried to reposition themselves for comfort; the scratching of pencils as attorneys wrote on legal pads, whispers from people in gallery watching the proceedings, and the click, click, click of the court reporter who was carefully recording each word, each sound. The weather outside of the courthouse had turned gloomy and the air within the courtroom seemed to be heavy; almost as if a foggy haze had descended over the room. Jamie looked up and it seemed that the haze was being pushed around by the ancient ceiling fans that shook with each turn. The silence was relentless as everyone seemed to be holding their breath while waiting for the judge to render his final decision in the matter
Diner: Jamie’s Aunt Phyllis, (who everyone referred to as Phyl), owned the local diner in Jamie’s small Wisconsin hometown of Potosi; Dar and Phyl’s Diner. The small, lazy river town had two elementary and one high school, a small grocery store, a couple of gas stations, and several bars littered up and down Main Street. Everyone who lived there knew and looked out for each other. The townspeople were very friendly and even strangers could expect a wave as they passed through town. The diner sat on the highway and it was usual to see a collection of farm trucks, semis, cars and an occasional tractor in the front parking lot. A number of the locals would come in to share a cup of coffee most mornings to catch up on the latest gossip or local sport scores. They would sit at one of the small chrome-legged tables covered by an immaculately clean red-checkered plastic tablecloth complete with chrome napkin dispenser and chrome topped glass salt and pepper shakers, or at the diner’s counter, complete with a red surface and red top red vinyl swivel stools. Jamie loved her hometown. Often, she and her mother would drive down the long windy gravel river road to watch the barges in the distant channel as their bulk seamlessly floated over the water, or watch the fish as they would jump out of the water at dusk in playfulness or to catch an insect for dinner.

River: Her (Jamie’s) mind wandered and instinctively she began to drive towards the river. When she was younger and was angry, hurt or confused, she would drive to the river and sit on its banks and soak everything in. She loved the sights and sounds of the river; the hum of the motors of the fishing and cruise boats, the distant horns from the barges, the splashes made from jumping fish, eagles seamlessly drifting above the water while keeping a close eye on the surface for a meal, and Jamie’s favorite sound, the waves licking at the shoreline, splashing as it poured over the rocks. Today, she drove to her favorite spot, The Point. The Point was a long gravel road that curled through the marshy area of the river and eventually opened to a wide span of open water. Each side of the gravel road was lined with long prairie grass, brown cattails gently moving with the breeze, lily pads, red, yellow and purple wild flowers, and several muskrat dens; carefully and strategically constructed with leaves, sticks and mud to withstand rising water levels and the change of seasons. At the end of the road there was a boat launch with a small cement bench that overlooked the river. Jamie recalled that she and Dean had spent countless hours sitting on the bench chatting, laughing, sharing dreams, or just holding hands and listening to the sounds of the river. Jamie drove slowly down the gravel road, listening to her tires as they crunched when rolling over the gravel. As Jamie approached the end of the road, she found the bench was empty so she pulled up, got out of her car, and walked slowly towards the bench as the gentle breeze coming off of the river stroked her face. She closed her eyes, smiled and sighed. There were no arguments, no clatter of dishes, no banging gavels, no cars, and no courtrooms. Just Jamie, sitting on her bench and listing to her river sounds.


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PostPosted: 08 Feb 2016, 17:02 
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Response to homework assignments (Karen Di Prima)

NUMBER #1: STORY STATEMENT
Stop wedding, ditch fiancé, reunite with former lover to make sure you’re marrying the right man.

NUMBER #2: ANTAGONIST/ANTAGONISTIC FORCE
Remi is a handsome young artist hanging around the university scene in Provence due to the low rent, the pastoral scenery he claims is his inspiration, and the pickup opportunities he recognizes in a setting that attracts rich foreign students. Although his parents provide a stipend toward his living expenses, they’d rather he returns to Lyon to work in the family business. Remi sells sketches to the tourists to supplement his income and dreams about exhibiting in a Paris gallery one day, but his inner insecurities and the easy life he has now prevent him from actively pursuing that goal.

Beautiful, brokenhearted Riley is the latest of his conquests. She has issues related to abandonment that Remi exploits, and he allows her to believe they are building a life together. When Riley finds out about his infidelity, she ends the relationship, returns to the States and becomes engaged. Remi convinces Riley to visit him before her wedding, telling her she’s his artistic muse. In reality, he wants to rekindle their affair so that Riley will support him.

NUMBER #3: CONJURING YOUR BREAKOUT TITLE
The Next Best Thing (my original title, but discovered it’s the title of a Jennifer Weiner book)
Love and Other Lies (also the title of a 2015 self-published book by Madeline Ash)
Love, Lies and Lavender Fields
Adieu: The Forever Goodbye

NUMBER #4: COMPARABLES
Riley’s inner dialogue and self-recrimination are reminiscent of Melanie Gideon’s “Wife 22.” Fans of Bethany Chase’s “The One That Got Away” will appreciate how Riley’s best-laid plans go awry despite her careful preparations. This book also employs similar plot twists and tension that readers of Liane Moriarty’s “The Husband’s Secret” will enjoy.

NUMBER #5: PRIMARY CONFLICT
Torn between her fiancé and the man who fathered the child she miscarried, a young woman halts her wedding and flies to France for a reunion with her former lover.

NUMBER #6 A: PROTAGONIST’S INNER CONFLICT
Riley returned home from France pregnant with Remi’s child and scared. Afraid to admit her affair to her to-be fiancé, she convinces him the child is his, and they agree to an abortion. She miscarries instead. Now with the wedding imminent, Riley wants to tell her fiancé the truth; however, he reveals he is also wracked with guilt and blames himself. She is torn between being honest and risking the end of their relationship, or allowing him to continue believing her lie. She decides to see Remi again before telling Matt the truth. She believes she may be making a mistake in marrying Matt, at some level believing the child she and Remi made might have been a sign of her true destiny.

The scenario in which this conflict plays out occurs in a restaurant a few days before Riley goes to see Remi again, a decision she believes she’s making in order to be fair to both men. She’s forced to devise a plausible reason to return to France to dispel any suspicions in Matt, her fiancé. Matt rejects her explanation, suggests they switch their honeymoon from Hawaii to France, and when Riley objects, he forbids her to go. A loud argument ensues; they leave the restaurant separately, but Matt shows up at Riley’s apartment later to apologize. Riley tries to tell Matt the truth, but he doesn’t want to talk about the abortion/miscarriage and instead assures her of his love and caring, and eventually relents to her trip.

NUMBER #6 B: SECONDARY CONFLICT INVOLVING SOCIAL ENVIRONMENT
Riley’s future mother-in-law is a formidable opponent who is openly disparaging of her. It was the MIL who discouraged her son from proposing to Riley prior to her year abroad in France, and Riley is convinced that her MIL hates her due to disparities in economic status, among other things. The MIL is suspicious of the timing of Riley’s trip to France with the wedding so close.

The scenario in which Riley and her MIL confront each other occurs when Riley returns from seeing Remi. She’s cut her trip short, as her decision has been made. Expecting Matt to meet her at the airport, she is shocked when her MIL meets her instead. During the long ride home, a tense conversation between Riley and her MIL reveals the MIL’s suspicions, and the surprising information that the MIL understands because she may have had a similar experience in her past. The MIL further shocks Riley by advising not to tell Matt the truth, if she wishes her marriage to be successful.

NUMBER #7: SETTING
This is an early draft of the description of the medieval city in France where the university is located, for a scene in which Riley and her best friend Molly explore the area:

We left the modern surroundings of the square and the commercial district, and after a drive of a very few minutes, we entered old town, heading for la Cathedrale, the medieval cathedral dating back to the twelfth century. It had been constructed on one of the highest points of the city, and here, the streets were impossibly narrow, winding, and abruptly steep. There were no sidewalks; the houses and other buildings sat right on the street, mere inches from the thoroughfare. Occasionally, a car was parked so close to a house that you might literally open your front door and slide into your vehicle all in one motion. Our used scooter demonstrated its age and condition by coughing and sputtering as we spiraled over the centuries-old, cobblestoned inclines, slowing to a crawl as we threaded our way past parked and moving cars, bikes, scooters, people and dogs, scurrying to destinations unknown.
In contrast to the relentlessly sun-baked spaces of our university campus and the public squares like the Place de l’Etoile, here in old town, shadow and light alternately washed across our shoulders in equal measure. The rooftops of the four- and five-story houses, as thin as the streets were narrow, muted the sun, but at the street corners and intersections, its rays beamed down ferociously, blindingly. The air was sweet, perfumed by the flowers spilling from boxes mounted on house windows and at the entrances to storefronts. Although the buildings and streets seemed untouched by time, the younger people we encountered hurried along in sync with a modern rhythm, quickly, as if they were shedding the medieval surroundings from the soles of their feet, while the older residents slowly and doggedly trudged uphill and downhill before disappearing behind the tall, narrow doors of their tall, narrow houses.
Molly turned onto a street marked Rue de la Cathedral, and we chugged past two old men wearing berets and smoking on a stoop in front of an open door. A trio of women, stooped with age and dressed like crows, congregated on a corner. Another old woman, tiny and bent and dressed head to toe in black, labored up the hilly street carrying a filet with provisions for the evening meal, and cursing at a dog following her, who snapped at the contents of her bag. We wound our way deeper and deeper into the heart of old town, bouncing over the stones, as we followed the white arrow directional signs to la Cathedral posted at intervals, until we finally arrived at the chipped, yet still impressive steps of the cathedral. Molly switched off the scooter, hopped off, and studied her phone.


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PostPosted: 09 Feb 2016, 05:54 
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1) Story Statement

Ron Winslow, a recently deceased but otherwise ordinary man, is returned to his former life to save a young woman and redeem America.

2) Antagonistic Force

Willie Hunter, a congenial boomer drug lord has within his reach the means to save or destroy our society, but his leftist illusions and taste for the good life have warped his moral sense. The object of his intentions is Rebecca, his apparent protégé and a young woman of destiny. Hunter works his will on her by invoking her grandmother’s destructive legacy and by exploiting his connections to the vast political conspiracy she threatens.

Winslow has fallen to earth on assignment to liberate Rebecca from Hunter’s control so she can save a society threatened by technology. Hunter’s muddled purposes and malleable principles undermine her will and block her path. Winslow and Hunter are drawn in to conflict through the self-involved delusions and panicked behavior of Rebecca, who believes her inheritance has been stolen and her life is at risk.

Antagonistic force is the seesaw pull on Rebecca between Winslow, who is dead, but embraces life, and Hunter, who lacks the conviction necessary to live a principled life. Rebecca is the fulcrum of this shifting balance of virtue and vice. Their struggle contested, but unresolved, Hunter and Winslow join forces against a greater danger.

3) Breakout Title

Falling to Earth

Weed in the Garden of Eden

Potboiler: Conspiracy and Innocence in the Age of Cannabis

4) Comparables.

I read very little modern fiction, because I’m risk averse about my reading choices and I’m in love with history, biography and classic novels. I also read a lot of trashy action/adventure stories (Jack Reacher) and historical novels (Bernard Cornwell).

Two authors whose work might be similar to mine: Mitch Albom and Jack Kerouac. I know this violates the admonition that we shouldn’t cite someone too famous or successful (Life didn't really work out for Jack), but at least I’ve read their work and can discern some similarities. The Amazon, ‘people who bought this also bought….’ didn’t yield much that I could recognize. I spent most of ninth grade English class in the assistant principal’s office and I have the feeling I'm headed there again.

Both of these authors make reference to spiritual issues and create an alternative universe that takes a reader to a perspective outside of ordinary life. Albom creates a forthrightly spiritual world and Kerouac takes the reader into a frenetic, crazy universe of movement where issues of career, family and community are sacrificed to the journey seeking fundamental truth. Huckleberry Finn, The Wizard of Oz, On the Road, Catcher in the Rye, Moby Dick and The Odyssey use this journey device.

5) Conflict line

An ordinary spirit returns to earth from the afterlife to battle a drug lord and his allies for the soul of a young woman and the future of America.

6) Inner Conflict and Secondary Conflict

Winslow falls to earth and inhabits the remnants of his life, possessed of infinite resources, but with little guidance. Ron cannot determine the outcome of events because without uncertainty there can be no future. He cannot be honest about his reincarnation even as he attempts to build trust with Rebecca, and Patience, the woman who is falling in love with him.

His inner conflicts arise from trying to understand how the pieces fit, whom should he trust, whom should he love, whom should he fight, and how should he act. His only powers are the knowledge and skills accumulated in his past, yet they must be applied to a present he doesn’t fully understand and a future yet to unfold.

Secondary conflicts arise from the nature of Ron’s assignment and resources. Audrey Teller, Ron’s old friend from college, and a former model and television journalist, now subsists as the queen of morning television happy talk in Chicago. At Ron’s direction Rebecca entrusts Audrey with dangerous evidence to obtain a journalist’s assessment of its value as leverage over Willie.

The evidence in Audrey’s possession tempts her to use it as her ticket back to big time journalism by burnishing her own investigative reputation. Conflict arises as Ron and Rebecca realize that Audrey’s interests may not coincide with theirs, and Rebecca doubts whether she can trust Ron’s judgment and advice.

7) Settings

Oddly enough, my story, currently titled, Falling to Earth, is set primarily on earth, which is a pretty large canvas, but some of it is set in the cosmic afterlife, which is even larger. Most of the earthly action takes place at various locations in Denver and Chicago during the winter holidays of the not too distant future. The necessity for the protagonist to comprehend circumstances, including the cosmos, and navigate sanely between them helps drive the story.

Weather, rural landscapes, urban grit, a construction site and Lake Michigan are characters almost as alive as the people (even though some of the people are technically dead). Many scenes play out on road trips across the frozen wasteland of the Great Plains while others are set in a great mansion near the Lake, and others take place on crowded busses or sleazy motels. There is an extended flashback to Colorado in the seventies, when two of the main characters form their bond and reveal their nature.

In many ways the settings are the story because the protagonist is trying to find his way in a world that shifts and changes in ways he does not expect. He must navigate this domain to complete a mission he doesn’t fully understand. Returning to his hometown, encountering old friends, experiencing familiar feelings, undertaking a journey and penetrating enemy territory all force him to be resourceful, courageous or vulnerable.

I read the assignment to suggest that passages from the manuscript describing settings or setting scenes were not wanted. If they are, here is a brief example.

I cautiously survey the scene. My environment appears slightly out of focus and pixelated, but familiar, as if my senses are still in transition. I’m In Denver, my old home. This is Civic Center Park, a tattered, semi-natural space between the State Capitol and City Hall, occupied by those with nothing better to do.
The weather, fallen leaves and angle of the sun inform me that it’s early afternoon of a sunny, cool and breezy, late fall day. I see Norm sitting on a park bench not far off. He’s waiting for me.


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PostPosted: 09 Feb 2016, 21:19 
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St. Augustine AM Novel Workshop Assignments (Allan Kalyn)

1. Story Statement:
Become a scientist to avoid a dead-end job.

2. Sketch Antagonist:
Eli Stoigin is a reclusive hired man who was taken in as a child by the Shadrins after his abusive alcoholic father drowned. Taken out of school young, he can barely read but became hooked on the illustrations in female action comics. He despises humanity, is superstitious, fears ghosts and the devil. His psychological need is masculine self-worth. He hates to receive the kind of ridicule he suffered when Aimee Shadrin spurned him for the schoolteacher and humiliated him in front of the townsfolk. He continued to work for old lady Shadrin after her husband died. Convinced she would have lost the farm without him, he wants payback. Consumed by a life of injustice, his desire is to outlive the old woman, force her granddaughter to turn over the money stash, and control both Nooni and the farm. His plan is threatened when Nooni draws Spence, the science student, into their lives.

3. Breakout Title:
The Green Scientist
Field Studies
The Nooni Project

4. Genre and Comparables:
Genre - Gothic/Sci Fi
Comparables - updated re-visit of Deliverance meets Cocoon
Deliverance elements - arrogant city dweller becomes enmeshed in backwoods danger
Cocoon elements - human stumbles on clandestine extraterrestrial with her own agenda and reaps a life-changing benefit


5. Primary Conflict:
Desperate to get into grad school, an arrogant science student's research is thwarted by a beautiful girl and a disturbed hired man who threatens not only his deadline but his life.

6. Other Matters of Conflict: Sketch conditions of conflict
- Spence attempts to do research in the backcountry but is soon out of his element. As he bumbles his way through, he tells himself he is smart and can handle it but he wonders if what he hears is for real or if the rural people are playing him for their own entertainment.

- With his research threatened by Stoigin, he begins to realize that as he pushes to continue it, he gets deeper and deeper into a web of dangerous possibilities.

- Spence fears for Nooni’s safety after she steals his equipment and denies it when questioned by Stoigin. He reluctantly agrees to hear her story in exchange for its return.

- Through Nooni’s story, Spence glimpses the nature of her world and hears her promise that he will meet the mysterious Lana if they ‘lay’ together.

