Seven Assignments for New York Pitch and Seminar Writers

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 Assignments for New York Pitch and Seminar Writers

#1 Post by WritersBlock » 09 Oct 2020, 02:14

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, core wound, and setting.

Quiet novels do not sell. Keep that in mind.

Michael Neff
NYC Pitch Conference Director

Instructions for Posting Responses

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

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



Before you begin to consider or rewrite your story premise, you must develop a simple "story statement." In other words, what's the mission of your protagonist? Their goal? What must be done? What must she or he create? Destroy? Save? Accomplish? Defeat?

:!: Defy the dictator of the city and bury brother’s body (ANTIGONE)?
:!: Place a bet that will shake up the asylum (ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST)?
:!: Do whatever it takes to recover lost love (THE GREAT GATSBY)?
:!: Save the farm and live to tell the story (COLD MOUNTAIN)?
:!: Find the wizard and a way home to Kansas (WIZARD OF OZ)?

Note that all of these are books with strong antagonists who drive or catalyze the plot line going forward. More on that later.

If you cannot conceive or write a simple story statement like those above (which will help define your story premise) then you don’t have a work of commercial fiction. Keep in mind that the PLOT LINE is an elaboration of the statement.

:idea: FIRST ASSIGNMENT: write your story statement.



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).


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



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

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

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

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



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 this comprehensive article regarding comparables on Author Salon:
- Develop two smart comps for your novel. This is a good opportunity to immerse yourself in your chosen genre. Who compares to you? And why?



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

Conflict was first described in ancient Greek literature as the agon, or central contest in tragedy. According to Aristotle, in order to ensure interest, the hero must have a single conflict. The agon, or act of PRIMARY CONFLICT, involves the protagonist and the antagonist, corresponding to hero and villain. The outcome of their contest cannot be known in advance, and according to later critics such as Plutarch, the hero's struggle should be ennobling. Is that always true these days? Not always, but let's move on. Classic drama creates conflict with real stakes. It cannot help but do so. You see it everywhere, to one degree or another, from classic contemporary westerns like THE SAVAGE BREED to a time-tested novel as literary as THE GREAT GATSBY (that would fall apart if Tom Buchanan were not a cretin). And the core of conflict can be expressed in a hook line. For example, let us consider hook lines from the following novels.

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

The Hand of Fatima by Ildefonso Falcones
A young Moor torn between Islam and Christianity, scorned and tormented by both, struggles to bridge the two faiths by seeking common ground in the very nature of God.

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

Summer's Sisters by Judy Blume
After sharing a magical summer with a friend, a young woman must confront her friend's betrayal of her with the man she loved.

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

The Bartimaeus Trilogy by Jonathan Stroud
As an apprentice mage seeks revenge on an elder magician who humiliated him, he unleashes a powerful Djinni who joins the mage to confront a danger that threatens their entire world.

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


*** Note that it is fairly easy to ascertain the stakes in each case above: a young woman's love and friendship, the entire world, and harmony between opposed religions. If you cannot make the stakes clear, the odds are you don't have any.

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



Consider "conflict" divided into three parts, all of which you should ideally have present in the novel. First, the primary conflict (noted above) that drives through the core of the work from beginning to end and zeniths with an important climax (falling action or denouement to follow). Next, secondary conflicts or complications which can take various social forms (anything from a vigorous love subplot to family issues to turmoil with fellow characters). Finally, those inner conflicts the major characters must endure and resolve--which may or may not be directly related to the main plot line (but at least an important one should be).

:idea: SIXTH ASSIGNMENT: sketch out the conditions for the inner conflict your protagonist will have. Why will they feel in turmoil? Conflicted? Anxious? Sketch out one hypothetical scenario in the story wherein this would be the case--consider the trigger and the reaction. And relate it to the main plot line or primary conflict.

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



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.


