Seven Short Assignments for NYC Pitch Attendees

A forum where New York Pitch Conference attendees post assignments related to their novel or nonfiction project. These assignments relate to conflict levels, antagonist and protagonist sketches, plot lines, as well as story premise.
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Seven Short Assignments for NYC Pitch Attendees

#1 Post by WritersBlock » 04 Mar 2018, 23:00

Algonkian Writer Conferences - Pre-Event Writer Assignments

For the New York Pitch Conference 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
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!



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: Seven Short Assignments for NYC Pitch Attendees

#2 Post by BlueCole » 05 Mar 2018, 05:22

With the help of her long-dead ancestors, a young girl must rescue her parent's souls.

Jackson Peed is the second richest man in town. The richest family -the Woods - have been a thorn in his side for years. He grew up with stories, often whispered, of a betrayal. Murder, followed by an eviction. Jackson’s daughter, Jacqueline, is probably the prettiest girl in school. She’s inherited part of her father’s ‘pure mean’, a term the older generation understands. She grew up with the stories as well… but she’s never had a Wood to compete with.
Until Dria Wood arrives, following her parent’s tragic death in Washington D.C.. Dria is the new girl; a big-city sophisticate who’s nothing like the other girls in the drab, rural school. What’s worse? Jackie’s boyfriend, Zach, works for the Woods as a handyman. What seemed like a great way to keep tabs on her family's enemies puts the haughty rich girl on edge.
Jackson & Jacqueline have to deal with the Woods in their own way. Jackson doubles down on his hate, taking steps to ruin the Woods. Jacqueline, caught between her history and her future… will have to make a decision. Dria’s small acts of kindness might force her to reconsider if her family history is her future. (198)

The Whisper of the Wood
The Blood Calls

A fish out of water story with the generational intrigue of Prince of Tides & the haunted quirkiness of Odd Thomas.

To save her parents Dria must learn about the family she doesn't know, and discover the secrets within the soulwood.

A family feud that traces a path through the generations. The cold shoulder from the butler. Being the new girl in a new school. A clandestine, six hundred mile journey to the scene of her parent’s death… where she only partially succeeds, but uncovers a deeper mystery.

The 'haunted' house where the furniture talks. A small town that knows more about her parents' history than she does. A family feud going back generations. Written against the background of a small southern town, Soulwood uncovers Dria’s history layer by layer. The town reflects Dria’s character, her family, and the lives they all have lived.

Dria Woods is mourning her parents’ untimely death even as she moves in with the grandmother she just met. A new school, house, and life. Her new small town is just as tricky as the big city she came from; family secrets, generational feuds, and the butler who makes her feel less than welcome.
As her new life unfolds, she must adjust to the old house full of whispers. The family secret - which her father fled from before she was born - lingers around her. A sweet grandmother, more senile than lucid, drops tantalizing hints.
Her family has made a fortune by growing and selling soulwood, beautiful wood that can only come from their majestic trees. She doesn’t realize how aptly it is named; because for her family, soulwood can house the spirits after they have passed. Helped by her long dead great aunt, she devises a plan to rescue her parent’s souls. They are within reach, if she can make it back to New York and call them into the hand carved tree that has been passed down for generations.
But it won’t be as easy as it seems. The butler doesn’t like her. Miss Popularity at her new school is out to get her. The town knows more about her, and her parents, than she does. Her journey to Washington, D.C. is about more than just her parents. It’s about her entire family.
But Dria does what the Woods have always done . . . “We grow. We pull the nutrients from the world around us, and grow ever upward. Slow, sure, implacable. We have no predators but nature herself, and she gives far more than she takes.”

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Re: Seven Short Assignments for NYC Pitch Attendees

#3 Post by ashleyleto » 05 Mar 2018, 20:34

The Act of Story Statement:
Defeat the aliens and save humanity from extinction.

The Antagonist Plots the Point:
After nearly two hundred years of dormancy, the Turpis, an alien race who ravaged the Earth and caused humans to flee into space, have returned to annihilate the remnants of mankind. The Turpis are brutal savages equipped with superior intellect and technology who willing to stop at nothing to kill man and claim the Earth for themselves.

Conjuring Your Breakout Title:
Into the Void: Turpis

Deciding Your Genre and Approaching Comparables:
Pierce Brown’s Red Rising Saga
Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game

Considering the Primary Conflict- Coming of the “Agon”:
After an alien race has left mankind on the brink of extinction, a military cyborg in search for the meaning of her existence makes it her mission to save humanity in hopes of it making her feel human again.

Other Matters of Conflict- Two More Levels:

As signs of the aliens returning start to appear, Myzer becomes anxious about the possibility of a second war. This leads her to break protocol and go behind her superiors’ backs to investigate the possibility of a reemergence.
After the discovery of Myzer’s betrayal, distrust begins to infest the minds of the colony’s leaders and eventually results in a political divide.

The Incredible Importance of Setting:
Earth is a barren wasteland. Endless seas of sand cover the once-beautiful landscape. For the low-status humans who have the ill-fortune of being trapped on Earth, they live their lives in underground bunkers and shabby cities, hiding from the relentless sun and aliens lurking in the skies above.

Azylo, mankind’s sanctuary in space, sits in the shadow of Mars. The space colony is a shimmering glass jewel amongst a sea of stars and uses advanced alien technology to hide its location from enemy sight. Two alter-rotating rings, home to the military and leaders of society, encompass an inner sphere where the rest of society resides in an expansive city comprised of skyscrapers and slums.

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Re: Seven Short Assignments for NYC Pitch Attendees

#4 Post by CattFunk » 06 Mar 2018, 01:15

Trailhead, by Cat Funk
Emma Jones and her pets are struck by lightning and sent to the Pleistocene age in an alternate universe. Unknown to her, so is a psychopath from her class who has been stalking her. She searches for a way to return home and must survive the odds to do it.

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Re: Seven Short Assignments for NYC Pitch Attendees

#5 Post by CattFunk » 06 Mar 2018, 01:29

For Trailhead, by Cat Funk

Bently Bjornson is a troubled teenager who performs live surgeries and other acts of cruelty to Emma's rescue cats. His mother was bipolar and he found her, still alive after she hung herself when he was a young child. At her direction, he left her there to die and went to a neighbour's home. Currently, he is an athlete on the school's wrestling and soccer teams. He has an obsession with perfection, and also for Emma. He considers her to be perfect and frequently stalks her. He wants to kill her so she can ascend to heaven still pure. He thinks that she, like his mother, is too good for this world.Emma is unaware of his plans and unaware that he has followed her to this new world until the end of the novel when a fight breaks out between them and they again, are struck by lightning.

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Re: Seven Short Assignments for NYC Pitch Attendees

#6 Post by CattFunk » 06 Mar 2018, 01:33

by Cat Funk

Series Title Ideas: 1) Crooked Path 2) Predator and Prey
First Novel Title Ideas: 1) Trailhead 2) Stalker

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Re: Seven Short Assignments for NYC Pitch Attendees

#7 Post by CattFunk » 06 Mar 2018, 02:23

For Trailhead by Cat Funk


Trailhead is a young adult fantasy with elements of a psychological thriller. It could also be called a young adult dark alternative fiction.


The Queen of the Blood by Sara Beth Durst
-Is a recent bestselling breakout novel set in a woodland kingdom and features a young woman coming of age and her unusual spiritual journey to become queen. I chose this for its unique setting used to good effect and recent publishing date.

Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor
-Although it is not a breakout novel, I chose it for its unusual setting, modern West Africa, and its plot, about a misfit teenage girl coming into her own unique magical gifts.This was also chosen for its imaginative use of the setting, the misfit female protagonist and its success with both readers and critics, the author was a winner of the world fantasy award.

There were only a few novels I could find set in the Pleistocene age and I rejected them all for a few reasons. First, with one exception, none of them was recent enough. This is particularly important given the recent tsunami of scientific research on the subject. The exception being the young adult historical novel The Last Neanderthal by Claire Cameron. Even though it was a bestseller, it was not a breakout novel, not in the same genre and just too close to the previous historical Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean Auel, who did an amazing job with her research, but it was 30 years ago. In addition, all the Neanderthal set plots included a rape of the protagonist, so by definition, I did not want to do another repeat of a tired theme. Even the adult science fiction Hominids by Robert Sawyer includes a rape if by another homo sapiens. By contrast, Trailhead features an innocent, but competent female protagonist who is not raped but does not escape injury.

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Re: Seven Short Assignments for NYC Pitch Attendees

#8 Post by CattFunk » 06 Mar 2018, 02:48

For Trailhead by Cat Funk

The primary conflict line is between Emma Jones, the protagonist and Bently Bjornson, a very disturbed young man. The novel opens in the prologue with a scene where Bently is performing a conscious surgery on one of Emma's rescue cats. The reader then becomes aware that Bently has similar designs for Emma. However, Emma herself is unaware of this. The tension happens because the reader is aware of Emma's danger even though Emma herself is not. For most of the novel, Emma is innocently narrowly escaping Bently as he continues to stalk her. The two finally meet up during the climax and a fight ensues. Both are evenly matched fighters, Emma in martial arts, Bently in wrestling. The book ends as they both lose consciousness, struck by lightning as they are locked in struggle. In the epilogue, they awaken together, alive, still in the Pleistocene age but badly burned and telepathically linked to one another.

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Re: Seven Short Assignments for NYC Pitch Attendees

#9 Post by CattFunk » 06 Mar 2018, 03:07

For Trailhead by Cat Funk

The initial social conflict is between Emma and her peers when she is being bullied at school. Next, there is conflict between Emma and her mom. She usually has a very close relationship with her mom, but when Emma learns some unexpected details about her father she says some mean things to her. While things are in this state, Emma is struck by lightning and sent to a different universe. The need to right the wrongs with her mom is a driving force for the rest of the novel where Emma is constantly trying to return home. There is also later conflict with the Neanderthal group she encounters.

In the early chapters, Emma's inner conflict comes as she tries to resolve her grief over her dog, Bunny's death. Then she is conflicted because she wants to go to prom with the golden boy, Bently, but he hasn't actually asked her yet. However, the nerdy wimp has asked her. There is plenty of conflict between Emma and her natural surrounding after she is transported to the Pleistocene age. During the period of time when she is learning new skills from the Neanderthals she is in turmoil as she masters becoming a beginner again and looks for a way to be accepted by them.

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Re: Seven Short Assignments for NYC Pitch Attendees

#10 Post by CattFunk » 06 Mar 2018, 03:33

For Trailhead by Cat Funk

In the early chapters, the setting is a small rural mountain town. Emma, the main protagonist lives in a log house on the outskirts of a small community which is in turn on the outskirts of the small mountain town.

The initial bullying incident happens in spring in order to highlight the juxtaposition the hope and sunshine of a bright spring day with the cruelty of children and the horrible wrongness of bullying. By contrast, the dog, Bunny's death happens in late winter. A life full of promise and joy contrasted with the bare branches of the trees and the old, crystallized and muddy snow.

When Emma is transported back to the Pleistocene age, the terrain is the same, but different. Everything is big, the trees unharvested old growth forest, the grasses are taller, many species of animals are twice the size of the same variety we are familiar with in modern times. There are so many species of megafauna I did not give descriptions of them all or the novel would have devolved into a catalogue.

