Algonkian Park and Port Townsend Assignment Forum

A forum for Algonkian Novel Workshop attendees to complete an array of pre-workshop assignments focusing on story premise, comparables, antagonist and protagonist characters, and more.
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Algonkian Park and Port Townsend Assignment Forum

#1 Post by WritersBlock » 28 Aug 2014, 04:26

Algonkian Writer Conferences - Pre-Event Writer Assignments

For the Algonkian Park and Port Townsend Writers 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

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!



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.



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).


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



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

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

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

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



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

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

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


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



Conflict, tension, complication, drama--all basically related, and all going a long way to keeping the reader's eyes fixated on your story. These days, serving up a big manuscript of quiet is a sure path to damnation. You need tension on the page (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.



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?



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.


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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Re: Algonkian Park and Port Townsend Assignment Forum

#2 Post by aclabough » 02 Sep 2014, 06:20

Story Statement
Dallas, President of the Colorado chapter of the Speed Freaks Motorcycle Club, must lead his club brothers back across the country amid total anarchy while his wife in Colorado decides whether to defend the farm or hide out in the mountains.

Shortstop is one of the newer members of Dallas' chapter. He joined the lesser-known club after being rejected by one of the notorious clubs because of his brief career in law enforcement that had ended in jail time. Shortstop joined the Speed Freaks because of their reputation as hardcore riders and their massive parties, but his resentment that he can't be one of the big boys creates trouble for Dallas and the rest of the chapter.

Continental Divide
Along the Road
The Road Between

I'd say the genre is dystopian near future with biker culture fiction - I'm clearly going to need help on this.
Comparables - It's old, but Cold Mountain. A couple in love are separated. He's trying to get home, and she's trying to survive. A newer book I found on Goodreads is Young Adult Fiction: Islands at the End of the World by Austin Aslan. A father and daughter are caught away from home when technology fails worldwide, and they are trying to get home.

Primary Conflict
Dallas leaves home in troubled times, and while he's gone, society crumbles. He tries to get back home to his wife on his motorcycle with his club brothers while struggling to find fuel, food and fighting every other desperate person along the road.

Inner Conflict
Dallas will need to choose between his brothers and his wife. At times, his desire to get home will conflict with making sure his brothers are safe. Not all of them feel that going back is in their best interest.

Secondary Conflict
This will be with Robin, Dallas' wife. She's trying to keep their home, property and belongings safe amid rioting and looting. She's trying to decide if she should pack what she can and get out of town or wait for Dallas to get back.

The setting in this story is fluid. There's the home front, which is on the High Plains of Colorado. Cowboys, farmers, urban/suburban folks, and probably some immigrants. The road portion of the story takes place between the southeast (Georgia or Florida) and back through Texas to northern Colorado. I've ridden it a few times. Different cultures, the beauty, the poverty - being on the road on a motorcycle you get a strong feel for the places you travel though. It's not like traveling across I-80 in a car and eating at Cracker Barrel.

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Re: Algonkian Park and Port Townsend Assignment Forum

#3 Post by maillady56 » 10 Sep 2014, 05:45

1. Story Statement - When an operative suffering blackouts due to a brain injury suspects that he may be eliminating suspected terrorists unknowingly, his psychologist enlists an other special forces operative to track him in order to find the truth and prevent more killings.

2. Antagonist - Dr. Hassan Fahd, a Neurosurgeon and his cohort David Halstead have built and work at a covert government facility where they perform experiments on wounded soldiers, controlling them and forcing them to use their special skills to unknowingly. With his egocentric zeal, Dr. Fahd is convinced that his research is all important and that no risk is too great. He will do whatever he must in order to safeguard his secrets and continue his work.


4. Genre/Comparables – My genre is Thriller/Crime Fiction – My Comps are:

Suzanne Brockmann – Special Forces Thrillers – strong professional female protagonist – highly trained male protagonist working special ops – sexual tension and conflicting lifestyles - Conspiracy and/or Cover-ups

Catherine Coulter – Crime fiction – strong professional female protagonist – highly trained male protagonist working in law enforcement (FBI) - investigative – Conspiracy and/or Cover-ups

5. Primary Conflict – When someone begins killing men on the US Terrorist Watch List and Dr. Susan Graham’s patient Cameron Reyes is convinced that he is the one eliminating them during blackouts caused by a brain injury, Dr Graham and Talbert Rankin III must search out the truth about his guilt or innocence.

6. Inner Conflict – Susan Graham fears that Reyes might indeed be guilty of the killings. She’s fighting her attraction to Talbert Rankin, as she believes that a man like Tal would never choose a woman like her. She is at loose ends as far as her profession goes, as she is experiencing burnt-out and feels that she has irrevocably betrayed her professional oath and cannot go back to her practice. She fears for her life, as well as Tal’s, as they are suddenly in someone’s bead. Scenario #1. After a heated moment in a motel room, Tal kills two men who break in with the intent to kill them. Susan is horrified at the glimpse at the world she has inadvertently thrown herself into, but secretly longs to break free from the world she’s been trapped in for years. She’s drawn to Tal more than any man she's ever known, but terrified by the violence and the lifestyle he leads.

Social Conflict – Susan begins to feel distrust towards the government and the people who work at the Halstead Institute. She also must deal with the fact that she and Tal are from different worlds. Neither is convinced that they could fit themselves into the other’s lifestyle. Scenario #2. Susan and Tal go to a party given by David Halstead, on a fact finding mission. The room is filled with Academics in the form of Doctors, Psychologists, and Research Scientists. Susan relates to these people instinctively. She wa involved with one of the men in the past. She realizes that Tal finds her ex-lover very cultured and can’t help but see how well-suited Susan and her ex seem to be and how right they look together. Susan sees with deep regret that Tal has decided that anyone there would suit Susan better than he would and that there is a wide chasm between her life and Tal's which she fears cannot be bridged.

7. Setting - The story is set primarily in the Eastern US, and New Mexico. Cameron Reyes, Susan Graham and Tal Rankin travel from DC to Virginia and to wherever the trail of killings leads them. They spend time in vehicles (sometimes at high speeds, while being chased), in the woods camping (where they find a body), in a motel room (where they attempt to get down and dirty but are shot at and forced to kill two men.) The assassins spend time on rooftops and elevator shafts, in unmarked ambulances while in a fugue state, in which case they have no idea where they are. They all end up in New Mexico at a secret facility where a fanatical genius is using humans at guinea pigs. The places are commonplace, but the circumstances are anything but.

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Re: Algonkian Park and Port Townsend Assignment Forum

#4 Post by Flwalcott » 14 Sep 2014, 05:23

Seven short assignments
1. Story statement
3 women who must find a way to overcome their individual challenges; Noreen must overcome addiction to save herself and her family; Zahra must overcome her illusions about her husband and idyllic life; Amyna must overcome her fear of loving someone else and not belonging. They all have to find a new definition of how to honor their Indian heritage and their American birthright.