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


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Re: Seven Assignments for New York Pitch and Seminar Writers

#2 Post by SavvyThorne » 11 Oct 2020, 05:40

FIRST ASSIGNMENT: story statement:

Newly hired therapist Hannah Weiss defies the director of the Briarheart Mental Hospital in hopes of freeing a patient she believes may be innocent of the crimes that institutionalized him.

SECOND ASSIGNMENT: in 200 words or less, sketch the antagonist or antagonistic force in your story.

Respectable Danish psychiatrist Mikkel Solv will do anything to maintain his reputation. A published and renowned PhD, he has total control over the small world of his hospital. His son Aaron, however, adapted to American life with a lust for hedonism: he joined a band, used and dealt drugs, and turned his childhood fort into a den of pornography. When tragedy strikes the four band members, two die of an overdose, Zander barely survives, and Aaron disappears. Solv institutionalizes Zander in order to wrangle from him the location of his missing son.

Solv reacts to the world in a calculating way, deliberately shielding some information from view while selectively revealing bits and pieces of the past in order to manipulate Hannah where he needs her. Because of his status, he has people who can assist him in the courts, and of course workers in the hospital itself. For him, anyone who threatens to expose the degradations of his son’s past can simply be locked away. However, Briarheart is prestigious and well-run, with an excellent reputation, allowing Solv to consider himself a worldly humanitarian. Above all, he is a father who will forgive his son anything.

THIRD ASSIGNMENT: create a breakout title....

Buried Menace
Silent Menace
The Buried Truth
Notes from the Silence
Deadly Secrets
Deadly Silence


The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn
The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides
Hidden Bodies by Caroline Kepnes
When Darkness Calls by Mark Griffin

FIFTH ASSIGNMENT: write your own hook line following the format above that includes core wound and resulting conflict.

A newly hired therapist, recovering from her own past abuse, must defy the director of the hospital to find the truth behind a patient's incarceration for a heinous crime, risking the patient's freedom, and her own.

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

She definitely feels conflicted and anxious, and her world is thrown into turmoil. Despite being a therapist who knows better, she frequently downs Xanax with wine, and laughingly derides herself that her best friend is her cat. This loneliness and lack of support leave her more vulnerable to manipulation than she might otherwise have been.

Sketch out one hypothetical scenario in the story wherein this would be the case--consider the trigger and the reaction. And relate it to the main plot line or primary conflict.

Her mother arranges a blind date for Hannah which goes disastrously wrong. The man is self-important, ignorant, and crude. This contrasts for Hannah against the quiet yet passionate patient with whom she has recently begun therapy, who claims he would rather be in an outright prison than inside Briarheart Hospital.

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?

Her mother and she clash over traditional values. Her mother wants Hannah to have a good job, settle down, marry, and not make waves. Even the psychiatric industry’s esteem feels as if it rides on Hannah’s performance. Meanwhile, Hannah’s estranged father dies, exposing her survivorship of his sexual abuse. Her mother’s urging to be a quiet, traditional “good girl” actually grates on Hannah’s entire sense of self. She considers herself to be a champion of those in need of compassion, and she strengthens her bond with Zander against Director Solv.

FINAL ASSIGNMENT: sketch out your setting in detail.

Briarheart is a small, private mental institution on the outskirts of Chicago. It has been converted from an old factory, refurbished, but many of the telltale signs of an older building show age and wear. There is a rigid hierarchy with the director at the pinnacle and the psychiatrists beneath. Under that are the therapists, of which Hannah is one, then the nurses, then the orderlies. At the bottom of the structure are the superintendents, who form their own clique. Hannah is a rare person who bonds with people on many levels of the social structure, albeit mostly superficially.

Physically, Briarheart bears old windows, abandoned supply closets, painted hallways, simple patient rooms, a classroom, offices, a high-class cafeteria, and lots and lots of coffee stations. “The Bottoms” are the pipe-lined, dark corridors the superintendents use. Some ghost stories are told of this area, and some patients and even nurses use it as a place for illicit rendezvouses. Using the language of Michael Neff’s article on setting, Briarheart is “a place where normal values and perspectives have become skewed or inverted.”

