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Re: NYC Pitch Conference - Seven Assignments
Posted: 12 Dec 2018, 19:57
1. The Act of Story Statement. A young man and woman driving to the coast in the middle of hurricane season engage in a superficial conversation about love and the weather, all the while the young man’s mind goes in and out of memories, dreams and poetry he has kept inside for much of his life. There are two stories going on here:
a. On the surface it is very simple – can the protagonist get the girl and recover their lost love?
b. Beneath the surface, the young man uses dreams, visions and poetry to sustain himself as he confronts some very difficult situations in his life including a failed relationship involving an abortion, an oppressive childhood that included poverty, ethnic differences (he is a Mexican American who grew up in the South), religious fundamentalism and physical abuse by his father.
a. Antagonist 1: She has a boyfriend. He is also her boss, and he used his position of authority to become her friend and gain her trust, he supported and advanced her career and then announced his love for her as she achieved her greatest success. He is successful, wealthy, well educated, and driven by money and ambition. He likes the brightness she seems to bring into his life. He has proposed to her, and she is considering it. She likes the allure of his “white-bread” world. She sees the possibility of financial freedom and prosperity.
b. Antagonist 2: the young man is really battling himself. He has done what he needs to survive, but he has yet to unleash his creative ability. Can he learn to accept and love himself?
3. Breakout Title:
a. Yet Shall I Give You Rivers
b. It is Hot, We are Walking
c. The Water Beneath
4. Comparables and why. This story is autobiographical fiction, a genre-blending work of magical realism told in a series of vignettes and poems. Some comparable works could include the following:
a. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr – moving story told in beautiful poetic prose vignettes
b. Winter by Karl Ove Knausgaard – autobiographical collection of vignettes and thoughts told in beautiful prose
c. Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez – magical realism story of love in Latin America told in sweeping prose with moments of poetic beauty
5. Conflict Line: A young man overcomes hardship by holding onto visions and beautiful words of poetry that come to him in dreams, but he has yet to find true love.
6. Inner Conflict: he must come to terms with the realities of his life: an oppressive childhood, which included poverty, religious fundamentalism, socio-cultural differences and physical abuse at the hands of his father, and difficult love relationships, including an abortion
a. Secondary Conflicts:
i. The young man’s failed relationships are a stark contrast to the stories of idyllic redemptive love he has heard about his grandparents. The death of his grandmother triggers a great deal of emotion and shows he has held onto an ideal of her life as a way of dealing with difficult times.
ii. He has an interesting relationship with his brothers, as they have made him tough. He is so tough, we later learn, that he has even taken their punishments from their abusive father. In one of his poems which begins as a prayer for his brothers, he hears the voice speaking directly to him, and he breaks.
7. Setting: the story uses multiple settings which create an interesting backdrop to each scene and create a sense of movement
a. The car driving to the coast
b. The man’s childhood driving with his brothers and sisters
c. A desert highway of West Texas
d. A party where he meets his ex-girlfriend
e. His bedroom
f. A backyard cookout on the salt creek
g. At school, and on the playground
h. Hampton, Virginia, his hometown
i. In his boyhood - on the playground and in his driveway playing basketball
j. The abortion clinic, then her apartment
k. The desert highway in West Texas
l. The hotel where they are staying on their way to the coast
m. a house in Veracruz, Mexico. Then in Comalcalco Tabasco Mexico
n. The woods where his brothers are camping
o. His childhood bed, where he is getting beaten by his father. His room, looking in the mirror
p. Her uncle’s beach house
Re: NYC Pitch Conference - Seven Assignments
Posted: 12 Dec 2018, 21:58
Act of Story Statement
An autistic boy in a surveillance state who might be gaining mythic powers tries to join a gang.
Diverse children become something more than human to preserve a remnant of the species through the end of the world.
Trying to establish his rep in the criminal world, a young bully who preys on loneliness and perceived weakness drives the protagonist to join a gang where a real monster, twisted from trauma and too early time inside, awaits as an authority. This monster, who has the security and companionship this boy lacks, also knows the truth of the boy’s missing past and forgotten family.