Rugged, mountainous, craggy terrain is contrasted with pastoral rolling hills and prairie flatlands in later chapters. The warmth and ease of summer living contrasted with winter survival. The difference knowledge makes in survival even with common sense as a common denominator.

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Re: Seven Short Assignments for NYC Pitch Attendees

#11 Post by jimbennettwriter » 06 Mar 2018, 03:59

Story Statement

Special ops soldier, suffering from post traumatic stress disorder, home on leave, shoots down a helicopter and is charged with murder. Jury must decide his fate.

Antagonistic Plots

The chief antagonists are Glenn Holmes, who dies in the helicopter, his daughter Helen, and prosecutor Iris Inkpen. Glenn Holmes is a professional protester and media manipulator, who acquired his skills and reputation leading anti Vietnam War protests in the 1970’s, but who soon learned how to earn huge sums of tax free money in the anti sealing business.
Helen Holmes is the illegitimate product of Glenn’s hippy days in San Francisco. She was raised by adoptive parents but tracks down her biological parents. She seduces her father, intending to blackmail him but falls in love with him, and marries him, after murdering her mother to protect their secret. A failed tubal ligation has her carrying her father’s child as she sits through the trial of his killer.
Iris Inkpen is an unhappy, overreaching harpy, who hates people and the law. She wants to be a judge. Looking to redeem a lacklustre career, she is willing to break the rules to do so. Billy Wheeler’s trial, covered by international media, may be her one big chance.

Breakout Title



Degrees of Guilt is a twenty first century military and courtroom thriller set in Newfoundland, Bosnia and Afghanistan. It combines the wilderness and frontier elements of Jack London’s “White Fang”, and “Call of the Wild” with Bernard Cornwell’s nineteenth century “Sharpe’s Rifles” and subsequent Napoleonic military stories.

Primary Conflict

A naïve young man enlists in the army in peacetime and is posted to Bosnia where he witnesses the horrors of ethnic cleansing, engages in unauthorized killing of perpetrators and returns home damaged. His attempts to get past what he has done and get his former life back are thwarted, resulting in even more killing, leaving a jury to decide his fate.

Other Matters of Conflict

Straight from high school Billy Wheeler enlists in the army. Physically fit, respectful of his superiors, adept at living in the wilderness, and with a moral code that registers only black and white, he is an ideal recruit. However he is poorly prepared for his experiences in Bosnia where he kills several men. After private treatment to avoid disclosing his potentially career ending post traumatic stress disorder, his wife, who anchors him to reality, is killed.
While still in a daze he is secretly seconded to a special unit to become a Muslim operative in Afghanistan, under the noses of the Taliban. While the mission, just a few weeks before the 9-11 attacks is a success, he is left even more damaged, and beset by more nightmares as he struggles to regain normalcy.
The following spring, while home on leave in Newfoundland, he shoots down a helicopter, chartered by an anti seal hunt group, as it buzzes his small fishing vessel, killing the four occupants. He is charged with murder and put on trial.
His insistence that he is guilty proves challenging for his lawyer, Barbara (BeeBee) Beaudoin, with whom he becomes romantically involved, and who has to fight off Inkpen’s very public application to disqualify her as his lawyer, after police raid her apartment in the early morning hours and find them in bed together.


Set in Newfoundland, Bosnia and Kandahar, there are numerous opportunities for cinematographers, as well as close encounters, some violent, some sex scenes.
The opening scene is on a small sealing vessel, working his way through an ice littered ocean. A helicopter comes streaking in low, through the falling snow, and the gunner onboard the vessel fires a single shot, killing the pilot, sending the chopper into the water among pans of ice.
In the home in Bosnia ethnic cleansers, known as Vipers (in real life Scorpions), are terrorizing a family. They have killed the father and grandfather, raped the grandmother, mother and two older daughters, and a large, bearded, sergeant, is raping a 10-year-old girl. Enter the protagonist, who shoots the rapist through the neck, killing him. Then, in anger he shoots the colonel between the eyes, sending a pink spray to the wall behind, shoots two soldiers as they reach for their weapons. Left with only a teenaged perpetrator, he executes him to keep him from talking.
The protagonist, whose unit is pinned down by hillside snipers in Bosnia, slips away and stalks the snipers on the hillside. In the wee hours of the morning he catches one of them alone, his pants dropped to his knees and his hands occupied, answering the call of nature. The protagonist, bayonet in hand, catches him from behind, clamps a gloved hand over his mouth, drives the bayonet into his back, twists it inflicting a large wound, and holds the shuddering man tightly, until he bleeds to death, before lowering the body to the ground.
In Kandahar, the same gunner, armed with a subsonic Soviet assassin’s rifle, crouches on the second floor of a stone building waiting to take a shot, across an abandoned sports field, over the heads of thousands of chanting men. On the opposite side, seated on a platform is the executioner, known as the Mad Mullah. On the ground front of his platform is a young woman, guilty of adultery, buried in the earth to her shoulders, waiting to be stoned to death. A pile of stone and concrete rubble is alongside her. The gunner fires a single, silent shot, which strikes the Mad Mullah in the midsection. As the stricken man bleeds to death, the shooter and his companions slip away, unseen.
While the prosecutor is viciously cross-examining the protagonists, his discomfort is palpable. The courtroom dead silent. The judge accidentally knocks his crystal water jug from the bench, causing it to crash to the floor, sending ice water and shards of glass everywhere. The protagonist reacts as if he is under attack, ordering everyone to take cover, resulting in pandemonium.

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Re: Seven Short Assignments for NYC Pitch Attendees

#12 Post by doctorwhoe » 08 Mar 2018, 03:39

FIRST ASSIGNMENT: write your story statement.
A young boy must learn how to use his time travel powers to prevent every living thing being erased from history.

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

The Jinn is the most powerful time traveler of all time. Once a scientist of a race that lived on earth before humans evolved he used his advanced technology to erase an entire history of billions to create a new world where he was Emperor of all living things. Finally imprisoned by the Time Agents, he seeks the key that will release him. That key is a twelve-year-old boy, K.J. Strong. The Jinn downloads his brain into technology that can travel to an alternate future and enlists the aid of an evil, older version of K.J and K.J.’s best friend, Harmony, to do his bidding. Killing K.J.’s parents and kidnapping the twelve-year-old Harmony, are incidental outcomes to what The Jinn really wants. Freedom, immortality, and the total subjugation of every living being in existence.

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

K.J. Strong Time Traveler
K.J. Strong and The Lords of Time
Then and Back Again

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

Genre: Middle Grade Science Fiction

Artemis Fowl, Eion Colfer. This hit series blends elements of science fiction and fantasy. Technology and adventure. Action and suspense. Fantastic settings and memorable characters.

Jonathan Stroud, The Amulet of Samarkind. A young, flawed protagonist with limited command of great powers and his sidekick that isn’t always very helpful. The reader is transported to a world a world where even children have special powers. Things don’t always turn out as planned and there is always a big price to pay for mistakes.

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

A young untrained time agent must defeat a god like time traveler who plans to erase billions of people from history while also fighting an older, fully trained evil version of himself from an alternate future.

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.

K.J. finds out that he is they key, an actual DNA key, that can stop an evil time traveler from escaping prison and prevent history from being changed. He is just twelve and doesn’t understand how everyone expects him to run off and save the universe. His fears cause him to take rash action that leads into deeper trouble.

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?

K.J. is forced to leave his critically injured parents behind to prevent himself being kidnapped by an evil time traveler. When his best friend is captured instead, he decides to go untrained into battle against the warnings of a future version of his friend that travels into the past to warn K.J. He is torn between his loyalty to his friend and the warning but believes he can alter the course of his future.

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.

Act 1: Longshadow’s Circus of Imagination: Big top, three ring circus, elephants, tigers, cotton candy, clowns, acrobats and the flying trapeze. An abusive Ringmaster, the Strongman and Fortuneteller, dark ninjas and a deadly, an intelligent flying drone with deadly technology. An impossible horse jump through a flaming hoop.

The Long Island Home for Friendless Children: A stodgy nun, delinquent boys. A facility that looks like a cross between Hogwarts and a maximum security prison. A dusty attic the size of a small home. Time machines, a second intelligent flying drone with amazing technology.

Act 2: Grand Central Time Station: A huge hub of activity filled with futuristic technology that tracks the comings and goings of the time ships. Other young time travelers training to be time agents dressed in the wardrobes of all time periods past, present and future.

Detention: An underground prison where time criminals are kept frozen in time. Dark halls lined with cells barred with laser beams. Quiet as a tomb Interrogated by The Viceroy. All out battle during an escape attempt by teenage time travelers.

Time Traveler University: A training center for young time travelers on a planet size space ship that was once the Earth’s Moon. A sprawling campus made up of architecture from every time period imaginable from history past and future. A visit to the Principal’s office where the current state of the time line is monitored on thousands of screens.

The Library of Eternity: Aged librarians are the caretakers of every recorded moment in the history of all time lines. Stacks of books rising high like skyscrapers. Separate sections for study that resemble a normal every day library setting. A neutral zone where good and evil time travelers come to study history, flying among the stacks in every type of vehicle imaginable.

Act 3: 60 million B.C. Radio controlled dinosaurs protect the secret lair of the Timers.

The Vortex: The bad guy version of Grand central Time Station. Darker tone, red lighting, Time travelers coming and going in their time ships.

The Jinn’s prison: A clear bubble shaped cell. riding the wave of the big bang explosion. Inside the cell, The Jinn is frozen in time. A tiny crack in his cell has allowed him to reach his mind out to plan an escape. K.J.’s biological parents also frozen in time, strapped into a device that uses their time sensitive DNA to power the prison.

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Re: Seven Short Assignments for NYC Pitch Attendees

#13 Post by jillwrightwords » 08 Mar 2018, 21:39

Exercise 1. plot line/logline

LOG LINE: Renowned artist Joseph Cornell attempts to stop World War II with his art before the kidnappers kill his brother.

SYNOPSIS: New York City, 1943

Artist Joseph Cornell, labeled America's "Only True Surrealist" by Marcel Duchamp, is working on a new "shadow" box for an anticipated upcoming show at Levy's gallery. He's creating his opus - not just a piece of art - but a box that has the power to halt World War II. Cornell believes himself to be a "white magician," and his method is simple: change the conditions inside the box, and the outside world changes. He has other things on his mind too…

Exercise 2. Antagonist/Antagonistic Force

Cornell has fallen in love with a waitress, Joyce, in a greasy spoon off Broadway, whom he believes might actually be the 19th century ballerina of his dreams, Fanny Cerritos. Joyce ignores Cornell because she has a boyfriend, Ray, a small-time gangster connected to a handful of rich Italian Fascists, seeking to influence the war. But Ray is the tip of the iceberg. It is his bosses, Italian-American gangsters, who are amassing money and weapons to destroy the Allies and give the Axis power and control over the War. When Ray meets Cornell, he realizes that Cornell's magical capabilities might be of use to his Fascist boss.

Cornell believes in archetypes. He believes that an evil Italian Renaissance ruler, Duke Cosimo di Medici is the prototype of the modern dictator. Duke Cosimo was elected by his people and proceeded to kill his enemies, torture thinkers and artists, and imprison all who disagreed with his murderous ways. Cornell believes Hitler and especially Mussolini are the modern counterparts of Duke Cosimo.