Surrounding the institution is the city of Chicago itself. The mc lives in Rogers Park, her mother lives off of the Magnificent Mile, Wrigley Field makes an appearance, and so do several famous Chicago structures, as well as the Lake. Chicago is a city in flux, where smaller businesses find difficulty surviving, and the rich often prosper over the poor.

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Re: Seven Assignments for New York Pitch and Seminar Writers

#3 Post by P6CYNTHIAQUAM » 13 Oct 2020, 20:55

Beyond Belief

Beyond Belief is told alternately through three protagonists, each with her own character arc.

Alexa Moss, an atheist, underemployed architect and single mother, inherits her aunt’s crumbling farmhouse in religious Central Illinois, and money for her daughter’s college education, if she agrees to live in and renovate the property. Her 15-year-old science-prodigy daughter Lucy fiercely resents the move. But when Lucy’s science education and prospects are threatened, it’s the introverted Alexa who must steel herself and run for the school board, arousing the wrath of the charismatic megachurch pastor, Cyrus Bell, and his dangerous underling Aaron.

Unknown to Alexa, while she braves the public fallout of her nonbelief in the small town, her daughter Lucy is drawn to the church by a handsome, “godly” new boyfriend and finds she must choose between him and her passion for science. At the same time, Alexa’s new boarder, Rachel Whitman, banished niece of the powerful pastor, searches for a way to save her epileptic sister from her faith-healing family.

As the three women struggle in the church’s shadow, a national crisis unfolds and reveals the consequences—to individuals and the community—of tolerating bigotry and science denial in the name of God.

1. Story statement:
Alexa: Take on the local megachurch pastor and save fact-based education at a small-town midwestern high school
Lucy: Win social acceptance from students at a new school while pursuing her scientific interests and goals
Rachel: Find a way to rescue an epileptic sister from a faith-healing family

2. Antagonist:
Cyrus Bell is the pastor of a rural Illinois megachurch, Ecstasy Christian Ministries. In his early 60s, with silver hair and piercing violet eyes, Bell is intelligent, vain, power hungry, and charismatic. Bell grew up poor in Appalachian West Virginia, where he spent most of his life as a Pentecostal preacher. A charlatan and opportunist, he used his charm to get his position at ECM, build Sky Cathedral, and televise his worship services on the local cable channel. He appears to be a moderately conservative Christian, but hides his extremist religious beliefs from his congregation; his own family and inner circle are subjected to a cult-like environment which prohibits outside schooling, socializing or medical attention. In the span of just a few years, he has influenced local politicians, judges, and businessmen to get what he wants. He is now behind a lawsuit to force the public high school to teach intelligent design in addition to evolution. The suit is intended to challenge existing separation of church and state laws on the grounds of “religious freedom.” When atheist/humanist Alexa Moss runs for the school board with the intention of fighting the lawsuit, he is determined to take her down.

3. Breakout Title:
Beyond Belief (working title)
The Question of Ecstasy (preferred title)
The Architect of Ecstasy

4. Genre and Comparables:

Genre: Upmarket

Beyond Belief is similar to Barbara Kingsolver’s Poisonwood Bible in theme and like her Unsheltered in tone; it is similar in structure to Jodie Piccoult’s novels, with alternating points of view like Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney’s The Nest or Paula Hawkins’ The Girl on the Train.

5. Conflict: Hook Lines
Alexa: An introverted, atheist architect must rise above her repressive religious past to take on a rural megachurch pastor and fight for fact-based education for her science-prodigy daughter.
Lucy: A displaced teenager longing for home must carve out a place for herself and her science in a religious rural community.
Rachel: An unschooled young woman must find a way to rescue her epileptic sister from the faith-healing family that cast her out.

