Seven Assignments for Algonkian Writers

A place where Algonkian writers can respond to assignments designed to provide fundamental and nuanced hands-on experience with crucial novel writing elements.
Post Reply
Message
Author
User avatar
WritersBlock
Site Admin
Posts: 59
Joined: 10 Apr 2005, 04:13

Seven Assignments for Algonkian Writers

#1 Post by WritersBlock » 09 Oct 2020, 21:56

.

:!: UPDATED 10/O1/2020

Algonkian Writer Conferences - Pre-Event Writer Assignments

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, core wound, and setting.

Quiet novels do not sell. Keep that in mind.

Michael Neff
NYC Pitch Conference Director
__________________________________________________________

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!


__________________________________________________________

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? Their goal? What must be done? What must she or he create? Destroy? Save? Accomplish? Defeat?

:!: 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.

:idea: FIRST ASSIGNMENT: write your story statement.

___________________________________________________


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 ... iterature/

:idea: 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.

___________________________________________________


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.

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

___________________________________________________


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!

:idea: FOURTH ASSIGNMENT:

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


____________________________________________________


HOOK LINES, CORE WOUNDS, AND CONFLICT

Conflict, tension, complication, drama--pretty much basically related and going a long way to keeping the reader's eyes and thoughts fixated on your story. These days, serving up a big manuscript of quiet is a sure path to post-slush damnation. You need tension on the page, and the best way to accomplish this is to create conflict and complication in the plot, and narrative as well.

Conflict was first described in ancient Greek literature as the agon, or central contest in tragedy. According to Aristotle, in order to ensure interest, the hero must have a single conflict. The agon, or act of PRIMARY CONFLICT, involves the protagonist and the antagonist, corresponding to hero and villain. The outcome of their 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. Classic drama creates conflict with real stakes. It cannot help but do so. 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 (that would fall apart if Tom Buchanan were not a cretin). And the core of conflict can be expressed in a hook line. For example, let us consider hook lines from the following novels.

Note the following hook lines are divided into two basic parts--the CORE WOUND and the resulting dramatic complication that denotes and drives conflict towards climax and resolution.

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.

* The protagonist is scorned and tormented, thus the core wound, and as a result he seeks to fulfill an almost impossible task.
___

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 protagonist is betrayed by her friend and thus her core wound, and as a result she must take steps to reach a closure wherein conflict will surely result.
___

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.

* Humiliated into a core wound by an elder magician, the story line erupts into a conflict with the entire world at stake.

___

*** 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.

:idea: FIFTH ASSIGNMENT: write your own hook line following the format above that includes core wound and resulting conflict. Consider also, what makes your novel distinctive? Might elements of the setting be displayed to add color? Is the antagonist noted or inferred? What do you see in the three examples above?

______________________________________________________


OTHER MATTERS OF CONFLICT: TWO MORE LEVELS

Consider "conflict" divided into three parts, all of which you should ideally have present in the novel. First, the primary conflict (noted above) that drives through the core of the work from beginning to end and zeniths with an important climax (falling action or 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--which may or may not be directly related to the main plot line (but at least an important one should be).

:idea: 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. And relate it to the main plot line or primary conflict.

:idea: 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?


______________________________________________________


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/

:idea: 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.

________________________

MarthaMichaelsA5
Posts: 1
Joined: 11 Oct 2020, 22:42

Re: Seven Assignments for Algonkian Writers

#2 Post by MarthaMichaelsA5 » 14 Oct 2020, 03:41

FIRST ASSIGNMENT: write your story statement.

Laid-back, luddite, and all around curmudgeon, Captain MITCH JORDAN can’t wait to get back to sea. His plans are blocked when he’s pulled into a dangerous case involving an old high school friend’s disappearance, stolen money, a ruthless preacher, and a dog named Satan.
He must find his missing/dead friend and get him properly buried. He’s too jaded to believe in justice or revenge.

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.

Protagonist, Mitch, plans a short stay in his home town while waiting to captain a Russian super yacht under construction in Thailand. Chick Howard, a shady realtor, but beloved high school friend goes missing.

The Antagonist is a highly respected Pastor, Phil Cuthburt, and founder of God’s World. Pastor Phil plans to purchase a group of floating casinos anchored just off shore, it’s a money laundering operation from which he can funnel money to the GOP (essentially the Abramoff/Suncruz scandal).