2. Antagonists:
Zahra – her husband’s sister and mother who are always pressuring zahra’s husband for money. Zahra’s sister in law Ayesha is pushing zahra’s husband toward and ex-girlfriend because of her jealousy of Zahra

Amyna’s – her family is completely broken and exerts a lot of stress. Her sister is selfish and married to an American man who is a jerk. She constantly points out Amyna’s unmarried status and the fact that Amyna is an unwed mother. Amyna also has some challenges adjusting to her boyfriend’s family who can’t understand why Amyna and J are not getting married.

Noreen’s antagonists – priti is noreen’s mother in law and she is always critical of Noreen because she is a traditional Hindu woman and Noreen is muslim; noreen’s parents meanwhile are always exerting pressure on her to fulfill her obligations to them and her religion which she does not practice.

3. Breakout title- Chai

4. Genre comparables: Women’s fiction/literary fiction; the Hindi-Bindi Club by Monica Pradhan; The Joy luck club by Amy Tan; The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown; all these novels are about women who have tensions and conflict with family and/or culture. There is less about the mothers in my novel and more about the daughters and their lives.

5. and 6. Conflict:

a. Primary conflict: the friendship disintegrates over betrayal committed by Noreen of Zahra and Amyna keeps Noreen’s betrayal a secret.
b. Secondary conflict: Noreen – addiction, having affairs, competitiveness with Amyna and Zahra, family pressures; Zahra: struggle to launch a business and fix her failing marriage; Amyna: ex-boyfriend who re-enters her life after she is in a relationship with another rman, pregnancy, not married, family conflicts with her own and her husband
c. Inner conflicts – Noreen – struggles against a patriarchal culture and yearns for acceptance from the men in her life, father, husband, lover. Zahra – grappling with her insecurity about if she is “good enough” for her husband, and not feeling like she is failing at being married; Amyna – afraid of love, of marriage, of being tied down, not fitting in, conscious of her lack of “indian-ness”

7. Setting: NYC, Boston, Houston – Zahra works at Saks but then opens a shop in SoHo. Noreen works at Mass General in Boston. Amyna lives in the Village in NYC then is made to move to Houston because of her relationship with J and having a baby. Though Zahra and Amyna both live in NY, their experiences of the city are totally different and living there means different things to them. For Amyna she has to leave the city she loves for practical reasons, and has to grow through that experience whereas Zahra refuses to change in multiple ways, and consequently does not grow and change as much.

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Re: Algonkian Park and Port Townsend Assignment Forum

#5 Post by Lastern1 » 15 Sep 2014, 00:42

Hi - Apologies for the late posting of this assignment. I'm looking forward to meeting everyone and sharing :)

1. Story Statement:

Ten-year old Keira must save her home and family from the County Commissioner’s plans to claim her house and the surrounding woods under “eminent domain.” The Commissioner's wife plans to build a new luxury subdivision, “Sleepy Plantation." Keira’s missing notebook is the only evidence of a hidden archaeological site that may stop the new development. She must find her notebook and bring it to the state archaeologist before it is too late.

2. Antagonist/Force

Jack Brent, Chair of the County Commission

From an old Virginia family that he can trace back to the Brents of River Farm on the Potomac, Jack is quick to insert his gentile lineage into his political narrative. He neglects to mention that Captain Giles Brent, an early Jamestown settler, beat his wife so badly and often that she succeeded in 1679 in obtaining the first legal separation in Virginia Commonwealth history. He also omits his ancestor’s role in driving the local Dogue Indian tribes to the Maryland side of the Potomac and forcing their remaining children into Catholicism and servitude. Also overlooked in his narrative is his progenitor’s return to England and subsequent suicide in 1671. Long separated from the Brent family’s 1800 acre holdings, Jack is using his political influence to take back what he sees as his birthright in Fairfax County.

At his side is new wife Zlatka Ivanovic. Jack divorced his wife of 20 years shortly after his political ascendency in county government. Zlatka is the daughter of a Bulgarian businessman with links to the post-communist “sportsmen,” a criminal network of former olympic wrestlers — known as the “no neck businessmen” by the general citizenry. The “No Necks” succeeded in extorting and eventually capturing the assets of Bulgaria’s newly emerging entrepreneurs. With her connections to new investors, Zlatka envisions an Eastern European version of an Antebellum South. Her daughter “Bunny” Brent-Ivanovic is a classmate and nemesis of Keira.

3. Breakout Title

Keira’s Notebook
Buried Horizons
What the Sun Revealed

4. Genre/Comps

Middle Grade Historical Fiction

In the spirit of Scott O’Dell, whose middle grade novels captured the lost cultures and landscapes of California, “Keira’s Notebook” uncovers the layered histories of Virginia through the eyes of a 10 year old girl. If you enjoyed “The Bridge to Terabithia,” “The Book Thief,” or “Because of Winn-Dixie” you will enjoy uncovering the ghosts that still haunt Virginia, all found in “Keira’s Notebook.”

5. Conflict Statement

After the abandonment of her father, a young girl’s home is set to be demolished by local development, unless she can get expose an illegal plot to destroy a hidden archaeological site behind her house.

6. Other Conflicts

Primary Conflict: Keira must save her family home from being claimed under “eminent domain” by the country government. To stop the seizure of her home, she must prove to the State Archaeologist that the hidden archaeological site behind her house is significant enough to be protected.

Secondary Conflict: The last remaining tribes of Virginia are fighting for long-denied state and federal recognition. Legal recognition will not only address historic attempts to erase them from he landscape, but may help stop plans for a reservoir that would flood the Pamunkey and Mataponi Rivers and destroy their native homes and fisheries.

Inner Conflict: Keira’s family is coming apart at the seams. Her father has abandoned them, her mother has descended into depression and inaction, while her brother has taken to digging holes in the front yard with their dog Bear. She must find a way to salvage what is left of her family in the absence of her father, and understand her own agency in the face of loss and adversity.

7. Settings

The setting is the cultural, historic and ecologic landscape of Virginia across time. Through class field trips, treks in the woods, family histories and forays into archaeology and mythology, Keira and her classmates trace the landscape of contemporary Northern Virginia back through World War II, the Civil War and Colonial settlements, back to an indigenous landscapes that connected the Virginia Piedmont to the Ohio River Basin. In the process, they uncover a cycle of earth and sky that continues to mark the seasons for the Native peoples of Virginia today.

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Re: Algonkian Park and Port Townsend Assignment Forum

#6 Post by SharonRitchey » 15 Sep 2014, 03:57

1. The Act of Story Statement
An environmental attorney learns her job, marriage, and health are in jeopardy travels to a dilapidated hiking retreat in Vermont owned by a widow who is fighting a washed-up Olympic skier turned bureaucrat who want to cut her off from the trails, but her biggest struggle maybe her son who drinks too much and regularly sleeps with the guests.

2. The Antagonist Plots the Point

Shannon Neusome feels the mountain community where she grew up and trained for the Olympics abandoned her first after her ski accident and then from earning a living as part of the ski community. She wants to be in the spotlight and feel important to the community like the La Voie family. She unsuccessfully pursued Julian but has had better luck with Lucas who finds her attractive but has no desire to sleep with just one woman. She takes a government job as a land manager and when a developer lays claim to the part of the trail nearest to Charlevoix and Zero Mile Noemi is confident that she will be an ally. But she’s not. She is a control freak who hides a lingering injury with prescription pain meds and outlandish physical stunts. The developer bribes her with gifts and promises of status and she is prepared to use her power to teach Lucas and the community a lesson.