To quote Cornell: "Most people don't realize that this war was started in 1540 by Grand Duke Cosimo di Medici, the famous royal family in Florence. It was the Medicis who laundered the idea of 'might is right' and hung it in the drawing rooms of the bourgeoisie to dry. It was the Medicis who invented money and reduced all worth, even that of Kings, to one universal standard. It was the Medicis who spoiled the Church so that the oneness of the Christian world had split into little scrapping fiefdoms. It was the Medicis and particularly Grand Duke Cosimo whose rampages into savagery set the tone for the Divine Right of Militarism which rose up like a scream in Europe and never died away."
Cosimo - like his 20th century counterparts - loved killing, power, mayhem, the more savage, the better - all in the name of "Order."
As the war reaches a crescendo, Ray kidnaps Cornell's disabled brother, Robert, threatening to kill him if Cornell can't deliver a victory for the Fascists. Time is running out.

Exercise 3. Breakout title
Splendor in the Box: How Joseph Cornell Stopped WWII
The Artist, A Girl & Three Magic Boxes
How Joseph Cornell stopped WWII

Exercise 4. Genre
Broadly speaking, this book is "Historical /Fiction." A more contemporary genre might be "Imaginative Biography."
Comparable: "Ragtime" by E.L. Doctorow, and "Lincoln in the Bardo" by George Saunders

Exercise 5. Primary Conflict
Once Ray arranges a meeting between Cornell and Dutch Como, the leader of the American-Italian Facists, Dutch commissions a box from Cornell that will tilt the victory in Europe to the Axis armies. He gives Cornell three days to accomplish this. He and his men will hold Robert hostage till Cornell delivers a "victory box". Cornell is roughly ushered out of Dutch Como's mansion and his brother Robert is wheeled into an empty, locked room.

* Footnote: modern scholars conjecture that Robert Cornell had Muscular Dystrophy, though there was never an official diagnosis. He was never able to stand alone or walk and he spoke with great difficulty.

Exercise 6. Secondary Conflict: Inner Turmoil
a. Inner conflict: Cornell's gifts as a magician/artist were confirmed when his brother, Robert was a very small child. Cornell was resentful of the attention this new child received from his parents. In a jealous rage, Joseph created a box -his first - that would shatter his brother, body and mind. He put dark art and malign intentions into this box. To his astonishment, the next morning, Robert was ill. The symptoms and helplessness that Robert would endure throughout his life, manifested on the morning after Cornell created the "Destroy Robert" box. Joseph Cornell took great and loving care of his brother for the rest of his life. He knew guilt and sadness over what he had done. He never married or had children. He was very reluctant to mix in social life. It could be said that both he and his brother paid a price for his extraordinary gifts.
b. Damned if you do and damned if you don't: Before Robert's kidnapping, Cornell was creating a box that would turn gum-snapping Joyce, the waitress, into the elegant 19th c. ballerina of his dreams. Yet, if he succeeded, she would give him even less attention and marry the lout she loved, Ray.
c. What's the Use? Even before the kidnapping, Cornell's projects were not going well and the news from the War was more and more disastrous. So, on a bright autumn day, he wheeled Robert to Central Park to relax and watch the ducks. So overwhelmed by the state of the world and his own depression, he considered "accidentally" pushing Robert's wheelchair into the pond. Cornell felt this would be merciful, because if the Nazis won, civilization would descend into darkness and his brother and those like him would suffer most. At the last minute, he felt a huge rush of love for Robert, pulled the wheelchair back, and saved them both.
d. A 'Sophie's Choice'? As Cornell labored over Duke Cosimo di Medici's box, he now had the twin burdens of winning the War for the Allies or saving his brother from certain death. Which shall he prioritize?

Exercise 7. Great Setting: NYC in WWII
New York City was dimmed out during the War. Streetlights were faint, car lights used sparingly, marquees turned low, curtains drawn. The "greasy spoons" were in their heyday. These small cafes served meatloaf or eggs-over-easy on chipped white plates and the owners proudly hung hand-made signs promoting their "Blue Plate Special" in the window. The café's radio blared Les Brown and his Band of Renown - and other swing bands - lifting people's spirits. Or sometimes, the customers' chatter slowed to a hushed reverence as the radio broadcast dire reports of battles hanging in the balance.
Young women were dolls or molls and every guy had an angle, and wore a hat. Young men were notably absent from the city. Most of them were slogging through the war.
After hours in Al's Café, Joyce would let Ray in the back door. In the darkened café, they would make love on the tables or with Joyce bent over a chair. With the radio turned down they could just hear 'Sentimental Baby' or 'Blue Moon.' Their other favorite place was the night trains. It was risky, but sometimes they got away with it.

Joseph Cornell's haunts were these small cafes, shabby second-hand stores - where he haggled over the flotsam and jetsom for his work- and his favorite alleyways where discarded film footage, a random sequin or a broken toy would catch his eye.
On Sundays and some other days, Joseph and Robert could be found in the elegant 5th Church of Christ Scientist. Because of the dimout, Church services were mostly conducted by the rays of daylight filtering in or by candlelight.
If Cornell was preparing for a show or collecting a payment for one of his boxes, he might be found at Levy's Art Gallery, a dim empty storefront space with a concrete floor.
Otherwise, Cornell was in his studio and it was an entire universe of its own. As an adult, he remained in his parents' modest home in Yonkers. He transformed the basement with work tables, a few chairs and the tools for building his little poetic boxes. But more important than these were the raw materials of precious junk he had collected and catalogued over the years.
There were shelves and shelves of items, each categorized: "Feathers," "Ballet Memorabilia," "Bottles, Land," "Universe and Ropes," "Sea creatures/objects," "Flamingoes," "Nights." The categories were almost as eccentric as the things themselves.
But to Cornell, it was as if the room were his mind made manifest. All the bits and pieces of eloquent and exotic rubbish; the memories of other times and lives, shallow and deep, the emotions contained or dispersed, the secrets, all were kept in order by bland routines and careful filing. He didn't have to go mad as long as the "Swans" and the "Tiger Buttons" were kept away from each other.

The box constructions assembled from these ordinary or eccentric objects were, in themselves, locations. For instance, one box, painted deep blue, containing a ball and pasted-on stars he named "Hotel". Cornell mentally lived inside these little worlds of imagination. He took refuge in them, and in some cases, they were his emotional home.

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Re: Seven Short Assignments for NYC Pitch Attendees

#14 Post by judyrichter » 09 Mar 2018, 14:50

1. Story Statement
Solve the murder of her con artist boyfriend and recover the rights to a movie project without being murdered herself.

2. The Antagonist
Adam is, in psychological terms, a narcissistic sociopath. He is brilliant but demonically so, preferring to lie, cheat and steal rather than use his intelligence in more socially acceptable ways. He made and lost fortunes, or so he says, and threw in his lot with the Jewish Mafia to maximize his wealth potential. His primary goal in life is to be “King of the World.” And he’s willing to do anything to achieve that, including betray his Mafia boss. He views women as inferior beings useful only to satisfy his carnal needs. He is manipulative and persuasive, and loves to pull off a good con. It proves his superiority, while serving as an easy means of supporting his extravagant tastes and lifestyle. He becomes intoxicated with the power and wealth of Hollywood, and sees this as his vehicle to become a household name and icon on his path to ruling the world.

3. Title Choices
The Cloud Behind the Cloud
Silence Breakers
King Con

4. Two Smart Comparables in same genre
Lisa Scottoline - One Perfect Lie
Candace Fox - Crimson Lake

5. Primary Conflict Line- Agon
A lawyer in Hollywood leaves her sexually harassing boss and a boring career, only to learn that her life and dreams may be in serious jeopardy from her new lover/boss.

6. Secondary and Inner Conflicts
Inner conflicts: Protagonist must fight her inclinations to let a man determine her life’s path. She must listen to her intuitive senses when she doubts the motives, integrity and/or veracity of others. She must follow her bliss, not the dictates of those who want to use her or silence her.

Secondary Conflicts:
Help two writer friends recover the rights to their screenplay. Find the Syrian refugee in Beirut whose life is the basis of the screenplay and help her seek asylum before it’s too late. Help her assistant leave an abusive boss and turn state’s evidence. Admit that she is a victim of sexual harassment and come forward.

7. Setting
The story takes place in Los Angeles and New York, the two key centers of film production in the U.S. The protagonist and her assistant are both victims of sexual assault/harassment at a time that the #MeToo Movement is coming into its own. In L.A., the characters interact in major studio lots, Malibu, Venice and Santa Monica, giving rich nuances of these locales. In NY, the action takes place in Manhattan, at Trump Tower and the Upper East Side, with side trips to Nolita, Times Square, SoHo and the Village. All settings help further the storyline and offer colorful insights to the sites.

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Re: Seven Short Assignments for NYC Pitch Attendees

#15 Post by shunter12 » 10 Mar 2018, 22:27

ASSIGNMENT #1 – story statement

Can detective Jack Cornell uncover the murderer lurking on the set of Casablanca and prevent Nazi spies from changing the course of WWII?

ASSIGNMENT #2 – sketch the antagonist

Heinz Kessler, mid 30s, is a spy in the Abwehr, Hitler’s secret intelligence service. Schooled in England, his English is strong plus he’s adaptable to use an American accent and be at ease in American society. Heinz is a strong nationalist, a patriot for his German fatherland, though he doesn’t believe all of Hitler’s ideas regarding race or his totalitarian tactics. Heinz is ruthless, however, to carry out his duties as he does not want to see his countrymen fall in war again and become bereft as they were during his childhood after World War I. He has professional ambitions and knows that his skill set is highly valued back home. He will stop at nothing, including murder, to complete his assignment as it may be the key to victory for Germany and his personal ascension to power.

ASSIGNMENT #3 – title

Last Flight from Casablanca
The Casablanca Conspiracy

ASSIGNMENT #4 – comparable works (detective genre set in Golden Age of Hollywood)

Stuart Kaminsky's Toby Peters series ("Murder on the Yellow Brick Road" etc.)
Guy Bolton's "The Pictures"

ASSIGNMENT #5 – conflict line

While investigating the murder of a little-known actor, Hollywood P.I. Jack Cornell uncovers a Nazi plot that could alter the course of World War II.

ASSIGNMENT #6A – inner conflict scenario

Jack can’t escape his war. Though back in Los Angeles now, he can’t evade the consequences of his decision to volunteer for the RAF and fight against the Nazis. He did that even though his own country sat cowardly by the side, inertly neutral as Hitler gobbled up Europe. His mother’s side is Jewish, so what was Jack supposed to do? He had the means to fight back—he could fly a fighter plane—so he did. Now, tormenting visions of the air battle haunt him even in his waking days. He can’t keep them out. He re-lives the last moments of his own crash over and over. Whiskey is the only thing that seems to work. It doesn’t make the visions go away, but it helps him to not care so much. To not care about much of anything. And the damned war ruined his career, also. The crash wrecked his right arm, so his aim is off. He can’t pass the LAPD firearms tests and his bigoted superior won’t reinstate him without it. So now he’s got to prove to everyone that he’s still useful. That he can use his police experience to be a private eye, even if he can’t shoot so straight or hold his liquor so well. Maybe solving Paul Szabo’s murder will help prove to himself that his war is over and that he’s come out a winner.