- Convinced her story is pure fantasy he leaves with his equipment only to encounter an inexplicable entity on the road claiming to be Lana. He questions his sanity.

- Spence can’t explain his problems with the people in the country to his college peers, his faculty advisor or to his girlfriend who accuses him of being irresponsible with his existential head in the clouds.

- As a scientist he needs to unlock the mystery Nooni presents. To do that, he must free himself of his scientific shackles. He struggles to release himself from his science training so he can discover the truth of unnatural events which test the limits of his empirical mind.

7. Settings
- May 1970

- Universities expanded environmental programs after the first Earth Day

- The north backwoods and lake country is an area where the roads on the map end.

- Goran’s Resort is a dilapidated filling station with a hand-printed sign, a couple of summer cabins and a run-down pier with outdated motorboats.

- Spence sets up his traps in an indigenous pasture near a dense forest with deep dark ravines and a view of the lake dotted with tiny islands. One of these is the setting where Nooni and Spence experience an enhanced sexual coupling beside a huge quartz crystal.

- In the telling of her story, Nooni takes Spence to an abandoned farm house, an old school, decrepit dancehall and an empty church with a forgotten graveyard.

- The farm community is typical of an area where most people have left for the city. The few who remain, are poverty-stricken like the Shadrins. They eke out an existence any way they can, growing minimal crops on the rocky soil, raising a few cows and chickens, and by hunting or fishing.

- The town has a two-block main street with a cafe where Spence learns the people in this area live by their own set of rules—hammered out through years of human strife, misery, superstition and historical yarns that grow with the retelling of them.

- Spence’s boarding house has two other renters, a mature immigrant carpenter with whom he plays chess and a young steel foundry worker who keeps hoping for Spence to lose.

- The university bustles with students including Spence’s friends who meet for pizza and conversation on campus.


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PostPosted: 10 Feb 2016, 05:58 
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FIRST ASSIGNMENT: write your story statement.

A girl with a calling can't put her phone down until she finds the message that puts her in touch with herself.

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.

Diane, Laurie’s mother, has always preferred that her daughter remain silent. Until Laurie decides to divorce, Diane easily controlled her daughter by heightening her fears, manipulating her with guilt, and holding control of the purse strings upon which she was dependent. Diane, who at the very least has narcissistic tendencies sees her daughter only as an extension of herself, and therefore cares little about Laurie's desires as an individual.
A religious and wealthy woman, Diane's primary conviction is that she won’t have her image in the community tarnished by her daughter. She will repeatedly use money to undermine Laurie's power and render her impotent as a parent. She will do so by trying to convince her daughter and others that she is a crazy, out of control child who doesn't care for her own kids. If she can’t shut Laurie up, and Laurie is able to prove that she is better off divorced, Diane might look wrong for forcing her to get married in the first place and lose control of the kids whom she uses to fill her empty life at Laurie's expense.

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

MY LIFE…IN TXT MSGS…

FOURTH ASSIGNMENT:

- Read Caitlin's Comparables on Author Salon: http://www.authorsalon.com/craft/view/62/
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?

BLACKOUT: REMEMBERING THE THINGS I DRANK TO FORGET. By Sarah Hepola.
A naked exploration of the self, Sarah’s discussion of her addiction is similar in style and tone to my raw account of destructive dependence. Both of our stories are drawn from close examinations of our own character flaws and unhealthy coping mechanisms.

RUNNING WITH SCISSORS By Augusten Burroughs
What could I possibly have in common with this blockbuster author who has topped the New York Times Bestseller list countless times? God, I hope something more than a crazy family and a penchant for addictions and bad relationships. In all of his memoirs, Augusten Burroughs delivers the details of his fucked up life in a conversational tone that makes the reader feel as if they are being told a story by their best friend. His writing is imbued with references to pop-culture, doused with dry humor, and at times both philosophical and oddly poetic. When I’m at my most delusional, I think my writing has elements of the same.

FIFTH ASSIGNMENT: write your own conflict line following the format above. Keep in mind it helps energize an entire plot line and the antagonist(s) must be noted or inferred.

A young mother tells her story through text message to take charge of her life and her kids from her controlling mother, who is willing to silence her at any cost.

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.

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?


Laurie, an aspiring writer, is easily affected by words. This quality of hers often leads her into a downward spiral because she doesn’t know how to handle hurtful messages. She is also the type of person who entertains opinions and carefully evaluates criticism, often internalizing it. When her soon to be ex-husband accuses Laurie in text of: treating people as if they are simply characters in her story that she can move around at her whim, Laurie has a panic attack that puts her back in bed. Laurie wants to be a writer but she doesn’t refuse to stop writing or destroy the love story that bothers Matt (her husband, x) because she dreams of publication. She refuses to stop writing because she believes that to do so would be to give up more of her identity, her self. It's one piece of her that no one owns, her stories, and she's unwilling to sell it out even for the sanctity of her marriage. She never really loved Matt, but she did try to sacrifice herself for the preservation of their family unit, but once Matt begins to try to control her thoughts and expressions, Laurie decides she can't sacrifice any more of herself for family harmony; either with for her birth family or the family she created with Matt. But Laurie, who is always examining the other side of the coin and second guessing herself, will wonder, especially when the divorce takes it toll and the kids are affected by it, if her decision to divorce was a frivolous one. If she’s selfish? Delusional? Crazy? A bad person? Her guilt and self-doubt will lead to her self-loathing. She’ll feel deserving of punishment, and will punish herself. At times when she feels as if she’s fucked things up beyond repair, her careless fuck it attitude will cause her to make bad decisions, get her into more trouble, and push her further from her goal of becoming an adult in charge of her own life and her own kids.


The major point of conflict is between Laurie and her mother. Initially Laurie allows her mother to control her life, make her decisions, buy her "say", but when Laurie decides she wants to be free from the bonds of financial dependence, her mother ratchets up the pressure, uses money and gifts and tuition to buy the kids love, and even works to foil Laurie's attempts to become financial independence. Laurie spends the second half of the book trying to outmatch her mother financially but when she realizes this will likely be impossible, she decides to battle back with what she does have a wealth of- Love. Can she win her children's affections and regain control of them by proving that love is more valuable than money? Will she win the battle for control of her life and her kids (good) against(vs) her mother whose intentions are to maintain status and fill her lonely life without regard for what she's doing her daughter and grandchildren (evil) ?

Laurie doesn’t want to hate anyone, least of all her family, but when the cost of their love becomes Laurie’s ability to be autonomous and to make her own decisions, Laurie is forced to re-evaluate the bargain. This theme reappears in Laurie’s relationship with Joe. If Laurie wants love, she has to refrain from expressing herself, but Laurie has to wonder is love that demands you be someone other than yourself, in fact love at all? If Laurie doesn’t conform to her parents expectations, they withhold support. If she doesn’t allow Joe to dictate the terms of her relationship, he’ll leave her. Bryan, on the other hand, lets Laurie be herself, but because he refuses to really get involved with her, Laurie has to wonder if this is because he genuinely likes/loves her, or if it is because acceptance of her in word, or rather text, allows him to easily manipulate her with minimal effort. Which poses another question, creates another dilemma, should Laurie settle for any love at all, because a life without any love is a lonely one, or is it worse to accept an imitation of love. Is accepting an imitation of love, denying that true love exists. Is it better to be hopeful for a life that may never come than it is to be miserably complacent in the life that you have? Which boils down to a more basic dreams or stability? Laurie struggles throughout the book to find a balanced relationship, where she is truly loved for the person that she is, just as she wrestles with which path to follow the one with the guaranteed payout or the gamble that could pay big money. When she settles for Joe and her job as a stockbroker, she thinks she's getting the guaranteed payout, but what Laurie learns is there's no such thing, she decides to become a girl who believes in more risk more reward, rather than remain a cautious investor riddled with fear. In the end, she decides that she can love herself and her kids unconditionally by matching her words to her actions and that she won’t continue to invest her time with anyone who won’t do the same.

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.

My Life…In Txt Msgs…primarily takes place in Southeastern Pennsylvania from 2008-2014.
Glimpses of the backdrops of Laurie’s childhood reveal that she is from a family of privilege. Her family condo in West Palm beach Florida that is professionally decorated is where her mother tells her she has to either marry Matt the baby’s father or put her daughter up for adoption. Yet the manuscript juxtaposes haughty, exclusive locales with humble, accessible places, like the children’s library basement with its red lacquered bookshelves and braided rugs lain over well-worn commercial carpeting to make story time more pleasant and homey. And the dairy where Laurie’s dad repeatedly lets her order pistachio ice cream (that she never eats because she doesn’t actually like the taste of it) because she’s always seduced by its soft green color, and where he replaces his daughters cast off cone with the sweet flavor she loves, rainbow sherbet. The dairy itself is unassuming inside, with two big glass cases that contain drums of brightly colored, creamy ice cream and a general store that sells farm fresh eggs, vegetables and AVON. Across from the dairy is the farm from which the milk comes and there are always cows in the pasture. The benches where Laurie and her family sit to eat their ice-cream overlook a pond whose description Laurie believes could easily be contained inside the pages of Thoreau’s Walden. In the unassuming setting, surrounded by natural beauty, Laurie feels at peace.

But she also lives in the private school, Country Club, Stepford wife world. She and her best friend Courtney sun their skinny new post-separation bodies at the Club pool, where they are ogled by the dads and envied by the still married moms, before they go to the health club, La Fitness, where Laurie flirts with Bryan amongst massive metal machines, bodies that drip lycra, and a stench that is a combination of sweaty feet and plastic permeates the air. After the gym, the girls head to the town of Phoenixville where the main street is lined with bars and they can dance in the darkened night club that reeks of axe and is slick with hair product, 212.

And on bad days, she can be found at the Women’s Center of Pottstown, which is decorated with flea market furniture, free toilet paper rolls that line the wall in the waiting room, and posters with pie charts that illustrate the cycles of emotional abuse. There’s her little girls’ room. which she decorated for her little princesses. Pink velvet quilts embellished with tulle and diamonds, faux magazine covers of Princess Style magazine hang on the lavender colored walls. Dollhouse bookcases contain the girls treasures and stories. It’s the room Laurie always wanted. Dainty and cozy and overly girly. It’s a room from her dream house, the one she lives in in her mind. The woman she is and the woman she wants to be hides in both of these places, hoping for inspiration, answers and a place to rest.

Laurie lives in a variety of different physical places throughout the book, and her changing ‘home’ situation mirrors her changing life. Her first home, once a proper Pottery Barn replica becomes a snow logged battleground, not quite as scary as the ski lodge in the Shining, but definitely a place where she is trapped. When Laurie first divorces, it transforms to have a frat house feel, and after Sierra has her party that gets busted by the police and leads to Laurie’s parents first attempt to have her committed, the house is ruined and never the same. Laurie tries, in vain, to pull it together when her father is sick but when he dies, she abandons the house all together to move in with her mother. Her mother is wealthy, but fails to fix the ceiling in the attic room that becomes Laurie’s. In her mother’s house, the ceiling is both literally and figuratively caving in on her.

Bryan’s rundown apartment, Laurie’s escape pad, looks as if it were furnished from a store where they don’t sell furniture by the piece but rather by the room. Laurie doesn’t care. She doesn’t care that he keeps an oversized full length mirror alongside of the bed. Nor does she care that his teeny tiny kitchen pass thru is a make-shift bar where he keeps his boxes of wine. There’s something familiar and comforting about Bryan’s apartment that makes Laurie long to have been born into a different family, and a different life. A simpler one. Where frozen vegetables don’t cause noses to turn, and everyone’s living room has a tv that’s ignorantly large.

There’s the cold, dirty hospital where she recovers from her suicide attempt. It’s outdated, and sterile, a classroom for invalids. You can’t even watch tv the screens so tiny, and the large windows in the dayroom only show Laurie the life she’s missing. She stares at the brown tray that holds what the hospital tries to pass off as food, but more accurately resembles a child’s clay creations of play ‘food’, and wonders how in the hell she got there, and then she remembers her it was the damn tiny typewriter with it’s silly little bell.

The townhouse she rents once she becomes a stock broker is comfortable and nice but because her kids never move in it never feels like her house. She feels a sense of safety in the large kitchen and the wood floored family room with a fireplace. An odd sense of comfort in her third floor bedroom that overlooks a cemetery. But mostly the house feels like a stage set, because in fact, nobody really lives there. The mutual fund company where she works as a stockbroker is a city unto itself, and a place where Laurie alternatively feels she belongs and doesn’t belong. Surrounded by young co-workers with picture laden cubicles, Laurie struggles to appear as if she leads a normal life, but with her kids in one house, her in another and war waging on about where she and they belong, Laurie ultimately just wants to be invisible. With two computer screens on her desk, a tv that hangs above her and is permanently tuned to CNBC, Laurie often feels like a phony as she gives financial advice through her headset. No one, she thinks, could be worse with or hate money more than her.

Joe’s house, a city dwelling is by comparison far more sophisticated than Bryan’s bachelor pad, and other places in Pottstown like the bars and restaurants and coffee houses. There’s less Step ford snootiness but there’s a cold distance in the city in its people and surroundings that Laurie doesn’t feel in the suburbs. Just as Laurie begins to grow fond of the house she shares with Joe, with its rooftop deck that overlooks the city skyline, its back alley garden, a mixture of broken cement and lush greenery, and it’s third floor minibar, with its glass paneled refrigerator that provides a view of the wine and Perrier that it holds, their relationship ends abruptly and Laurie is left again to search for some place she can go home to, somewhere she belongs.

There’s the house that Joe and Laurie bought and then pulled out of when the kids wouldn’t move in them. The house Laurie fell in love with online because in the pictures it looked so cozy when it was covered with snow. Large with brightly painted walls, a pool, like her mom’s house has, and a hot tub, like her mom’s house doesn’t have, she thinks the house will help her win back her kids. But her mother will not be outmatched, and Joe and Laurie will never move into this house. It will only remain a memory of what could have been…what almost was…

There are the cold streets of New York where she attends the writers conference that seems surreal.

There’s Janet’s sprawling old house, with its outdated decor where she takes shelter in her heatless attic bedroom from her older friend who has also seen the harder side of life.

There’s the low rent two bedroom apartment in King of Prussia, that she leases because she has no place else to go, and because she’s tired of looking for a place, and because she no longer cares what home looks like, she just wants to be there already.

And finally there’s the familiar screen of her phone, where text messages come in like tricks or treats, and where Laurie looks to find evidence that some number of messages have been left in her conversation bubble. The phone is her journal, her book, holding her life in its memory, it stays with her as her last companion and even if its shattered and battered and smashed to pieces, just as she is shattered and battered and smashed to pieces, together they are going to make the right calls that reconnect Laurie with her kids, her dreams, and ultimately herself.


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PostPosted: 10 Feb 2016, 19:49 
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Joined: 09 Feb 2016, 19:20
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Malve S. Burns


First Assignment: Story Statement.

A young German girl, raised by an abusive Baroness mother and a caring doctor father right after the collapse of Nazi Germany, struggles to come to terms with unbearable secrets in her family and her nation. (At regular intervals, her perspective is offset by that of her father, Vati, who provides a historically informed, dynamic, and passionate counterpoint).

Second Assignment: Antagonistic Forces in my Novel.

The greatest antagonist is the protagonist’s (Marie’s) mother, Mama, a disturbed soul, prone to violent outbursts. As Marie grows (from age five to fifteen), Mama is not content with physical punishment, but wants to destroy Marie’s peace of mind and her faith in people. On a short “Blitzvisit” from Canada, her new home, she unleashes a devastating “Blitzkrieg.” Later, when Marie visits her mother in Canada, Mama tries to discredit Marie’s father so absolutely that Marie will stay in Canada, without success.

The second antagonist is “the conspiracy of silence” on the part of the German people who remained silent about Nazi atrocities for years out of guilt and shame. Marie encounters this silent force, when she discovers the deserted Jewish cemetery outside her beloved castle’s walls, for example, or when her grade school teacher forbids the mention of the name Adolf Hitler. The antagonist implodes when Marie, at fifteen, is finally enlightened at school about Hitler’s crimes, including the Holocaust.

The third antagonist is Mama’s silence about her childhood. That secret, along with the secret of Marie’s father’s suffering for helping an incurably ill veteran die, comes to light about the same time, baptizing Marie by fire.


Third Assignment: Breakout Title of my Coming-of-Age Novel

1. When the War Wasn’t Over
2. A Strange Forgetting
3. Surviving Mama and the Bitter Fruits of War


Fourth Assignment: Comparables

There are hardly any novels on coming of age in Germany right after WWII with few exceptions, such as The Reader by Bernard Schlink. That stunning novel starts when the protagonist is already a teenager and is about to meet his ‘first love,’ whereas my story starts when the protagonist, Marie, is 5 years old. Marie represents the next school generation after Werner of All the Light We cannot See and Liesel of The Book Thief. While Werner and Liesel suffer through the War, Marie and her generation have to live with the aftermath of the War.