3. Conjuring your Breakout Title

The Zero Mile
Hiker’s Mile
Pointless Ups and Downs

4. Deciding your Genre and Approaching Comparables

My genre is women’s fiction. This is an amazingly huge category and I’m starting to think more about comparables.

5. Considering the Primary Conflict – Coming of Agon

A widowed innkeeper trying to keep her business, her family, and her connection to her late husband alive must fight to keep a bitter government official from destroying her family who want to close access to the hiking trails on her property

6. Other Matters of Conflict

Wen feels physically unable to hike, let alone stand up. This rattles her self confidence as it the most striking reminder of all her problems. Until she can stand on her own too feet and accept her limitations – hike her own hike, she won’t be able to make decisions about her marriage and work.

Wen learns that Alex had a short-lived love affair with Noemi and she feels surprisingly jealous. Wen pieces together the time line of the relationship and it is right after she married Cam. Noemi says that “Alex was heart broken about some woman who just got married.” She likes Noemi and wants to help but feels a bit duped by Alex who has feelings for her and Noemi. What’s his game?

7. The Incredible Importance of Setting
The Green Mountains are lush in the warmer months and alive with a riot of color in the fall. The rise and fall of the mountains surrounds you like skyscrapers in a city. But where skyscrapers block out the sun in geometric grids, the mountains serve as a pedestal and frame for the sun and clouds. As you drive through them you are on them, in them but you can only reach the tops of foot. Even from the top of one outlook or summit the surrounding mountains bear down on you at once enclosing you but giving you a sense of forever. In the summer, the manmade scars of ski trails cuts through the green. One such path on Killington as seen from a lower altitude resembles a lopsided infinity sign. Above the tree line, scraggly vegetation fights to hold onto the rocks.

The air is clean and when it is dry the roads are dusty from gravel and half started repairs. SUVs and pick-up trucks mounted with mountain bikes, kayaks, and canoes roam up and down the steep roads. Traffic is only in the small town and only when small batches of tourists come arrive. The winter bustled turns to summer sleepy. There are no chain restaurants or branded gas stations. Restaurants are half shuttered on vacation those that are open are casual fare, clean but far from city modern – pizza and beer joints with local talent playing on the weekend. Ski shops turn into bike shops to stay alive. Locals update their equipment and shop ski clearance at 70% ahead of the tourist season.

When storms rumble through, the mountains become angry with fog chopping off their peaks and mist clinging turning the air cool and wet. The feeling is not sticky and humid but more cool and damp. The world is slanted up or down in Vermont depending on your view. Swimming holes and waterfalls hide in the mountains. Flat places like soup bowls filled with water and life: loons, fish, plants, moose and deer stopping for a drink. Water rushes down mountain trails either from dedicated rivers or heavy, unexpected rains. The silent fall of trees can create a thundering river bed where one didn’t exist before.

The hiking trails cut through the green of the mountains. The AT is called the Green Tunnel. Trails can start anywhere, from a road, a body of water from another trail. Trail heads are nothing more than a small knick in the woods. The path newly trampled by animals or other hikers winds through the woods. Tall grasses, and shin high thorny, itchy plants rub up on your legs. Branches and spider webs swing at your feet. Rocks slippery with wet leaves, mud, moss, or water catch you unawares and you land on your backside. Tree roots and branches catch your feet jutting from rocks and the path. Rocks of all sizes are in your path to scramble over. The comfort of a blue or white blazed trail and be maddening when it’s lost sending you in circles or the wrong way. Long steady climbs and endless switchbacks make your thighs burn and your lungs pull for more air as you move up and up and up with no summit in site. Some trails have well maintained with wooden railroad times lining the path or a sprinkle of gravel in a low-lying wet plane. But others are endless. The front looks the same as the back for miles on end. There are no borders between towns, counties, or states. Sign occasionally mark your way to shelters as you race the sun to make it to a safe camp. Hikers thunder through the trails keeping animals at bay but plants, flowers, and fungi don’t care showing their faces whenever they please.

When you hike with a group you are overwhelmed by the artificial smell of sunscreen and bug repellant – chemical citrus and florals, anything but natural to keep nature at bay. Hikers drown out the sounds of birds and insects. The steady crunch and plod of boot and trekking pole creating a staccato rhythm.

A faded painted arrow on a small wooden post directed her down a road lined with birch tress. Thin, white peeling soldiers lined up to salute her arrival with their swaying green leaves. She had never seen so many birch together, an actual grove. It seemed that it should also be full of equally tall giraffe nibbling on those succulent leaves.
Two flag poles caught her attention bringing her back from the fantasy safari. The first proudly waving the Canadian maple leaf the other actually a little lower with Old Faithful. “What’s up with the patriotism?”
A smaller faded pole marked guest parking with an arrow directing cars down to a gravel path. The tires crunched as it followed the drive to a small clearing surprisingly full of cars. Beyond the lot hugging the tree line was the hiker’s lodge, Zero Mile, that was a favorite stop for Appalachian Trail and Long trail thru hikers. The air inside Charlevoix hit her first, thick and warm with an old smell of burned winter fires. Her eyes adjusted slowly to the dark after the bright afternoon gray. The room was massive with a stone fireplace that ran the height of two stories. An odd assortment of overstuffed couches and chairs circled a large stone table freshened with a hand thrown ceramic pot of red geraniums. Faded and frayed Oriental rugs were scattered across the slate floor. A massive chandelier- candelabra hung from the ceiling casting a bit of light with half burned-out naked bulbs and unlit tapers. Old West saloon-style swinging doors in the back to the left of the fireplace led to a closed bar with Charlie’s painted above in white script. To the right restrooms, a short flight of stairs leading down a dark hall and an elevator waited for no one in particular. The massive reception desk filled almost the length of the room. Two large picture windows let in much-needed natural light and an odd spotlight for the hotel staff.

Charlie’s Bar - Laughter and music coming from Charlie’s Bar enticed me, and I pushed through the swinging saloon doors. A neon Molson Canadian Lager sign hung behind the bar and was reflected in a nearby mirror where the words were backwards. A group of men, obviously hikers staying at Zero Mile with their long beards and scarecrow thin frames had taken over the back playing darts and drinking beer. Like the rest of the hotel, the tables and chairs were worn and mismatched with an odd collection of canoe paddles, ski poles and moose and deer heads on the wall. It reminded Wen of the northern outpost of Alice’s Smokehouse. That same faded 70s worn synthetic smell. Somehow it worked. The bar gleamed under the neon Molson sign was polished white pine, yellow with age and from cleaning with holes from knots that had worked loose over years of use.