6B: secondary conflict scenario

Jack Cornell’s love life has been upside-down ever since Pearl Harbor. His Japanese-American girlfriend, Noriko Sakata, faces extreme social tension when FDR forces all West Coast Japanese to internment camps. The only way Jack can think to help her is to get married; if she’s the wife of a Caucasian then she can remain a civilian, free at home with him. But Noriko turns down his proposal for practical reasons. She feels bound to bear the terrors of internment along with the rest of her family and she’s not certain Jack would have proposed without such external pressures. While Noriko is at the camp, Jack meets Ana Szabo, a sultry Hungarian émigré who hires him to find her brother Paul’s killer. Ana isn’t merely pretty and available, she and Jack connect on a personal level. He respects her ability to escape persecution in Europe and land on her feet in America. He may even be falling in love with her, but the case could be clouding his emotions. As he tries to determine his feelings for Ana, Noriko comes back into his life with a jolt. She’s escaped the internment camp and is on the run from the FBI. What’s more, she had an abortion there, of Jack’s child, and her health is in jeopardy from that back-alley procedure. Jack wants to do the right thing—to help both women in need—and at the same time he must sort out his true feelings for each.

ASSIGNMENT #7 – story setting

The story takes place over the summer of 1942 in Hollywood, during the filming of Casablanca on the Warner Brothers lot. Just six months after Pearl Harbor, the war is going very badly for the Allies with new defeats reported daily. The country still reels in shock and Los Angeles, the closest city to both Hawaii and Japan, braces for an attack in ways that are at once sensible and paranoid. There are spotting stations on building roofs, coastal defenses with long guns, and thousands of anxious sailors leaving to fight across the Pacific. Hollywood takes its role as purveyor of America’s morale seriously, cutting construction costs, lending able-bodied men for the cause, and hyping patriotic themes. This ‘Golden Age’ of Hollywood is an iron cross for Japanese-Americans to bear as they are forced to internment camps. LA is a noir town, with war industries just starting to rebound from the long Depression. Racism runs rampant, women are dames, and men never cry though they sure do bleed.

Actual locations in the story: Other possible locations:
• Set of Casablanca; Warner Bros. studio * Hollywoodland sign
• Rick’s café * Santa Anita race track
• Sam’s piano * Oscar presentations
• Bogey’s/Bergman’s dressing rooms * Union Station
• Escape plane/train station * Mexican culture: Olvera Street & Zoot Suiters
• Handprints of stars/Hollywood Blvd. * Skid Row, St. Vincent de Paul Church
• Ciro’s restaurant * Beverly Hills hotel/pool party
• Hollywood Canteen * Griffith Observatory
• Malibu beach * Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel
• Will Rogers polo grounds
• Manzanar Interment Camp
• La Brea Tar Pits

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Re: Seven Short Assignments for NYC Pitch Attendees

#16 Post by aaronnyc » 11 Mar 2018, 12:39

Story statement: To find and destroy the Taliban.

Don is the Special Forces (SF) Detachment’s Team Sergeant, the senior enlisted man on the team and the protagonist’s boss. Don is part of the old guard, an SF soldier with years of experience prior to the Afghan campaign, surrounded by young men eager to fight. He is uncomfortable in a real war and overcompensates by relying upon his authority while doing his best to disguise his lack of tactical knowledge.

The Taliban are a mostly faceless enemy fought at a distance. They seem to be fighting and dying in a war they don’t understand for the vague goals of Jihad, money, and power. They exist to kill Americans and terrorize civilians, because that’s what their elders did.

The goal of the Special Forces soldiers’ war is to train and prepare the Afghan Commandos to be tactically independent. But this is a vague concept with no tangible reward, so the protagonist instead focuses on killing Taliban. He sees this mission as a hindrance in his efforts to destroy the enemy. The nature of the war and the protagonist himself are the greatest sources of his duress.


Title: Lines of Effort

Genre and Comparables: Upmarket fiction. The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers and Green on Blue by Eliot Ackerman. Both novels are an introspective look at the impact of the war on the characters involved, and while they contain action, action is not the main driver of tension in these stories.

Primary conflict: A disgruntled Green Beret gets kicked off his team for clashing with his commander, and is forced to confront his own helplessness while his comrades fall apart under withering combat operations.

Secondary & Inner conflicts:
The secondary conflict lies within the joint task force of Special Forces and Afghan Commandos relying upon one another to survive.

The inner conflict is the protagonist’s own desire to have a tangible impact on the war, which leads to driving himself into any fight at unnecessary risk to himself. Later, when he is fired and sent to headquarters, he struggles to understand his own place in the war, and must reconcile his own helplessness or be driven insane.

Much of the story takes place in the ravaged valleys of Badghis province, northern Afghanistan. The soldiers encounter civilians in turns apathetic and passionate in their remote villages, dependent on arid farms and weak rivers. The army bases are isolated from the austere and foreign beauty of the landscape that surrounds them. Everyone seems to be waiting for the war to pass, but it shows no signs of going anywhere. Officers are biding their time until their rotation is over, and soldiers want nothing more than to fight and survive so they can return home with stories of their valor and exploits. The protagonist faces the deaths of enemies and comrades, the exhaustion of his commanders, the horror of civilian casualties, and his own diminished role in the war.

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Re: Seven Short Assignments for NYC Pitch Attendees

#17 Post by marypatbielecki » 11 Mar 2018, 15:51

Angelina vows to do whatever it takes to overcome the death she cannot remember and return to her family.


Mortimer: The embodiment of Death in the mysterious void that is Angelina's afterlife. His sole job is to resign her to being dead, yet she doesn't remember dying and burns with determination to live. Though a mutual fondness develops between the two, it doesn't change the fact that Mortimer is relentless in pushing her to let go of life on Earth and move ahead into death, all the while knowing what she does not: when she died, how she died, and ultimately, an even bigger secret that will change everything.

Fran: As Angelina's husband Adam struggles with cutting grief, his mother Fran borders on unsympathetic to the difficult predicament of his wife's coma. Fran is unyielding; even if she herself isn't present, her negative energy hums like an annoying fly. She lives a rigid, regimented life and resents that her son doesn't, for which she blames his wife Angelina. While she claims to love her son, Fran ultimately aims to take his children away by portraying him an unfit parent.



Before I Wake

The Ghost In You


Genre: Upmarket Women's Fiction/Literary Fiction

I Liked My Life by Abby Fasciani: Both are stories of a woman who is confused about her death and feels responsibility to the beloved family she left behind. Both are stories of "watching over" and moving on.

If I Stay and Leave Meby Gayle Forman: Deeply emotional writing, centered around characters who must examine the lives they've led and where they belong. If I Stay, though YA, is especially similar because the protagonist exists on a different plane from her loved ones and is able to watch over them and reflect.

The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks: A love story that surpasses the limitations of life, death, and everything in between.

Torn from her husband and children by a death she can't remember, Angelina is trapped between the afterlife and the living.


Inner Conflict
Turmoil: Angelina watches her husband and two young sons struggle through loss. Since she cannot remember her death, she won't accept it. Slowly and with the strength of her love, she begins to bend the boundaries between the living and the dead to reach out to her family, making her believe that perhaps she can beat death.
Conflicted: While all of this happens, Angelina develops a relationship with her afterlife guide, Morty. She gets to know him and sees her husband handling life without her, which causes her to be angry with herself each time she feels even a step closer to accepting the circumstances.
Anxious: She must watch her sons suffer. They get hurt, sick. They cry for her at night. Her husband Adam is broken by loss and barely surviving. When his mother Fran steps in and threatens to take the children away, Angelina must figure out a way to help her husband do the very thing that scares her most: live a full life without her.
Guilt: Angelina is told only that hers was "a death of strength." The rest she must remember on her own. She wrestles with her memories, and fears most of all that her death was somehow her fault. She watches her family's misery and feels sick at the idea that she has brought this on all of them.

Secondary Conflict
Adam's inability to handle life/parenthood without Angelina
Fran, Adam's mother, wickedly attempting to portray her son as an unfit parent and take his children from him to raise as her own.
When Angelina's son Noah is taken to the emergency room with a bloody facial injury, she is shocked to see her rigid, unforgiving mother-in-law show up. Further, Adam is horrified to hear his mother shouting at the nurses and doctors that he is unfit and CPS must be called. Fran continues to harass Adam and show up at inopportune moments, solidifying her belief that Adam is doomed for failure as a single parent. Adam, with the help of his brother Shane and the feeling that his wife is still with him in some way, must break out of his grief and make radical changes in life. But before he can commit to those changes, he is faced with the choice of deciding how to handle the secret behind Angelina's death.


Western New York State is unique and underrated. The city of Buffalo shines at the edge of Lake Erie and sees sunsets that have been said to rival the Caribbean. The lake is one of the Greats, and stretches far beyond the outskirts of the city, along suburbs and into rural territory and sleepy, beachy towns that wait through brutal stormy winters for short but gorgeous summer months.

It is in a beach town called Angola that Angelina and her family live on a cliff overlooking one of the few natural sand beaches on the shores of Lake Erie. The house is hidden away in trees at the crest of what is essentially a sand dune, and has been in her husband's family for generations. The tempestuous lake and the weather both work throughout the novel to reflect the moods and behaviors of the characters. Where Angelina is told hers was a death of strength, the reader sees the fierce power of the waves. It is the waves, truly, that most reflect the themes of the story. Constancy. Power greater than ourselves. Control, or the lack of it. The lake is a character itself, involved in nearly every scene as an essential piece of Angelina's identity.

The house is old, and once served as a cottage for summer-use only. Inside, it is comfortably updated and filled with the warmth of a young family raising little boys. Toys are strewn everywhere, cookie crumbs are smushed into couch cushions, and family photos smile from every wall. The home is hidden away in a copse of oaks and maples that line the clifftops all along the lake's shoreline. Its seclusion represents how Angelina's family, namely her husband, is difficult to reach (physically and emotionally).

Multiple scenes are set around the therapist who is meant to keep Adam afloat as he tries to cope with his wife's absence. Named Maren, her office is closer to the city and hideously decorated in mustard yellow. It has tall wide windows that allow in bright sunlight and represent Angelina's existence as one able to see but not truly reach the world she knows. Maren's home, a beautiful magazine snapshot devoid of the homey comfort Angelina's house evokes, is also at play. Combined with the ugly office, it demonstrates the depth behind this character who will ultimately be revealed as a part of the larger puzzle.

At a critical point in the story, Adam seeks to reach Angelina by visiting a little village well past Angola called Lily Dale. Though small, Lily Dale is internationally known as a sort of "hot spot" for spiritual and psychic ability. It is a gated community and visited by tourists for the sole purpose of reaching out into the spiritual world for answers. It is here that Adam hopes that the connection he continues to feel to Angelina will manifest itself in some comprehensive way.

The rest of the novel is set on another plane entirely: the afterlife. Due to Angelina's unique circumstances, her afterlife is nothing more than an empty void of pillowy white spreading in all directions. There she is alone but for her guide Mortimer. As Angelina's story progresses and as she herself grows closer to uncovering the memory of her death, the empty void morphs into a mirror image of her house on the lake, minus the people she desperately loves.