Fifth Assignment: Conflict line (also described in Assignment 2)

A dreamy girl in post-WWII Germany, confronted by violence, senses secrets and mysteries, which slowly reveal their terrible face, challenging her to a fuller understanding of her family and her country, and changing her from a passive dreamer to a mitigating actor.


Sixth Assignment: Sketch out the inner conflict your protagonist will have….

My protagonist lives under constant pressure and being “conflicted” is her natural (as opposed to chosen) habitat. The times she was born into intensify her dilemma.
The German people had started a war that killed millions of soldiers and civilians, and persecuted and killed millions of helpless victims, but nobody speaks about it. There is a hush across the land, an immense conspiracy of silence. Children feel “something uncanny” but don’t understand what they feel.

Marie fears her abusive mother yet senses that her mother cannot help herself (and believes Mama becomes violent “when the demons possess her”), i.e. she feels some inexplicable empathy for her.

Marie loves to attend Sunday service at the castle’s chapel and read the Bible but cannot stand looking at the crucified Christ (forever nailed to his agony). She adores her father and is devastated when he disappears for two years; she feels abandoned and cannot understand why he can’t help when the family loses its financial footing, sense of security, and social standing (he is in prison, but his children don’t know that).

Mama cannot cope with the worsening hardships and sends Marie and her sister to a “Children’s Home,” run by Protestant sisters. There, Marie and her sister are treated as outcasts (it is a home for children of criminal parents) and humiliated by the other children at school and the town’s people. Marie feels ashamed as well as outraged since she is the same person she’s always been. Her circumstances have changed but not her inner self. She becomes aware of and from then on detests hypocrisy and is shaken in her religious faith.

Later, she warms to Aunt B., the housekeeper and mother of her best friend since she is warm-hearted and kind but feels guilty because she does not want to be disloyal to Mama, etc. When she finally learns of her mother’s cruel childhood (as a teenager) she feels genuine pity for her and helps Mama recover yet wishes that she had been the child of anyone but Mama.

Her inner conflict also embraces larger issues. She loves her country and language but has to learn that her own countrymen became torturers and killers. Her beloved language was also the language of “the beast.” She questions her own right to live when learning of the Holocaust dead. She wants to get out of a world that both produces and tolerates such brutality and questions God’s goodness. (There are further conflicts, but I’m burning up space and shall conclude—on a more upbeat note at that).

Marie is also uplifted by love and caring (Vati, her brother, Sophie, daughter of Aunt B.; the American Santa Claus), by intellectual stimulation (fairytales, Bible, poetry, manuscripts, Vati’s “sermons,” Frau Eiermann, teacher at her privileged prep school), by nature and mysterious forces such as the ghost of Prince Henry. Still, much of her youth is as stark as her times and conflict is both an outer taskmaster and inner companion.

Here is an imagined scene that captures some of the conflicts alluded to, this one in a social setting, as suggested by the assignment). To her utter surprise, Marie, now 8, and living in the Children’s Home after Mama can no longer care for her and her sister, has been chosen by her teacher to play Mary at the annual Christmas Pageant.

Ingrid [Marie’s sister] and Christel [friend] tease me when they hear the news. They are proud, but I toss and turn at night and loathe the thought of having to act out the moving nativity scene before my classmates and the entire town. Everything is awry. I feel wrong for the role, and the teacher picked me for the wrong reasons. Up until now she treated me with contempt, making me feel like a piece of dirt. Then she turns around and chooses that same piece of dirt to be the mother of God. I can’t stand the dishonesty, the falseness of it all.
The teacher asks me to stay after the final rehearsal. “What is it, Marie? What’s wrong? Your voice is so sweet when you sing in choir but now it sounds …almost wooden. Does your throat hurt?
“No.” I don’t know what to think. This is the first time the teacher has spoken to me as if she cared.
“Is there anything you want to tell me?”
I’m torn. How would she feel if I told her, “First you treat me like a criminal, then you want me to play the mother of God. And yet, I am one and the same.
I shake my head.
“Are you sure? I’d like to help you.”
I hesitate. It would feel so good to pour my heart out. I can almost taste the relief—until I remember the look on her face when the ruler she had accused me of stealing, fell out of the pants of the butcher’s son. She didn’t send him to the principal’s office, and she never apologized to me. My tears stop.
“Yes, I’m sure.”
“I’d like you to be the best you can for our audience.”
I get it. The teacher doesn’t really care for my feelings. She wants the play to be a success, no matter how I feel.
Suddenly I no longer care. I have turned cold. Ice cold inside. I almost smile at the teacher, but had I done so, it would have come out as a sneer. I pull myself together. The teacher smiles a mechanical smile, “Very well then. Just do your best, my dear. I know you can.”
The big night arrives. I sit by my cradle and sing in a quivering voice, "Joseph, dearest Joseph mine, help me cradle this infant fine," while the boy Joseph looks with smirking eyes at the baby doll Jesus and my flaming cheeks. I no longer care what people think. I have steeled myself. Even though and maybe because of that, the sweetness is back in my voice.

7th Assignment: Setting (interesting and unique).
Setting is key to the development of my story and is energized by real places that are also endowed with symbolic meaning. The story begins at Harburg Castle (almost a thousand years old) the first home Marie remembers and the most crucial setting. The castle stands for much of Germany’s past and its history is alluded to, BUT it played no role in WWI or WWII. The castle is also a place of refuge when Marie flees her mother, functioning as her “stone mother.” Through its manuscript and art collection it becomes her teacher and turns spiritual guide through the chapel and the ghostly presence of Prince Henry. Ironically, it also “shields” her from the recent Nazi past (just as her own people remain silent on that chapter), by focusing her attention on a more ancient past.

Just outside the Castle’s walls (and intentionally situated outside the walls of the medieval town “Harburg”), Marie discovers the deserted Jewish Cemetery and the Cross with the mysterious letters “I.N.R.I” two key experiences that will inspire deeper thought as she matures.

The next setting is a new house in Garmisch which Mama and Vati (her father) built just before Vati “disappears” into a Sanatorium (speak prison). A beautiful mountain resort that also hosted Hitler’s Winter Olympics, it is to a large degree the place that Marie tries to get out of by walking the highways, at first looking for Vati and later, in desperation, outrunning cars in a near suicidal manner. The family implodes in Garmisch. Brother Bastian arrives and leaves again. The new house is lost. Mama is breaking down. There is no money and hardly any food at Christmas. That’s when an American benefactor appears and turns a dreary day into a real feast. Americans do play an important and largely positive role for Marie and her family. They employ Mama and allow the family to recover over time.

The third setting is the Children’s Home, worthy of a Dickens novel. The stark building in a small Bavarian town is sketched at the outset and filled in further as the story develops. Example for start of chapter:

“The trees are naked and grey on the dull, wintry day when we arrive at St. John’s Children’s Home, and I fear that all creation has died. The minister, who picked out the home in the town of Kempten, was too busy to take us there; he sent his Assistant as chaperone, who seems as lost in his role as we are in his presence.
Our small troupe comes to a stop before a high stonewall that blocks most of our view except for the top floors of a bulky stone structure that rises into a gloomy sky. We shiver; even that neutral, dutiful assistant shivers when he rings the bell at the gate.
A tall figure in black appears, her broad face framed by a stiff white cap. I can’t help staring at the woman’s bushy brows and the shadow of a moustache on her upper lip. The figure studies us coolly with the eye of a sentry who has the power to keep us out or let us in. For the fraction of an instant I pray the woman will send us away, but I know almost at the same time that she will not. A fierce determination lurks in her face, and Ingrid and I are its object.
"So," she says, and that "so" sounds much weightier than you'd expect a short word to sound, "So you are the doctor's girls." She turns abruptly to our chaperone, "I expect you'll want to be on your way." The church man mumbles something. I look around the barren yard that is blocked out by the bulky building without a single pleasing line. The chaplain disappears and I’m left staring at the gate that has shut with a clang.”

For the record, the children are retrieved after 9 months and resume a better (though not loving) life with Mama in Garmisch. Marie is now ready to see the beauty of the mountain town:
“The peak of Alpspitze rises so closely before our eyes when we look out of the mansard windows of the American mountain hotel, Mama’s new home, that we are tempted to stretch out our hands and touch it. Its sheer rock walls form an almost perfect triangle, making it a much more attractive mountain, to my mind, than Germany’s highest peak down the road. Ingrid and I fall in love with the mountains, with the small lake outside the hotel’s door, and the tree-lined path that winds its way around the lake’s shores.
Our Alpine view is almost as stunning as the one from Harburg Castle. It can, of course, never truly match it, but its pristine grandeur touches me in ways that our house at the foot of Kramer Mountain had never done. And I can look down on the world again, making me feel at home.”

WhenVati reappears, he “retrieves” the children and moves the new family unit to a suburb of Heidelberg, while Mama prepares to emigrate (Brother Bastian is already in Canada). In the Heidelberg chapters, the focus is much more interior, i.e. on individual family members (addition of housekeeper and her daughter Sophie) and on their relationship with each other, on Vati’s “sermons” to the young girls on anything from God to politics, and sex. The landscape plays a lesser role, interior settings are more important.

When Marie visits Mama, her brother, and sister (sister Ingrid moved to Canada when her prep school grades suffered) in Canada, the exotic setting, especially on the Alaska Highway, is rendered as often as possible, in real time and in letters. Let me just give one example and bring this assignment to a close:
“Fort St. John [where Marie first arrived] was a dust town, Fort Nelson is the mere shadow of one. It’s condensed into a thin line of houses and wooden shacks, one filling station, and one store frequented by Eskimo Indians and a handful of farmers who try to make a living in this harsh climate. During the fur trading days of the 1800s, Fort Nelson had been a trading post, with the rivers serving as trade routes.
In the 20th century, Fort Nelson had withered away except for a glorious moment during World War II, when it bloomed while the US Army built the Alaska Highway from south of Fort St. John all the way to Alaska in merely eight months, in the process creating the town’s hotel with fancy columns out front and long barrack-like wings running toward the bush in back [Marie works at the hotel to earn her return ticket to Germany]. Who would have thought that the same army that rained down bombs on Nuremberg when I was born, was also busy building a road in this God-forsaken wilderness that would become my home fifteen years later?
The fur trade has come and gone, and WWII has long since ended, but the vast, wild forests, rivers, and lakes around Fort Nelson have endured, as have its moose, elk, wolves, and bears.”


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PostPosted: 10 Feb 2016, 19:55 
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1. Story Statement

To establish independence from her mother and pursue her fashion designing dreams.

2. Antagonist

June was born in a small southern town. Her mother suffered from major depression and her banker father divorced her mother in a scandal that rocked the town when she was 10. June was left to run wild and did so. She met bad boy artist Karl Prince, fell in love, and got pregnant on purpose when she thought he was going to break up with her. Karl was in no way ready to be a father and husband, but Boop (June’s mother) pressured him into marrying June. They had Eve, and got divorced when Eve was three.

June is now 40 years old and works as an executive assistant to the president of a construction company. She’s a perfectionist and a control freak. Though she started out with the noble of goal of being a more involved, better mother than her own was, she’s oversteered and basically runs her daughter’s life. Moreover, June uses Eve as an opportunity to redo her own mistakes. She is constantly arranging what is “best” for Eve without bothering to figure out who Eve really is.

3. Titles

Mending Seams
Skeletons in Dixie
The Designer

4. Comparables

The Pecan Man meets Take Me With You

5. Primary conflict

A college freshman attempts to follow her fashion designing dreams but her domineering mother refuses to let go enough to allow her any success.

6. Eve’s inner conflict
On the one hand Eve has tremendous fashion designing talent and a dream of making it in the industry, on the other hand Eve lacks self-confidence and wants to please her mother who is unimpressed by art and entirely focused on practical careers for Eve. Ultimately, this conflict will lead to Eve considering suicide, but not having the guts/energy to go through with it.

Secondary conflicts
• The road trip itself serves as a source of conflict, from the mother trying to prevent them from going, to getting lost, getting injured, and car trouble.
• Eve’s best friend Ally drops off the face of the earth for a few months. Eve is left wondering what she did to upset her friend, but even worse she’s lost a significant anchor which might have prevented her downward spiral.
• Boop’s sister Vicky begs Boop to tell Ally an old secret, but Boop is afraid if she reveals the secret she’ll lose Eve, June, and her hard-won happiness.
• Eve wants her father, Karl, to let her crash at his place for a few months, but he doesn’t want her in his space.
• Eve gets crushes on boys, but lacks the self-confidence to do anything about it. Boop is constantly pushing boys on her. Her mother forbids her from dating until she is done with college.

7. Setting

Eve’s college in Florida is a spring break mecca and surf town. Non-surfing, pale skinned, non-partying Eve doesn’t fit in with the general culture. Scenes include putt-putt golfing, her dorm, biology lab during dissection, fraternity party, lecture hall, and beach.
Since they are on a road trip there are several scenes in the car. Tension is increased by getting lost, getting a ticket, and the car breaking down.
Savannah is a stop on their road trip. Here Boop’s sister’s old home represents the old south and serves as a backdrop to the tension between two sisters one who’s embraced the past the other who’s turned her back on it.

Three scenes take place at the beach (2 different beaches). The first beach scene is during spring break amongst partiers while Eve considers drowning herself. The second beach is later in the book and more of a place of healing—she faces her fears and learns to surf and she goes on a walk to get her head straight.

Ally’s house is Eve’s second home, but in the story its dark and gloomy, neglected feeling and Eve struggles with the change. Also, Ally’s parents are upset with Eve for not being there for Ally and assumptions they made about that which adds to the tension.
June’s house is in the final scene of the book. This is Eve’s home, but it isn’t a comfortable place as it is always kept pristine. June has broken into Eve’s locked footlocker leaving Eve feeling violated.

They stay at two motels along their journey. One is in need of some serious updated. It is worn and ugly. It serves to represent how ill-advised the trip is. The other reeks of cigarette smoke which serves to encourage the ladies to go to a festival rather than wait in the room for their car to be repaired.

Briefer settings

Eve’s father lives in a trailer park. The place is a shithole. Eve spends the scene cleaning up her father crap and begging him to let her move in. Her father keeps all of his art locked up in room in the trailer. Her father’s life represents June’s worse fear for Eve and ironically the direction she’s pushed Eve into.
Eve and Boop get lost and find themselves at an abandoned race track. The meshing of abandonment and reckless speed serve as symbolic of Eve’s inner life.

Boop goes to the library to research Down Syndrome and is relieved to discover all that has changed in the last 40 years. The scene is generally a “quiet” one, but there is some tension in the Boop’s attempts not cause a scene as she deals with some strong emotions in a place of calm silence.

Boop give Eve a flirting lesson in a country music bar. Tension brews over an invitation to join the line dancing.
On the one hand the Fountain of Youth is a historical farce/tourist trap. On the other hand it’s a pretty nice park. Eve struggles with coming to terms with the place and her grandmother’s aging.

The Garlic Festival offers Boop an opportunity to see her hometown in a better light than her memory of it, and Eve comes face to face with a chance to make her dreams come true.

The car breaks down and so we have a scene in a repair shop where we discover that it will take a while to fix so the ladies are stranded. We also discover a bit more about Boop’s past relationship with the owner.

Boop discovers Eve’s fashion designing secret on accident at a gas station where she immediately goes public with it to a stranger that happens to have a daughter who owns a boutique and the two ladies push Eve to share her designs with the store owner.

The epilogue is set on the front porch of home that Eve, Ally, and Boop move into. The epilogue is tension free.

An emotional scene takes place at an unkempt graveside. The grave’s neglect mirrors the neglect of its occupant and righting it is a first step toward working through the guilt Boop feels.

Boop’s secret history is revealed through a series of flashbacks.

1942—Boop is climbing down a tree to sneak out and ends up spying on her sister with her boyfriend—there is tension in the climb itself and then when she is caught spying; also when Vicky’s boyfriend announces he’s going to join the military, Vicky gets quite upset
1972—Boop’s bedroom—her husband announces he’s planning to divorce—the intimacy of the setting stand in contrast to the dissolution of their marriage
1962—underlying tension about a woman’s proper place, where Boop’s husband is holding on the 1950’s housewife role and Vicky is pushing Boop to stand up to her husband
1974—in the unfinished basement of Boop’s home, Boop has retreated there to escape the heat, but June and her dirty hippy boyfriend find her there to announce June’s pregnancy
1957—hospital garden in the dead of winter day after giving birth
1957—beauty shop, Boop talks Vicky into driving her to see her son every Sunday, in return Boop agrees to keep her son a secret, tension increased because of all of the ears listening in the beauty parlor and the secret nature of their conversation
1961—Boop is visiting her son in an institution for mentally retarded children


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PostPosted: 10 Feb 2016, 20:50 
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Algonkian Writer Conferences - Pre-Event Writer Assignments
Joetta Currie


FIRST ASSIGNMENT:

Fern Wilson wants to get out of her crappy, little Kentucky town and have a chance to be somebody. Playing second to her older sister and the high school Smarts, has taken its toll, and turned her into a quick witted, mean spirited, smart mouth bitch. She embraces her cruelness with a sense of heartless entitlement, never considering the consequences of her actions.