Because Pastor Phil must hide his involvement he uses Chick as a cover. Chick steals the money for the purchase wiring it to his personal bank account. Phil’s boys catch up with Chick and they accidentally kill him, now Phil must search for his stolen money. He thinks Mitch has it, then turns to Chick’s wife Doris. He fabricates a will naming God’s World executor of Chick’s estate in an effort to open the banks and look for the money. Doris fights back drawing on Mitch for support. Mitch doesn’t care about money or corruption, he simply wants to find and bury Chick properly, but soon discovers that he must also protect hard headed Doris.


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

Mud Shoals
Satan Ain’t My Dog
For God’s Sake, Bury Chick

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

“Mud Shoals” falls in the crime genre, the tone is Elmore Leonard and the Coen Brothers, Big Lewbowski meets Raylan Givens.

FIFTH ASSIGNMENT: write your own hook line following the format above that includes core wound and resulting conflict. Consider also, what makes your novel distinctive? Might elements of the setting be displayed to add color? Is the antagonist noted or inferred? What do you see in the three examples above?

Mitch ran away from his small southern town at 18 never to return, he created a life at sea. He’s an island, the Captain, people either take orders or leave. Pretty nifty coping mechanism, only he makes the mistake of coming back, ever so briefly, but long enough to be pulled into the messy lives of the people he left behind, to save them and repent and fall in love, there’s even a dog. It doesn’t get any worse than that.

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. And relate it to the main plot line or primary conflict.

Mitch left home as a kid because he hated the place, the poverty, the stupidity, mostly because he knew he could only make matters worse. He lacked social and emotional intelligence, he wasn’t good at anything. He was no account and shiftless, but at sea he had worked his way up to captain and saved himself. He found something he was really good at, he sailed through storms, he fought off pirates, he was courageous and confident, nomadic, yes, no entanglements, better still. But back in that little town was a seed of unfinished business, something gnawed at him. He had run, he abandoned his family and everyone he knew, they confused him, was he a coward? No, he simply hated the place, but still…

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?

Chick wants a favor from Mitch, first, keep a mysterious envelope for him, and second, tell Doris, his wife, that he was never interested in her, snuff out the torch Chick believes she’s been carrying for Mitch all these years. Of course, Mitch says no, he’s leaving town and doesn’t give a shit. Then Chick pulls the guilt card, he was the one who took care of and ultimately buried Mitch’s father, six hundred people showed up for the funeral, did he not get the letter? Mitch did but ignored it, now face to face with Chick, he can not escape his guilt.


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 town is a character in the story. An old coot runs the coffee shop, there’s a megachurch with Diamond Vision, which everyone’s in awe of. There are swamps, coves, a marina, and boats. Most interestingly is Mitch’s shack on an isolated cove down a long dirt road, and the way he lives there. He steals electricity from the coffee shops men’s room, charges the chain of batteries in the bed of his truck then runs an extension cord from the truck to the shack. He pretty much camps there, sitting on ice chests and sleeping on a found mattress someone threw away. He abhors stuff because he doesn’t want to be there in the first place. He’s a passive aggressor to himself.