An ancient Court of semimortal metahumans have been oppressively orchestrating human history from the shadows while reincarnatively leapfrogging through time. The colonialist faction of the Court led by Ra/Adam/Reuel, since the coup during events that would become known as the Council of Nicea and the burning of the Library of Alexandria, has pursued a eugenic breeding program to cultivate hosts with a broader range of metabilities, developing first the slave trade, then the modern surveillance state child snatching apparatus.
1. Sanity Games
2. The Boy Without
3. A Crowded Mind
1. Secret Chronicles of the Coherence
2. A Private Prehistory
Sanity Games is a coming of age urban mythic fantasy in the vein of Ibi Zoboi’s American Street, albeit through an autistic lens rather than Haitian-American immigrant and pushed into a near future cyberpunk setting reminiscent of Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother series to further explore issues of trust and control at both the individual and societal levels.
Violent encounters with a local bully convince a homeless autistic boy to join a rival street gang for a measure of security and companionship, but the gang lieutenant who has recognized him is sabotaging his efforts by setting the boy up for the bully.
By disrupting a local gang that was a feeder for the eugenic breeding program, the diverse kids who are discovering their new abilities pull on a thread that threatens to unravel the plan that has been centuries in the making — a reboot of the human species over which the Court will rule as actual gods.
The protagonist has an internal trialogue and three distinct internal avatars representing his Executive Self, Cognitive Self, and Emotional Self (though not identified as such) occupying his mindcave, a mental construct modeled on his underground dwelling. Upon awakening underground without any memories, he begins rebuilding his understanding of the world, discovering that while he doesn’t have memories, he does have expectations and familiarities. When things begin happening in his mind and in his life that don’t match his expectations (his inner avatars begin demonstrating abilities that seem to affect his external reality, eg.), his avatars discuss how he feels and thinks about events, and how he will act. Though secondary in nature, this conflict is the central focus of the protagonist in this first novel. The mechanism of the internal trialogue is how the boy processes learning to trust himself, then learning to trust others, then learning to trust information, and so on, over the course of the series.
The protagonist is autistic, and unaware of that fact, attributing his social missteps to his missing memories. He has highly developed social masking skills, courtesy of a doting older sister who had loved musical theater, and though the memory of the training is as gone as the sister is, the skills remain. Change in topics and unexpected events fluster him, and he becomes increasingly non-verbal the more there is to try and attend to. He has more difficulty in places where he is expected to know how to behave, like stores or restaurants, than he does in places where it is obvious he doesn’t fit, like the gang headquarters where other kids explain unwritten rules to him. Later in the series it is discovered that the tighter neural pathways in autistic brains allow for denser synaptic layering, which has ramifications in metability development .
In the distant future humanity has become a polydimensional hyperintelligence capable of discrete individualized incarnations, molding Spacetime and cultivating worlds and species the way humans once had gardens and pets. On one world beneath miles of ice is a cabin with a collection of written texts that claim to contain the true history of humanity’s origin, that the Foundational Narrative of the shared memory Archive is a careful lie for specific reasons that will become clear, perhaps, upon reading. This anonymous historian will proceed to relate this story of street warfare and sex trafficking and abuse to a post-violence human collective, as an explanation of how we got from this brutality to that coherent unity. The author claims to have this report from a survivor of the events, who built the cabin before the planet froze but has since left.
The First Age, the Wolf Age, was the first and only true War for the World. There were once 6 cognitively aware species of life on Earth. Something remarkable happened and the balances of power on the planet, across the very fabric of Spacetime itself, shifted as something emerged. Cohered. The first of the Talented Awoke. They began leading, organizing at a much faster rate. The Sapien Champions were the first to reach the 3rd Coherence, allowing them access to what became the Ritual of Return. It took them less than 1,000 years to conquer the world, eradicating every other intelligent species on the planet. Florens (hobbitish), Neanders (dwarfish), Rhodesians (gnomish), Denisovs (elfish), and the Idaltu (goblinish), now nothing more than ghosts in Sapien genetic code, for they were hardly chaste in their genocide. After the war, the Champions declared their intention to retire from the world, promising to return. Leading the survivors of their last army off, crossing mountains and rivers, the Champions followed the strange band of energy they could see in their minds until they reached at last the Northern Sea. The strong line they followed continued out over the sea, and so seacraft did they build, and they carried on until they saw the Island rising from the mist, and other rich lines converging. They landed and set to carving a home for Talented for generations. A’Talantia.