SECOND ASSIGNMENT:

Joe is the mulatto son of a dead prostitute. It was a secret to be kept in a small southern town in the early sixties. His mother hid him for seven years, fearing he would be shunned or worse, taken from her. After she passed, Joe was sent to an orphanage. Alone and afraid, Joe could have turned bad, but the kindness of the orphanage caretakers, helped mold a confused, but good hearted young man.

Joe is fortunate in an unfortunate manner. He has Vitiligo, causing his skin to lose its dark pigment, so he mostly passes for white. It’s his only piece of good luck until he meets Sissie. She’s a poor, desperate, speck of a girl, who’s need for him makes his heart glad.

Like this mother, Joe is obsessed with collecting and hoarding all manner of throw away things, It’s not until he falls in love that he finds a sense of place and home. When that comfort is threatened by Fern, Joe’s hoarding accelerates and he starts a new collection.​ This time, it’s not just things.

THIRD ASSIGNMENT:

Current Title, A Tainted Life
Tainted Lives- I am afraid it would read (Lives) like a verb
Tainted
Where She Can Do No Harm

FOURTH ASSIGNMENT:

Southern Fiction

In Country by Bobbie Ann Mason
Feather Crowns by Bobbie Ann Mason
Looking for Salvation at the Dairy Queen by Susan Gregg Gilmore

FIFTH ASSIGNMENT:

A lonely, outcast discovers love and a renewed sense of home. When threatened by a thoughtless and cruel girl, a lifelong obsession accelerates to protect what he now holds dear.


SIXTH ASSIGNMENT:

Fern is a virgin, yet sexually aware and interested in men. She loathes Joe, but feels a strong, fearful attraction when he confronts her on the bus the first time. When in captivity, she is confused by the love she sees Joe exhibit for his “family” and is conflicted when drawn into the feelings he has for them.

Later, when resigned to her imprisonment, Fern’s desire for Joe leads to intimacy, and while bringing great joy, also provokes jealousy and rage because of Joe’s relationship with Sissie. Joe is also torn by his love for his pregnant wife and the feeling he’s developed for Fern.

Years later, their life together is disturbed by Fern’s underlying feelings of resentment and Joe’s overwhelming guilt from his haunted past.

FINAL ASSIGNMENT:

Licksburg is a sleepy, old, river town in Kentucky that goes to bed with the chickens and wakes up on a glazed donut high. Its cobblestone streets and lovely architecture play ad nauseam to a young woman seeking a life of her own. It’s a good old boyville, where people do what they’ve always done and nobody gives a girl attention unless it’s to save her soul. Elders put you in your place, and you’re to stay there until they marry you off to a nice Future Farmer of America. Nothing much was expected of you from the start, and you shouldn’t go causing trouble now.

The Baptist Church is the center of everything. They rule the town with four gleaming steeples that seem to scrape the blue off the Sunday morning sky. The afternoon potluck is littered with deviled eggs and three bean salad, made the night before in S&H Green stamp trays and pulled from harvest gold appliances in the morning.

The good Baptists appreciate the Jehovah Witness’ passion for the Lord, even if they do go overboard sometimes. No one speaks ill of the Catholics, because there’s so damn many of them, and mostly keep to themselves. The Methodist and Presbyterians are good for funny one-liners from the pulpit, and since they’re all going to hell anyway, it doesn’t really matter. Other nonbelievers, like the couple of Jewish and Mormon families, are ignored as a matter of principle.

Fern lives in a gray shingled house, three blocks from the projects. She shares an attic bedroom with her older sister, Nebbie and three year old, RayJean, who crawls into bed with her at night and pulls her eyelashes until she wakes up to tell her a story. The walls are mix of blue, black and pink in an attempt to satisfy each girl. (as if that would be enough) The brown color on the floor started peeling off, the week after her daddy painted it. Fern often scrapes animal shapes in it to keep her company when she can’t sleep.

The metal roof sounds wonderful in the rain, but in the winter when it’s cold, condensation collects on the ceiling of her bedroom, causing water to drip on her face at night. Her mom nails empty, plastic, margarine tubs to the ceiling to catch it and Fern is always afraid she’ll drown if they fall on her in the middle of the night.

There's never been a black so dark as the old bomb shelter. Fern can feel the heaviness on her face, silencing her cries and cursing her soul. When the generator is hooked up, dim, flickering lights, reveal her new home...her prison. Her tomb? The scene is revealed like an old black and white Polaroid...blurry and lacking in contrast. Flattened, water-stained boxes are duct taped to the walls, and Christmas wreaths are hung in rows, offset with smiling faces, staring mockingly from dime store frames.

Fern can't help but imagine what her body will look like when they find her. She pictures a dried, gaunt, leathery mummy. Her breasts shriveled, flattened as if pasted on for embellishment. Her blond hair, gone white from hatred and shame, will be braided, and her bangs, long since grown out, secured by bobbie pins permanently embedded in her skull.

Fern is determined to die with her eyes open. She is relieved to have something to do, and practices sleeping that way so Joe will have to face her one last time. It's become easy, and she thanks the darkness, at least for that.

Sissie’s only hope was Jehovah and the promise of being one of 144,000 souls, so she and her brothers can be with their momma in heaven. She can’t smell the mix of mold, unwashed hair, tobacco spit and pee, that sullies the skin of her life. It’s been on her too long. But her heart feels the goodness in those who’s lives are lessened by a similar plight. The rest of her has been squeezed dry.

Sissie’s church lay at the top of Butler Street hill. Its peely, white, clapboard and tilted steeple are a sign of the Lord’s hand pulling them to glory. Set up on concrete blocks along the back, it creates a dark, private place for hot-balled, teenage boys to cajole their dates into believing that Jehovah can’t see their sinning underneath a holy place. That’s Lucifer’s playground, and the devil won’t tell.

The Manor was often the end of a real family for most, but for Joe, it was the beginning. Where other boys fell, he rose above his tainted life, in ways precious only to himself.

The dust stirred up, traveling the road to the Manor, collects in your nose and coats your eyeballs, giving you a glimpse into what it must feel like to be abandoned, sucked of breath and looking at life from behind a curtain of shame.


Fern sees the homeless women make their nest on the streets of Berkley. With the tenderness of mother’s love, they lay down brown boxes with carefully pulled staples and flattened seams, and cover them with someone else’s coat, void of style. One haggard soul sprinkles baby powder on a red blanket before wrapping it around her shoes to use as a pillow. It reminds her of the precious blessing of a warm baby in her arms. Fern buys it for her when she goes to Walgreens, and walks it back to her place behind the dumpster, staying to watch as the sprinkles of white, make the faded rag look like Christmas.


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PostPosted: 10 Feb 2016, 23:33 
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Joined: 10 Feb 2016, 19:01
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First Assignment: Story Statement

A young woman, whose mother was convicted of the murder of her neighbor when she was ten, comes back to her Brooklyn neighborhood to find out what really happened.

Second Assignment: Antagonist/Antagonistic Force

Phoebe ‘s (protagonist) major antagonistic force is her inability to recover from her childhood trauma. After a number of failed relationships, she realizes her lack of trust is related to the broken relationship with her mother. She comes back to Brooklyn as an adult to find out if her mother was really a killer and to pick up the pieces of her disrupted childhood.

In attempting to discover the truth about the murder and clear her mother of guilt, she engages with Franklin Richards, a successful entertainment lawyer in Manhattan, whose wife, Eileen, was a close friend of Phoebe’s mother. Franklin tries to obstruct Phoebe’s investigation, but his motives are unclear.

Unbeknownst to Phoebe, the father (George Gentile) and son (George, Jr.) of the murdered woman have found out about Phoebe’s quest and intend to do her harm if she persists. George Gentile is retired now, living in Queens, but still connected to shady characters with mob ties. His son, George, Jr., is trying to cut those ties and make a different life for himself, but is dragged unwillingly into the scheme to stop Phoebe.

Third Assignment: Breakout Title

The Shirleys
A Backward Glance at Death
In the Shadow of Death
A Daughter's Dilemma

Fourth Assignment: Author Comparables

Thought this would be easy (mystery genre with romantic aspects), but it's not. Nothing I like to read is similar to what I like to write although I'm writing in the same genre. Most mystery writers use a detective to anchor the story. My heroine is the detective by necessity, not profession, since she's looking into an incident from her own life. I'm hoping she will decide to act in this capacity in future mysteries concerning unrelated characters. Will come back to this.

Fifth Assignment: Primary Conflict

A young woman, refusing to believe that her mother was a murderer, is determined to discover why she pled guilty to the crime and to find the real killer. In returning to her childhood Brooklyn neighborhood, she delves into the lives of her parents and their former neighbors and learns, to her great peril, not only the identity of the murderer, but the consequences of the class differences among the neighbors and the betrayal that existed in her family.

Sixth Assignment: Inner Conflict/Social Environment

1. Excerpt reflecting Phoebe's relationship with her mother and father:

As you can probably tell, I’m an only child and used to spending a lot of time alone. My mother was there when I came home from school, but I knew from her absent look and constant smoking she’d rather be somewhere else. My father, of course, was working.

“Mommy, can we go to Aunt Clara’s this afternoon after school? I want to play with Kitty.” Aunt Clara had a cat, black and white with green eyes. I wasn’t allowed to have a pet. My mother said she was allergic, so that was the end of that.

“We’ll see.”

This was my mother’s favorite answer. It could mean anything, but mostly it meant that it depended on her mood at the time she made her decision. My mother’s moods were very important to her and she seemed to save them up so there was an inexhaustible supply. They were subject to change at a moment’s notice so it was hard to predict which one would pop up at any particular time. Sometimes, she would say she was too tired or her nerves were on edge or she had a headache or she was too wired. It usually meant we wouldn’t do whatever it was I wanted.

But, sometimes, she would say “Let’s go” and I would rush frantically to put away my toys and get ready to go out. We’d have to leave in a hurry or her mood might change.

When she was in a good mood, there was no one else I wanted to be with. She treated me like her little girlfriend and made jokes about the people we knew in our building. She especially liked to imitate the heavy Brooklyn accent of our upstairs neighbor, Mrs. Gentile, whose head was forever covered in tightly wound pincurls, each curl held in place by crisscrossed bobby pins.

The bobby pins’ shiny reflection sent out robotic rays of light, as if secret messages were bouncing off her head. My mother said her daytime attire of dull housedresses and dirty slippers made her one of those cloistered housewives who love only to gossip and have no interest in the outside world.

She called these women “Shirleys” after a character in a popular book she was reading. I knew that I was expected never to become a Shirley and I knew that I agreed with my mother about that.

My mother had her own car, a prized green Plymouth convertible, and we rode around with the top down until the dead of winter. In summer we rode to the beach, and on the empty road with the dune grasses waving wildly in the wind, she often took her hands off the wheel and the car would veer from one side of the road to the other like an amusement park ride. We would both scream with mock fright and real laughter. We knew my mother was a very good driver and wouldn’t put us in danger, but we also knew never to say anything about this to my father.

My father was the silent type, or so I thought because he wasn’t around much. He was always working, except on Sundays. On Sunday mornings, he’d put on his soft blue cashmere sweater and casual pants and sit at the window reading the Sunday Times. He read it straight through from front to back, with the whole paper held out before him so that only the top of his head was visible. On the big mahogany radio, WQXR was playing classical music, and I’d spread myself on the floor near him and read or work on my jigsaw puzzles.

When he was finished, he’d say, “Well, where does my princess want to go today?”

Sunday mornings were our time together and we always had an outing. The choices, depending on the weather, were to ride to Sheepshead Bay and walk on the wooden piers watching the fishing boats, or if it was an indoor day, wander through the Brooklyn Museum. Occasionally, it would be a very special outing, like the United Nations building in Manhattan, and I would get dressed up and wear my hat and white gloves. I’d take his hand, and we would walk together. Not much conversation, just the security of his presence. It was great.

My mother loved those Sunday mornings, too. She never went with us and she called it her alone time. I never knew what she did except stay in bed and sleep late, but she was glamorously dressed by the time we got home. Then we’d all go somewhere special in the city for dinner.

On the day that everything changed, I came home from school at the usual time. I didn’t know I would never see my home again.

2. Excerpt showing Phoebe's inner conflict as an adult:

I’ve lived these last twenty-five years in a slow motion blur. The failure to recapture the lost part of my life kept me looking back as I tried to grasp the future. Memories of childhood interrupted my daily life like warning lights along a highway. Often I gave in and found myself lost in these reveries for hours.

It was like I couldn’t understand time, the passage of it. Everything I remembered seemed like it was happening now. One day I was sitting at a table in Child’s restaurant in Manhattan, eating mountains of chicken croquettes with gravy, enjoying time with my mother. And the next day my mother was in prison.

“Isn’t this just the best?” my mother would say as she speared a mound of chicken croquette and then dipped her fork into the mashed potatoes and gravy. My mother was slender, but she could eat like a Coney Island champ. “Don’t you just love to mix everything together? Eat up, Phoebe, so we can have our ice cream sundaes next.”

I couldn’t keep up with her, but I loved how, when she was in this kind of good mood, she was so excited about everything. The world looked so shiny when we were together, glossy and sweet, with the sense that the future would be brighter than anything I could imagine.

Until she died last year, I visited my mother in prison every month and every month I watched the decline that began in that one horrible moment.

Before everything happened, she’d had that special movie star glamour, her slim body moving easily with a dancer’s nimble grace, her short blond hair reflecting the light as she moved. Understated in dress, she loved muted greys, blacks and deeps blues, the night colors, sometimes worn with antique jewelry or scarves. I loved to watch her get dressed and tried to imitate her style as I grew up.

In the years before she died, she’d been fading slowly into a ghostly presence. It wasn’t the process of ageing that changed her. The horror of that day could be seen in the gradual disintegration of her features, like the constant pressure of violent weather eroding the stone face of a mountain.

In all my visits, never once did she admit to the killing. She stubbornly refused to talk about it. I think it was the one thing she held onto as an emblem of her sanity. Or a secret too dark to tell.

My father never recovered. He sold his business and moved with me back to his hometown of Philadelphia. I grew up there and I’m a lawyer now. I’ve just moved back to Brooklyn, not far from the old apartment. I’ve been drawn here ever since the event that changed my life, but out of respect for my father, I never came back while he was alive. Now that he’s gone, there was nowhere else I wanted to be.

My life as I knew it had been ripped from me at the age of ten and I was trying to get it back the only way I knew how. To discover what really happened that day.

3. Excerpt showing Phoebe's motivation to find out what really happened:

The dream brought back all the old feelings of failure. Failure was becoming a habit, I thought. I knew my attempts at denial of what happened to my mother had left me with a reservoir of rage. It was the kind of submerged rage that perverted my judgment and left me walking mindlessly into acts I knew deep down would be destructive.

It took my wedding day to finally make me realize that my life was out of control. That day, as I was getting dressed, the white gown and veil such beautiful symbols of the life I wasn’t going to have, my only feeling was despair.

As I sat there deciding my fate, I was aware of the roomful of guests next door and I knew they were getting restless. The ceremony was called for 8:00 sharp and it was now 8:45 without even a single note from the organ. I could hear them fussing with their evening clothes, imagine them eyeing each other guardedly. As the interval continued, the sound of twitching, fidgeting and coughing increased. Finally, with exasperation reaching its apex, the music began.

But after four familiar notes, I knew I had to come clean. The organist was waived off and my fiancé’s best man delivered the bad news. He had no choice but to announce that the bride had had a change of heart.

I was devastated and humiliated. I felt heartbroken for everyone involved, but I just couldn’t go through with it.

It was in those following days and months of isolation and self-analysis that I realized I could never commit to anyone or anything unless I knew what happened to my mother.

I berated myself for these thoughts. Why should being the daughter of a presumed murderer have this effect? Why wasn’t I strong enough to overcome this? All I knew was that someone I loved more than anyone, someone I trusted with my life, had betrayed me. Why? Why did this happen? If my mother was capable of such an act, then maybe I was, too. She was moody, but not irrational, not irresponsible, not immoral. Or was she? I couldn’t grasp the consequences of that thought.

4. Excerpt reflecting class/social conditions affecting the story:

Once again I was back in apartment 6B.

I saw myself with Betty Gentile standing outside our building. I was waiting to be picked up for my weekly ballet class, holding my pink ballet slippers with the long silk-like ribbons tightly to my chest. A group of older, popular girls from high school came walking down the street toward us. They were laughing as they walked, swinging their hips with the superior and confident air of girls just discovering their sexuality. No time for childish twerps like me and Betty. Suddenly, Betty grabbed the pink ballet slippers out of my hands and said “Shhh, just let me have them for a minute and we’ll pretend they’re mine.”