6. Inner Conflict:
Alexa is introverted, partly due to her upbringing by a cold and devout mother, and also shuns the limelight because of a facial birthmark she was ridiculed for in her youth. She has spent most of her life avoiding conflict, but now, against her nature, she feels driven by her love for her daughter and concern for her future to speak out in public and to run for the school board.

Lucy loves her mother, Alexa, but resents her for the move. In her new surroundings she is torn between her love for science and her desire to fit in with her peers.

Rachel alternately misses and resents the family that cast her out, and feels guilty she is unable to help her invalid sister escape their negligence.

Secondary conflict:
Alexa is a nonbeliever in a believer’s world. The very fact that she is an atheist/humanist is reason enough for some to hate, even attack her. She finds she must defend her private beliefs in very public settings, including forums, TV interviews and social media, which she finds intrusive.
Lucy must weigh the dictates of the church and her new boyfriend against what she feels is right.
Rachel is torn between the religion she was raised with and the secular world.

7. Setting:
Beyond Belief is set in Ecstasy, a conservative, religious (fictional) small town in Central Illinois. Near the bluffs overlooking the Illinois River, its quaint struggling main streets are juxtaposed with strip malls and new cookie-cutter homes on its periphery. The most prominent building, rising from the corn fields on the outskirts of town, is the ultra-modern Sky Cathedral, the home of Ecstasy Christian Ministries and the pastor Cyrus Bell. ECM is a huge worship and entertainment complex, featured on cable TV and drawing thousands from surrounding counties. The church itself has a mirrored ceiling which seems to disappear in the clouds and leave its giant rooftop cross floating in the air. Many scenes take place in the church complex, as well as in the Victorian farmhouse the three protagonists, Alexa, Lucy and Rachel share; other scene settings include a high school science lab, a 1950s railroad-car diner, an art deco TV studio, an upscale roadhouse, the local swimming pool, and a tiny house on the bluffs.

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Re: Seven Assignments for New York Pitch and Seminar Writers

#4 Post by LAURIEMANGICAROP6 » 16 Oct 2020, 06:22

Woman in Five Parts

Assignment #1: Story Statement

A young, vulnerable woman tries to rebuild her life with a new career, after caring for her dying father and mother in decline from Alzheimer’s Disease, but begins a disastrous affair with a deeply troubled and volatile co-worker.

Assignment #2: Antagonist

Cal Taft, a psychologically complex married man with a history of infidelity, is assigned to train a new, young co-worker, Julia Facchinello. Within weeks, he becomes a source of emotional as well as professional support, helping her cope with a difficult job and coming to her aid when she is sick. He endears himself to her, but soon engages in confusing and inappropriate actions. He briefly touches her shoulders and back, invites her for walks at lunch, and shares a sexually charged novel with her, igniting a spark that leads to a disastrous affair.
He is a self-described “bastard born on April Fool’s Day.” His biological mother, a married mother of four girls, met his biological father, a married father of a son and daughter, in a bar in the weeks after V-E day, in 1945. During that summer, the two had a drunken one-night stand in a car and Cal was conceived.
He has mostly escaped the consequences of his previous affairs, but this is different. He falls hard for a woman who is stronger than she seems. His unstable descent is volatile and ultimately violent.

Assignment #3: Break Out Title

1. Woman in Five Parts
2. Cast the First Stone

Assignment #4: Two Comparable Novels

1. My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell
2. Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

Assignment #5: Hook Line

In the shadow of the Clinton/Lewinsky scandal of the late 1990s, a bright but vulnerable woman, reeling from the death of her father and her mother’s decline from Alzheimer’s Disease, steps out of an emergency psychiatric center and into a new job as a federal investigator in an effort to rebuild her life, but she begins a disastrous affair with a deeply troubled and volatile older co-worker.