Zero Mile - Both Lucas and Julian lived at Zero Mile, the hiker’s lodge behind the inn. The lodge was a little over a mile off of the AT and accessible to the Long Trail as well. The Long Trail was historically older then the Appalachian Trail and they overlapped for about 100 miles in Vermont. Julian was in charge of the lodge and stayed in a manager’s suite on the first floor, a comfortable one bedroom studio with a kitchenette. Lucas had two rooms on the second floor that had been modified by connecting closets making them into a small bathroom, the effect of a Jack and Jill set-up. On a few occasions he gave one or both up if the lodge was unexpectedly full. Charlie didn’t believe in turning anyone from the trail away, especially if the weather was bad. The boys kept their dad’s sense of hospitality. Though the boys were young when he died, they remember their first overnights on the trail with him and his talk of trail magic. They would fight to stay awake hoping to see fairies or tree elves that they believed were hiding in the stars in the sky. They never found supernatural forces but for many Charlie made a lot of magic helping hikers in need. The lodge served as an official mail drop too. Hikers, and those supporting them, sent packages. They were kept there for when the hikers arrived. A hiker opening his box after weeks on the trail was like watching a kid at Christmas. New supplies of food, candy bars, gloves, batteries, matches, even fresh socks could lift the spirits of anyone thinking of leaving the trail. Hikers who received unexpected letters from home were the happiest realizing their missed connections to their non-trail life. Zero Mile also sold a limited number of hiking supplies such as cooking fuel, first aid items, batteries, sock, gloves, and a homemade trail mix that Noemi was famous for creating. Hikers could also take advantage of a hiker’s box, a beat-up hope chest that decades before had lost its lid but still covered everything with a faint cedar smell. Here unwanted items were left behind for others to pick through to help them on the trail.

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Re: Algonkian Park and Port Townsend Assignment Forum

#7 Post by GinnyParry » 16 Sep 2014, 06:38

Assignment #1: Story Statement
Now What Do I Do?
Ginny Hines Parry
September 14, 2014

After 10 years of trying to overcome the death of her 5-year old son Daniel and the abduction of his twin sister Amy, Tess Moorehead embarks on a dangerous path to finding her daughter.

Assignment #2: Antagonist
Now What Do I Do?
Ginny Hines Parry
September 14, 2014

The antagonist is an unknown person (male or female) who sends anonymous, menacing emails to the protagonist, Tess Moorehead. The emails promise to reunite Tess with her missing daughter if she meets the antagonist’s demands. (NOTE: for simplicity in this assignment I will use only the “he” pronoun.)

The goal of the antagonist is to punish Tess for losing Amy.

The antagonist is omnipresent. He knows Tess’s whereabouts now and during the last 10 years.

The antagonist is cruel. He enjoys taunting Tess with promises of reuniting her with her daughter. He reminds her constantly that she is responsible for losing her daughter.

The antagonist is conflicted. He is torn between giving Amy back to Tess or keeping her.

The antagonist is out of control. He cannot stop sending emails even when Tess meets all of the antagonist’s demands.

The antagonist grew up in a foster home where abusing children was the norm. His parents abandoned him when he was very young.

He is jealous of children who have parents who love them.

The antagonist is dangerous. He threatens to kill Amy every time Tess successfully fulfills a demand.

Assignment #3: Alternative Titles
Now What Do I Do?
Ginny Hines Parry
September 14, 2014

Making Amends

Guilty Dangers

Love You Forever

Assignment #4: Comparables -- genre – suspense
Now What Do I Do?
Ginny Hines Parry
September 10, 2014

1. No Safe House by Lindwood Barclay – a family has a troubled past. A situation arises that brings back the past. The family experienced a horrific ordeal. They remain haunted by personal demons.

I can relate to the antagonist coming from a troubled family who experienced a horrific ordeal in the past. A present day occurrence brings back the past event.

2. Waiting for Eden by Jessica Leigh – a broken man is desperately looking for someone. There are dangerous obstacles that the protagonist has never encountered in his life. There is a frightening twist in the plot.

I like the plot in this novel. I hope to have similar elements in my story.

Assignment #5: Primary Conflict
Now What Do I Do?
Ginny Hines Parry
September 8, 2014

A mother grieving for 10 years over a dead son and his missing twin sister must meet the demands of an unknown antagonist who promises to reunite her with her daughter.

Assignment #6: Two More Levels of Conflict
No What Do I Do?
Ginny Hines Parry
September 9, 2014

Antagonist’s inner conflict:

Ten years after losing two children, Tess has managed to care for her family despite unbearable grief and guilt. She is in a world now that is manageable. The opportunity to be reunited with her missing daughter presents two choices: being reunited with her daughter or upsetting the safety of her current life. These choices bring turmoil, conflict and increased guilt and pain to Tess.

Hypothetical scenario #1:

Tess gets lost finding the Museum of Natural History. Finally there, intense memories flood her brain. This is where I lost Amy, Tess says to herself. Tess stands in front of the entrance motionless. She is drowning in quicksand, fighting to get out, but the quicksand is victorious. The crowd of tourists rushes by, bumping into her without apologies. Beads of sweat cover her body. She breathes sporadically; her throat is strangling her. Fog surrounds her. Tess takes one step forward, steadying herself. Another faulting step brings her closer. She sees a crater standing in her way. Crossing the crater like a toddler learning to walk finally brings her within inches of the door’s ornately engraved handle. She extends her hand and then withdraws it.

Hypothetical secondary scenario:

Tess Skypes with her family the evening after her visit to the museum. Her husband Lucas appears on the screen first. Tess tells him about the book signing at Politics and Prose bookstore. She read aloud a passage from her book describing a dark moment where trees trap a child walking home from school. She autographed a respectable number of books and conversed with many of the attendees. Tess says she is pleased with her day despite her nervousness. Lucas tells her how proud he is that she travels on her own and shows off her accomplishments to strangers. “You’ve come a long way, darling,” Lucas beams.

Then Tess tells him about the rest of her day, dinner with her agent, a radio interview, and an interview with a Washington Post book reviewer. Then she meekly slips in that she visited the Museum of Natural History. Silence emanates from the screen. Then it goes blank.

Assignment #7: Setting
Now What Do I Do
Ginny Hines Parry
September 8, 2014

Now What Do I Do? takes place on an island called Vieques, one of two small islands off the eastern coast of Puerto Rico. The beaches are magical, surrounded by tropical trees and flowers. The fragrances overwhelm swimmers as they walk along the soft sands to the beach.

Vieques is home to a bioluminescent bay, where microscopic, single-celled organisms called dinoflagellates create halos of light whenever its waters are disturbed. Upon hitting the water, a diver is surrounded by shimmering lights.

Charlie, born and raised on Vieques, wears a backwards baseball cap and kerchief on his head. He has never left the island and never will. He makes his living taking curious visitors to the bay. He calls a long pole he uses to push the boat along the bay his magic wand, creating shimmering light that mirrors the stars.

One of the two towns on the island, Isabel Segunda, is a mini-hub of urbanity. Cars blasting with reggae whiz around the streets lined with shops and sandwich stands. Locals gossip through open windows while people walk by. No walking cell phone conversations are found here.