The lake is their history. The lake is their present. It is a knotted thread that binds Angelina to her life, but once untied, is the only thing that can free her.

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Re: Seven Short Assignments for NYC Pitch Attendees

#18 Post by mklaphek » 11 Mar 2018, 22:30

1. First Assignment: Write your Story Statement

Do whatever it takes to rescue his wife and redeem himself in the process.

2. Second Assignment: In 200 words or less, sketch the antagonist or antagonistic force in your story.

Tom Finnegan faces an antagonistic force from multiple sides, but his primary antagonist, Edi Vonco, provides the catalyst for the entire story. Edi's capture and treatment of hostages are the fuel for the remainder of the book, pulling Tom into action. Not only did Edi take Tom's wife hostage, but he killed a close friend. Edi's lack of remorse is compounded by his willingness to kill more, seemingly on a whim. While Edi isn't particularly adept, the combination of his lieutenant Reja, the alliance with the Indonesian military, and the general support of the region make him a strong enemy.

Another antagonistic force that fans the flames are the British and Australian governments, who are trying to stop Tom and his group from achieving their goal. Portrayed to be more hoodlum than rescuer, Tom and his team's interference is seen as an impediment to foreign relations.

These antagonistic forces continue to slow Tom down, make him change tactics, and face unexpected challenges.

3. Third Assignment: Create a breakout title

I Killed Her Twice
Depth Charge

4. Fourth Assignment: Develop two smart comparables for your novel.

My novel's genre is Suspense Thriller/Action-Adventure

Comparable 1: James Rollins, War Hawk. Rollins' character, Tucker Wayne, offers a reluctance to action and a strong desire to be isolated, similar to my protagonist, Tom Finnegan. Their circumstances, methods, and actions are different, but they are relatable to the same audience.

Comparable 2: Richard Dansky, Dark Waters. This novel offers a similar plot (rescuing hostages in a foreign land, with little preparation, and operating under bad intel) and is in a similar vein. Readers enjoying action-adventure thrillers of this type will also enjoy my novel.

5. Fifth Assignment: Write your own conflict line.

A brutal tyrant with lofty ambitions takes a group hostage, forcing an ill-prepared mish-mash team to band together to rescue them.

6. Sixth Assignment: Sketch out the conditions for inner conflict your protagonist will have.

The protagonist (Tom) faces inner conflict due to a choice made years ago, when he abandoned his wife, pretending to be dead and assuming a new identity. Even with his wife in grave danger, he is reluctant to right his wrong, preferring instead to continue living a lie. Tom's call to action comes from his sister, the only person who knows his true identity, and her insistence forces Tom's involvement.

As the story progresses, his inner conflict continues as he realizes all that he gave up to live the way he chose. Worse, he realizes what impact his decision had on his wife, and that his decision possibly led to the miscarriage of their child.

Other Matters of Conflict - As a team is assembled to rescue the hostages, Tom becomes entangled with a head-strong woman (Linda). Starting as a one-time affair, Tom becomes conflicted with feelings he has for this new interest and the feelings he still has for his wife.

Further adding conflict, the group assembled to rescue the hostages have different goals. Some, like Tom, have personal interests at stake; others are operating out of loyalty. But none of them are truly unified in voice or action.

7. Seventh Assignment: Sketch out the setting in detail.

My novel takes place in present day and is a globetrotter's dream, having scenes in six continents (all but Antarctica), as well as the Indian and Pacific oceans.

Starting in Jakarta, Indonesia, the first scene unfolds in a nondescript open mall. People are milling about with nothing out of the ordinary, until a group starts firing on them, taking the survivors as hostages. Days later, the hostages are filmed at an unknown location.

Seemingly unrelated, an Iranian-flagged cargo ship leaves Bandar Abbas, carrying more cargo than declared on its manifest. Hoping for a quick jaunt from the Persian Gulf to Jakarta, the ship, nearing the end of its useful life, sails into troubled waters, eventually sinking.

Quickly, scenes unfold in Florida, New York, and Bogota, setting our protagonist (Tom) in motion. Retracing his wife's steps, he makes his way to Kuala Lumpur-the spot of their honeymoon-and then to Jakarta.

At the same time, a separate person (Blain) is following a trail that starts in London, with brief stops in Casablanca, Male, Maldives, and Colombo, Sri Lanka, before dropping (literally) into the Indian Ocean. Arriving in Jakarta, a cat-and-mouse pursuit ensues, with Tom following Blain as they travel from Jakarta to a town in northern Indonesia called Banda Aceh.

Meanwhile, our antagonist is facing challenges of his own. From a boardroom in a posh Jakarta resort to a small coffee shop in Banda Aceh, he struggles to keep his alliances together and make sure his ransom is paid.

Again, the pace quickens as scenes in Geraldton, Australia, Washington D.C., Manhattan, and London transpire. After forming an eclectic group, the team travels to Sydney, Australia, where a major storm both helps and hurts the team's efforts.

Their job in Sydney complete, the group is now in the vastness of the Pacific Ocean, eventually reaching the Malacca Strait, but not without being pursued by those trying to stop them.

After making their way to the Indonesian town of Sigli, then deeper into the forests, they free the hostages after a fierce struggle. As the group retreats back into the Pacific, they are under attack from a new enemy, and a watery grave is almost certain. Surviving, they return to Sydney, but not to the hero's welcome they expected.

The story concludes with a funeral in a small town outside of Bogota, and finally a celebration in Sydney.

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Re: Seven Short Assignments for NYC Pitch Attendees

#19 Post by annelabdean » 12 Mar 2018, 02:43

STORY STATEMENT: An obscure but gifted tenth-century Irish prince sacrifices a beloved older brother to bring a promise of unity, peace, and freedom to his island.

[Story Statement #2: United, Ireland stands; divided, it falls.


Brian Boru (941-1014 C.E.) and his brother Mahon, chief antagonist in Brian’s story, grows up the only of their father’s twelve sons not killed by marauding rival Irish and Viking Norse. In their youths, Mahon and Brian are loyal, loving brothers. But when Mahon, six years Brian’s elder, is chosen clan king, he becomes enamored with himself and the old ways of ruling in medieval Ireland––staging cow raids, stealing treasures from monasteries, hosting against rival clans, and otherwise vying for dominance of their small territories. Brian, smarter than his brother, understands that these old ways pose an existential threat to their clan, province, and island. He knows that the Norse, feigning to be content in their coastal and river towns, mean to take over the whole island, as they mean to take over Britain. Young Brian, only twelve when he becomes Mahon’s chief advisor and lieutenant, needs the legitimization of Mahon’s kingship to harry and battle the Norse, and to experiment with diplomatic means of subduing them and their Irish allies. As time goes on, Mahon, who by then has produced an equally inept son, becomes more of a hindrance than a help. The tensions between the two brothers and between their respective sons climax when Brian must choose between saving Ireland or saving his brother.


My novel’s genre is Historical Fiction, early medieval Ireland. Sub-genres Fictional Memoir; Psycho-biographical fiction.

Comparable 1: Young Nero, Volume One in Margaret George’s two volume series about the misunderstood Roman emperor. Brian Boru and Nero lived in different times and circumstances, but both, as young men, were faced with major family conflicts, Nero with his mother, Brian with his father and older brother. Both assumed responsibilities of leadership in their early teen years, and both eventually rose, by dint of craftiness and skill worthy of the gods, to great power. In our respective novels, Brian and Nero tell their own tales, and show themselves to be mea not just of brawn but of heightened sensibilities and capacities for self-reflection. Readers interested in psycho-biographical novels will enjoy both books.

Comparable 2: Bernard Cornwell’s The Last Kingdom series. Although set in England, and beginning a century before Brian Boru’s time, Cornwell’s series catches up in his most recent novels to Brian’s time in the mid tenth century. On both islands, Britain and Ireland, the name of the game is incessant in-fighting of clans (lords and kings) allied with Norwegian and Danish Vikings. Brian Boru and Cornwell’s hero Uhtred face similar conflicts between family loyalty (to brother, kin, clan) and what must be done to save their islands from disunity and the Scandinavians.


Series: The Saga of Irish King Brian Boru: A Tale Retold
Volume I: The Wren and the Eagle, OR, My Brother’s Keeper
[Volume 2: (In preparation): My Prophesied Queen; Volume 3: (In preparation): Sacrifice]


Primary: Brian Boru, an obscure tenth century Irish prince, must choose between his vision of unity and freedom for his island and loyalty to his older, beloved brother, the personification of the old, divisive ways of ruling in Ireland.

Inner Conflict: At ten years of age, motherless Brian, the youngest and most favored of his father’s twelve sons, discovers that the idealized father with whom he is closely identified has lied to him about supposed past glorious exploits. In truth, his father has made egregious errors resulting in the wanton deaths of eight of his sons and the beheading of his only daughter. On one and the same day, the father confesses his lies to Brian and marches out to his death at the hands of enemy Irish and Norse. The fortress is burned, and Brian flees to his monk brother’s monastery with his three living brothers, one a monk. There he incubates his rage, shame, and desire to achieve for his clan and province what his father only pretended to have achieved. In part, he wishes to redeem his father’s good name, and in part, to murder it, to relegate it to the dustbin of history. Beset by guilt at the latter, Brian tries to confess to a priest who cannot find Brian’s sin in his penitential. When his one remaining non-monk brother calls him back to the fortress to help rebuild and rule their clan, Brian must choose between a life of relative safety as a monk, perhaps even as a great abbot, and life as a warrior, his less able brother’s sidekick, in constant danger of being killed. A dream, in which he conjures himself the famed Irish demigod Cuchulainn swimming through a river of blood to answer his brother’s call, helps Brian choose. Although he has been raised Christian, from then on Brian harbors the secret belief that he, like Cuchulainn, is in fact the son of a god, not of a flawed, mortal father. The precipitating event of discovering his father’s lies thus sets in motion numerous inner conflicts (father murder vs. father redemption, brother loyalty vs. loyalty to island, god vs. mortal, Christianity vs. paganism), all of which both power and impede Brian’s quest throughout his life.

Secondary Conflict: In his early teen years, Brian gains his brother’s permission and that of clan chiefs to launch raids on the Norse from hill caves above Limerick town. In the process he forms a close bond with a novice monk turned warrior, who becomes Brian’s best friend and advisor in the caves. He also falls in love with his first sweet young wife, Mor, a princess procured for him by his brother the king. In both cases, Brian must choose between those he loves and doing what he thinks is necessary to fend off the Norse threat. His last night in the caves, Brian weeps when his friend the novice monk draws the short stick, meaning it is his turn to stay back and erase his mates’ tracks as the band retreats back up the hill to the caves from harrying the Norse. There is nothing Brian can do to save his friend, who predictably never returns. His wife Mor, in the meantime, has insisted that Brian sleep with her on his short visits to the fortress, despite the phyicians’s that she cannot endure so many births and loss of blood in so short a time. Brian concedes to her wishes, loving her and wanting to succor her, but is away when their twins are born early and die soon after birth, and when Mor herself dies giving birth to their fourth child. He is pained and distraught, and it will be many years before he takes another wife.