The Second Age, the A’Talantian Golden Age, ended in the First Schism of the Court. After millennia isolated from the world in their city of wonder, they argued as to how best to guide the development of the endarkend. A very vocal minority wanted to stay isolated and became fractious over the matter. Loki tweaked the Web of Life to allow more Natural Awakenings abroad. Disagreements escalated into violence, and lives were lost. The Schism culminated in the Shearing, splitting the scandinavian peninsula and dropping a shelf into the ocean, splitting A’Talantia right down the middle in the resulting earthquake before the sweeping, tsunamic floods washed the entire isle down to a shallow bed of silt resting meters beneath the Northern Sea. The surviving Court reintegrated with the rest of the human population, moving down to the Nile River Valley. In a much more hands-on approach than the distant dream-seeded nudges from A’Talantia, the Court decided to test three distinct socio-cultural developmental models. They sent Sovereigns back north, and to the furthest east, with enough support to both survive and manage stable transitions.
The Third Age, the Divergent Age, ended shortly after the Reunification in the Second Schism, an argument centered around whether the long term goal of the Court’s shepherding of the human species was to Awaken them all or to keep them sub-able. The inclusivists were betrayed by those closest to them, their faction hunted into obscurity, their Libraries, Laboratories, and Universities burned, the accumulated knowledge of ages rendered but a thick layer of ash, returned to the soil with the next cycle of rains.
The Fourth Age, the Enshaden Age, is an age of power and control, as the court orchestrates the development of humanity through their intermedieries, Prospects who hope to earn Promotion to the Court, the opportunity to host a Return wherein the strong might emerge as the preeminent volitional force empowered with metabilities and a kind of access to centuries of Coherent information. Natural Awakenings are hunted with ferocity to prevent the exiled Lights from gathering and developing any organized resistance.
The Enshaden Court stirred the Redcap Uprisings, in the wake of which the American Reformation produced a surveillance state with Citizens and visitors logged into a digital Registry to be tracked by ubiquitous facial scanners. Everything from food to sidewalk access is now Taxed via face-scan according to one’s Registry Tier in realtime. Registration and Taxation are enforced by the nationalized police, the Citizenship, Housing & Logistics Authority — the Chill. Children are subject to the Tax once Registered, and families who cannot meet their Tax have their children taken to the Icebox, the ominous processing facility for wards of the state.
Seattle was little harmed in the Uprisings beyond the Ballard Burn and the small Scar. The black orbs that are the face scanners (and also access points for the Taxable internet) are nestled across the city. Delivery drones fill the airlanes above the street grid, and touch-interface digital glass storefronts allow Citizens to tap out orders for food or weather appropriate accessories, etc, and have the parcel dropped to them further down the block. Molecular fabricators, Moleculators, have shifted production profit priorities to proprietary materials and decomposable digital blueprints. The protagonist lives under the city in a smugglers den from the Prohibition era, navigating from the tunnels and abandoned subterranean streets to the close-packed downtown rooftops to minimize the complications of social interactions he doesn’t understand.
The Enshaden Court is nearing their endgame. They pushed fossil fuels until the oceans rose, letting them install the Geo-Balancing Safety Network, a series of nuclear reactors converted into carbon sinks and salination sleeves ringing the polar caps, which allows for fine climactic control. From the dawn of the intercontinental slave trade through its modern evolutions the Court has been running a eugenic breeding program to increase the frequency of the power sets linked to the genetic code of the eradicated species, and they have almost mapped the full metability skill tree onto a single genome. The few remaining steps in their plan are well under way.
But the Quarantine has broken. The youth Awaken once more. As was foretold, the great Lights of the past will walk among humans once more before the fires.
Re: NYC Pitch Conference - Seven Assignments
Posted: 12 Dec 2018, 23:06
Act of story statement
A young college professor must save himself from the ghost of Hoke Smith.
Antagonist plots the point
Hoke Smith Avenue is the antagonist in my story.