Patrick, an expatriate from the mainland, runs an outdoor drinking establishment. There are only eight bar stools. People stand in long lines waiting to see the “Patrick Show.” He is loud and boisterous with an accent that is a mix of Boston and Dublin. He dances while juggling glasses high into the air before mixing an island cocktail. He openly disdains recent expatriates, saying they are ruining the neighborhood.

Garry is a lanky guy from Maine who has a long beard and wears dirty clothes. Boggle, a mutt, is always by his side. He plays with imaginary dice while talking to himself in an unknown language. Patrick gives him leftover food at the end of each day.

Isabel, a native of Vieques with Caucasian features, runs a canoe rental business. Her canoes have glass bottoms that provide stunning views of the light bearing dinoflagellates. These are perfect for tourists who are too chicken to dive into the bio bay.

Dorothy is Isabel’s partner. She dresses in men’s clothes that are too large for her petite frame. She runs an art studio that encourages locals to re-create the art of the indigenous people who roamed Vieques when the Spanish “discovered” the island centuries ago. She is bitter that Vieques is changing with the explosion of high-end restaurants and hotels that are cluttering the coastline that rightfully belongs to the locals.

Now What Do I Do?
Ginny Hines Parry
September 14, 2014

A broken family retreats to the beautiful island of Vieques in Puerto Rico to overcome a family tragedy that still haunts them.

Five-year old twins, Amy and Daniel, are lost because of the carelessness of their parents, Tess and Lucas Moorehead. Daniel dies, struck by a drunk driver, while on an outing with Lucas. On the same day, Amy goes missing on a visit to a museum with Tess.

Ten years later, Tess and Lucas are still haunted by the horrific losses of their first-born children. Their friends, parents and family members still don’t know how to act around them. Awkward silences abound.

Lucas, a prominent and successful lawyer, dives into his work to escape his insurmountable grief. Tess maintains a veneer of being the perfect stay-at-home Mom with her remaining children, Meredith and Nicky. She takes them to school, violin lessons and soccer practices. She is the president of the PTA. Yet she hauntingly clings to the memory of her twins. To ease her pain, Tess escapes by writing short stories with a fury.

Finding success as a breakout author, Tess embarks on her first book tour. One of the stops is Washington, DC, where a stranger took Amy. While visiting the museum where the abduction took place, Tess begins to receive anonymous, taunting emails promising the return of Amy if Tess meets the demands of the menacing sender. Tess is lured to the temptations of the emails and she resolves to be reunited with her long lost daughter.

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Re: Algonkian Park and Port Townsend Assignment Forum

#8 Post by Katyanne » 16 Sep 2014, 08:43

thanks for the review!

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Joined: 09 Sep 2014, 02:17

Re: Algonkian Park and Port Townsend Assignment Forum

#9 Post by rleerlars » 17 Sep 2014, 01:15

Story Statement: Depression was the catalyst for Celeste to leave her comfortable religious life, it became the motivator for her to fight on behalf of others who deal with mental illness.

Initially Charles, Celeste's husband, is the Antagonistic force. He fights against change with all the force and arrogance he can muster. He's a man who is not used to being told no. As the story progresses the varying reactions/responses towards mental illness acts as the Antagonist. Probably in the form of church elders, friends and family.

Celeste, a pastor’s wife and preacher’s daughter, after suffering severe depression leaves her husband and church, opens a center to help others who suffer from mental health problems discovering it’s better to be misunderstood rather than always ‘biblically’ correct.

Title: Ancient Waters; Love Perfected; Religion’s Orphans

Inspirational Fiction: I choose these comparables because they represent inspirational writing that’s outside the box of evangelism or romance and more the diversity of this genre.
Jennifer Haigh – Faith: A Novel – From the perspective of a sister who has to deal with her brother, a Priest, accused of molesting children.
William P Young - The Shack – A father grapples with his daughter’s murder discovering a God who doesn’t fit within the parameters of his religious doctrines.

Primary Conflict:
Celeste leaving her husband, Charles, shakes up her family, church and community. She struggles with wanting to return to make is easier on everyone, or press on with the new life she’s making for herself. Celeste wrestles with religion versus mental illness. Which will prevail? Prayer or treatment, faith or medicine; maybe just maybe she’ll discover it requires all or perhaps none of the above when coping with mental illness.

Inner Conflict:
Celeste must decide if pleasing God is more important than pleasing man. She’s spent a lifetime inside the box of “church;” learning to live outside that familiar box isn’t as easy or simple as she imagined.

Secondary Conflict:
Her son, Jacob, has decided not go into the family business of becoming a 4th generation Pastor switching to Psychology, which infuriates his father. Patty, Celeste’s best friend, supports her friend discovering the lingering effects of once being a mentally abused wife. Missy, a bi-polar neighbor, indirectly teaches Celeste about the depths and heights of mental illness and where it can surprisingly lead.

The story takes place in today's time frame and is set in a small Alaskan town, in some ways typical of all small towns, atypical because of Alaskan’s pride in their sense of independence. Alaska is the third most culturally diverse state in the Union. The beauty of Alaska is a backdrop, the intensity of long summer days and short winter nights contribute to mental health issues that create the highest suicide rate per capita. Now that Celeste is no longer confined to the gilded cage of her church, she encounters other cultures which force her to confront her bias. Ultimately her sustaining faith, and the rawness of Alaska’s beauty, helps her overcome bias, and the shock of an unexpected loss due to mental illness.

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Re: Algonkian Park and Port Townsend Assignment Forum

#10 Post by nancythaler » 18 Sep 2014, 21:36

Story Statement:

Teenage girl with requisite dead mother has a superpower and feels superweird. Does she become a hero or a zero?
Wait a minute—what does it even mean to be a hero?

Antagonistic forces:

Social pressure to “fit in” as embodied in Margot’s friend (frenemy?) Frankie Francis and her clique. Are they the “heroes” or the “zeroes”? What about the school misfits, Tommy Bartholomew and Alicia Clark? What about grey-area friends, homeschooled Nicole Filipic and older boyfriend Josh? Where does Margot—and particularly SuperMargot—fit in?
Internal pressure to define what it even means to be a “hero” as embodied in Margot’s brother Todd.
Reconciliation: what does it mean to love a mother who left you, who may or may not have been the one to brand you a “weirdo” in the first place? Embodied in Margot’s memories of her mother, Marianne.
The power itself: Margot’s ability to stop time. Drives her freaking nuts.


The book has been called MARGOT STANDING STILL in my head since the idea began growing.
Other options:

I’d call this a teen-angst + superpower story, so possibly:
X-men + The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Elements of Harry Potter, particularly in coming to terms with both loss and who you really are
John Green-style self-aware, thinking, intelligent protagonist

Conflict Line:
Popular Margot begins seeing how different she really is from her Queen Bee friends, both in terms of the loss of her mother, and in her realization that she has a superpower.

Two more matters of conflict:
Margot’s inner struggles relate to why and how: Why the heck does she suddenly have this power? Why her—why does she have to go through the grief of losing her mother? And how: how should she be using this “curse” or “gift”? Which is it? Should she do things she’s capable of doing (stealing, snooping, etc) because she can, or is she responsible for living up to a higher standard? What is a “superhero” anyway?