karendevaney
Posts: 1
Joined: 16 Oct 2020, 22:05

Re: Seven Assignments for Algonkian Writers

#3 Post by karendevaney » 19 Oct 2020, 04:22

Between the Vines Answers to Assignment
1. Break the rules, be the first female winemaker in Sonoma Valley.
2. Paolo, Tomasina’s father represents everything patriarchal and stilting during the end of WWII. Women are to return to their kitchens, making room for the men who are returning war laden wanting their old jobs back. The men in Tomi’s life, even Tiago her lover, are narrow minded in their mindset on gender. Women are to remain in the wings, they tend, harvest and stomp grapes, but they don’t make the wine, that’s a man’s job. Paolo and his cronies hold tight to ruling the roost, they, and they alone are landholders and business men. Women are needed to cook meals, raise children, and take care of the household, all the banal expectations Tomi refuses to succumb to. The macho force, the underbelly of the wine industry dominated during the late 1940s and fifties. Paolo is both stern and soft in his love for his daughter. Conflicted and confused by her fierce determination, he digs his heels in deeper, trying to hone his son Gianni for the role of Vinter. Gianni, unlike Tomi, has no interest in the wine business, which further infuriates Paolo.
3. Titles, Between the Vines, Within the Soil, Beyond the Vines, Golden Hills
4. Comparisons- City of Girls, by Elizabeth Gilbert, and Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton
5. Hook Lines- At the end of WWII, Tomasina is filled with dreams of being the first womanVvinter, but is almost destroyed as she battles the underbelly of winemaking. Or, After working together for months in the vineyards, a young woman succumbs to love and almost destroys her dreams of becoming the first female winemaker amid a sea of patriarchal men.
6. Other conflicts include Tiago’s Mexican mother who hates anyone who is not Hispanic, when Tiago falls for Tomi, he keeps it from his mother, until Tomi becomes pregnant and Tiago can no longer keep the secret. A devastating fire that rages through Golden Hills that not only singes and burns the vines, but claims Tiago life as well. Gianni, who was fighting in Italy during the war, falls in love with Luciana, when she suddenly disappears before the end of the war, he searches for her, returning to America with a heavy heart. Nona Esmeralda has cancer and is sent to San Francisco for treatment, Tomi must go with her, leaving her two lovers behind, Tiago and the vines.
7. Settings, Sonoma California in 1945 summer, Golden Hills winery, the square and the surrounding bucolic areas at the end of the war, San Francisco in 1946, and Rome, Italy towards the end of WWI.

JerryP6Mollenhauer
Posts: 1
Joined: 12 Nov 2020, 22:33

Re: Seven Assignments for Algonkian Writers

#4 Post by JerryP6Mollenhauer » 25 Nov 2020, 02:50

1. Story statement.
Losing all to brutal Nazi rule, Conrad von Runstadt must serve in the SS in Operation Barbarossa, struggling to stay alive against Russian military onslaughts. Holding to his principled upbringing, compelled to oppose and forgo war crimes and civilian massacres, he can only dare to hope his last tie to his former life, his deceased lover’s sister, Grit, is still alive.

2. Sketch the antagonist or antagonistic force
The Antagonistic force is the Nazi party and its loyal members; the camp guards, soldiers who kill non-combatants, people who attributed righteousness to immoral leadership. A false friend with a hidden agenda.
Laws that create a life plan for Germans from Deutsches Jungvolk through the Waffen S.S. allow the Reich to control the lives of its citizens' cradle to grave.
Lower level antagonists such as Lieutenant Inspector Johannknecht, the bureaucratic Gestapo detective, Kurt Kalbfliesch, Conrad’s irrational, violently loyal Nazi platoonmate, Sergeant Roessler, his corrupt platoon sergeant and Dr. Reinhold, the Nazi physician with a past he conceals from his newest lover and victim, exert pressure and pain throughout the work.
Brown-Shirted thugs are angry about the same causes that drive the Nazi Party, violent and reactionary as they seek the wealth and notoriety that eludes them in civilian life. Humans seeking approval and recognition in the Nazi party, some wholly violent, some carefully guarded about their motives and backgrounds, prey upon their victims in wartime Germany and Russia with tacit government approval.
While there are men of honor who fight for Germany in Waffen SS, there are those who are superficially cordial, mercurial, darkly plotting, bitter and angry at perceived slights, violent and merciless against the innocents they encounter in Ukraine and even within their own ranks.

CONJURING YOUR BREAKOUT TITLE

3.TITLE-
A."The Groom's War."
B.“Those We Hold Dear.”


DECIDING YOUR GENRE AND APPROACHING COMPARABLES


4.COMPARABLES-
"Baker's Secret" – by Stephen P. Kiernan-an end of WW2 novel set in Nazi-occupied France.
"The German Girl"- by Armando Lucas Correa WW2 novel of fleeing Nazi Germany


HOOK LINES, CORE WOUNDS, AND CONFLICT"

5.HOOK LINE-
"After a German student loses his family, bride, and his entire life to the Gestapo, against his principles, he is forced to fight on the eastern front. When he learns that his dead fiancé's sister yet survives in Ravensbrück Concentration Camp, he undertakes a risky plan to rescue her—the only human being left alive for whom he cares."



6.Conflict line
When society takes all (tribe, morals, ethics, scruples) someone holds dear, how does one hold to on them; how does one live with himself if he does not?