Hoke Smith was Georgia’s governor from 1907-1909 and, then, again in 1911. Governor Smith was a white supremacist who believed that African-Americans required “kindly direction from the white man.” Who believed that the “white man must control by some means or life could not be worth living.” And who’s history my family calls their own.
So, Hoke Smith’s avenue—where I’ve spent a lot of time—is my antagonist. Hoke Smith Avenue represents everything I don’t want to be. This short street in rural Georgia is the antagonistic force that drives my story. The force of white paternalism—the gentle bigotry of status quo(ness) from which I often benefit and from which I sometimes fall victim.
Conjuring your breakout title
Breakout title: Hoke Smith Avenue
Other titles: Ideal isn’t so ideal to me
In the long shadow of the water tower
Deciding your genre and approaching comparables
All You Can Ever Know (Nicole Chung).
Nicole Chung’s book is an examination of identity. So, the book is “vital reading for anyone who has ever struggled to figure out where they belong.” My project is a memoir of political self that answers the question who am I as a means for unpacking who we are—which is ultimately a question of belongingness.
Heartland: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth (Sarah Smarsh).
Sarah Smarsh’s book combines memoir with extensive research about the socioeconomic context surrounding her story. Heartland is “a beautifully written memoir that combines personal narrative with powerful analysis and cultural commentary.” My project does something similar—examines, through introspection, how place and history shape who we are.
Considering the primary conflict
A young college professor is haunted by his past and must figure out a way to escape it.
Two more levels of conflict
Internal conflict -
Who am I? Sometimes I know who I am; other times, I don’t. Though I’m never lost, I’m never really found either. My project is about looking into the mirror, facing the mystery of the history and places that formed me, and, then, trying to figure out how to define myself in a way that’s divorced from those realities—which, of course, is an impossible task.
Hypothetical scenario -
One night, while watching TV at my parent’s lake house, my mom decided to talk about school integration. Mom, who came of age in southern Mississippi in the 1950s and 1960s, believes America was greater in those days than in these days. We were watching a school profile on the evening news when she turned to me and said, “You know. Everyone was better off before they integrated the schools. No one wanted it. We would have less problems these days if we could just go back to the way things were.”
I decided it was time go to bed and left the room. The next day we didn’t talk about what she had said. It was like it never happened.
This is how deal with my family—by not talking; by avoiding what’s put out on the table. And this, of course, is how become someone I don’t want to be. I’m consumed by the hegemonic force that is niceness.
Incredible importance of setting
Ideal is a town of 400 people in Southwest Georgia. It’s the place where my grandfather owned three houses, where my sister and her family lives, and the place where we have our farm.
Ideal is where I ride the red dirt with my dad—surveying cotton; walking timbers. It’s the place where one November night I laid with my girlfriend in the bed of a pickup truck, looked up at the starred sky, and snuggled into forever.
Ideal is the place where my daughter took her first tractor ride. It’s the place where CSX wakes you up every half-hour and blurs into your dreams. And it’s the place where my nephews laugh hard as they run from the grass to the sky. So, Ideal is a happy place.
But Ideal is something else.
Ideal is the place where I killed my first and only deer. The place where the lifeless look the deer gave me when I loaded it into the back of my dad’s truck—blood dripping down the tailgate—still haunts me. And it’s the place where my sister hangs Christian crosses next to Confederate emblems on the second floor of her house.
Ideal is the place where we held my grandfather’ s funeral. It’s the place where I often think why am I here. And it’s the place where Hoke Smith Avenue sits. The place where America’s past continues to haunt our present. It’s a place that tortures me—a place where no one should be.
Ideal. It’s the place where a silver, drum barrel-looking water tower says: “Ideal. The only ideal city in Georgia.” But it’s also the place where water towers cast a long, cold shadows.
Re: NYC Pitch Conference - Seven Assignments
Posted: 13 Dec 2018, 02:50
1. Story Statement
Alexandra must understand and overcome the monster inside.
At first it appears that Alexandra is up against her brother Ted, or even her dysfunctional family, but when we meet her she’s about to liberate herself from them. The real antagonist is infinitely more insidious and rears its pernicious head a bit further into the story. It’s the bipolar disorder no one knows she is burdened with, showing its true colors at the worst moment possible: the first time Alex is living on her own, in a place that’s entirely foreign to her. The disease typically presents itself during adolescence. By taking her on manic rollercoaster rides or into periods of depression it effectively sabotages any chance she has of making a career for herself as an actress, or even living a normal life. Alex has no idea what’s going on. How can you defeat an enemy when that enemy is your own brain?