Secondary conflicts:
--Margot openly clashes with Frankie, Sam, Jenna and Jules, her primary friend group
--Margot copes with the jealousy of her brother Todd, her only confidant, a college student who longs to be able to stop time itself.
--Margot struggles with the scene at school: who to help, when, and why.
--Margot feels herself changing with budding friendships with Nicole and Josh, people she's chosen because they fit, not just because she's always known them.

Margot lives in Blossom Gorge, Pennsylvania, a “normal” suburban town filled with “normal” people, in which her differences make her feel like she stands out even more.
In detail:
--Margot’s house: comfortable, upper-middle class
--Rec center: gym where action gets started
--The world around her when time is stopped: suspended snowflakes, unmoving waves and splashes in water, her school, silent in ways it’s never silent--the ordinary turned extraordinary
--The hospital, as seen in her memory and her present
--The parks where she runs with her father and goes hiking with boyfriend Josh

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Joined: 21 Sep 2014, 04:31

Re: Algonkian Park and Port Townsend Assignment Forum

#11 Post by LilyGilder » 21 Sep 2014, 05:01

1. Story Statement:
Uncover true identity and prevent destruction of kingdoms

2. Antagonist:
Lord Seryn is the youngest of nine children. His father had no use for his grandiose style and dramatic airs. His mother was much too busy to be bothered with him at all. He appears quite charming, stylish and witty to his “friends” but in truth, he is filled with self-loathing, feelings of inferiority, bitterness, and greed. He decided at a young age that since his brothers had already laid claim to the title, wealth, and inherited positions of the family, he would have to get them for himself. A combination of charisma, whit, blackmail, and whispers of much darker deeds brought him to the attention of his present master who gained his unwavering fealty by giving him the desires of his heart. Lord Seryn does his master’s bidding without question. He has done great evil at his master’s order and would indeed do anything to protect his own wealth, title, and acclaim. Seryn considers himself his master’s right hand. His master considers him a small pawn in his great plan.
When he stumbles onto Ari, he at first acts to protect himself and his master, but when Ari humiliates him in front of his inferiors, and then again in front of his master, his vendetta becomes very personal. He will not stop until he has destroyed her.

3. Break out Titles:

4. Comparables:
Wizard Rising by Toby Neighbors- Young Adult/Fantasy- Discover who they are, that they are more than they have become- Forced to leave home, journeying to where fate leads them- Learning to trust their own strengths.
Eragon by Christopher Paolini- Young Adult/ Fantasy- Old life ripped away- leave home and seek revenge- responsibility for the fate of kingdoms rests on their shoulders.

5. Conflict Line:
A young woman, on the brink of receiving her inheritance has everything torn from her in the blink of an eye, when her family and friends are slaughtered before her eyes and she is spurred on by fate, to destroy the enemy who has sought to annihilate her people, her family, and now, her.

6. Inner Conflict:
Ari is consumed by grief, feeling that everyone she loves, dies. She struggles with guilt wondering if she is somehow the cause and this feeling strengthens as she discovers her past. Ari also feels responsible for leaving Doyenne behind to die alone, even though it was Doyenne who made her leave. As grief strengthens, so does her need for revenge and she begins to struggle with hate and bitterness which threaten to overtake her and rob her of her joy, kindness, and ability to love well.
Secondary Conflict:
Everyone Ari has loved has died. Grief and guilt consume her and she begins to withdraw from connecting with people. She feels great loneliness, but is unable to connect and a part of her feels that she deserves to be alone.

7. Setting:
This story is set in a land similar to ours in the renaissance era, but with some wonderful differences. Ari journeys across a vast area of land, as fate leads her forward. Magic is inherent in all people from a tiny spark that goes unnoticed to a raging inferno wielded by the powerful. Magic is found in many animals and plants, as well as parts of the land itself. The land is ruggedly beautiful from ancient forests of Trellan to the Blue Mountains of Sahru, where copper ore saturates the earth, giving it a blue color. The Hru people harvest living gems, which pulse and swirl with their own light. And in Vanci, lives the sea dragon, who is revered (and by some worshiped) for his protection over the Anci people. The story begins in a castle garden, stretches across forests, mountains, plains and desserts. It has highlights in castles, trees, Inns, villages, and cities.

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Re: Algonkian Park and Port Townsend Assignment Forum

#12 Post by peggycoyle » 02 Oct 2014, 15:59

Hi Everyone,
I was late to join this group and am just posting my responses to the 7 assignments now. I am really looking forward to seeing you all next week!

1. Story Statement

Meira, a young woman with an undiagnosed terminal illness recalls her life, her love of a young man named Billy, many colorful friendships and her path to recovery from betrayal and loss.

2. Antagonist
Billy Sullivan is a young carpenter who falls in love with Meira. The love between Billy and Meira is sincere and true, yet Billy has an unrevealed inner struggle – he has an addiction to having sex with men though adamantly considering himself to be a straight man and condemning himself for his behavior. He is initially inscrutable to Meira. He is alone in a world of construction workers, maintaining a pleasant and friendly relationship with his coworkers, yet never becoming close to any of them, keeping his personal life completely hidden. He falls in love with Meira and begins a loving relationship with her, but his secret behavior is revealed in a way that devastates Meira – and actually also infects her with HIV although that is still an unknown disease. Billy and his perceived betrayal become the antagonistic force which Meira must struggle against as she gradually becomes very ill. She is struggling to be free of the bitterness and resentment which follow the betrayal.

3. Breakout Title Ideas

The Untimely Death of Meira O’Reilly

Meira & Billy

4. Comparables - literary fiction, psychological drama

‘A Wedding in December’ by Anita Shreve
Many of the characters are going through personal struggles and their internal angst influences their external choices in how they relate to others.

‘Freedom’ by Jonathon Franzen
Though this book is more skilled than mine, the psychological drama and internal struggles of the characters are as much a part of the drama as the external action. This is what I want to do.

5. Conflict Line
A young woman is betrayed by the man she loves, (also infected with HIV), and must struggle to find her own life free of anger and with peace as she faces an early death.

6. Conflict
Internal struggle for Meira is moving from an initial naïve expectation of life and more open eyed and mature relationships with the people on her life.

Secondary conflict: By mid-story Meira lives in an apartment on the third floor of a restored historical mansion and she has friendships with the other residents of that building. These relationships will be complex, meaningful -and also have conflict - adding texture to the story.

7. Setting
This story is set in the 10 years before the first sign of HIV in the world – ending in 1981 just as that emergence begins. Meira lives in Toledo, Ohio and the entire story os set there. In the early parts of the story Meira works in a second-hand store and forms a friendship with the owner and his wife. This is where she meets Billy while he is there to do some renovation work on the store. They then move into a third floor apartment of a historical mansion and the rest of the story is set there. This home is elaborate, ornate, it has high ceilings, mahogany woodworking, built-in cabinets and bookshelves with leaded glass windows. It was once a single home, the third floor was a ballroom, but it has now been divided into four apartments. On the first floor, the area of the home most like it was originally built, lives a boisterous woman named Alexis. The apartment has much of the original furniture built to fit there, large ornate pieces which match Alexis’ style. On the second floor there are two apartments. Two men, Gregg and Jaary, a gay couple who befriend Meira and Billy, share the larger apartment. The smaller apartment belongs to Christopher, an eclectic man in his forties, a former Jeep line-worker who has studied meditation in India. The apartments are full of the grandness of the home and provide a backdrop of majesty for the drama that takes place there. The third floor, where Meira lives was once a ballroom and that large room has been divided for living. There is also a sunroom from which Meira likes to watch the neighborhood or reflect as she watches the sky.