Assignment #6: Conditions for Inner Conflict

A. Protagonist’s inner conflict:
Julia knows that an affair with Cal is wrong on every level. She knows she is extremely emotionally vulnerable and believes an affair could be the nail in her coffin. She believes it would ruin her new career. Also, as a witness to her own father’s infidelity and the trauma it inflicted on her mother and her family, an extramarital affair runs counter to her values and causes her to question her own virtue. Yet, she is drawn to Cal by a force she cannot conquer.

B. Hypothetical scenario, trigger and reaction:
Julia drives Cal home from work when his car is in repair, and sees his wife, Margaret, falter and nearly faint when she senses the connection between them. Julia sees her own mother in Margaret’s response and sees herself as the cause of Margaret’s distress. She sees herself as just another version of her father’s mistress, whom she loathed.

C. Hypothetical secondary conflict (environmental):
Julia works in a small and hostile office where she has become the convenient whipping girl. Cal, the senior investigator, becomes a mediator and buffer. He uses his position to both protect Julia and control her. Her dependence on him and the role that he plays only increases the hostility, and she must find a way to survive in the office or leave it.

Assignment #7: Setting

The office of the Fair Labor Standards – Special Investigations Unit is located on the 17th floor of the federal office building in downtown Syracuse. The utilitarian building, flooded with fluorescent light and lined with narrow halls, offers few places to gather or relax. Cubicles divide the small, cramped FLS-SIU office where workers are afforded little privacy. Cubicle walls partially block a wall of windows that overlook the bustling downtown streets below. The space, designed to regulate, control and neutralize, entirely lacks creativity, comfort and images or elements from the natural world. It lacks all of the features that Julia, the protagonist, values most. A hostile clique of coworkers adds to the harshness of the environment.

Investigators of the FLS-SIU frequently work outside of the office and travel throughout Central New York. In the broader environs, weather extremes predominate. Lake effect snow storms create treacherous conditions in the long, dark winter. Summers are hot and humid, though brief. Residents respond socially, physically and emotionally to the variability of the weather. It can engender frustration, depression, exhilaration or yearning.

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Re: Seven Assignments for New York Pitch and Seminar Writers

#5 Post by DouglasP6Vigliotti » 16 Oct 2020, 21:57

The Act of Story Statement

Escape a life-altering predicament without losing his mind.

The Antagonist Plots the Point

Mark Undercuffler (aka Undercuffler) is Christian Ballantine’s (protagonist) work nemesis. They came into the company at the same time, they’re both high-performers, up for the same award, and eventually, the same promotion. But they couldn’t be any more different as people. Undercuffler is a kiss-ass, corporate America poster boy. He is the epitome of the American Dream and standard life narrative—college, wife, kids, white picket fence, etc. Undercuffler is the embodiment of everything Christian is skeptical about in the world. Not only is Undercuffler a driver of tension for Christian in the plot, but he also ties heavily into the major theme(s) of the book—consumption, creation, influence, and pressure.

Conjuring Your Breakout Title

TOM COLLINS (Current title) — It represents a plot device (Christians go-to drink) used in the book to symbolize the major theme and ultimately, intersects with the storyline (plot point 2.)


Deciding Your Genre and Approaching Comparables

Coming-of-age, Romantic Suspense

Taylor Jenkins Reid (story) meets Elmore Leonard (style)

*Interestingly, Nick Hornby is probably a solid demographic comp to pair with Taylor Jenkins Reid. When I read your comp notes and article, I laughed to myself while thinking, “Geez, I can’t possibly use him. Can I?”

Hook Lines, Core Wounds, and Conflict

While being honored by a new boss with a weekend getaway to his vacation home in Golden Beach, a hard-partying sales guy realizes that the new boss’s wife is the same woman he slept with five days earlier.