It was obvious, but I didn’t understand it at the time. Betty didn’t go to ballet class. She didn’t take piano lessons. And she probably never went to college. She was destined to be a Shirley, just like her mother. And, to my dismay, I realized that my friend Betty Gentile, the older girl I looked up to, was jealous of me.

Whatever brought back that memory, I knew it had something to do with the Gentiles. But there was nothing I could do about it right now. Tomorrow, I’d start again. I hadn’t come all this way to give up this easily.

Final Assignment: Setting

Now, some twenty-five years later, standing in front of my old building, I remembered clearly what the neighborhood was like.

Mid-sized apartment buildings faced the four-lane highway, intersected by side streets with single and two-family homes packed closely together. Summer conversations in one kitchen wafted through open windows to be clearly heard in the house next door. No secrets here. The familiarity extended to the apartment buildings, where each building contained a small village, where all the families knew each other’s secrets, and where children ran in and out of each other’s apartments all day.

And then my mind flashed back to one of those bright spring days in the neighborhood. School was out and the tree-lined block was starting to fill up with kids coming out to play after finishing their usual three o’clock snacks.

I remember how hard I concentrated on the colorful artwork I was creating in the middle of the street. Blacktop was my favorite canvas, and I wrote everything as pointedly and succinctly as I could within huge heart-shaped outlines, telegraphing clearly who was in love with whom or the identity of my best friend at the moment. I knew my creativity depended on an intense focus as well as a plentiful supply of those fat fingers of pastel limestone that left me covered in a rainbow of dust.

“Hey, Maxi, I’m running out of chalk. Especially yellow and pink. Bring some over here, quick.”

Maxi was busy with her own creations, but what were best friends for, so she came running over to me and dropped a box of five sticks next to my crouching form.

“My dad’s coming home early today, so I’m going to have to leave soon, Phoebe. You can have the rest of my chalk.”

Just then, a tall shadow loomed over the girls and a deep voice called to Maxi. “Time to go, Max,” the deep voice said. “Your mother’s waiting for us.”

As I turned my head and looked up, I saw Maxi’s father drape a protective arm around my friend’s shoulders and lead her away. “Bye, Phoebe,” Maxi said. I didn’t answer. I was too busy pushing my envy into some dark corner of my mind as I turned my back on the departing figures, telling myself how lucky I was that nobody came and interrupted me like that.

In winter, my friends and I made so much noise in our small apartments that our mothers shooed us out into the hallways. They became the backdrop for our impromptu play, mostly jacks and pink Spaldeen balls thrown against the walls. In good weather, the side streets were our playgrounds. We played a continuous round of stickball, potsy, handball and jump rope, interrupted only by the occasional car slowing down so we could run up on the sidewalk while it passed by.

In those days, boys and girls played together. Sometimes we pretended to be our favorite ballplayers, and sometimes we engaged in childish but very serious games of war, started by an offhand remark taken the wrong way or a hurled insult that got out of hand. At times of war, sides were quickly taken. Each side worked furiously to cover the streets in colored chalk slogans, team names, mean names and markings of territory. Grownups were not welcome and they stayed away except to call us for meals.

The thing that struck me the most when I came back was how nothing had changed. With my adult perspective, calculating the measure of objects in relation to my larger grown up self, the building looked much smaller. But the structure was pristine, the red brick repointed, the painted columns on each side of the front entranceway shiny white, the surrounding box hedges clipped straight. It was the Brooklyn version of the green shuttered house with the white picket fence. As if nothing dark could ever happen here.


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PostPosted: 15 Feb 2016, 20:57 
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Algonkian Writer Conferences - Pre-Event Writer Assignments

FIRST ASSIGNMENT: write your story statement.

Young Daniela longs to find her kindred friend, end her life of loneliness, and protect her new-found friend even if it means her death

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.

Asher is a 60+ y. o. male whose Nazi father and Jewish mother escaped the Holocaust and immigrated to America in the 1940s. His parents’ marriage is more tumultuous than a Nor’easter and creates tension even when both are not present. His mother berates him, and he remains an outsider amongst his tall and preppy classmates—he’s vertically challenged.
His affection for his beloved sister, Natalia—a beautiful accomplished dancer and violinist—is Asher’s only source of hope and peace. Unfortunately, Natalia escapes Germany with her family only to be murdered by her doting brother one beautiful summer afternoon. The fateful event occurs the summer before she is to leave for Julliard. Devastated, Asher is willing to do anything to retrieve his sister, companion and friend.

Everything is not what it seems.

Nomed, a dark force from the underworld, literally possessed the affection-starved boy and deceived Asher until he committed the ultimate act of inhumanity—murder. Nomed possess his own agenda—escape a hellish tomb and roam Earth while instigating the annihilation of humanity so he and his friends can move from the unseen dimension and inhabit Earth.

Nomed strikes a deal with vulnerable child Asher—follow Nomed’s commands and he will keep Asher’s crime a secret and bring Natalia back to life.

Desperate, Asher agrees. Besides, he has already killed his sister, so what force or human could prohibit him from unleashing his sadistic tendencies while participating in human trafficking, extortion, destabilization of world economies, instigating wars, and eventual world domination via his secret organization linked to Knights Templars?

Nothing.

Ultimately, Asher is a threat to Daniela’s greatest desire—her undiscovered kindred friend.

THIRD ASSIGNMENT: BREAKOUT TITLE

Orphan Dreamer
The Girl with the Orphan Diamond
Dream Chasers

FOURTH ASSIGNMENT: Comparable Titles

Angelfall by Susan Ee
Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon
Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

FIFTH ASSIGNMENT: PRIMARY CONFLICT

A young awkward girl is on a quest to find a kindred friend, but she has one major obstacle—before she was born, her destiny had been decided—and it doesn’t included friendship bracelets. If she refuses to fulfill her destiny of solving a series of ancient puzzles, Daniela’s nightmares will become reality, and a cataclysmic event will decimate the human race.
SIXTH ASSIGNMENT: sketch out the conditions for the inner conflict your protagonist will have. Sketch out one hypothetical scenario in the story wherein this would be the case--consider the trigger and the reaction.

Daniela is a loner who desires companionship, but she needs to gain enough confidence to engage with potential friends when they are presented. Her first option is Lauren, a girl from a posh Bostonian background who is studying the development of biochemical weapons at MIT. Daniela is from a neighborhood in the South that happens to be from the wrong-side of the railroad tracks. Her intelligence is her ally. She is studying medicine at her first choice medical school, The University of Florida.
Initially, Daniela struggles to understand a girl whose popularity and excessive romances come at easily to Lauren as Daniela’s ability to solve a differential equation. Since childhood, sudden episodes of epistaxis—nose bleeds—have obliterated her confidence and leaves her to overcome her childhood nickname of ghetto-queen, crack whore.
Next, Daniela meets Cillian, the monster-like boy from her dreams who happens to be very cute in real life. Meeting him complicates things because Daniela has never kissed a boy, and she must find a way to process her feelings for Cillian, especially when she realizes that the villain of the story, Asher, has a sadistic history with Cillian and wants him deader than a piece of drift wood.
SECONDARY CONFLICT Family? Friends? Associates? What is the nature of it?

______________________________________________________
Daniela’s initial secondary conflict is a bigoted classmate who taunts her in regards to her ethnicity and nosebleeds. Her story arc requires her to become comfortable in her own skin, preparing her to deal with her second source of secondary conflict—a nosy medical school classmate who taunts Daniela about her inability to secure a boyfriend. She learns to value herself whether single or in a relationships. This lesson prepares her to deal with the primary conflict provided by the two big villains—Asher and Nomed.

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

The story begins in 1025 BC in Gibeah—a track of land near current day Israel. Dry desert air chaps the skin of friends, Jonathan and David. A warrior’s acrid scent melds with a shepherd boy’s smell—fear and innocence join, mimicking the tenuous bands of their prohibited friendship. A prince’s soul and a shepherd boy’s soul who later became a soldier where linked for eternity.

The next scene involves the protagonist and occurs inside her North Carolina mountain home during a winter storm.

My gaze moves from the stone pavers to beyond, past the confines of my luxurious prison.
Beyond the windows of my Blue Ridge Mountain cabin and down the back of the cabin’s sixty foot serpentine driveway, miniature islands of powdered snow cling to a jigsaw of ashen gray and white pavers.
His tire tracks are gone, maybe forever. My heart skips a beat and then settles back into its usual pulse of sixty-three beats a minute. At the end of the driveway, a flag pole pierces the air and atop an American flag waves within invisible streams of air.

Cinnamon and spice waft from a Yankee Candle that sits on the black walnut coffee table in my living room and tunnels into every cotton fiber of my favorite taupe couch. The cushions sag in the middle, but I refuse to donate the old couch to the Goodwill like I’ve done with most of the other furniture. Cloth this old holds memories—a few of my most precious ones. I curl my fingers and clutch a paltry bit of fabric.


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PostPosted: 16 Feb 2016, 02:47 
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4) Comparables - More thoughts

My mind is still grinding away on comparables for Falling to Earth and I have thought of another which, unfortunately, is also very famous, but which probably best captures the intent and tone of my story. The book is A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole, was published in 1980, thirteen years after his death, and for which he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize posthumously in 1981. My novel is a comic (I hope) picaresque which tries to poke fun at the way we live now and parades the imperfect hero and self-obsessed heroine through a series of situations by which their character and personalities become known and appreciated by the reader, and each other. His story is set in New Orleans and the settings and unique characters are key to his novel.

In spite of the success of this A Confederacy of Dunces, I have no expectation of dying any time in the near future and I doubt that my mother would exert herself as strenuously as his to get it published, although I could be wrong about both of these beliefs. This is a book for which I have great admiration, and which I occasionally considered as I was writing my story, although I have not read it for many years. I'm still working on this.


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PostPosted: 17 Feb 2016, 01:47 
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Assignment 1

Natalie Novak must overcome her past mistakes—and an abusive ex—to ensure her own future.

Assignment 2

Wes Martin loves to win. A natural athlete with self assured charm, he ascended to royalty status in the decaying tiny town of Early, Iowa before he reached the 8th grade. Women have fawned over him since he hit puberty, admiring his deep set turquoise eyes, dark lashes and hair, and a strong jaw line offset by dimpled cheeks with a natural blush.

Life at home for Wes was anything but regal. Like so many in Early, the bank took back his family’s farm during the 1980s. His dad had always been a drinker, but the depths of his disease surfaced during Wes’s teenage years. Wes prayed every night that his father would drink to passing out—the less he consumed, the more likely Wes or his mom would be subject to violence.
Natalie and Wes dated during high school. He’s controlling at best—and at his worst, he’s abusive. After graduation—Natalie abruptly leaves town. Wes plays two seasons of football at a small Iowa college before joining the military. After 10 years of active deployment, he’s back in Early. When he sees Natalie, he tries to make amends. But once she’s angered him, his goal becomes destroying her.

Assignment 3

1. 7 Days in Early
2. Early Girl
3. The River Rats

Assignment 4

The story is rich with a family dynamic akin to Jonathan Tropper’s This is Where I Leave You—just replace the east-coast Jewish family with Catholic Czechoslovakian Iowa farmers.

The story also compares to Nickolas Butler’s Shotgun Love Songs, which focuses strongly on the lonely setting of a small mill town in Wisconsin. It explores what it means to come from a place of deep roots, and uses humor to explore the inner lives of characters in roughly the same generation as the characters in my story.

Assignment 5

Just when she thought life couldn’t get any worse, Natalie Novak makes the life-altering mistake of trusting the ex-boyfriend she had escaped a decade before.

Assignment 6

Inner conflict: Natalie Novaks hates her hometown. Filled with gossip and not-so-overt racism, no one from Early ever amounts to much, mostly due to lack of opportunity. Now that she’s back from Chicago, Natalie feels like everyone thinks that she thinks she’s better than everyone else for getting out. As the story goes on, Natalie realizes that, all in all, the people are good: if you’re ever in trouble, Early has your back. And she realizes that her own lacking self-esteem is what really drove her to leave—she admires those who feel secure enough about themselves to stay in Early, and not have Natalie’s incessant need to feel good based on the value others place on her.

Social conflict: Secondary conflict within her social environment occurs when Natalie confronts her cousin Heather about getting a boob job. Because of a pact they made when they were teenagers, Natalie believes Heather should have waited for Natalie to be ready as well. When Heather responds with anger, Natalie begins to sob. The fight soon grows beyond the conversation about boobs, and Heather points out to Natalie how selfish she’s been since returning to Early. And how Natalie’s reliance on her victimhood has grown old and how Natalie’s choices are the reason she’s in the mess she’s in. Natalie goes inward, beating herself up mentally and deciding it’s time for her to leave Early. Rather than stay and fight, Natalie again chooses to run.

Assignment 7

Early, Iowa is a tiny town set along the banks of the Iowa River. It was founded by a group of Czechoslovakian settlers, who came to Iowa in the late 1800s to live off the land. Although the town once boasted a population of more than 1,000 and a thriving business sector, by 2006, the town’s population dwindled to just over 300. Its decline began after WW2, when the trains halted passenger service. The town’s decline became even more apparent after the farm crisis of the 1980s—when the area’s farmers lost their land and went bankrupt, it impacted the industry of the town. Now the only thriving business is the tavern. Nearly all of the families currently living in and around Early are descendents of the original settlers. The only newcomers are a handful of Mexican families who first came to Early to work at the seed corn plant in a neighboring town. Aside from the socializing taking place at the tavern, the Catholic church remains a big part of the community’s culture. Although enterprising business people have tried to “revitalize” the area, it’s simply too far off the beaten path. Goods—even gasoline—can be purchased for less in the larger towns within driving distance.

Technically a flood plain, after a major flood in 1993, many of the residents opted for a government buy-out of their property. Those who remained are known to be hardheaded, stubborn, and self-sufficient.

Much of the story takes place in the farmland surrounding Early. The moderately hilly but fertile land is covered by crops—corn and soybeans taking up the majority of fields that surround the miles of winding gravel roads. In the past, one would come upon a new homestead every few miles. In 2006, many of those farmhouses and buildings have been boarded up, torn down, or left to decay. The farmsteads in which families remained are well-kept, but empty: Most small family farmers stopped raising livestock in the 90s when corporate farming became the only way to make a profit. As such, barns, hog lots, and other out buildings sit empty.


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PostPosted: 17 Feb 2016, 05:37 
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Seven Short Assignments

1). Story Statement: Three friends who have spent the last decade chasing a fix instead of fixing what went wrong vow to claw past their vices to find their happy endings before birthday #30.

2). Antagonist Force
Sloane, whose credit card debt has landed her in her mom’s basement, is disgusted to discover her frenemy Megan Casey Christianson is moving in next door. She’s also been able to move on from her scandalous past to secure a marriage, mortgage, and a baby carriage. When Megan invites herself to Sloane’s 30th birthday party at the end of the summer, Sloane, Taylor and Jana figure they have six months to make the missing parts of their lives complete. They can then show Megan they’re three perfect tens, just like her. Through flashbacks, readers discover how Megan has slighted the girls in the past, and her presence is a constant reminder to keep improving their own lives.

3). Title
Addicted
Hooked
Three Perfect Tens

4). Comparables
I would compare my novel to Jessica Knoll’s Luckiest Girl Alive. Both of us feature protagonists who aren’t likeable from the start, until you dig beneath to see how their emotional turmoil impacts their behavior. The character of Jana reminds me of women in Maureen Sherry’s Opening Belle, because of the lengths they’re willing to go to succeed at work.

5). Conflict Line
On the cusp of their 30th birthdays, can three girls gain a hold on their addictions to finally grow up?

6). Inner Conflict
Sloane is hellbent on pinning down her soulmate. Because of society (women are old maids at 30), the soap operas she cut her teeth on and the fairy tale love story of her parents, Sloane is always looking for her meet cute and her big romance. But she’s caught up in an endless loop of diving into affairs, or believing every word out of a guy’s mouth, without taking the time to discern if he’s a). telling the truth or b). she even really connects with the guy. She’s after the ring. Can she dial back the wild girl antics and Pinterest wedding boards to forge a real, lasting connection?

Jana’s a child of divorce, and while she couldn’t control her parents’ marriage ending, or her move to St. Louis, she can control how she spends her time. At work she can be a superstar, but it’s to the detriment of her personal life when she discovers her long-distance boyfriend cheating. She starts to have feelings for the neighbor next door, but wonders if she can keep up her super star status if she’s balancing an in-town romance. Her conflict causes her to take drastic measures to stay on top.

Taylor’s mom was an alcoholic who killed herself, and now she’s morphed into the very person she couldn’t stand. She’s tried to stop drinking, but she can’t. And doesn’t really want to most days either. Will rehab work, or have the vodka and the hurt permanently blacked out any of Taylor’s sweetness?

The societal conflict is embodied in Megan Casey Christianson. There’s this idea that you’re supposed to have your life buttoned up by your 30th year. Sloane, Jana and Taylor have vowed to become the best versions of themselves – but are they really committed to doing the work to make that happen?