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Joined: 16 Feb 2016, 22:28

Re: Algonkian Park and Port Townsend Assignment Forum

#13 Post by joebeth12 » 24 Feb 2016, 05:58

Story Statement
An Israeli woman, raised by the Palestinian family that killed her own, tries to pick sides amid the unforgiveable failure of the United Nations to end the insufferable conflict and the hypnotic power of the Palestinian Ambassador with whom she has fallen in love.

Antagonist/Antagonistic Force
The Palestinian Ambassador to the United Nations enlists the help of an Israeli staff member and sole survivor of a brutal terrorist attack in translating and transmitting documents and photographs between the diplomats tasked with designing a scheme to end the intractable conflict and resolve the unanswerable question of Palestine. This is a driven man capable of mowing down anything in his way. He hails from a long line and large family of refugees, who know only their corrugated tin home in a Jordanian camp. He is as handsome as he is brilliant and doesn’t react well to the word “no”. In this game of cat-and-mouse, the protagonist and the Ambassador fall in love and must confront, not only the friction between themselves and the enmity between their peoples, but also the violence that devastates the UN and crushes all hope of resolution or reconciliation.

Breakout title
Dandelion Dreams
Sticks and Stones May Break My Bones
A Shameful Bowl of Stubborn
By the Light of the Firefly

Political fiction with romantic overtones
(The Bronze Horseman, Paullina Simons; Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini)

Conflict Line
The young Israeli woman, reared by Palestinian terrorists, seeks common ground between two competing visions of utopia at the United Nations, where she finds only love and heartbreak with the Palestinian Ambassador and where everyone is asked to give up what they cannot.

Inner Conflict
The protagonist is born into a conflict that has simmered and at various times exploded in Israel, but after a brutal terrorist attack turns a quiet road into a killing field leaving her orphaned at the age of five, her situation becomes ever more complex when the Palestinians who orchestrated the attack take her in and raise her as their own. Despite this enormous crisis of identity or perhaps because of it, she takes a job at the United Nations where she is thrust into the diplomatic wrangling certain to end in devastating defeat and where her ambivalence and gut-wrenching guilt plunges her deeper into chaos and despair.
[excerpt: She looked forward to walking through the gates where peace and money were horse traded, where noble deeds were often bestowed upon ignoble people, where world leaders stood at podiums to lay bare their plans for their people, whose fortunes, nevertheless fell where they may, sometimes moving incrementally towards a fate that knew no mercy. Even for the lucky ones, dreams could turn to nightmares at the speed of an upended chess board.]
Amid all this, she becomes an unwitting secret agent for the Arab side, struggling to quell the guilt by telling herself this is good for both sides. But all is lost when she falls in love with the Palestinian Ambassador and everything comes apart, including the United Nations itself.

Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory is the first setting, specifically the Kibbutz at the base of the Golan Heights where the protagonist is born, followed by a nearby road where a brutal attack kills her family. The next setting is the home of the Palestinian family that orchestrated the attack. Then, she is sent to America, specifically upstate New York, where a Palestinian aunt has promised to keep her safe.

The UN Secretariat is the main setting, where most of the action, or inaction, takes place, where she carries on her “escalator espionage” and where she eventually falls in love with the Palestinian Ambassador under the watchful eye of the other delegations, including that of Israel. Her nearby apartment is the backdrop for learning about her personal strife and near-descent into madness. The last setting is an apartment in Harlem after she has walked as far as she could to get away from the deadly blast that has brought the UN to its knees. She returns to the Golan Heights where she makes the break from the Ambassador and her past. Finally, there is a school she has built on the Gazan border for Palestinian and Israeli children whose parents will go on fighting their unwinnable war for legitimacy, even while their children are taught not to hate.


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Re: Algonkian Park and Port Townsend Assignment Forum

#14 Post by daveautry » 04 Mar 2016, 00:36

From Dave autry


Story Statement

A police detective must solve the murder of a crime boss and prevent open gang warfare ahead of the 1956 Chicago Democratic National Convention.

Antagonistic Force

A group of “dirty tricksters” aligned with Republican Vice President Richard Nixon contrives to ignite a gang war in Chicago by killing crime bosses, discrediting Mayor Richard Daly and, by extension, Democratic presidential hopeful and Illinois favorite son Adlai Stevenson.

I envision the cynical political operatives to be the forerunners of the Watergate bunch who will stop at nothing to make sure the Eisenhower-Nixon ticket wins re-election. They play upon the racial and political divides of that time to hamper the protagonist’s investigation and efforts to prevent gang warfare.

The feds, Pettiford understood, saw Richard J. Daley, Chicago’s new mayor, and his political machine as a national disgrace and would have liked nothing better than to birth a huge political scandal just as the Democratic National Convention shone the spotlight on Chicago. And since former Illinois Governor Adlai Stevenson was almost certain to be the party’s choice to run against President Eisenhower, the stakes couldn’t have been higher. After all, hadn’t Daley ordered the proposed new interstate highway be rerouted just to keep a favorite pie restaurant in his neighborhood?

Potential Titles

Chicago Blues
Dangerous Convention
A Simple Murder


The Faithless: A Political Thriller by Allan Airish:
As in this book, my novel unearths a shadowy group that manipulates the political machine for Washington's elite. Ultimately, their plan will put my detective in the center of a deadly political conspiracy.

The Wager by Allen Kent:
Although the situation in my novel differs from this book, my protagonist must also disentangle a web of murder, blackmail, and political intrigue.

Conflict Lines

A Chicago police detective sets out to solve the murder of a mob boss but finds that he also must thwart efforts by powerful political forces to sabotage the Democratic National Convention by fomenting a gang war that would throw the city into chaos.

Inner Conflict

After 10 years with the Chicago Police Department, numerous run-ins with his superiors, and witnessing corruption from City Hall on down to cops on the beat, my protagonist weighs whether to remain on the force or fulfill his dream of becoming a jazz musician.
Secondary Conflict

With racial and political tensions on the rise in mid-20th century Chicago, my protagonist attempts to hang onto his long-held values in a rapidly changing society. This not only plays out in his work environment, it also affects his personal life (interactions with his girlfriend and the dead mobster’s lover, the only witness to the killing).


The case of a murdered mob boss leads my protagonist through a rich landscape of urban Chicago, from some of its least savory neighborhoods, to almost unimagined opulence. All of which provide the reader with a sense of place in every scene. For example:

A dingy bar where the murder occurred, and the brightness of the overhead lights revealed peeling plaster and grungy, streaked walls, a shabbiness usually hidden by the low-wattage miniature table lamps.