Other Matters of Conflict: Two More Levels

Inner Conflict — At the core, the novel is about a man’s struggle with turning into someone he doesn’t want to. It’s a classic what-matters-versus-what-doesn’t story with a new spin and fresh idea baked into it. Christian’s internal conflict stems from everything he has been exposed to in life—musical influences and interests, family and friends, social norms, after-4am crowd, corporate America, how he grew up, etc. It’s the main driver for questioning the life he sought-after. Did he ever really have a choice? Or was he unintentionally influenced? This inner conflict only gets deeper as the primary conflict intensifies (the predicament), Christians love of Liv grows, and everything ratchets up a notch when he meets an unsuspecting mentor named Ty Wilhelm. Ty brings a new perspective to Christian and consequently, he starts to see the world a little different, but will he ever really connect the dots?

Secondary Conflict — Almost everything in the book is designed to be in conflict with Christian's predicament (plot-level) and/or mind (theme-level.) There’s Tim, his new boss, who likes Christian and offers him a promotion. There’s Liv, Tim’s wife, who he sleeps with and sends Christian farther down the rabbit hole. There’s Jack, Christian’s divorced best friend, who eggs Christian on to continue a life of partying, but at the same time is Christians only confidante. Handley, a childhood acquaintance, who makes Christian battle his vices—drinking, drugs, etc. Christian’s entire familial situation is conflict. His dad represents old wounds about baseball-vs-guitar-playing, expectations, and pressure. His mother wants him to have kids and “settle down.” His younger brother flew the coop, lives in California, and makes Christian appear to be the reliable, successful one.

The Incredible Importance of Setting

The story takes place in three locations (primarily) that are intended to serve the major theme, and the protagonist’s conflict(s) and wounds.

Manhattan and Connecticut — There’s nothing more corporate America and consumer driven than Manhattan. Fairfield County, Connecticut is a bourgeois extension of that setting—housewives, family, etc. They’re not just linked by Metro-North, but economically and socially as well.

Golden Beach — This is the glitz and glam of a consumption lifestyle. A sunny, hot and lavish paradise nestled on the North end of Miami, FL. Oh, and who can forget that memorable day on the yacht?

Christian’s Mind — This is literally where the story takes place. You’re inside Christian’s head (in real time) while he thinks his way through the entire story. It’s an eccentric, unbridled mind, but isn’t everyone’s?

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Re: Seven Assignments for New York Pitch and Seminar Writers

#6 Post by MartinP6Oconnell » 18 Oct 2020, 18:07

1. Story Statement

Take on the pan-national consenus and find a better longterm goal for mankind than touching the icy surface of mars

2. Antagonistic force

The political system of democracy does not identify the people most suited to lead, with a chain of egotistical, power hungry, under qualified lone wolves. Their goal is not to implement a vision, because they have none. The goal is to garner as much attention as possible and stay in power as long as possible. Some private sector, self made billonaires see Mars as a goal when they run out of tangible targets on earth. The small number of totalitarian regimens that could join the space race see reaching our nearest planet as a strategic goal. Is there a better target for all and how does one individual, the protagonist Frank, have an effect on the direction of mankind, which has no direction and no capable, reasonable leaders in power? Leaders in the West have shown the skill and patience to wade through the treacle of party politics and the gall to consider themselves as exceptional. The focus on spin means there is no authenticity, with every move determined by marketing professionals. Is their goal to keep the status quo or aim in some direction? Some would aim for Mars, fixing the climate change crisis is a more neboulous goal, with no end point. Frank muses over whether the dog, Alfie (or “Alpha”) staring into the blue sky in his back garden, has a better vision of life than he does.