6-1.Conditions for the protagonist’s inner conflict
1.Oppressive Nazi measures, such as singling out of Jews to deny his friend’s education, the abolition of the German Boy Scouts to require participation in the politically oriented Hitler Youth alarmed Conrad. Note the following scene:
‘With the “Law Against the Overcrowding of German Schools,” Ichten Berman, because he was Jewish, no longer had the right to an education. Ichten was also excluded from Hitler Youth. The friends felt betrayed.
“Ichten, it’s not fair! I won’t go to school.” Conrad’s tears burned in his eyes, “I won’t join the Jungvolk either if you can’t!”
“Conrad, don’t be foolish!” Ichten violently shook his head.
“What’s the difference, if you can’t go, I don’t want to be there!”
“Conrad, you have to go on,” Ichten spoke with wisdom and faint hope, “Germany won’t always be like this. People will come to their senses! You must continue so you can help me catch up when they do!”
“It’s not fair. I don’t like it!”
But Ichten said quietly so that Conrad had to strain to hear, “For now, Germany is not worried about what you or I like. We do what we must. Times will change.”’
Conflict is created by the illusion of a new, changed normalcy:
Conrad’s Hitler Youth experiences, during which play was encouraged to become battle, with real injuries experienced and side on side gang type violence were not what Conrad expected, or something he had experienced in Pfadfinders. In the German Boy Scouts, politics and violence had not existed.
The safer, seemingly powerful expression of his loyalty to the autocratic regime sometimes captured his imagination in strong new feelings that Conrad could boast of to his Grandfather. Wilhelm’s response to these new, powerful emotions, his ethical teachings, his quiet disdain for the Nazi party alarmed Conrad.
But it gave him the impetus to think for himself, to question authority in the face of righteousness.

6-2. The scenario for the "secondary conflict" involving the social environment
“At age fourteen, Conrad’s von Runstadt’s Jungvolk membership was reassigned to the Hitler Youth. He found opportunities to build the same skills as in the Pfadfinders, but there were sinister undertones in the things he was called upon to do, to trust with his loyalties. War games, violent wrestling, and tussling brought bloodied noses, and worse, hemorrhaged pride.
In the parks and forests, troops of boys would stalk one another and rip the armbands off their opponents’ as trophies. Broken bones were common, as were eye-pokes. Conrad disliked such roughness, and he was called out and humiliated by his cohorts, by his troop leaders. Bullies excelled at their craft. Boys who forsook participation, who thought for themselves, suffered at the will of the Nazi regime and the bullies it encouraged.
Wilhelm von Runstadt was not blind and had never been a stupid man. The white-haired gentleman reserved a silent rage for the government’s attempt to corrupt Conrad, and they discussed the changing political landscape often. Wilhelm spoke cautiously about the contemptible lies force-fed to seduced German youth, and he encouraged Conrad to look at facts, to draw his own conclusions.
After Conrad’s Hitler Youth meetings, he would buttonhole Wilhelm, weeding on cowhide knee-pads in his garden, to impress his Grandfather with what he had learned.
“Grandpa, our Youth leader said Germany will need good soldiers in the years to come, to fight the Jew menace. We must fight to keep our Fatherland safe for us Germans.”
Wilhelm squinted, the sun in his eyes. He despised that Conrad could innocently get them in trouble by repeating their conversations.
“Mein Enkel, you do know that not everyone in this Third Reich believes Hitler is a good leader?”
“Our Fuhrer is making our homeland better. The Fuhrer is making jobs, and people are not so hungry.”
“Let’s sit in the shade,” Wilhelm stood, “on the bench.”
“Conrad, some of what your Youth leader said is true; some people are better off,” Wilhelm said. He mopped his pale forehead with a kerchief, “but the Bermans and their store? Are they better off? Is the government being fair when it forbids us to buy from them?”
“Grandpa, the Bermans are Jews.” Conrad told him passionately, “The Fuhrer says they ruined Germany!”
“Conrad, they are our neighbors. I have bought fresh greens and fruits from their family my whole life.”
“That was before.”
“Before what?”
“Before we knew what they do to Germany!”
Wilhelm said in a level voice, slowly then, carefully. “Conrad, what have the Bermans done to Germany?”
“They lost the Great War!” Conrad cried, “You know the Jews control the money in Germany; the Jews are all crooked!”
“Harold Berman lost us the war?” Wilhelm took offense. “And please do not be so insolent as to tell me what you think I know!”
“Well, the Jews did,” Conrad squirmed on his seat, “I can’t say if Harold Berman did.”
“Conrad, I hope you haven’t spoken like this to Harold, he is already very hurt by these policies.”
“Well, no, Grandpa, I wouldn’t do that, ever!”
“Why not?” Wilhelm demanded.
“Harold is my neighbor. Ichten is my best friend.”
“But yet you think they lost us the war? “Wilhelm said, unbelieving, “Harold was a German soldier in the Great War.” His eyes searched the boy’s face. “Harold Berman was a very good soldier.”
Conrad studied an anthill by his shoe. “How could that be? Why would he do that and then ruin Germany?“ He threw up his hands, “How can you say that? The Fuhrer says different!”
Conrad leaped to his feet, “Why would you say good things about these people?”
“Conrad, I can say it because he was my corporal for two years before the side of his face was shot away. I was his Lieutenant.”
Wilhelm saw the boy’s confusion and tears of conflict in his eyes.
“Conrad, sit down.”
“Sit down,” Wilhelm ordered.
Conrad sat on the bench again.
“Conrad, do you think the Fuhrer wants you playing with Ichten anymore? Do you give Hitler that power?”’