7). Setting
The girls live in St. Louis.

Taylor: Lives in her mother’s house.
Taylor sat, water bottle in hand, at the dining room table where she had once signed her annulment papers. It’s how she marked the end of most school days. Time had not been kind to the finely-crafted piece. Everclear had burned rings through the wood. One leg was broken, the result of Patrick kicking it repeatedly after his mom’s check got lost in the mail. Empty pizza boxes and dirty plates were piled in stacks. Neither Taylor nor Patrick were willing to put down their drinks to pick up the place. She’d fired the housekeeper last fall. The funds her dad transferred into her bank account were better suited for beer money than deep cleaning. Who cared about the layer of dust that caked every surface?

She grabbed the entire bottle of vodka from the liquor cabinet, catching a glimpse of her frightened expression in the antique mirrored doors. Nancy Thomsen had only one aesthetic – me, me, me – when she was decorating this house, Taylor thought, though Lord knows why she’d want to look at herself the last few years of her life. She’d gained 30 pounds, her face swelled up like a Christmas ham and her hair was limp – the portions that weren’t falling out, that is. That would never happen to me, Taylor thought, as she eyed herself in her mirrored closet door.

Sloane: Lives in her mom’s basement
Sloane then tried to fall asleep, in the Pink Palace’s doppelganger. The walls were soothing salmon; her bed sheets pink toile; and her reading chair, where she would curl up with a romance novel or a People, was upholstered in the color of begonias. Blackout shades hidden behind sheer rose eyelets were trimmed with white ballgown curtains that reminded Sloane of the shape in which she hoped to sweep down a wedding aisle one day.

Jana: Lives in a condo
Jana had taken all her mom’s old furniture when she moved into her condo, and the pieces were showing their age, not to mention wear and tear.
Taylor’s visit to the crack house in New Orleans
Twenty minutes later, Taylor arrived at what must have been the seediest little house in all of New Orleans. Its wood siding was coming loose in places, weeds poked through the cracks in the driveway, and a Confederate flag covered one window. For all his family wealth and moneyed connections Patrick’s social status in St. Louis afforded, he seemed more at home here.
“Tay,” he said as she walked in after trampling through the long grass.

Jana’s Office
While the three floors her advertising agency occupied in the heart of downtown were filled with black and white photos of St. Louis landmarks, and their offices around the world, Jana’s nameplate outside her cube was the only decoration she allowed. When one of the younger AE’s, a cat lover whose cube proudly displayed her fierce devotion to felines, had commented on it, Jana said she didn’t want any distractions. But truthfully, Jana hadn’t decorated any room since the one she had in New York, before her parents split. She never wanted to be in the position again of being forced to leave her treasured belongings behind.

Wheelhouse
Sloane’s main wingwoman would have normally made a beeline for Wheelhouse’s patio, but the freezing temps had waylaid everyone except for the most hardcore smokers. Taylor had encouraged her to take up the bad habit to meet guys, but Sloane couldn’t bear the teeth she had sunk so much money into becoming yellowed by cancer sticks. She preferred to flit between both bars, the dance floor and the patio if it was in commission, searching for the guy to transform a good night into a great one.
The industrial-chic interior, with exposed bricks and tubing in the ceiling, allowed the ski costumes and skating dresses to shine. Most of the faux Olympians were palming drinks and mozzarella sticks near Wheelhouse’s front bar, so Sloane joined them.

J.P. Field’s
Jana shook her head but went with Sloane anyway. When they walked in, Ben waved them over to his table and introduced his friends. The guy to girl ratio was always in Sloane’s favor here, as Fields’s four massive flat screens, continuously tuned to the most talked about games, drew every red-blooded boy in town. Sloane loved Wheelhouse, but a night at Fields meant she wouldn’t have a raw throat the next morning from shouting above the dance beats. And given that sections of WH bordered on pitch black to drum up some dance magic, Sloane had found more than once that the guy who’d taken her for a spin or bought her a shot wasn’t such a prize come last call. With lights only slightly dim here, overservice were solely to blame if the fine specimen she’d squeezed next to at a back leather booth, or a looker she flirtatiously sparred with over Blues versus Blackhawks at the bar stool to her left …

Talaynas
After the door guy carded Sloane, who found great bliss in the process of possibly even being considered underage, she strutted into Talaynas. It was 50 degrees outside, but inside she felt like her heels were digging into the center of the sun. She took a look at the crowd, at least four deep at the front bar, and decided to try her luck in back. As she walked past the dance floor, she looked up into the mirrored ceiling. That’s why it was there right?

Bar downtown
She decided to take herself out to lunch solo, at one of her favorite bars downtown.
She parked her car in the lot across the street, and walked in to a busy crowd, talking energetically at booths and tables. She barely recognized the place in the light of the day. For one, she had thought the interior was mostly black. But now she saw that while the chairs were metal and the booths were black, the sun dappled vibrant colored paintings on the wall, of beach scenes, cities, and lush green pastures. The wooden floors looked clean, not stained with spilled drinks. The chalkboard behind the bar displayed lunch specials instead of drink ones. The music sounded low, pleasant, and vaguely familiar, rather than a remix of pop songs turned up so loud you had to shout to the person next to you. Or in Taylor’s case, hold up her drink and use her index finger to indicate to a bartender that she’d like another.

Vegas hotel, casino and diner

Taylor’s two rehabs

Napoli
Everything, from the carpet that blanketed the steel grey floor to the peony arrangements on the bars, and everyone, from Jana in a trapeze dress to Ben in a checked button-down, surrounding Sloane was clad in pink. It lent a warm, cotton candied feel to Bar Napoli’s typical club-like atmosphere. It also set the stage for one hell of a 30th birthday celebration. A DJ spun everything from Whitney Houston to Nelly to Luke Bryan. The passed apps (caprese skewers, endive salad, goat cheese dates, and smoked salmon cucumber bites) were delivered by cater waiters with pink bow ties. In addition to the triple layer vanilla bean birthday cake with pink icing, there was a table set up with seven types of Sloane’s absolute favorite dessert, gooey butter cake.


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PostPosted: 29 Dec 2016, 21:31 
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2017 St. Augustine AM Novel Workshop Assignments

FIRST ASSIGNMENT: Story statement.
Do whatever it takes to be free of crushing guilt.

SECOND ASSIGNMENT: Sketch of antagonist.
Two main antagonists.

First is Ralph, a grizzly, veteran firefighter who comes from a long line of firefighters. His son has been unable to get on the job and Ralph will do anything he can to run the new probationer, Mitch, our protagonist, off the job. Ralph views him as an outsider taking jobs away from family and friends. Ralph destroys Mitch’s confidence with relentless verbal attacks culminating in a fierce physical confrontation that has Mitch ready to quit. This antagonist will become an ally and mentor.

Later in the story comes DeAndre, the leader of a violent street gang who was bullied in school and raised by a drug-addicted mother. He turned to the streets and the One-Niner gang became his family. He’s an insanely violent crack addict who plans on prostituting a young girl, Jasmine Richardson, who Mitch must protect. DeAndre has terrorized the hood unmercifully, so that nobody will cooperate with the police to indict him for his violent crimes. His own gang members fear him.

An antagonistic force is the hopeless poverty of the inner city that constantly challenges Mitch on his journey.

THIRD ASSIGNMENT: Breakout titles.
Sweet Scent of Jasmine
Where Hot Bricks Fly
Fahrenheit 9-1-1


FOURTH ASSIGNMENT: Comparables.

Upmarket fiction

The Help. The salvation of my white, male protagonist and the adolescent, black girl he's mentoring rests on them both overcoming their racial biases, much like the characters in The Help, who must gain each other's trust to achieve their missions. A major character in my story, Miss Bernie, a mature feisty black woman, should resonate with fans of The Help.

Jacket copy of Walter Mosley's The Right Mistake: In the face of gangs, drugs, poverty and racism, Walter Mosley poses the deceptively simple question—What can I do?—and provides a powerful and moving answer in The Right Mistake. The story is an affectionate and coruscating portrait of ghetto life, it abides the possibility of personal redemption and even, with great struggle, social change.

The protagonist in The Right Mistake struggles with guilt and seeks redemption by working with a diverse group of characters intent on making a difference in the inner city. My story is similar, but told through the actions of a naive white firefighter rather than a black, hardened ex-con. Much of The Right Mistake takes place during the group's debates at their Thursday night meetings. My story is told more through tight, compelling action scenes.

My story of a young man's journey from the farm to the inner city could be pitched as Plainsong meets The Right Mistake.

FIFTH ASSIGNMENT: Conflict line.
A young, guilt-ridden firefighter discovers mentoring inner city children is the path to inner peace and he will have to put his life at risk to protect one of his young students from the grips of the leader of a violent street gang intent on prostituting her.

SIXTH ASSIGNMENT: Inner Conflicts.
Mitch Garner’s mother committed suicide when he was ten. Twelve years later he fails to rescue a neighbor girl from her burning farmhouse. He blames himself for both their deaths. He battles guilt and depression on this roller coaster of tragic events and inspirational triumphs.

His love for his girlfriend and sense of loyalty to his family, friends, and the farm conflict with his need to leave all of this in his quest to be free of suffocating guilt and self-hatred. Mitch leaves the farm and joins the Milwaukee Fire Department. DeAndre, the leader of the One-Niner street gang, kills Mitch’s closest friend and plans to prostitute Jasmine, a young girl Mitch has been mentoring. Since the police are unable to bring DeAndre to justice, it will be up to Mitch to avenge his friend’s death and stop DeAndre from putting Jasmine on the street. If he allows this to happen, he won’t be able to live with himself. It would be further proof he’s a coward. Mitch is a skilled hunter. He plans to hunt DeAndre down and kill him, but he’s conflicted between stopping this insane monster and actually taking a human life. When the time comes, he sruggles with his core moral values and can’t do it. DeAndre continues to be a deadly threat to Jasmine and Mitch, and Mitch blames himself for not being able to stop DeAndre. He will have to come up with another plan to protect her.

Social Conflicts:
Mitch is from the farm and considered an outsider by members of the inner city firehouse he’s assigned to. He’s hazed unmercifully by Ralph, a grizzly veteran. The harder he struggles to impress them, the more he screws up. On his first emergency response, an EMS call, he is sickened by the scene of a dying elderly woman who is lying in her own feces and urine-soaked sheets. Nausea overwhelms him and he can’t perform his duties. Afterwards, Ralph rips into him and demands he quit. He’s tempted to walk away, but knows if he does, he will hate himself.

Mitch and the black inner city children he’s assigned to mentor are worlds apart culturally. He and twelve-year-old Jasmine have intense confrontations due to their racial biases and ignorance. For Mitch to help her and the other children he’ll have to overcome his ignorance and gain their trust. He’ll need to learn the rules of the dangerous, special world of the inner city.

Romantic conflict:
Mitch is torn between his longtime girlfriend, Jennie, from back home and a seductive female firefighter, Nicole, who he’s having and intense sexual relationship with. When he realizes his true love is Jennie, it’s too late. She’s moved on.

Jennie travels to Milwaukee to visit Mitch in the hospital. He’s been burned in a fire. When Jennie comes into his room, Nicole is at his bedside holding his hand. After a chilly confrontation, Jennie leaves, crying. Mitch is devastated. He’s lost her. Nicole tells him she wished he looked at her like he looked at Jennie. He’s conflicted about staying with Nicole, who clearly loves him, or fighting to get Jennie back.

Family Conflict:
Mitch's father became abusive after the suicide of Mitch’s mother when Mitch was ten. He believes if he was a better son, she wouldn’t have killed herself and his father wouldn’t hate him. Late in the story it's revealed that Mitch is not the biological son of this man he believed to be his father.

When Mitch tells his father he’ll be leaving the farm to join the Milwaukee Fire Department, his father explodes. He’s bitter about his wife committing suicide and leaving him to raise their two sons alone and feels like Mitch is doing the same by abandoning the family farm. He orders Mitch off the farm and tells him to never come back. Mitch knows he can’t go on living with the guilt he’s carrying, but leaving the family farm only adds another layer of guilt. If he leaves, he knows he can never come back.

SEVENTH ASSIGNMENT: Setting.
Throughout the story, contrasts are drawn between the lush farmland of South Central Wisconsin and the decaying inner city of Milwaukee.

Farm setting: A dense woods borders the farmland. Deep in the woods is a majestic oak tree with a tree house perched high in its limbs. Mitch and his mother had spent afternoons reading and discussing books in that tree house. Scenes also take place in the corn fields, rolling pastures, a milking parlor, and a cavernous farmhouse. As the story progresses, this comforting setting becomes a place of lost hope and tragedy. A catastrophic fire destroys much of the woods and crops, including the tree house. The farm, which has been in the family for three generations, is in peril of being foreclosed.

Inner city neighborhood of Milwaukee: Milwaukee is considered the most segregated city in the nation, and the black children living in the inner city have the lowest graduation rates in the nation, breeding hopelessness and violence.

Cracked concrete walkways and steps lead to sagging porches with rotting wood that hasn’t seen paint in decades. The massive houses look similar to the old farmhouses of rural Wisconsin, but most of the inner city houses are badly deteriorated. Weed-covered lots pepper areas where houses once stood. This area is ruled by the One-Niner street gang. Their gang sign, a black scripted one and nine, is scrawled on buildings throughout the neighborhood. Danger is constant; violence commonplace. This desolate setting becomes a source of hope as Mitch learns how to make a difference in the lives of inner city children.

Home: Mitch rents an upper flat in the heart of the hood from an older black woman, Miss Bernie, who becomes his mentor. Her home is pristine with a well-tended garden and surrounded by purple petunias.

Mitch is invited to dinner with Miss Bernie and her son, Jamal. The aroma of roasting meat, bacon, and cinnamon drifting from Miss Bernie’s flat had Mitch salivating like he hadn’t eaten in a week. Jamal and Miss Bernie were waiting for him at the small oak table next to the kitchen window. Black Jesus looked down on them from the light purple wall. White dish towels with purple embroidery hung from the towel rack. Mitch settled into the warm comfort of her kitchen. The table brimmed with a platter of roast beef swimming in brown gravy with potatoes, carrots, and onions along with a pan of cornbread, a pot of greens with bacon, and a deep dish apple pie.

Firehouse: This is Mitch’s first view of the inner city firehouse he’s assigned to.

The cream-colored brick firehouse stands alone in the middle of the block, bordered by a green, manicured lawn. An American flag snaps in the breeze from a tall flagpole. Through the two open overhead garage doors, Mitch saw three men scrubbing flattened hose with wide brooms while another hosed it off. On the cement platform in front of the firehouse, the crimson fire engine shimmered in the afternoon sunlight. The four stopped working and rubber-necked as he turned into the side drive. He pulled around back to the fenced-in parking lot. Razor wire lined the top of the fence.

The reader will become familiar with the apparatus and tools of the fire service along with the challenges of firefighting in this hazardous setting and the heavy toll it takes on the men and women who serve here.


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PostPosted: 05 Jan 2017, 01:44 
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First assignment – Write your story statement.

Calm the internal chaos of a biracial identity in a world where both sides are in constant discord.

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.

Malik Johnson is the epitome of misused potential. He was on the fast track to success after scoring a number of academic scholarships to several prestigious universities all over the country. He defeated the odds of growing up in a broken, improvised family. He was determined to become successful after watching his father succumb to drugs and his mother struggle raising he and his brother alone while working two minimum wages jobs. The summer prior to heading off to college his 13- year old brother was murdered by a rookie police officer during the middle of a store robbery where his brother was an innocent bystander. The murder of his young innocent brother transforms the drive Malik had to succeed to revenge and anger against a system that he has always believed oppressed him. Malik becomes obsessed with finding a way to make “white society” pay. He establishes a movement he titles Blind Justice. Malik develops a strong social media following and travels around the country preaching messages that center around violence and revenge while disguising itself as empowerment. His goal goes against unity and supports division of the black race against the white race. He taglines turning the Oppressed into the Oppressors. Malik’s bipolar/ delusional tendencies lead to an irrational way of thought while maintaining a strategic and intelligent execution. He gathers an agenda to obtain alignment with Theresa when the murder of her white mother and the persecution of her black father dominates the media and causes intense racial tension. Society doesn't disappoint as Americans choose one side over the other.

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

1. Torn
2. Monochrome
3. Impartially Mixed in Chaos

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

1. Mudbound – Hillary Jordan
2. Everything I Never Told You – Celeste Ng

FIFTH ASSIGNMENT: write your own conflict line following the format above. Keep in mind it helps energize an entire plot line and the antagonist(s) must be noted or inferred.

The life of a young biracial woman is tragically dislodged and she finds herself in a fight for her identity while in the midst of discovering it.

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.

