New York Pitch Conference - Assignments

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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New York Pitch Conference - Assignments

#1 Post by WritersBlock » 28 Aug 2018, 20:26

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: New York Pitch Conference - Assignments

#2 Post by IvoKisicP6 » 26 Jul 2020, 19:59

1. Story Statement.
Jack Zeleznjak must find the ultimate truth before he turns completely insane.

2. Antagonist/Antagonistic Force.
Mother Asherah. The time-traveling demiurge who controls all of reality. A creature bent on seeing her will obeyed and followed, notably the wayward species called humans. All-powerful and untouchable, her only desire is to make the universe into her image, forcing the natural process of existence in accordance to her mandates. Obsessed with control and power, she will stop at nothing to see her kingdom become a reality.

3. Title
A) Lost Icarus.
B) The Aftermatter.
C) Chronicles of Jack Zeleznjak.

4. Genre & Comparables.
Thriller, Weird Fiction.
A mix of Blake Crouch's "Recursion" and Phillip K. Dick's "Valis."

5. Conflict Line.
After he loses his wife, a psychologically disturbed man attempts to restart his quest for ultimate truth and the afterlife, pitting him against the powers of transcendental beings and his madness.

6. Inner Conflict.
Inner conflict: Jack Zeleznjak is torn apart by the choices in front of him. A deep flickering hope is the only thing he cares for -an answer for his existence and life itself- This forces him to push forward in his seemingly delusional and increasingly dubious quest. Filled with anxiety and crippling self-doubt, the unstable man tries to discern each step of the way if what he is doing is right or wrong, honorable or cowardly, enlightened, or insane.

Secondary conflict: Everyone surrounding Jack tries to make him go back on his quest and take charge of his life, not to mention his dead wife who's body awaits for him in the town's coroner office. All the people in Hollowville seem to attempt to reach Jack's better judgment, but the man has an endless stream of convoluted explanations as to why he must keep going with his unreasonable path. But even when the man himself doubts his own words, a shrouded voice in his head gains the upper hand of every argument and uncertainty he carries inside and forces him to carry on with this somber adventure.

7. Location.
The story takes place in three key locations.

The first one is Hollowville, NY. A small town not yet wholly transformed by the passing of time and the influence of the modern world, Hollowville serves as a symbol for the last remnants of the American imaginary of what a small town is. Surrounded by forests and lakes, Hollowville is haunted by eerie stories of missing people, strange deaths, and paranormal events that linger in the urban legends of the town. Unbeknownst to the main character, his choice of lodging is the center of it all, a wood cabin with a dark past. As the plot unfolds, he learns that the United States at odds with the spirits of its previous inhabitants and the entities that now control them. An invisible gateway, Hollowville sits at the core of a colossal cosmic drama that almost nobody seems to perceive.

The second location is South America. As the main character thinks back on the path that has inadvertently led him to Hollowville, he reminisces on his journey through the mountains of Peru, Bolivia, the valleys of Argentina, and the corrupt streets of Paraguay. Following a traveling shaman, Jack learns about the world outside the hectic metallic rhythm of New York City, and the secrets of the third world which still retains what he can only explain as ancient magic, and the difference between a citizen and a human being. As he follows the mysterious character called Porfirio, Jack begins to understand how much more exists outside the scope of normalcy. By the time that he arrives in San Marcos Sierra, a small rural town in the middle of northern Argentina, an alleged gateway for "the other side," the man is confronted by an impossible scenario.

The third location is called The Aftermatter. As the main character explains throughout the book, an entire hidden realm lies at the other side of the frail veil of our everyday reality. A world were dreams, the imagination, the afterlife, higher dimensions, and other universes lie meshed together by an incomprehensible logic. The aftermatter is a place where the mind serves a vault for all its characteristics. Using the imagery and information that all creatures have experienced, the aftermatter manifests according to the idiosyncratic contents of each person, and yet, it is a real place that not only different people can arrive at, but that other creatures, sinister and divine, live in. It is a world filled with questions and answers for the human soul, and where Jack is convinced the ultimate explanation for life, existence, and the meaning of reality exists.

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Re: New York Pitch Conference - Assignments

#3 Post by eanicholsP6 » 03 Aug 2020, 21:07

E. A. Nichols

1) Act of Story Statement

After learning that my brother took all of our 92-year old mother's money,
I seek restitution ... and revenge.

2) Antagonist/Antagonistic Force

Junior: On the surface, my brother is like the Pillsbury Doughboy, pale, round,
soft and jolly. In actuality he is an undiagnosed and untreated sociopath. He
stole over $2,000,000 from our mother's trusts, leaving her destitute,
and expected to get away with it.