Her mania drives her to perform acts of extreme impulsivity, and she starts self-medicating with narcotics. The most debilitating quality of her disorder are the psychoses it induces, of which she has no recollection afterwards. The worse she feels, the more she needs drugs to pick her up, which in turn bring about even more psychotic episodes. It’s a vicious cycle and a vicious disease which she can never outrun.
3. Breakout titles
- LA Diary or The Dark Side of the Sun
- Country without Limits
- Tar Pits and Supernovas
Genre: Literary Fiction, possibly New Adult.
- The Fault in our Stars by John Green. A celebration of life despite the pain and confusion and obstacles life throws at us. The tone of voice is similar, written in first person as well. A lethal disease gets in the way of life, which is true for many mental diseases too.
- My Absolute Darling by Gabriel Tallent. Similar in that it is also about a young heroine who has closed herself off because of events that happened during her childhood or in the family situation. Like Turtle, Alexandra has learned to hide her emotions, in order to not get hurt. Although LA Diary has a more conversational tone, Alex’s lowest moments can be painful to read as well.
- Less than Zero by Brett Easton Ellis. Although published way back in 1985, I felt I needed to include this novel, because of the many similarities between this story and mine, most importantly the setting. Los Angeles is the backdrop, and can even be regarded as a character in the story. The tone of voice is comparable, and in first person, the age range of the protagonist is similar, the drug abuse. Less than Zero is set in 80’s LA whereas my book is set in the 90’s, both offering a picture of the respective decades.
All my comparables are strongly character driven, as is my story.
5. Conflict line
A young woman with a problematic past tries to make a life for herself on another continent while her undiagnosed mental disorder has its onset.
6. Other levels of conflict
Secondary conflict: her dysfunctional family. An older brother who made up fictive situations, making her uncertain about which of her childhood memories are real and which ones only happened in his imagination. And is this relevant? For her, the memories are there.
Her mercurial and self-absorbed father and the failure of the mother to be there for her when she needed it the most, created in her a tendency to hide and suppress her emotions. As a young girl, she was thwarted in the expression of her feelings, so the only way to deal with them is through acting.
Did the aspects of her childhood help create the mental disorder she is now suffering from? Yes, it is genetic, her father turns out to have the same disorder, but how much of its actual manifestation can be ascribed to the stressful situations her brother played out with her and the unavailability of her parents?
The failure of the parents to really see their daughter, make her want to become famous, “so people will finally see me”. She doesn’t trust her brother and has learned not to expect help from her parents.
Internal conflict: coming to terms with her habit to flee all situations or people that are not serving her anymore, or are uncomfortable. Burn her bridges. Her task is to learn to face up to them. She uses acting or even making up people as an escape from reality and her own emotions.
Her ultimate challenge consists of coming to grips with her disease, not escaping or suppressing it by using drugs, sex or alcohol, and deciding how to deal with it in a carefully weighed way. Her final decision regarding her disease comes from a place of strength and acceptance. Unlike the impulsive actions incited by her disease, her final act is thoroughly contemplated and deemed the right and only course to take.
Los Angeles is the setting for this story, and with good reason. No other city so clearly personifies bipolarity. The extremes that can be found in the city, the best and the worst, with its hysterical fame and the manic excitement that surrounds the movie industry, while at the same time harboring the lowest you can go, the inhuman living circumstances of Skid Row, epitomize the highs and lows of manic depression. The most derelict concrete living quarters can be found in relative proximity to breathtaking wilderness and mansions with sprawling gardens.
For a person of a certain mental instability, Los Angeles is one of the most dramatic settings, because of its intensity. It has the ability to jar even stable minds, and getting lost in it, either because of lack of money or lack of sanity, is a perilous undertaking. Safety nets are non-existent.