Theresa has never felt the need to truly commit to anything in her life. She’s not black and she’s not white. In her mind, she doesn’t even consider herself biracial. She is just Theresa. She always considered herself a free spirit and at 25 years old she has been everything from a Life Coach to a Traveling Writer. Her live-in boyfriend of 5 years, harps on her scatterbrain ways however enjoys how her immature tendencies lends him additional capacity to have the upper hand. She is in desperate need of Adderall instead she is consistently stoned. Her easygoing nature could be deemed as laziness as her life mirrors her thoughts, all over the place. The disappearance of her mother forces her into the realm of responsibility and decisiveness. Initially overwhelmed, Theresa’s mind is in a constant tornado of grief, fear, ambiguity and guilt as everyone waits for her to draw her line in the sand. This is crippling to Theresa as the pressure builds and her decisions begin to define her forever.

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

Theresa’s mother disappearance causes a media firestorm. America’s sweetheart and beloved retired tennis star is gone and the suspicion is malice. When the finger is pointed at Theresa’s African- American father it erupts racial division as the American public attacks his character to preserve the “white girl next door” image Theresa’s mother held. Theresa is handicapped with anxiety as all eyes are on her while she finds herself having to choose to stand behind her father or the white public which seems to be in defense of her missing mother. Before she can firmly choose, it is discovered that her live-in boyfriend was responsible for the disappearance and death of her mother. Buried in grief, betrayal and guilt, her decisions are manipulated when she falls in love with a damaged soul disguised as black leader/activist. She tries to find herself as his bi-polar world consumes her.

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

The physical setting of the novel is Denver, Colorado where Theresa resides. The environment is one of growth and a different way being in the world. The legalization of marijuana creates a sense of newness in how everything is approached and a stronger sense of freedom and individuality. The overall setting is the Media and the influence it will possess in every aspect of the setting and characters. Social media particularly solidifies a solid backdrop to the environment of the characters and vitality of interpersonal conflict.


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PostPosted: 01 Feb 2017, 21:38 
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Story Statement
Two twelve-year-old girls, one white, one black, fight for their beliefs of racial justice during the summer of 1967 in a small southern Illinois town divided by racial tension.

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.

The main antagonist is the town politics but embodied in the character of Scott Henderson, a 16-year-old teenager whose life is changing in a way he does not like. He is used to being in control and admired. He is a running back of the high school football team, a position that inherently brings with it high status. He watches as his father struggles with the family business and their house burns down. He blames these tragedies on the racial changes in town. He focuses his anger on Sidney Ray and Dannie Bourque because they are fighting against racial injustice. By targeting them, he feels stronger and more in control.


THIRD ASSIGNMENT: create a breakout title (list several options, not more than three
Conjuring Your Breakout Title
Never the Twain
Where the Rivers Meet
Down No More
Finding the Mark Twain (mark twain means "safe water")

FOURTH ASSIGNMENT: Comparables
The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kid

The genre cuts across both young adult and adult. Though the main characters are 12 years old, the themes of injustice, racism, and fighting for what one believes reverberates across all age groups. Dannie and Sidney remind me of Lily Owens in The Secret Life of Bees for several reasons. They are being raised in a household of strong women. They question the culture in which they live and they seek answers to injustice. They are just learning how their courage and perseverance will help them in life.

Saving Cee Cee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman

Cee Cee Honeycutt faces a dilemma not unlike that of Sidney and Dannie: her life is turned upside down at a young age and she realizes it is up to her to change and grow or stay stagnant. She also has people in her life whom she saves in a way she did not recognize, Mrs. Odell. In Never the Twain, the person who is saved by the actions of Sidney and Dannie is Uncle Stuart.

Note about the writing of both authors: I think my style is like theirs in that I tell the story of courage and justice through two girls who are coming of age. I use the same type of cadence and bring the flavor of the south into the settings.


FIFTH ASSIGNMENT: write your own conflict line following the format above. Keep in mind it helps energize an entire plot line and the antagonist(s) must be noted or inferred.

Sidney Ray and Dannie Bourque, torn between their love for family and each other, struggle to hold true to their beliefs while seeking justice during a racially charged summer in their small southern Illinois town.


OTHER MATTERS OF CONFLICT: TWO MORE LEVELS


First Primary Conflict: Two young girls come of age at a time when racial conflict threatens to tear apart their family, their town and life as they have known it.
Secondary conflicts: Sidney and Dannie become aware of a secret their family, primarily Uncle Stuart Flanagan, has held their entire lives, one that threatens all they have known to be true and has the potential to tear the family apart. The racial violence in town affects their family as the Henderson family (father and son) attack the Flanagans (Uncle Stuart) and Bourques (Dannie and her mom, Maureen) and Rays (Sidney and Gramma), resulting in numerous conflicts and culminating in an afternoon of violence in which Dannie, Sidney and Uncle Stuart fight for their lives.
Inner conflicts: Sidney struggles to be true to her mixed race family while answering the call to picket the white owned businesses. Dannie struggles to understand Sidney’s feelings and to accept the changes that result because of Sidney’s actions. Uncle Stuart struggles to keep his family together while not revealing his secret.

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

Dannie has an inner conflict because Sidney wants to picket. Dannie is torn between loyalty to her mother, who owns a dress shop on the block where the picketers march, and loyalty to Sidney, whose fight she believes in. This conflict causes her to feel anxious and afraid, unable to sleep or eat her favorite meal of fried chicken, mashed potatoes and corn that her grandmother cooks one night to make her feel better. The trigger is Sidney’s picketing. Dannie’s reaction is twofold: to question Sidney as to why she has to picket and also to stand up to her when she gets angry. Dannie does take a picket sign and does picket one afternoon until the stress of her dividing loyalties becomes too much. She leaves the picket line even though Sidney is angry and she goes to talk to her mother. Her mother makes her understand that she can picket and not be disloyal.

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?
Scott Henderson, the 16-year-old son of a merchant, represents town politics at large, those who want to keep the environment the way it has been historically. The secondary conflict is how Sidney reacts to Scott, the main antagonist. Her way is to confront him and set off his anger. Dannie’s way is to back off and be less reactionary toward Scott. Dannie becomes afraid for Sidney when she confronts Scott on several occasions and tells her she should not be so assertive. Sidney is tired of having to tamp down her feelings and she wants to believes that by confronting Scott she is becoming fully herself. Dannie is afraid that Scott will eventually hurt her.

The secret held by Uncle Stuart becomes public in a devastating way, resulting in Sidney attacking the store owned by the Hendersons and their house being attacked.

Ed Henderson, Scott's father, owns a shoe store next to En Vogue Ladies Boutique, the dress shop owned by Dannie's mother, Maureen Bourque. Henderson exposes a secret the adults in Dannie and Sidney's family have held for the entirety of the girls lives, and sets in motion an afternoon of violence in which Dannie and Sidney fight to survive.

Seventh Assignment: Setting

The story is set in a small southern Illinois town, Cairo, which was called the Little Chicago of Illinois in the 1800s. At the time of the novel, in 1967, Cairo is still a prosperous town though it has not lived up to its name of Little Chicago. In the summer of 1967, the underclass black citizens begin to assert their constitutional rights to obtain good jobs and futures for their families. Most of the business are owned by white residents. The economy of Cairo is in flux. While prosperity still reigns, the future depends on peace and the status quo, according to the town’s political structure. Any change threatens them. These people have lived in this small town in rural Illinois their entire lives. Their lives are structured around family, church and friends.

Between the 1930s and 1960s, the population in Cairo remained fairly steady; however, many of the employment opportunities were no longer available as the shipping, railroad, and ferry industries left the city. Population decline was already beginning; however, it was not the rapid decline that Cairo would later experience. In a city that had such a strong history of racial violence, racial tension was strained once again by the late 1960s as the United States was in the middle of the civil rights struggle. This tension further damaged the already declining economy of the city.

The area surrounding Cairo is defined by the Mississippi and Ohio rivers, corn and soybean fields, Horseshoe Lake and Thebes creek. The region is bordered on three of four sides by the most voluminous rivers in the United States: the Wabash and Ohio rivers to the east and south, and the Mississippi River and its connecting Missouri River to the west. Cairo itself in a peninsula that is bordered on one side by the Ohio and the other by the Mississippi.
The rivers converge at Fort Defiance State Park (the “Point” as it is called by locals), a Civil War fort that was built in 1862 by General Ulysses S. Grant. Cairo has the lowest elevation of any location in Illinois and is the only Illinois city surrounded by levees. It is in the area known as Little Egypt so named because the land of the great Mississippi and Ohio River valleys are like that of Egypt's Nile delta.

Though the citizens consider themselves Yankees (Illinois fought for the Union side during the Civil War despite some Confederate sympathizers), the region itself has a southern flavor. Cairo contains many antebellum homes with the most prominent being Magnolia Manor where Grant slept during the War. The citizens catch crappie and catfish at Horseshoe Lake and fry it up on weekend nights. The two most popular restaurants are barbeque joints.

At the time of the novel, the political establishment and the business owners (for the most part) want the status quo to stay. They resist the efforts of the black citizens to improve their lives and economic status peacefully by applying for local jobs. The black residents picket and the town’s residents are torn in loyalty between family and change, racism and racial progress. This happens at a time when Dannie and Sidney are on the cusp of becoming young women and at an age when questioning the status quo is normal.


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PostPosted: 14 Feb 2017, 19:33 
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#1 STORY STATEMENT
GRACED 1943
Throughout her life, Annelisa had wondered exactly how many ways there were to be Graced. She had considered writing an anthology on the subject, but then remembered it was all secret. Her whole life was mostly secret, which could get old. (quote from Graced 1943)

Annelisa Grace-Betterman and her family and friends at Gracestone are “Graced,” meaning they have special powers that give them an edge in life, financially and with people of influence, especially in the government. The drawback is that they are vulnerable to entities seeking to exploit their abilities.
When WW2 erupts, the Graces are challenged to participate in the war effort, like all patriotic Americans, without sacrificing the privacy that is so essential to their well-being, particularly that of the Graced children.

___________________________________________________


#2 THE ANTAGONIST PLOTS THE POINT
While her features were perfect: her hair a lush shiny russet with golden highlights, and her figure enviable, Eleanor’s personality was notoriously acerbic. Her nickname had been “Viper,” and that was among her friends. (quote from Graced 1943)

Annelisa’s sister, Eleanor, was born with a flawed Grace as a Mutltiplyer. She can increase substances and forces, but her she struggles to control her Grace, which often leads to disaster. For example, as a child, when she wished for the fire in the library fireplace to be a bit warmer, seconds later, the entire room was aflame.

She caused such frequent and substantial damage as a child that her mother wanted to put her in an asylum. Her father refused, and they found a doctor who prescribed medicine meant to suppress her flawed Grace.

The servants and other children feared Eleanor, and she felt isolated, particularly growing up with universally beloved Annelisa. This led to severe depression, which went unrecognized until she tries to commit suicide. She is then informally treated by a young Rescue Intuiter, and gradually learns to dislike herself slightly less.

She causes much of the havoc that arises at Gracestone, and wonders if she has a demon inside herself that causes her to behave so terribly.


___________________________________________________
#3 CONJURING YOUR BREAKOUT TITLE

The book is already titled Graced 1943: Book 1 in The Grace Family Chronicles.
I have also considered:
Gracestone 1943
Miami Graced
Graced 1943 does not Google well and gives some readers the idea that the book is religious, which it is not. I want the year in the title because the backdrop of WW2 is important to the storyline.

___________________________________________________


#4 DECIDING YOUR GENRE AND APPROACHING COMPARABLES

I call my series “historical fantasy” because historical fiction does not usually have characters with powers. This can lead readers to think I am presenting an alternative version of history, which is untrue. I research thoroughly so that I can present historical events accurately.
Comparable series would be The Outlander Series by Diane Gabaldon, which has an air of fantasy about it; and, The Clifton Chronicles by Jeffrey Archer, which does not.

____________________________________________________


#5 CONSIDERING THE PRIMARY CONFLICT - COMING OF THE "AGON"
The primary conflict involves Annelisa’s relationship with her husband Humboldt, and how it is affected by the war. This is a standard topic, but having both characters Graced (Humboldt is a Knower, meaning he can Focus on any topic and immediately Know everything about it) adds a twist.
Annelisa constantly struggles with Humboldt’s absence, both physical and emotional.
A secondary conflict involve adultery. In Graced 1943, Eleanor is the person who engages in affairs that hurt others, including her deployed husband, although he is also not faithful.
Inner conflicts present in this work include Amandia’s (Annelisa’s mother’s) struggle with a burdensome condition. Only Henri is aware of it, and he does not fully understand now serious it is.
Another is that of Annelisa’s 13-year-old cousin, Carlissa, who killed a man who was sexually abusing one of his daughters. She is afraid of going to prison, but is being eaten alive as she keeps the information to herself.
A third would be that of Carlissa’s mother, Sambria, who is bisexual. Carlissa’s stepmother uses this to steal Carlissa from her. She has a fake birth certificate listing herself as the girl’s mother. Sambria consults an attorney, who is sympathetic but tells her the law will not help. Of course, being Graced, Sambria figures this one out herself, and the stepmother comes out very sorry in the end.

______________________________________________________

CONFLICT LINE
Annelisa Grace-Betterman seeks to protect herself and her children, who are vulnerable due to their extraordinary powers, known as Graces, while her husband is away during World War 2.
______________________________________________________


#6 OTHER MATTERS OF CONFLICT: TWO MORE LEVELS
The story climaxes with a conflict involving the antagonist, Eleanor, and her husband. They are fighting in her room when the north wing of the house is bombed. Since this is the first book in a series, the novel ends on New Years Eve 1943 with Eleanor and her husband unconscious in the hospital.
Protagonist Annelisa does get the last say. She bids a painful farewell to Humboldt, who has to leave for Oppenheimer’s lab in Los Alamos immediately, and is not to be allowed to visit until the end of the war. It is a dramatic scene in which she compares herself to Scarlett O’Hara at the end of Gone With the Wind, although she is not as optimistic. She does not console herself with the idea that “Tomorrow is another day,” which is a famous quotation from Margaret Mitchell’s well-known book.

A secondary conflict is found in the character of Cy Grayson, with whom Eleanor has an affair in the summer of 1943 when she and Annelisa are hiding from kidnappers in a rented bungalow in St. Augustine Beach. His wife sneaked off to Leningrad against his wishes, hoping to find her mother and half-brother and bring them to the U. S. She gets trapped when Leningrad is attacked by the German army. He has no way of knowing whether she is alive, and he feels guilt having the affair with Eleanor.
He falls deeply in love with her, and this feeling does not go away when he learns she is married, although he vows to stay away from her until she is divorced. Eleanor is upset, and has an affair with a Russian Protector who works at Gracestone while his wife and daughter are away being treated for TB. She becomes pregnant, hurting and disappointing everyone. This, combined with Cy’s rejection of her, drives to the lowest depths of emotional despair that she has ever reached.

Another conflict involves the mental scars of Nikolay, Cy’s much younger brother-in-law, who he manages to rescue from besieged Leningrad after his sister, Cy’s wife, is murdered horrifically for food. He was near death when he was rescued, living in an assigned apartment with people who only wanted his ration card. He also suffers from epilepsy, and learns later in the book that his best friend who he thought he would marry, Sofia, appears to have died with her family when their boat was blown by a u-boat off the east coast of Florida.
In relation to this situation, Cy struggles with wanting to be a father figure to Niko, and wanting his own children. His grandmother urges him to leave Gracestone and move back up to St. Augustine, where he can be away from Eleanor and meet women, but he feels an obligation to help Henri with security during a time when everyone at Gracestone is at risk.

______________________________________________________


#7 THE INCREDIBLE IMPORTANCE OF SETTING

The main setting of Graced 1943 is Gracestone, the lavish estate set on an enviable swath of the Atlantic coast on Miami Beach. It was built before Miami was incorporated, when Henri was a boy, and has been in his family ever since. It was redone after the hurricane of 1926, which is the one that prompted the University of Miami to take on the name “Hurricanes” for its sports teams. It will be redone again, as it is bombed at the end of Graced 1943.
The front of the house, which one can only see after walking or driving up a driveway that is as long as possible for beachfront Miami property and passing through a manned security gate, is putty gray with a red barrel tile room. Henri estimates that it contains about 30 bedrooms.
The house has a large porch, but the family does not sit on it; they stay within and behind the house, where the property is gated. The beach is not especially wide, but it is a good 100 yards long, and is fenced off on each side for security.
The north wing contains all the family’s bedrooms, all dining facilities other than the ballroom, and the library, where Annelisa keeps her typewriter, as she writes detective novels for the troops. There is a grassy courtyard with a pool, pool house, and green house, in which Amandia uses to grow ingredients for the potions she tries to Mix. The south wing contains the ballroom; the billiards and game rooms, which are separated by the home’s main bar; a jail cell; and some bedrooms for guests and servants. On the second floor of the south wing are Henri’s arsenal, from which the men sometimes shoot seagulls, and his gymnasium. His office is in the front of the house, close to the butler’s room.
The butler acts mainly as a gatekeeper. The two Russian zashchitniks (Protectors) use the library as a base so they can keep an eye on anyone who gets through the butler, although one of them is always supposed to be watching the beach.
Henri has a marina and a multi-story parking garage. His largest yacht, the Amandia, is on loan to the government, purportedly being used as a spy vessel in the Mediterranean, although he believes the generals are using as a party boat in the Great Lakes. Also away from the house are the stables, the kennel for Sambria’s hunting dogs, and Sambria’s art studio.
As long as the Russian Protectors are in the house, everyone is safe as long as everyone listens to their warnings. Henri does not cancel the Christmas Ball, as they urge him to do. In another scene, they sense that Cy’s Travel Gypsy parents (time travelers, basically) are up to no good and make them leave the premises, but Carlissa goes with them voluntarily, causing a huge uproar as everyone seeks to retrieve her from 1903.
There are many other sites, but Gracestone is the heart of the story in terms of a setting. The characters do not leave often, unless it is to go to Cinq Terras, the Grace family’s secret, private island. This is not because it can be unsafe, although the children to attend school and the pregnant women go to doctors’ appointments, so they can leave. Mainly it is because, due to it being war time, so much of Miami is inhabited by soldiers. For example, Henri and Amandia do not stay at the Miami Biltmore for their anniversary, as is customary, because it is being used as a hospital.