US Civil and Criminal Justice System: The ideal differs significantly from the
actual. As a result, justice is more elusive than it should be.

Aging: It triggers a reversal of roles and a close up look at mortality

3) Title

"Unnaturally Poor" - Family Trust Shattered by Vulnerability, Treachery, and Revenge

| Definition of Unnaturally Poor:
| Being Unnaturally Poor is much worse than being just Poor.
| - Being unnaturally poor means that you once had the wherewithal to provide for your
| own care but now you don’t because you voluntarily parted with it. Perhaps you gave
| your house to a financially strapped child. Perhaps you loaned your credit card to
| a child who used it and spent all your money.
| - If you are simply poor, you can qualify for social benefits such as Medicaid.
| - Social safety nets don't exist for the unnaturally poor.

4) Comparables

Narrative Non-Fiction
Memoir - Written in first person focussing on a decade in my life with themes around
aging, financial elder abuse, and litigation.


- Wild Game by Adrienne Brodeur (2019): Memoir by a daughter about family secrets,
selfish people, and the effects on family
Missing the legal, true-crime aspect of my story

- The Wolf at the Door - Undue Influence and Elder Financial Abuse by Michael Hackard (2017):
Memoir by an attorney and elder financial abuse on financial elder abuse, The author was
personally affected by elder financial abuse.
Covers many cases, not just one. Limited to litigation.

5) Conflict Line

My brother took all my 92-year old mother's money, leaving her destitute.

6) Inner Conflict

Me vs Junior:
-- Junior's goal was to isolate our mother, exploit her vulnerabilities, loot her trusts,
and get away with it.
-- My goal was to exact restitution from Junior, as well as punish him.
-- I struggled to balance the constructive objectives of caring for Mom and recovering
her money against the destructive objectives of exacting revenge.

Me vs My Mother:
-- Mom was irresponsible, unrepentant, entitled, impatient, but also helpless, impaired,
vulnerable, and, well, my mother.
-- Mom made it difficult to balance my temptation to just walk away against serious
concern for her welfare.

Me vs The US Justice System
-- Laws designed to protect the rights of the elders, such as Financial Services,
Banking, and HIPAA Privacy laws had to be overcome to discover the full extent
of Junior's treachery. Once overcome, they became powerful allies.
-- Civil litigation can be very expensive. All litigation, civil or criminal, is time
consuming and stressful.
-- My desire for restitution and revenge had to be balanced against the cost and stress
of litigation

7) Setting

- Junior's Mansion in Northbrook, Illinois
This is a critical setting because Junior looted Mom's Trust to finance its construction

Junior's new house was double the size of the old house – nearly 7000 square feet – with
seven bedrooms, 6½ bathrooms, and two fireplaces. It was expensively constructed with 2”x8”
stud walls to accommodate extra insulation and sound barriers, triple pane windows, a
3-story elevator, top-of-the-line HVAC system, power back-up generator, radiant floor heating,
kitchen with custom wood cabinetry, Wolf and Sub-Zero appliances, plus a walnut paneled den,
sun porch with a hand painted mural, home movie theater with a tiered floor and reclining
seats, finished attic, wiring for digital, sound, and home automation throughout. Even the
grounds were beautifully landscaped with a stone patio and built-in stone masonry for an
outside bar-be-cue. Junior had boasted that equipping the house with top-of-the-line options
was his primary goal during construction. Cost was not a concern. Junior’s fancy new mansion
proved that he was a financial success, just like the older generation of men in our family.

- Presbyterian Homes in Evanston, Illinois
This is a critical setting because my goal was for Mom to continue to live there under
its excellent care.

In 1998, before either parent needed extra care, Dad, then age 92, convinced Mom, then age
81, to move into the Presbyterian Homes, a well-known, highly regarded Life Plan Community
with three campuses on the North Shore of Chicago, Illinois. Our parents lived on the Evanston
campus, a beautiful forty-acre, garden-rich site that offered a full spectrum of residential
options for seniors, from independent living to assisted living, to memory care, and ultimately,
to 24x7 skilled nursing care. As of now, October 2010, Mom occupied a one-bedroom apartment in
one of Presbyterian Homes’ buildings dedicated to independent living. She was happy there.
Many residents were long-time friends, plus the care she received was excellent. Mom’s
accommodations along with her full-time caregiver were expensive – about $10,000 to
$12,000/month. Up until this moment, I had been basking in the security that Mom could
afford it.