The city is a character in the book, and could be regarded both as an additional antagonistic force, because of the above mentioned intensity, and as a lover. She is always there, mostly in the background, mirroring the protagonist’s shifting highs and lows, thrusting her ever higher and lower, as if she is riding the waves of a tempestuous ocean. Alex feels the connection with the city so strongly she knows she can never leave. Like the city that needs the extremes to give rise to creativity, Alex needs her highs and lows to know she is alive.
Los Angeles also works well as an opposite for the moderate, safe and small country of The Netherlands.
Re: NYC Pitch Conference - Seven Assignments
Posted: 13 Dec 2018, 10:32
Lauren, a fun-loving Hollywood socialite, always finds love in all the wrong places and needs to determine if her hard-partying ways with bad boys and gay men will help her find herself, or end in disaster. Unknown to Lauren, maladroit, Asian ancestors guide intrusively from above.
Lauren’s antagonists are the men she is helplessly drawn to, those who are damaged, broken beings, who rely on others for stability and are unable to take accountability for their spiral. The antagonistic force is her addictive need to heal such men who are weakened by their own addictions, sacrificing her own development. Such characters tend to be magnetic, incredibly intelligent, suffering from a stilted upbringing and outwardly seeking any panacea.
Little Girl Los Angeles
Woes of a West Hollywood Fruit Fly; Woes of a WeHo Fruit Fly
Love, Lust, Los(s) Angeles
1) Fans of both the literary and cinematic smash, Kevin Kwan’s CRAZY RICH ASIANS might enjoy a another culturally-bent romp, where the protagonists are unintentionally funny in their flaws and guided by the thumb of their ancestral roots and ethnic idiosyncrasies, for better or worse.
2) Readers who enjoyed Jade Chang’s THE WANGS VS THE WORLD will find a similar reinvention of the self in the American experience, where one is wholly identified by their failures yet given a chance to rise again, told in the only way one with an Asian background rife with Tiger Moms and underperforming overachievers can.
TIGHT(ish) CONFLICT LINE
After her boyfriend’s drug overdose, a Hollywood party girl must overcome the need to define her worth from the success in saving others who are just as equally broken.
INNER CONFLICT SKETCH
A defining moment for the protagonist’s intense inner conflict comes about when she drives recklessly, lost in thought over the man she is engaged to and who has just hit her in fury because she tried to commit suicide. Her car cycles uncontrollably and she ends up smashed in a ditch. Upon emerging miraculously unscathed, she realizes that she is alone, that no one can save her and that there is no easy way out of messes like these.
There are two main settings.
The first is the world in which the protagonist lives -- the vibrant and impulsive city of dreams, Los Angeles/Hollywood. Characters live and die in the same breath, as shiny, youthful whim overshadows discovering one’s purpose and growth. Yet you’re always someone’s bitch no matter how free you feel. The protagonist learns this from such characters like: sociopathic models dating D-list celebrities; beautiful men with the rare baggage of an actress/LSD addict/incarcerated sword wielder trifecta who comes to pay a visit; a struggling actor best friend who abusively builds her up only to tear her down. As seductive as the free alcohol and the velvet VIP ropes opening to her beckon, there’s a very conscious need to return home. In the beginning, she lives with protective gay friends who build a fabulous idea of home, one that she mysteriously eschews when it starts to get too comfortable.
The second world thrives with the grandparents chosen to guide the protagonist, where they straddle Heaven and the cursed Middle Kingdom. Symbols from their mahjongg tiles come to life as they pursue such signs to know how to guide her next. While some tiles reveal beauty and promise, others spell out doom with unlucky associations and numbers, and the ancestors endure the consequences. Barren landscapes appear and steal their breath, while aging them the closer they draw to the protagonist to make an impact. Time and space wobble as a fluid entity when things begin to grow wildly unstable for the protagonist, ultimately lending an opportunity for the grandparents to make headway through.
Other key settings are: the protagonist’s childhood home, the home where her mother almost died when the protagonist was just born and where she returns to for Sunday dinners; the protagonist’s condo just outside of LA, which she abandoned for a time after her boyfriend died in it, and which she endeavors to rebuild as she rebuilds herself; Hong Kong, which is the city of her guiding grandparents and lends a few pivotal scenes where either Lauren suffers its judgmental swelter, or the grandparents find a unique and momentary bridge back to the real world to connect.