Then the cops prowled an alley for clues. Dowling and Reynolds started at the south end, Lambert and Henley working toward them from the north. Bent over like shuffling crones, they peered into fetid, oily puddles, poked at piles of sodden newspaper and filthy rags, and swallowed hard at the stench of rotting vermin.

The murdered mobster’s airy corner suite overlooking lake Michigan. The furniture was modern and expensive. An embroidered floral sofa, a matching loveseat, and low-backed chairs surrounded a sculpted coffee table and padded ottoman. Beyond a baby grand piano, wide sliding glass doors opened onto a spacious balcony with a cushioned wrought iron bench and four matching chairs around a glass-topped table. A well-stocked bar and formal dining area dominated the right side of the apartment where a swinging door led to a kitchen with all the latest labor-saving appliances. To the left, doors led to the master bedroom and two guest rooms, each with a private bath.

Franconi sat on a bench in what had been a favorite childhood sanctuary, Stanford Park. This narrow, block-long strip of land was one of Chicago’s first small neighborhood parks with playground equipment for children. And in 1916, it even boasted an outdoor swimming pool where he and other youngsters who could not afford bathing suits swam in their street clothes. But, like his childhood, the swimming pool and jungle gym were a long-distant memory, neglected and abandoned.

A darkened warehouse, Det. Dowling struggles with assailant, shoot-out and Lambert takes a bullet that was meant for him. L bends down to help D, who is down on the floor, injured by attack. Bullet strikes L in the left hip, strikes bone and travels up his torso and into his heart.

A dingy single-story brick warehouse on North Milwaukee Avenue, the hub of Madigan’s jukebox and vending machine business. A set of six cement steps with a metal tube for a handrail led up to a green fire door with a wire mesh safety glass insert. A hand-lettered card taped to the frosted glass instructed visitors to “Ring for Entrance.” A neatly drawn arrow at the bottom of the card pointed toward a doorbell button on the right.
Dowling pressed the button and after a few seconds heard a long buzz and a sharp metallic click. He turned the knob and pulled. The door swung free, and the buzzing stopped. His eyes took a few seconds to adjusted to the gloom inside and when they did, he was in a long narrow L shaped hallway that led to his right. A row of low-wattage pendant lights hung from the ceiling beneath green metal shades. The shallow pools of yellow light they gave off showed the way to a wood framed office overlooking a combination warehouse and repair shop. On the shop floor a cigarette machine and two Seeburg upright jukeboxes, all gleaming Plexiglas and chrome, stood alongside a gaudy old neon-lit round-top Wurlitzer that reminded Dowling of an Egyptian mummy case he’d seen in a magazine at the barber shop.

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Joined: 22 May 2018, 23:32

Re: Algonkian Park and Port Townsend Assignment Forum

#15 Post by landiswrites » 23 May 2018, 00:12

Story Statement

When a 96-year-old resident of the Shady Acre Retirement Home dies and leaves his 50-million-dollar fortune to a female resident of questionable character rather than to his beloved daughter, recent resident and retired trial lawyer Craig Travail takes the daughter’s case and hopes to solve the mystery, as much for his own self-worth as for the justice of the cause.

The Antagonists

Sue Ellen Parker is a pretentious Shady resident who, with the support of the residents in the condo buildings, dictates policy over the entire retirement community, including the cottages. She is the beneficiary of the 96-year-old’s hand-written will and makes it clear that she has no intention of giving the fortune to his daughter.

Charles Elkin is the managing partner of the most prestigious law firm in Charlotte, North Carolina and the man who forced Craig Travail, a well-respected trial lawyer, to retire from that firm at age 72. Travail has long suspected Elkin of improprieties in the law firm but he could never prove any wrongdoing. Elkin rose through the ranks by currying favor with other partners and by generating substantial earnings from questionable clients. When Travail learns that Elkin is representing Sue Ellen Parker, he is compelled to take the daughter’s case. Elkin warns Travail that he should stay retired and not take on his law firm, because if he does, Elkin will crush him. Elkin offers a token settlement and says Travail better take it or his client will get nothing.


Second Chances

Stolen Fortune

The Deadly Will

May have subheading: The Shady Acre Legal Series, Book One


It is unclear to me what novels compare (thus there is more work to be done, here).

While courtroom drama and conflict will be featured, this is not a John Gresham type thriller, because the novel will be infused with humor (both in the courtroom, and at the retirement community). It also is not intended to be a solve the murder book. Deaths occur, but the fight is for the money, which gets resolved in the courtroom and through legal maneuvers. I suppose this might be classified as a cozy mystery, but with the mystery being whether the lawyer can figure out a way to win the case. 

Primary Conflict

A retired, widowed trial lawyer, depressed and without a sense of purpose, faces off against his former partner, an unethical lawyer backed by the largest law firm in the city, in a court case that will determine the financial future of his client and his ability to move forward with his life.

The primary conflict appears in the twists and turns in the court case—the will caveat—and in the mystery of why the decedent signed a hand-written will that disinherited his daughter.

Other Levels of Conflict

Inner Conflict

The inner conflict is the state of mind of the protagonist. When the book opens, the protagonist is depressed, because his wife has died, he’s lost his job through forced retirement and he lives at The Shady, with a slew of old people he’d rather not befriend. He sees no purpose in his life.

When the protagonist takes the will caveat case, he does so because he doesn’t like the ethics of the lawyer on the other side, not because he knows it is a good case, and as the case progresses, he has his doubts about his ability to solve the mystery and win the case against a formidable adversary—his old law firm. He is afraid of losing, because if he fails, it will validate his firm’s decision to cut him loose and he will feel even less worthwhile than before he took the case.

Secondary Conflict

The secondary conflict to the protagonist’s serious demeanor appears in the humorous distractions caused by the residents at The Shady, both on the grounds and in the courtroom.


At only 72 years of age, retired trial attorney Craig Travail feels marooned at The Shady Acre Retirement Home, 350 acres of land within 35 minutes of uptown Charlotte, filled with a canopy of tall trees, two lakes, six condominium buildings, 25 cottages and most important, 650 retirees, the majority of whom are women.

For a community of people who’ve made their last move, The Shady is an active social scene, with a cast of quirky residents. Travail is depressed and wants no part of the scene, nor is he much interested in meeting other residents, so he depends on two fellow cottage residents to guide and encourage him in this next phase of life. One is Chuck Yeager McGruder, a blue-collar personality with a sense of humor and reckless spirit as wild as his typically unwashed hair and scraggly beard. The other is Harriett Keaton, a woman of means and sophistication, who loves nature and abhors everything about Sue Ellen Parker and her minions. These two encourage Travail to take the case to challenge the will and promise to help him solve the mystery.

The peaceful 350 acres is a contrast to where the action moves when it goes to uptown Charlotte. Tall, shiny skyscrapers are the sentinels for this southern banking mecca. It’s the place where Charles Elkin and his law firm do business and its where the courthouse is located.

Throughout the book, the action moves from The Shady to uptown Charlotte and back again. Conflict occurs on the grounds of The Shady, on the sixth floor of the courthouse, and on the top floors of the tallest buildings in the city.

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