6-3. Conditions for the inner conflict of the protagonist:
The loss of his mentor, his family, and tribe, and those he loves to fascism, a changed society clashing with his moral code; these are the powerful forces that drive the young German soldier to stand for humanity and seek peace.
The haunting notion that Conrad’s deceased bride’s sister may still survive, the lingering scent of a love believed lost forever, one that might somehow yet be reclaimed, spurs Conrad to carry on.

THE INCREDIBLE IMPORTANCE OF SETTING

7. Setting sketch
The setting is Prewar Europe, Germany, and America, staging for war; the repressions, enslavements, the battles, and the camps.
The German Weimar Republic is in a great economic depression, and with it and the recovery efforts, the shock of societal change. There is no work, suicides spiral, German children starve in the streets, and wild dogs fight over their corpses, while some mothers are reduced to prostitution to feed their young. Germans, bitter about the debilitating reprisals included in the Great War peace agreement and their loss of livelihood, look for strong leadership. They are hoping for a decisive statesman-messiah who can set things right.
Under Nazi rule, young German men and women must serve the Reich and prepare for war to right the injustices of the Treaty of Versailles.
With Hitler in power in starving 1933 Germany, the Pfadfinders are banned, and Conrad must join the Deutsches Jungvolk. Ichten, his Jewish best friend, is excluded. With political indoctrination and roughhouse exercises, Deutsches Jungvolk is a poor substitute for the German Boy Scouts.
The Nazi party gets civilians back to work and on their financial feet, and Germans follow along because they have nothing. By 1936, Conrad must join the Hitler-Jugend, Hitler Youth, a group for educating and training male youth in Nazi principles and training boys to enter the SA (Storm Troopers).
Coming into his adulthood, Conrad runs afoul of a violent Brownshirt at a Hitler rally. His concerned Grandfather arranges for him to visit his father in America to let things cool off. This visit opens the young man’s eyes even further to his possibilities. But his Grandfather Wilhelm is taken prisoner back in Germany, and he must return to help his Stuttgart family. Conrad von Runstadt meets two beautiful sisters, one a nurse, the other a store clerk. He falls in love with stunning Marta Engel, the clerk, but is also strongly attracted to her beautiful sister, Grit Engel. He must learn to balance his social life with his political life because his lover, her brother, and he subversively compose and distribute anti-Nazi publications. For Conrad, It is a time of fast living, jazz clubs, quick decisions, and desperate choices.
By November 1, 1940, he is taken into the Reich Labour Service, the RAD, a six-month stepping stone in pre-Military civil labor. In May 1941, he is forcefully conscripted into the Waffen S.S. Germany has invaded Poland and soon launched Operation Barbarossa against the Soviet Union.
But on the day he and his beautiful young fiancé are to marry, the wedding party is raided by the Gestapo with deadly and long term consequences that shadow Conrad with the longings of tragic loss until near the end of the war, when he suspects he has found Grit Engel in Ravensbrucke Concentration Camp. In an attempt to reclaim his life and happiness, Conrad von Runstadt risks everything.

Post Reply

Return to “Algonkian Writer Workshops and Retreats”