Other Sources of Conflict: Real life Norse and rival Irish armies. The pervasive mind-set of all Irish chiefs that protecting and expanding one’s own territory is more important than unity amongst clans. The alliance of powerful clergy with Irish and Norse enemies of Brian and his brother. A son of his brother who grows to manhood and becomes a rival to both Brian and his own grown son. The soul-pain that nigh fells Brian when he is forced to commit or plot deeds of extreme violence against women and children, infants, monks, and his own brother, in his quest for power. The self-loathing that besets him when his best laid plans come to nought.


Brian’s Forts:

Brian Boru’s primary fort, Kincora, is set atop a hill overlooking the Shannon River in northwest Munster province, at a point where the river exits a lake in a series of fast moving rapids. Word has it that Brian’s grandfather built his fort there to prevent easy access by Viking warships routinely raiding up and down the Shannon as early as the late eighth century. Downriver about twenty miles, at Limerick, is a Danish Viking settlement ruled by King Ivar, who in Brian’s youth is his chief Viking adversary. The hill below Kincora sloping down to the river is covered in heather and gorse, the surrounding hills densely forested, and plains inland from the river used for crops and grazing. All important cows, the Irish clans’ unit of monetary exchange, are kept at Beal Boru and surrounding fields, a secondary fort set on the lake shore a bit north of Kincora. Also at Beal Boru are hostages (rival kings’ kin, mostly sons) taken in battle.

Cashel, the fort inhabited by Brian’s brother as erstwhile king of Munster province, and later by Brian himself, is located some sixty miles east of Kincora in traditionally enemy Irish territory. It sits atop a huge limestone rock from which Brian and his family can see a smattering of villages and farms, endless sky, and miles of forested hills in all directions. Of all the imposing stone structures still extant at Cashel today, only the round tower and a stone church existed there in Brian’s day.

Brian’s forts are not castles or palaces, but dirt walls and ditches encircling timber and mud houses arranged around stone courtyards. In addition, his forts contain, a “hall,” a council house, a "sick house," maybe a stone church, maybe a round tower, animal pens, gardens, cesspits, and little else. The king’s house is larger than the others, but all consist of a hearth room with sleeping spaces separated off by animal skin curtains. Benches line the walls for sitting, a wooden shelf or two hold important possessions such as weapons and hurling sticks, and furniture is minimal––a couple of chairs, tables, and beds. Hot water for the king’s bath is prepared by slaves, mostly Scandinavian prisoners of war or their descendants, with coals from the hearth.

Secondary Settings


Holy Island monastery, where Brian spends two critical years between the ages of ten and twelve, is situated in Lough Derg, upriver from his fortress, Kincora. Depending on the direction and strength of the wind and waves, the trip from shore to island in the monks’ small curachs can take more than an hour. The monks live in huts scattered about the island, pray together several times a day in a stone church and eat together once a day in a refectory. The island is forested on the lake side, open to the water with a sandy beach on the shore side, and criss-crossed with stone walls to divide cows from sheep, pigs, and chickens. Small plots of ground are cultivated. A round tower, with access only at the top, is designed to protect the monastery’s silver and gold from thieves, but nothing is truly safe there or anywhere in Brian’s environment. Not long before his birth, Norsemen sailed up the Shannon and raided and burned Holy Island, all save the church and tower.

Scattery island monastery, in the mouth of the Shannon River close to the sea, where Danish King Ivar escapes and hides after Brian and Mahon sack his fortress at Limerick. Later, Brian and his son Murrough deem the monks traitors and behead them, together with Ivar and his sons.

Limerick:: King Ivar’s fortress settlement on an island in the middle of the Shannon River houses the Viking Danish king, his family, and a host of mail-clad warriors and boatsmen. It is one day's journey at most from Brian's fort, Kincora. Sleek Viking warships are tied up on the island shores, each with dragon head bows and port holes for oars and shields. Between the river and the hills are deep bog holes that trap many a man and animal, including Brian’s band of young guerrilla warriors. Close to Limerick is Saingel hill where Brian and Mahon take able-bodied captive Danes for slaughter.


An obscure but gifted young Irish prince, BRIAN BORU, born 941 C.E. to a clan in northwest Munster province, believes that his idealized minor-king father has in fact frightened rival Irish and Norse Vikings into a peace that prevails at their fortress. On one and the same day when Brian is ten, his father confesses he has lied and marches out to his death at the hands of those same supposedly frightened rivals. The fortress burned, Brian and his older brother, MAHON, retreat to a monastery where Mahon tells Brian that his father’s failure to heed his only daughter’s pleas led not only to her beheading, but his wife’s death, the slaughter of their eight older brothers, and, eventually, to his own demise.

Bereft, angered, and shamed, Brian conjures himself not the son of a flawed mortal father, but of a god. He vows that with craftiness and skill, diplomacy and might, he and Mahon will bind the warring Irish clans together and save their island from the perfidious foreigners, the Viking Norse. But young Brian is shocked to discover that Mahon, then clan king, does not share his vision or his wit, but personifies, like their father, the old divisive ways of raiding and thieving. For a time, Brian uses his brother’s status as king to fend off the Norse, but the day comes when he knows he must choose––Mahon, or his island. Can he bring himself to make that choice? Can he and his island survive its repercussions?


An obscure tenth-century Irish prince named BRIAN BORU grows up believing his minor-king father’s claim that he is so strong, no rival Irish or Norse Viking will dare attack him. Yet, when Brian is ten, those same rivals ride to murder his father and burn the fortress. The young prince escapes to a monastery with his older brother, MAHON, who informs him that one much older sister and eight older brothers lay beheaded because of their father’s foolish bids for power. Distraught, Brian conjures himself not the son of his flawed father, but of a god and a mortal mother, who, together with Mahon, then clan king, will sway the Irish to unity and banish their nemeses, the viking Norse, from their island. He is shocked to discover that Mahon does not share his vision or his wit, but personifies, like their father, the old divisive ways of raiding and thieving. For a time, Brian uses his brother’s status as king to fight the Norse and woo the clans, but the day comes when he knows he must choose––his brother Mahon, or his island. Can he bring himself to make the choice? Can he survive its repercussions?

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Re: Seven Short Assignments for NYC Pitch Attendees

#20 Post by nikholys » 12 Mar 2018, 05:27


Corvin, the young Romanian immigrant, is falling in love with a rebellious, rich, Bob Dylan groupie, and suddenly integrating in America becomes fun, adventurous and potentially hazardous as he is preoccupied of becoming a US citizen for which he needs a prefect 5 year record that Joyce doesn't quite care about.


Joyce is the girl Corvin falls in love with. She is the carefree girl with market-shares that could endanger Corvin’s quest to become US citizen (just by her sheer nature). Joyce takes Corvin in an amazing adventure of discovering America, but just by her sheer nature of being free, careless, disorganized, she could put Corvin in unwanted situations he feared most: she wants to have sex in the car, smoke marijuana, trespass etc.
Joyce is the girl Corvin meets while he still tries to understand America.
Joyce is unworried, has no particular plan in life, loves music and arts overall and has an affinity for Bob Dylan but has dropped out of college, lives off market shares and has no job…
She comes in contradiction with Corvin on matters that refer to how one views dealing with America, whether everything is by the book (in Corvin’s view) or a bit loose (in Joyce’s interpretation).
Joyce plays hard on Corvin’s emotions, cheating on him, continuing to live with him while preparing her move to Sweden for another man, taking the best of everything not caring on the other’s feelings.


The Lakes of Leisure
Growing New in Michigan.


Middlesex, Jeffrey Eugenides.
Like Middlesex, the book is set primarily in the Detroit area. There are descriptions in each book about the city and how the immigrants viewed it, accommodated in it. Together with the life in the city there is also the process of immigrating to America that each story captures.

Herzog, Saul Bellow.
A clear comparison comes from the fact that each story is centered on a relationship breakup: Herzog is divorced by his wife, Corvin is left alone by his girlfriend moving to Sweden. I found inspiration in Herzog relating to the main character’s interior struggle, his mental fighting and the dialogs, letters he is “writing for others”.

Ask the Dust, John Fante.
The association with this book comes from the fact that both stories are roman a-clef, meaning they’re highly inspired from a personal experience yet the main character is having a different name. Like Antonio Bandini, my character shares a dual nationality, background, they both fall in love and end up suffering from the breakup, and each has arrived in the city from somewhere else: Antonio from Colorado, Corvin from Romania.


Corvin is the young immigrant concerned for his integration and the path to citizenship, while Joyce is his love who ushers him toward the cool America, tempts him into breaking the rules with her carelessness, and eventually leaves him for another man.


Corvin’s inner struggle between living like a citizen yet not being one, and all his concerns deriving from here. He loves Joyce yet being involved with her could jeopardize his residence in America.
The are also the work conflicts where Corvin is trying to fit into a new environment with immigrants like himself yet little in common besides that.


The setting is mostly Middle America. The two protagonists meet in Ferndale, a Detroit suburb, a bit more than 10 years ago. They both live on a quiet street roughly across the street from each other: she in the green bungalow, he in the white boxy house. Throughout the novel, the story involves multiple locations either where the main character priorly lived or where they travel.
As the story is told in reverse, the next location is New York City and Princeton, NJ. Prior to that they travel to Chicago twice, and on the way there they stop by the beautiful Michigan Lake beaches. Before that there was the trip to Sleeping Bear Dunes and Traverse City. Slowly we reach their first trip and that is to Canada and Point Pelee, a National Park.

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Re: Seven Short Assignments for NYC Pitch Attendees

#21 Post by lglattly » 12 Mar 2018, 07:27

1) Story Statement
Escape an arranged marriage and return home.

2) Antagonistic Force
Mildura Domnall has been the governess of the Barclay family for a long time—too long, some might say. Rigidly set in her old-fashioned ways of a past time, Mildura clashes with our headstrong heroine, Skylar MacRae, over everything from her dress and punctuality, to a “woman’s place” in a marriage. Mildura actively hides important information from Skylar about her intended fiancée and hinders her communication with her parents in order to keep Sky in the dark about the Barclay family and keep her at the castle. Mildura is not evil, but is rather acting on her traditional beliefs and, in her opinion, for the good of the Barclay family. As the members of the Barclay family dwindle, Mildura feels responsible for ensuring the continuation of the royal bloodline, and she’ll stop at nothing to do so.

3) Breakout Titles
Skye Bound
Barclay Castle
The Unproposal

4) Comparable Novels
The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot: like Mia in this series, my main character’s life is turned upside down when she discovers a family heritage and obligation she never knew she had.
Matched by Ally Condie: like Cassia in this series, my main character is forced into an arranged marriage she doesn’t want. My novel will appeal to the same target audience of teen and young adult readers looking for a headstrong heroine who rebels against the pre-destined fate that’s been laid out for her.

5) Primary Conflict
When a modern American teenager is forced into an arranged marriage to the true Prince of Scotland, she must confront an intimidating governess in order to solve the mystery of the missing Prince, escape her new life with the Prince’s cursed clan, and return home.