- My House in Northern Virginia
Where I did most of my work to discover who took Mom's money

My office is one of my favorite places. I spend a good portion of my life in it. It’s the only
room on the third level of our house. Some might observe that it is cluttered with books,
laptops, computer displays and other digital paraphernalia, but I prefer to focus on the floor to
ceiling glass on two of its four walls overlooking a forest and a pond. In the summer, all I see
is trees and animals – fox, deer, coyotes, ground hogs, squirrels, and raccoons. Birds of all
colors and sizes come and perch on the walls around an outside deck. In spring, the dog woods,
cherry trees and redbuds are in full bloom. In fall, the oak, sumac, maple, aspen, and black
tupelo form a wall of beautiful colors as their leaves turn from green to purple, red, orange,
and yellow. On the rare occasion when it snows in Northern Virginia, the sun reflecting off the
white surfaces create a major distraction as I try to focus on my iMac’s 27” Retina™ display.

- Troutman Sanders Offices in Chicago, Illinois
Where all the depositions and trial preparation occurred

The depositions were held in Troutman Sanders’s offices in Chicago, on the 39th floor of the
Franklin Center, a 60-story super-tall skyscraper completed in 1989 as the AT&T Corporate Center.
Located at the corner of West Monroe Street and South Franklin Street, the office is about an
10-minute, 7-block walk to the Daley Center, where all the appearances in court take place.
Our conference room was large and sunny due its corner location and tall windows on two of its
four walls.

- Richard J. Daley Center in Chicago, Illinois -
Where the trial by jury was conducted

The room in which the trial was to take place was in the Richard J. Daley Center, a modernist
skyscraper, named after Chicago’s longtime mayor. Situated on the block between Randolph and
Washington Streets and between Dearborn and Clark streets, the structure is regarded as one
of Chicago’s architectural highlights. When it was completed in 1965, it was the tallest
building in Chicago, but that lasted only four years when the one-hundred story John Hancock
Building was completed. The Richard J. Daley Center houses more than 120 court and hearing rooms,
the Cook County Law Library, offices of the Clerk of the Circuit Court, and several court-related
offices of the Sheriff’s Department, Cook County, and the City of Chicago. Daley Plaza is a
large open courtyard that occupies the southern half of the block occupied by the building.
Dominating the plaza is a 50-foot sculpture by Pablo Picasso. Often the plaza is host to colorful
events and displays that create a festive atmosphere.

Our courtroom was on the 19th floor. It was not overly large – perhaps 24 by 48 feet with nice
but not ornate decor. The courtroom was divided into two sections. The first section, which
occupied the first third of the space, was for spectators. There was a gate that separated
about three rows of chairs for spectators from the second section. The second section held the
jury box on the right, the defense and plaintiffs’ desks on the left, and the Judge’s bench on a
raised platform in the center rear. The defense and plaintiff desks were arranged to be facing
and parallel to the jury box. The raised Judge’s bench was flanked by an enclosed witness-stand
on the right and a clerk’s desk on the left, each with space for exactly one hard-backed chair.
A court reporter, that we hired (and paid for), sat in front of the witness stand. A small
podium was placed in the center of the area between the Judge, jury, and litigants’ tables.


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Re: New York Pitch Conference - Assignments

#4 Post by CavisAdamsP6 » 04 Aug 2020, 00:39

1st Assignment, Story Statement.

To free the world from looming techno-enslavement is to become the man he must be in order to do so, even to die trying.

2nd Assignment, Antagonistic Force.

At the first trip that the protagonist takes to the hi-tech laboratory, Doctor W. Bennett materializes on the scene. He is the quintessential dark and professionally charming scientist who begins the process of experimentation on the suspecting protagonist. Doctor Bennett, while not overtly hostile at first, is literally the forward hand of the larger clandestine entity known as Gentrix. Bennett becomes the technological gatekeeper that leaves it open, leading the protagonist down the proverbial foxhole where gravity is crushing, and no life ever escapes the same. Bennett, while forthcoming as to the life-changing nature of the experiments, also knows that his specimen is trapped within a web of intrigue that he himself has conspired to spin. Bennett knows that the protagonist cannot turn back just as well as he knows his own dubious intentions.

While he is certainly the chaperone to scenarios of death past and future, Bennett’s true motives are eventually revealed as those of one who has orchestrated the ultimate necessary evil. However, playing god for all the right reasons does not lessen the brunt of antagonistic forces.