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PostPosted: 18 Feb 2017, 20:06 
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FIRST ASSIGNMENT: write your story statement.

Duke and Mandi must do whatever it takes, whatever the other asks, to find love.

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.

The antagonistic force will be a few different obstacles that keep Mandi and Duke from being together. Duke’s addiction and its accompanying selfish motivations, and his low self-worth, prevent him from admitting he loves Mandi. Mandi is satisfied to just keep on keeping on until an intellectual, handsome man named Ryan threatens to finally convince her to move on and up from Duke. Ryan’s attempt to woo Mandi is what finally spurs Duke into action to keep Mandi in his life. Mandi’s somewhat inflated sense of self-importance is deflated when Ryan’s intelligence and confidence surpass her own; she cannot keep up and soon realizes that part of her attraction to Duke is in the fact that he is beneath her and needs her. She likes to be the martyr and in dealing with that issue, she is finally able to see Duke for the man he really is and she loves him even more. However, lasting side effects from a childhood injury complicate matters and Duke unwittingly kills Mandi. He destroys the one person who could save him.

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

When Lightning Strikes (referencing Duke’s childhood accident)
The Martyr and the Murderer (referencing Duke and Mandi’s roles)
The Destruction of Love (referencing the ending; too melodramatic?)

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

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarity - strong female voice; dramatic plot points
Atonement by Ian McEwan - mainpulation of reader through content and structure; similar themes
Less than Zero by Bret Easton Ellis - honest tone towards addiction

FIFTH ASSIGNMENT: write your own conflict line.

Primary Conflict: A young man and a young woman, friends since early childhood, must realize their respective self-worth to not only continue but evolve their relationship, or risk losing each other entirely.

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

Duke must battle and triumph over his addiction and low self-esteem to love Mandi in a way that she deserves. He must reconcile his past to even have a future, specifically with Mandi. Simultaneously, Mandi must be valued and then humbled to love Duke properly and not as a savior or martyr or anything like that.

SECONDARY CONFLICT: Mandi and Duke’s friends urge her to move on and doubt Duke’s sobriety. Mandi meets another love interest, an intellectual named Ryan, who challenges Duke’s role in Mandi’s life.

FINAL ASSIGNMENT: sketch out your setting in detail.

The setting is a work in progress.

The setting is a small, seaside town in New Jersey. The town is called Ocean Gate (a real location in New Jersey). Duke works at the local two-car garage with two other friends from high school. Its sparse but serves its purpose; on summer nights, the boys will work late with the garage doors open, listening to the radio and the moths as they repeatedly bump against the bare bulbs that light the exterior.

Mandi works at the only bar in the small town called The Anchor Inn. Its large to accommodate the influx of clientele during the summer months, but in the winter, it is cold and vacuous. Everything inside seems to be made of aged, warping wood and the only real warmth comes from a fireplace opposite the front doors. Part of the bar opens out to the bay (based on Barnegat Bay).

Mandi’s apartment building (or home?) is located just two blocks from the bay, two blocks from a long dock that juts out into the bay. From this dock, grizzled old men fish and crab, and young people congregate and jump freely into the water. The bay is important to Duke as he carries a vial of sea salt around his neck to keep him calm and help manage his moods. Duke has always been drawn to the seashore; his uncle instilled that in him at a very young age. Duke and his uncle would go to the bay in stormy weather to find petrified sand.

Ryan takes Mandi to a posh art gallery in New York City at one point. It’ll be in a loft-like setting, with photographs and/or paintings hung upon white walls. There’ll be track lighting and people circling with champagne and hors d’oeuvres.

The pair also attends house parties at a mutual friend’s home, which is no-nonsense, one story ranch in a typical residential neighborhood. The best thing about the house is the spacious backyard that backs up against a tree line. The backyard is decorated by hanging Edison bulbs strung from place to place, and there is a fire pit and mismatched patio furniture all about. There is an above-ground pool and deck.


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PostPosted: 22 Feb 2017, 03:06 
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February 19, 2017

Waiting for Namaste by Noreene Storrie and Wesley G. McCain

First Assignment: Write your story statement

New York one-percenters, Matt Cheswick and Nora Nelson must find out what happened in Venice, Italy, to their daughter, Sophie and her best friend, Maureen, and if alive, get the girls back.

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 around them.

There are two antagonists in the book. The first is Hasan Hadawi, also known as the Palestinian. The abduction of the girls is another procuring of product for Hadawi’s human sex trafficking business, now aimed at the high-end market.

Hadawi has no problems with the screams of his captives. He became immune as a boy, when he, his mother, and sister, Zeytoona, lived in the refugee camp Ain al-Hilweh in Lebanon. His father had been killed in the Lebanese Civil War. Hasan was regularly raped by the brothers Faruq and Jafar. In return, his family received protection of sorts. His mother dies of cholera and his sister’s mind shuts down from the horror. He manages to leave the camp and obtain a decent academic education. He prospers in the import-export business until the outbreak of new and endless warfare in the area, which pushes him into the arms trade and then human trafficking.

The Prince engages the Palestinian to find him a blond American girl. The red-headed Maureen is a bonus find by Hasan Hadawi for which the Prince gladly pays. He is the grandson of the founder of Albrecht Industries, an international conglomerate. His beautiful mother marries into a Mideastern royal family. A good dowry added to her appeal. Her son, the Prince, is well-educated including Harvard Business School. He is a proud man and adheres to his religion’s practices when it is benefits him.

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

Waiting for Namaste

Fourth Assignment: Develop two smart comparables for your novel. Who compares to you? And why?
Find Her by Lisa Gardner

The protagonist, Flora Dane, is kidnapped while on spring break. A little more than a year and a quarter she is found. During the ordeal, she learns how much she can endure like Sophie Cheshwick and Maureen Ryan in my book. Similar to Sophie and Maureen, Flora must adjust to being back in a normal life. Their stories split as Sophie and her father decide that the sexual abuser, the Prince, must be punished. Flora Dane’s story continues with a connection to a series of killings.

And Then She was Gone by Christopher Greyson

Stacy Shaw vanishes on a warm summer night. The police try to find her. The pieces don’t fit together. Instead a hometown hero searches for the truth. He is in a race to save her. Just like Matt and Nora, Sophie’s parents, find after forcing a confrontation with the girls’ abductor, the Palestinian, that they have one chance to save the girls.


Fifth Assignment: Write your own conflict line following the format above. Keep in mind it helps energize an entire plot line and the antagonist(s) must be noted or inferred.)

Sophie Cheswick and Maureen Ryan on their Senior Classics Class trip to Venice, Italy go off on a gondola ride with a musician and gondolier and have not been seen since. By day 3, Sophie’s parents, the investment wizard, Matt Cheswick, and his wife, the murder mystery writer, Nora Nelson, are done waiting. This is no teen-age escapade. They give up their valued privacy so the authorities can eavesdrop on all telecommunications for the expected ransom request. Meanwhile, as New York one percenters, the parents act on their own. Matt sics his computer jocks on Find Sophie. Do what it takes to get answers. At first, he agrees to only a little that’s illegal. Then to force a meet with the girls’ abductor, Matt demands “do what is necessary.” Nora lets her imagination wonder and lands on the theory of sexual trafficking.

Sixth Assignment: Sketch out the conditions for 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.

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?

Matt feels he has failed his daughter. He insisted that she be permitted to go on the Classic’s Class Senior Trip to Italy over Nora’s protests. Nora was opposed because of a warning from her psychic Effie Bothwell about a black cloud. Matt considers Nora’s faith in the mystical world as something she needs to be a successful writer, but he gives no credence. He also is an honest person and finds himself permitting his computer jocks to cross over into the illegal. He dreams of his daughter in captivity.

Scene: The FBI have shut down the wire taps and Matt’s employees ask for time off. Nothing is working. The musician and the gondolier who abducted the girls have been killed. One evening Matt goes to the apartment building of his best friend Tommy O’Hara, New York Commissioner of Police. They are old friends from living as kids in the same triple-decker in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The two men are sitting in the lounge area of the lobby of O’Hara’s resident apartment building. Matt has come there because he feels stymied and a failure.

“Glad you came,” Tommy said. “I know things aren’t good. I should be by your side like the old days. Want to come upstairs to the apartment?”

“Nah. I want to sit with you here,” Matt said. His voice sounded like an old man’s Carrying the situation with him 24 hours a day was heavy like a 100-pound back pack.

“Fine by me. Do you want to talk?”

“I want to talk and I don’t,” Matt said. “Do you understand?”

“My friend,” Tommy touched Matt’s knee. “I’ve seen your face on others. It’s the mix of disbelief and bewilderment. You trust us, the authorities, and then it becomes clear, we don’t have answers. You’re slammed. You’re in the setback trough. It’s not the end. Understand?” Tommy ended with a sigh, leaned back and considered the ceiling.

“God. You deal with crimes every day and have for years. How do you do it?”

“Somedays I carry out my job only because I did the day before. Emmy [his wife] makes sure the bourbon bottle is full. Me saying this, doesn’t make you feel better. I used to love the challenge of my mind against the perpetrator like Nora’s Detective Amelia Boyd. Somedays are good; we arrest bad people and give their victims peace.”

“Your saying my hopelessness is normal?”

“Right. Don’t show that on cop shows,” Tommy said. “I think I’m supposed to kick your ass. Get you back in gear. You haven’t failed. What happened to Sophie was random. Careful of Superman thinking. You and I, we don’t control the world as much as we might try.”

“I just feel…impotent,” Matt wanted to look pathetic and strong at the same time. He wanted the warmth of his friend’s sympathy, and he wanted him to shake him up.

The two men sat quiet in the upholstered seats as people came and went. Matt awaken to the quick stares in their direction. The questions he saw on their faces. “Do I know them? Why are they sitting there?” then the inquirer would move on with his or her thoughts to where she or he were headed.

Tommy said, “You don’t have the luxury of wallowing in the pits long. Your daughter is gone. I’ll crack the whip on the authorities. You push your geeks.”

“But… to go further…”

“Stop. I know where you have to go. A warning though. When you go to the dark side, I can’t protect you from the bad guys and I can’t protect you from the supposed good guys. Do you understand?”

“I hear you.”

“Cover your tracks well, my friend. Have both your back and your front covered. Now, let me walk you home. Snuggle up to Nora and sleep. Tomorrow find a new trail.”

At Matt’s building, Tommy put his arm around his friend. “You can do it. There are answers out there. Use that megabrain. I’ll do what I can for you, my friend.”

Secondary conflict: involving the social environment. Will this involve family? Friends? Associates? What is the nature of it?

The book has the conflict line of the two girls being held as captives by the Palestinian and then by the Prince. This story line follows Sophie when she wakes up confined to a bunk on a boat, is interviewed in front of the Prince, and then the Prince inspects her naked body. Sophie tries to reason with the Chinese woman who is caring for her on the boat. Within the Prince’s palace the girls are raped and beaten. They work at surviving their situation.

The two girls are in their bland stucco room in the Prince’s palace in the women’s wing. They have been raped nightly after a waiting period and inspection by a physician. A theme of the book is the cause of bad events.
“God has abandoned me,” Maureen said over and over when Sophie could get her to talk about her mood. “I did something very bad.”
“You’re incapable of being that bad,” Sophie said. “You can be mischievous but bad? Nope. You think God sent us to Venice to become sex slaves?”
“Eh, it sounds stupid but yes.”
“If God pays that much attention to you, could you get in touch to get us out of here?”
“He’s forsaken me,” Maureen said.
“Maybe it’s all a big test,” Sophie said and wrapped her arms around Maureen, for she knew tears were coming. Sophie envied Mo her tears, and that the redhead did not have bruises on her. She knew how to restrain herself with the Prince. Sophie just could not.

The other conflict line is the book that Nora and Josie are writing and use to explore human sex trafficking. It starts out with the murder of a yoga instructor then shifts to the death of a young dancer who was missing.
This scene takes place in the morgue of the Medical Examiner, Dr. Peeta Patel, a friend of Nora’s Detective Amelia Boyd. Amelia and Peeta are considering the body of a young woman.
“Dead before she went out the window,” Detective Amelia Boyd said to her friend, Medical Examiner, Dr. Peeta Patel. The two women stood on either side of the body of a deceased young woman, brought in as a suicide. “Murder. Neck broken.”
Peeta was pulling the zipper of the body bag. “Stop,” Amelia said. “Can you spread the fingers of one of the hands?”
The medical examiner gently moved the digits so the skin between the fingers was visible.
Amelia pointed, “See the skin between the fingers. It’s lighter than the back of the palm. She’s been some place warm. She has a sun tan. Odd in late January. This winter has already been brutal. Where has she been? On a Caribbean vacation, and she forgot to send post cards home?
“You’ll find in the report that there are indications of frequent sexual activity. Oh, she hasn’t been dancing for a while. The sores on her feet are almost healed.”

Seventh Assignment: Sketch out your setting in detail.
Venice, Italy
• Piazza San Marco
• Gondola dock
• Canals
• Gritti Palace hotel
• The Questera
• Cafes
Combined townhouses on East 70th Street, Manhattan
• Bartley Associates Trading Room
• Matt’s Office
• Coffee-Lunch Room
• Tamara Swenson’s common room
• Nora’s Office
• Space for FBI
• Kitchen
• Living room
• Entrance
• Garage
• Sophie’s Bedroom
• Master bedroom
Most of the book takes place in the combined limestone townhouses of the residence and offices located on East 70th Street between Park and Lexington Avenues. The buildings overlook at garden which the parents spent time staring at and the garden changes with the seasons. Also there is a recently purchased carriage house on 71st Street that contains a street level garage with the Cheswick’s car and above that an apartment which Matt gives to the FBI to set up phone taps. It is connected to the 70th Street buildings by a tunnel.
Matt runs his investment business out of the fourth floor of the west 70th St. townhouse. Bartley Associates consists of a large trading room, Matt’s office, overlooking the garden, and a utility office. The trading room has counters in an L on the wall next to Matt’s office door and along the perpendicular wall. Between the counters is an open space with flat screen tv and a white board. In the center of the room is a conference table with chairs. The exit door to the hall is next to Matt’s office door. The wall behind the conference table features a dart board and another white board with a bulletin board. Keyboards and computer screens are clustered at the various work stations.
Nora and her assistant Josie Jones work out of Tamara Swenson, LLC. which is on the same floor [in the book, I may have made the mistake of having it above Matt’s space] but in the east building. The common area is decorated in cream, grey, rose, yellow upholstery, pillows and throws. A skylight with stained-glass diffuse the sun enhancing the effect of softness. There are two sofas and two upholstered chairs with side tables and a coffee table. Nora and Josie both have offices. Nora’s overlooks the garden.
Between the two businesses is the coffee lunch room.
The floor above Matt’s business contains a bunk room.
The yacht Zeytoona
• Bedroom
• Master bedroom
• Galley
• Lounge area
• Shower
Middle Eastern palace
• Girls’ room
Sex room
The psychic Effie Bothwell’s living room
Pescara, Italy, an Italian port on the Adriatic Sea
Geneva
• Hotel President Wilson
• Securitas Office
• Promenade de Aveneue Anglais along Lac Leman
• Airplane
Grandpa’s farm in the Massachusetts Berkshires
• The house
• By the pond
• In the woods
Lobby of New York Police Commissioner Tommy O’Hara’s apartment building
Prince’s plane
Commissioner O’Hara’s office and auditorium


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PostPosted: 06 Jul 2017, 07:27 
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Joined: 06 Jul 2017, 07:17
Posts: 8
Literary Fiction Workshop ... The assignment is for practice creating scenes for stories. ... This is Pirate's Alley in New Orleans, at the side of St. Louis Cathedral and ... house in 1924, now bookstore, when working on his first novel Soldier's Pay. .... April heat of the French Quarter, squinting her eyes against the sudden grey ...

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