6) Other Conflicts
Skylar MacRae will be plagued by an internal conflict of opposite desires. From the moment she arrives in Scotland, her only goal is to return home—until she meets Ronan, the Prince’s handsome and brooding half-brother. As she is drawn closer to Ronan, she struggles with both the reality that she is engaged to the wrong brother, and that ending her engagement with the Prince and returning home means she will never see Ronan again. During her first horseback riding lesson with Ronan, Skylar tries to deny her initial attraction to him by being angry with his attitude, but as Ronan opens up to her and shows his vulnerable side, Skylar cannot deny she is falling in love with him.

Skylar will also suffer from a secondary conflict with her best friend Whitney when Sky’s quick temper leads her to push Whitney’s boyfriend down the stairs. Though he is not badly hurt, Whitney is furious and ends her friendship with Sky. Skylar struggles to get her temper under control and figure out how to mend her friendship from another country.

7) Story Setting
The story opens in Los Angeles with Skylar MacRae a normal high school senior focused on her friends and college applications, but when an ancient marriage contract surfaces, Sky is swept off to Scotland’s Isle of Skye—a wild green land that shares her name and holds a destiny she never knew she had. The majority of the story takes place within the walls and estate lands of Barclay castle, a drafty Scots Baronial castle and seat of the Highland sect of the Barclay clan. The castle is dark and rambling, with wind howling under locked doors, hallways filled with medieval weapons and armor in various states of decay, and walls lined with portraits of generations of scowling Scots. Barclay castle was designed to confuse a curse that the Barclays moved to the Highlands to escape, so the structure itself is a labyrinth of maze-like hallways and stairways to nowhere. It is in this ominous space that Sky navigates her new life, explores intrigue of shadows in the halls and whispered conversations by locked doors, and works to uncover the mystery of the missing prince and ultimately her purpose within the Barclay clan.

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Re: Seven Short Assignments for NYC Pitch Attendees

#22 Post by OlynOzbick » 12 Mar 2018, 22:09

DRIVEN by Olyn Ozbick

Story Statement
Angela must drive her husband safely home.

A manipulative and cruel man, Dragan lures the young and vulnerable Angela into a relationship with him, and for the duration of their 15-year marriage keeps her in a state of confusion, subjugation, even danger. He does this because it makes him feel strong. Now he is facing cancer in his 40’s, and while his wife drives him from hospital to die at home, he continually interferes with her efforts to get them home safely. His long-time behavior of criticizing, lying and providing false and confusing information to incapacitate her is compounded by his drugged and medicated mental state. In addition, his physical weakness interferes with her ability to get him through snow banks, to safety, even in and out of the car. Angela must rise above all of this in order to gain the confidence and strength she will need to get them home safely on dangerous roads in a deadly blizzard. But all these obstacles are compounded when Angela uncovers a terrible secret Dragan has, about something he did in their past, and it forces her to have to decide whether to continue to fulfil her task of getting him home.

Breakout Title
The Coral that Lies Beneath the Sea
Girl in a Blizzard

Genre and Comparables
Literary Suspense
The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins and Listen to Me by Hannah Pittard meet We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson.
For readers who love the psychological tautness of Paula Hawkins, the gentle genre-bending insights of Emily St. John Mandel and the subtle and foreboding suspense of Shirley Jackson.

Conflict Line
While driving her critically ill husband of 15 years through a deadly blizzard, Angela must overcome her husband’s medicated, confused and cruel interference with her efforts to keep them alive out on the road in a terrible blizzard if she is to get him safely home.

Inner Conflict
Because of the criticism, lying and manipulation she has been subjected to by Dragan through the years, Angela is timid and unsure of herself and often feels confused about what to do, and even what is really happening, She knows, however, that survival out on the stormy road is up to her, and she has to find a way to be clear of mind and strong in spirit if she is to make the decisions and take the actions needed to save them. She looks into her past to find the clarity and strength in herself to get them through. In doing so, she realizes a terrible truth which forces her to have to decide whether to continue on her mission to get them home safely.
Example scenario: Angela wakes in a ditch in a hypothermic state surrounded by wolves and sees Dragan calmly watching. She confronts and accuses him, saying, “You were just watching me be killed by wolves.” He tells her she’s crazy, so she meekly says, “Did you really not see me?”

Secondary conflict
Angela’s mother is also manipulative and controlling, and so Angela has learned to normalize abusive behavior, which is why clarity around Dragan’s behavior toward her is muddied. Tia, Angela’s daughter and love of her life, along with her cousin Matt, are the anchors that tie her to healthy normal relationships and challenge Angela to be strong and independent. She is pulled between the normal-seeming but unhealthy relationships of her husband and mother, and the foreign-seeming but healthy relationships of her cousin and daughter.
Example scenario: When Angela realizes the terrible thing that Dragan has done, she is torn between continuing to save him and following her cousin’s advice to stop evil people from doing her damage.

The settings play an important role, often as a condition of conflict. The story takes place in a car during a horrendous blizzard on a two-day drive between two North American cities.
During the course of the drive, the setting ranges from city neighborhoods, to black-iced freeways, snow-laden country roads, gas stations, deserted towns, ditches, and culverts.
The background scenes, which provide the crucial memories, are set in spring, summer and fall, at various times and places in Angela’s life.
Sub-settings (scene by scene)
--The story begins at a hospital in present day, in a northerly, medium-sized, North American city, where dying men are encased in rows of beds and patients standing smoking outside in the cold in gowns and slippers, open the large glass doors for Dragan and Angela as they walk out of hospital and into an early winter snow fall.
--Driving on a residential street, snow blends road with sidewalk, a few people are shoveling, the road is slick so the car slips then rights, but otherwise the setting is calm, even pretty. Mountains flash into view.
--Background: A spring day. Dragan driving, windows down, wind whipping through hair. Mountains appear in the distance, huge and dark and sudden, their white-capped heads crashed into cloud.
--On the freeway, a truck passes. The air is static, hum of the heater loud. The expressway dims and narrows, becomes a road that lopes and drifts like the snow. The edges are barely visible through the mist that fogs the windows.
--Walking on the road, the wind is huge and grows. The road is snow topping ice. A culvert is ahead – dangerous to walk over if a car comes. Down in the gully, thick snow piles in drifts. The air is cold, very sharp. A dark metal culvert under the road, with its sharp cold rims, provides shelter.
--The storm worsens, walking is difficult, the car is not visible, only the continuation of white, the resistance of wind. The setting now is sensory deprivation, eyes forced nearly shut by wind, unable to see her own feet or the road or anything around her. Cold burns the hands. White light. White heat. Hypothermic-like conditions.
--The setting inside the car is of air pushing through vents, the engine purring and humming, the dash wet from snow, which is melting, so the car is moist, steamy and tight. The storm’s darkness is all around but a small bead of light shines onto Dragan’s seat.
--Background: A hot July, with a slight wind slipping along the slope to cool them. The trail remote, with steeply climbing ridges flanking other ridges. The ground is flint and alpine flowers. Wolf-calls in the distance.
--Background: University, ruckus in halls, drunkenness and shouting, crowded hallways. Comforting dorm room.
--Background: Late May, long pale trees weave anxiously along the street outside their fourplex, scattering blossoms.
--Background: Aunties Lake house, sunshine, a dock, the cool, clean froth of each other’s wake in the water.
--Background: The back of mother’s wide, low-slung car, rain and mist against the window.
--A glow through the storm. A town. A gas station, brightly-lit and gritty. The hall to the bathroom is urine covered. Floor glutinous. Loud voices. Shouting, a sound rolls like an avalanche, pounds into the stall. Thieves in boots, with guns.
--Background: Their little house, a porch and small garden. After the baby, seeming so small, confined and darkly hemmed by apartments, offices, overhanging trees.

--Background: Heat rising in ripples from the pavement along the long broad drive in front of their house. Floating like vague ghosts; up from the hood of the candy apple red Audi that Dragan was driving

--Dim light in cold air, as though filtering through water. Driving away from the gas station, the wind buffets and the vortex whirls. Wind pushes in such gusts from behind, she has to keep pressing the brake to slow the car, which shimmies in wind-bursts. Snow covered cars in ditches. A girl appears in the middle of the road.

--A small rural road with a yellow light shining about a mile along it. The snow piles higher, minute by minute. Drifts up past the ankles of Angela and the Girl. Wind chisels between legs. Pant hems drag on top of the snow and are sodden. The fields on each side like lumpen blankets piled one atop the other. The light ahead, begins to change from a small yellow spot, into a series of illuminations in varying hues of orange and white. Windows. Ploughing through the snow under a window, trying to run, lifting tall flat boots high above the snow with every step. The lights snap off.

--A river valley, cutting at times between walls of rock that weep fine black ice. A cow in the river, water slushes its belly. Fences downed by the storm.

--Two red sequins wink up ahead; festive through the haze of pushing snow Two split into four, then divide into eight. Their numbers grow. They scatter like cake sprinkles, expand and grow into circles. A shiny, wide bumper connects two of the dots, and the rear of a truck appears. More glittering sequins disappear and become vehicles. Another truck. A car. More and more. Everywhere. Some driving slowly, but most strewn, in odd places. Two vans in the ditch. A car, on the road, turned onto its roof. A pickup, lights on, idles on its side against a shed in the field. Cows everywhere. Silver pleats, which moments ago were an SUV, press against a slab of dark metal standing at the edge of the road. The slab is the top of a truck cab turned onto its side. The cab’s trailer has scissored, split away and slid. Cattle spill out of the back of the trailer.

--A bus full of accident victims. At the top of the steps lies a man, badly broken, bleeding onto the rough rubber floor. Bodies lying up the aisle. Some face up, some down. An awful stench. Dim lighting above the seats illuminates people sitting, lying, half prostrate; heads propped against cold windows, some drooping into the aisle. Blood on the ground, on the walls, dripping from seats. Cries and weeping.

--Background: Remnants of the evening sun glance in low arcs off the polished tops of cars that line the drive. People in her house. In the dining room. An elegant dinner party.

--Background: Flickering pumpkins seeming to chuckle, one to the other, atop the semi-circle steps that fanned down and away outside their front entrance. Above the stoop a porch light with glowing amber bulb, and swathed in reams of delicate fall leaves. Furtive movements in the dark. Small fluttering shadows dashing and skittered along the walks. Costumes rustling.

--Something flutters in the tossing snow, crosses the road. Flaps and rises. Lifts off then settles down again. Like a little ghost wafting along on the road. The wind tears into it, billows it out. It flies across the road, white and luminous.

--The first signs of the suburbs, large throbbing street lamps appear intermittently above the expanding freeway, hum like drones overhead, then retreat gently into the distance. It’s still daytime. Light, sifting like motes through the shifting white air, is dim and eerie. The slick road appears ahead like a river running. A flashing hill directly ahead. Overhead. Aglow with warning lights. No cars at the bottom, none stopped and waiting for their turn. At the very top nothing is moving. Brake lights flash like a massive marquee, but the words are jumbled, the message misspelled

--Along the ditch, boot-toes teeter on grit and ice crystals. Empty cars. Doors hang open. A baby’s seat. Empty. The road is lined with cars; three jammed lanes of them, all heading north. Huge signs swing over the gas station, along with flags that snap and pop high, like the sails of a galleon tossing at sea. The digital lights on the gas tanks are off. No read-outs. Dumpsters. Filth. Grease from the garage, food from the store. On a mound, garbage all around: hub caps, smeared rags, eaten donuts. The top of a beer bottle. A box cutter clangs in the trash.