3. Breakout title:

Alpha aims for Mars
Alpha Voyager
Beyond the Blue Sky

4. Genre and Comparables:

Positive Contemporary Political Satire

1. Dr Strangelove, based on the novel “Red Alert” by Peter George
2. The Big Short (Film), screenplay by Adam McKay

5. Hook line, Core wound and Conflict

The pratognist has peaked at his job and is looking for meaning, He has binged on documentaries about science, politics and the environment and does’nt want to watch or read anymore. He is convinced that modern soceity is a rudderless ship and maybe civilisation always was throughout history. He starts a philosophical blog as a hobby which unexpectedly overnight catapults him onto the international stage. This gives him a voice but also perceived notoriety for some. He gets fired from the Chinese government owned corporation he works for, but gains a contact with a Tech Billionaire, whose entourage are suspicious of his motives. Politicians and media alike are wary of him, painting him as a maverick. He must finding meaning and put a plan into action which will point mankind in the right direction, whilst nagivating through the treacle of politics, media and the blogosphere.

6. Secondary Conlict

Inner Conflict:
Frustration is the main emotion of the protagonist. He is also conflicted out of manners – he wants to make his point but does’nt want to impose his views on others. He knows he does’nt have the patience to tolerate those who are slow to grasp the meanings of what he wants to say, but refuses to slow down for them because he is on a mission.

Social Conflict:
Franks’s wife has a late in life religious reawakening from lapsed Catholicism to a more conservative Christian religious group. He can understand this, but refuses to devote time to consider the existence of a higher authority. This happens around the time, when on a family holiday, the dog Alpha goes missing.

7. Settings:

Frank and Alpha’s back garden is in suburban setting in on the edge of a small nondesript town Warminster in Wiltshire. The garden is long with shubbery overgrowing walls and a high hedge at the end. The main house is made from red brick with crumbling of grout on some of the walls and one small pane of glass is cracked. The neigbours are quiet. There is a famous, slightly crazy zoo nearby, but Frank has’nt been there since he was a child.

The contact point for Frank’s work with a Chinese corporation in the PuXi district. The office is small but located in a tall shiny, glassy building which looks like it was completed in the last year. Before this all meetings were held in London in a rented office. Frank is an engineering consultant. Next to the reception desk, which is taller than in a Western office, a small conference room is located with a view over the docks. It is strange that whenever he arrives, there seems to have already been a meeting and everybody is waitig for him. The reception desk has cheap fake woodcovering and the receptionist always has to stand up to talk to him. Everyone is polite. Frank likes to stroll through the docks after meetings to unwind, but is always struck by the dust and sand on the pavement.

The disappointment is palpable when the first traveller steps onto the frozen rocks. “Incredible, I am the first person to step on another planet, but it does’nt seem as much an achievement as in 1969.”

Rocks extend in every direction, the tall quiet walls of the canyon extend into the distance. The light is faint, it does’nt seem real. Otherwise everything looks the way it did in the photos.

“I hope I don’t trip, “ thinks Sasha, “No vodka for 3 years, it better be worth it!”

Posts: 2
Joined: 10 Oct 2020, 23:26

Re: Seven Assignments for New York Pitch and Seminar Writers

#7 Post by SavvyThorne » 22 Oct 2020, 23:42

I don't know if this is in the right place, but since I met and know those of you who were on Zoom yesterday, I'd like to run this revision past anyone who would care to take a look. Thank you!


In a secluded mental institution on the far west side of Chicago, a newly hired therapist, Hannah, is attacked by a patient. She is saved by another patient called Z. He is lucid and intelligent, and when Z shows interest in her, the institution's director places her in charge of the case. But, untangling a web of cover-ups and lies, she discovers that Z was sentenced for murdering the director’s son. It seems the director has gone mad with grief, pulling strings to incarcerate Z in a twisted sense of revenge. The more Hannah uncovers, the more she comes to believe that not only Z innocent of the crime, but the director’s son is still alive. Worst of all, the director knows it. Wondering why she was she placed in charge of Z in the first place, Hannah at last arranges to have the entire matter brought before the Board. Before she can do so, the director imprisons her in her own institution. Hannibal meets Nurse Ratchet as she must outwit her captor and retrace the scene of heinous crimes to discover the truth about PATIENT Z.

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