--Background: The Costa Rican sky with smears of cloud swabbing wisps of white into ice-blue air. Huge waves heave and smash. Surfers, like rubber ducks, bob and toss, some swim for surfboards, others paddle. The face of the wave is steep and rough. Below the waves, vague puckerings of twisting sunlight braid through upward swaying reeds. Soft, shimmering, green-tinged incandescence bursts under the sea. Weeds and algae grow on the rocks and flows from them.

--No traffic on the southbound lane. An overpass through the mist. A concrete footing.

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Joined: 12 Mar 2018, 05:40

Re: Seven Short Assignments for NYC Pitch Attendees

#23 Post by BMFLFH2018 » 12 Mar 2018, 23:28

An inner monologue of a woman in search of womanhood in the the various stages and roles in her life as defined by the collision of ethnicity, class and societal consciousness.

Growing up under the gaze of a Washington, DC community of strong, but struggling African American single mothers, Lisa, ever the tomboy, was conflicted with the reality of her world of pretty women going off to their safe, government jobs and version of femininity in images everywhere else. She didn’t know what she wanted, she just wanted more then what she saw. Shyly uncomfortable with any attention as a developing young adult and her boobs aka 'the girls', she emerges into adulthood, never a “girly girl", and waiting for the magical life moment that would change her from sneakers to a high heels way of thinking. Years later, living in NYC, did she discover on her journey through dating, marriage and motherhood that brought voyeuristic views of the good life and its bad sides of human behavior and how gender, ethnicity and economics play a visible role in everyday life. In the concrete chaos of New York City an unmasking of her own truths and heightened society’s perceptions with the funniest parts being an outsider looking in for a version of self. An adaptation from her "bare and revealing" theatrical work, this story is a roller coaster of conscious social commentary that has been described as “a collision of white and black, sex and virtue, wildly funny and insightful.”

Theater Title: Black Mother Funny
- Portraiture in Four Parts
-The Truly Humorous Musings of a Woman in search of Womanhood
-The Evolution of Me

Semi autobiographical narrative non fiction:
-Blown Sideways Through Life by Claudia Shear (a look at a life always searching)
-Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed (part memoir/everyday lives lay bare)

A shy tomboy grows up and moves to Manhattan's Upper West Side where crossing lines in marriage and motherhood turned her world upside down also filling it with more questions than answers.

Feeling left behind as a child of an early divorce, Lisa never had a dream to being a mother. As a person of color and now stay at home mom in the Upper West Sides mommy-set where economic, gender and ethnicity perceptions are obstacles of division and the host of women she encounters at most times as the only brown face in the room. Dating/Marrying outside skin tones, Northern Girl marries Southern boy- 'Guess Who's Coming to Dinner', Being stalked at the playground being mistaken as the nanny to steal away and not the child's mother. Observations of the world within to find humor in the pain. An elemental conflict of a woman vs. society as she navigates live as a child, young adult, marriage and motherhood in stream of consciousness .

Growing up in D.C and then living and loving in Manhattan's Upper West Side where the couple starts a family coupled with a fear of the unknown and not a role model in sight. The variety of women she meets in her life, particularly when motherhood forces interactions with the mom gangs, working mom vs. stay at home mom, 'I'm not the Nanny', hot dad vs. old dad at the playground, playgroups with "that one kid", parent birthday party babblespeak and how she keeps looking for the path of self and the code of womanhood.

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Joined: 13 Mar 2018, 17:39

Re: Seven Short Assignments for NYC Pitch Attendees

#24 Post by EmmaTSchrider » 14 Mar 2018, 01:04

Earn the name of her husband’s murderer and kill him.

The story opens with the loss of her husband that robs our main character, Mrs. Jordan, of purpose and even the will to live. Michelle Renalde, the cold and calculating CEO of the mercenary agency known as The Company, offers Jordan the identity of her husband’s shooter and the training she'll need to repay them in kind. Michelle claims to be a sympathetic shoulder to grieve on as she herself is a widow, robbed of her beloved when he was falsely accused of treason. Offering Jordan a devil’s bargain, Michelle holds the information over her, using her as an indentured gun while transforming Jordan into the killer she is told she must become. After killing her husband’s murderer, Jordan discovers that the mark she’d been given as payment was not in fact the person responsible. Jordan discovers that Michelle is not who she seems and that her dangerous obsessions and twisted grief have drawn Jordan into danger that she will not escape.

The Bereaved
The Forlorn Hopeful
The Widow’s Company


Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn-

Flynn creates a sweeping thriller out of our world as it is, without fantasy and without the rosy tinted lens. Were someone to claim that the world she tells her story in is not reality, I would claim that they don’t look deeply at the world. I make an effort, as Flynn does, to tell a tale that not only explores the dark world outside the window, but also behind the eyes of someone who could easily exist.

Woman of the Dead by Bernhard Aichner-

Like Aichner’s depiction of a revenge obsessed female main character, Mrs. Jordan’s story does not shy away from the psychological ravages of the experience of loss. Also similar in that the plot is gritty and at times bloody, neither character can be fully comprehended without insight into their personal experience of gore and horror.

A gifted young widow makes a devil’s bargain with a philanthropic criminal while searching for her husband’s murderer, risking her life and her humanity to exact her revenge.


Jordan experiences overwhelming grief when her husband tragically dies and is unable to conceive of returning to her life alone. In the weeks after his death, she comes to believe that moving on would dishonor their love. She experiences severe guilt as her journey to acceptance begins and she rejects recovery, becoming hopeless and suicidal. When she is given the chance by Michelle and The Company to continue living but never move on, she takes it, no questions asked but fears that she will not be able to earn her chance at revenge.


As a heist is being planned, Jordan meets Milo, a man who will be part of the team she will rely on to accomplish her mission and return alive. During the planning phase, Milo has his chance for revenge, and after completing his personal mission kills himself in his bunk. Jordan learns as she carries on bonding with the Company members, becoming close with several of them, that above all else they seek what she seeks. Revenge. When the lengths you are prepared to go to have no limits, she reasons, can she rely on her new teammates?


Beginning with a gripping description of a car crash and a sterile hospital, Jordan’s story moves through a brief respite in a comfortable suburb complete with strip malls and elementary schools. As it becomes clear that Jordan has no interest in recuperating, she leaves her life behind and heads to The Company’s isolated compound. Deep in the desert camouflaged by wavy sandstone, the home base of Company operations hides, training its grief-stricken members in its state of the art shooting range and large hand to hand combat ring. When the seasoned operators and shaky beginners aren’t pushing themselves on the track they are running themselves through complicated paths on the cavernous climbing wall or resting tired bodies in the common room, playing pool and swilling gin. No matter what, they are under Michelle’s watchful eye.

After she is trained, Jordan her team venture into the world, arriving first at a heavily secured facility with a tricky biometric door.

Next, she and several others fight through ricocheted shrapnel, dodging between shipping containers and even becoming trapped in a traffic tower in a shipyard shootout.

On a midnight run to a countryside mainframe facility, she works under heavy fire and in a cloud of toxic gas, hacking a firewall with a bullet riddled corpse as company.

The air ducts of a city high-rise are the stage when a mission goes wrong, placing two characters in close quarters for hours, leading to the whispered revelation of the darkest Company secret of all.

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Joined: 05 Mar 2018, 22:18

Re: Seven Short Assignments for NYC Pitch Attendees

#25 Post by redkmorgan » 14 Mar 2018, 01:33

Number One: Story Statement.

Resist his inner demon and protect his friends.

Number Two: Antagonist Sketch.

Lilith. A dark goddess out of hazy legend, ancient beyond measure and long ago stripped of all trace of humanity, has returned in the modern world. Of all the gods and heroes of the distant past, only she has survived, largely because she murdered all of her competition. When the world of myth returns in the modern age, both gods and monsters reborn as ordinary humans, she will rise up once more to seek two things: dominion over all that breathes and the return of her long-lost love, Cain, son of Adam. Her mind broken by the passage of ten thousand years, she has become a childish creature of impulsive destruction, yet still she drives toward these goals with relentless determination. When Lilith encounters a young man who cannot be bought or intimidated, a man whose power she desperately needs, she will not hesitate to threaten all he holds dear in order to gain his obedience and wipe away a world she no longer recognizes.

Number Three: Breakout Title

Black Dog
Trial by Fire

Number Four: Genre and Comparable Titles

My work falls within the category of Young Adult Fantasy. Two titles comparable to my work are Cassandra Clare’s The Mortal Instruments series, and Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson novels.

Like Riordan, my work concerns the injection of an average young person into the world of ancient mythology, and a colorful portrayal of classic legendary characters. The world I created is darker, however, aimed at a young adult audience as opposed to Riordan’s middle-grade audience, and the protagonist is presented as burdened with an evil destiny, as opposed to a heroic one.

Like Clare, my work is a young adult fantasy novel closely grounded to real physical locations in the modern day, with supernatural elements of plot and setting acting as exaggerations and accents to realistic people and places. Clare’s work also portrays a similar strong romantic element, weaving together a single relationship as both an emotional touchstone for the protagonist as well as significant narrative motivation.

Number Five: Primary Conflict Statement

Thrust into the world of Norse mythology, a young man must rise above his inner demon to save the life of his beloved from an ancient evil.

Number Six: Secondary Conflicts

The inner conflict of my protagonist is driven by the realization that he is the reincarnation of Surtur, the apocalyptic fire god of Norse mythology. Significant anxiety and self-doubt are triggered by stimuli both internal and external. An example would be the sight of an old Nordic runestone, which would trigger a latent, traumatic memory of the character’s past life, which proceeds to the character suffering anxiety as he doubts his own reality and tries to maintain his own identity.

This internal struggle to escape the past mirrors the character’s simultaneous struggle to socially escape from the shadow of his father, a violent man whose life ended in prison. This family situation causes the protagonist to be outcast and feared in his hometown, labelled a ‘burnout’ and expected to end up just as his father did. A hypothetical example would be unfriendly students at his high school taunting him about his father, trying to provoke him into fighting and thus getting in trouble with the school authorities.

Number Seven: Setting

My work is a fantasy novel firmly grounded in the real world of the modern day. Beginning in a small town in northern Minnesota, the protagonist is quickly transported first to a Chinese megacity, then to the frozen wilds of Iceland, and finally to a Cold War bunker beneath Denmark. The key setting is this bunker: nicknamed ‘Asgard’ after the Nordic realm of the gods, it is hidden beneath an overstuffed bookshop on the outskirts of Copenhagen. Upon making one’s way through the towers of antique manuscripts and riding a mirror-walled elevator down into the earth, one emerges into a vast underground forest that acts as home, school, and command center for the reincarnated Viking gods, complete with odd stones, strange creatures and a labyrinth of hidden tunnels left over from the bunker’s first incarnation as a nuclear shelter.

The central idea behind my choice and depiction of these settings was exaggerated reality: adding an extra, supernatural dimension to real-world locations that were simultaneously exciting and easily identified. For example, placing a magical underground forest within the aforementioned bunker, or depicting the Norse World Tree as jutting through an ancient glacier. This draws the reader into the world more fully, allowing them to be carried away by epic mountains, crashing seas, and dark forest clearings, without the jading effect of a fully fantastic setting.

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