To keep the world-changing technology out of the hands of the very entity by whom he is employed, Bennett must maintain a posture of strict professionalism in word and deed. Remaining the inside man means going against his own moral code and instinct, whilst ceremoniously carrying out a history of dirty work and experimentation on beast and man alike. Bennett interacts with the protagonist from the standpoint of knowledgeable scientist versus unprotected subject, a role of which the doctor effectively convinces himself along with any reading witness, carrying out his deeply scientific duties beneath the auspices of that greater entity, until the time ripens to act on his true intentions.

Bennett comes out of the dark in stages, first revealing himself to be a force bent-straight on saving the world, then again showing himself willing to make the ultimate sacrifice, of another, in order to do so.

3rd Assignment, Breakout Title.

White Lazarus. Black Death.

White Lazarus. Black Resurrection.

The Spirited Lives of Memory.

4th Assignment, Comparables.

The revived spirit of “Total Recall” (Phillip K. Dick) meets "Recursion” (Blake Crouch), at the pace of reverse “Memento” (Christopher Nolan).

5th Assignment, Conflict Line.

A self-inherited, white red-blooded American struggles to maintain his identity amidst the effects of a life-shifting technology. What he once found a imaginative respite along the cutting-edge of role-play delves into the real world, a world where even his innermost thoughts and memory turn relentlessly unlike his own.

6th Assignment, Inner Conflict.

Justin Wilder has inherited the long trappings of materialism along with the contextual culture and mindset wherein his privileged position is couched with society. His world view is challenged, however, by several ongoing manifestations of dissonance. Firstly, as a child in one fateful moment, he erroneously gazes into the gravitational eyes of a hard-shipped black man, something that spurs his young mind to begin to question, however inarticulately, the equality of socioeconomic conditions that are inherited amongst the different people of the world.

Even after “growing out” of this childish need to question everything, he is followed by the same dark dream wherein he is still a child locked in a basement with the rest of the blacks. When a door opens a light from high atop the stairs, cuing them all to a hysterical dash in senseless hopes of squeezing through the one narrowing escape, he awakens to find himself at once that man at that top of those stairs. It is he who slams the door shut, locking-out those rising shrieks of pain and suffering from below.

While he never consciously admits to it, this underlying cognitive dissonance must be part of the worldview upon which his life is disconcertingly built, the world which he had questioned since childhood, and the bulk of the gravitational tide which ultimately impels him to volunteer as an experimental subject for a clandestine new technology.

This underlying dissonance with the world comes to rising conflict as some of the alternate realities that he experiences begin to eclipse his world views with their own. When he relives the last moments of a young black man, who is shot and killed by a police officer after attending a Black Lives Matters rally, the experience proves overwhelming for his own middle-aged normality, prompting the most salient and drastic personality change in the walking and talking while white investment scout.

After going through this experience in the laboratory, he literally inherits the life memories of the young black man, a reality that initially manifests in his dreams only. But it is in the context of one pivotal dream wherein, from his traditionally privileged point of view, he sees that dark child that lays dying in the park. But then shifting within, it is from that newly inherited point of view—that high-school-aged, poor black male—that he sees himself suddenly for the privileged man that he has always been.

It is the acute stress of this memorable encounter with his own social archetype that, unlike the previous two alter egos that he has experienced, moves him irrevocably into another realm of self-awareness... even a persistently emergent character change from within, a thing both exciting and frightening for the world at large, a wife and daughter for example.

A secondary source of conflict within the novel is that which revolves around his 14-year-old daughter. She is one who, in spite of all that he has provided for her in terms of wealth and social status, insists on “pretending to be Black,” much to the embarrassment of the posh conservative that he is at the outset. Neither school-teacher nor psychologist can provide him a satisfactory answer as to why his little girl that has it all would envy those poor, black girls who have nothing to offer the world but sass. At one time he comes into his daughter’s room to find a thoroughly tattooed, half-naked (pants-sagging), black man hanging over her headboard. What she defends as just a poster of a gifted rapper, he sees as a stark herald of his daughter crossing into the forbidden exploration of that proverbial strange fruit.

The dynamic of this conflict between his daughter Gina and himself falls from one of a churning defiance, to begrudged acceptance between the two. Finally, a newfound respect for the world of his family (daughter and wife), grows, as he himself undergoes the changes of mindset and outlook because of his involvement with the ongoing experiments. Not so ironically, as his daughter sees the changes in her own father, she feels less the need to rebel, to paint the monotony of her own white picket inheritance with the hues of black stereotype. We see more of who she truly is, as she finds fulfillment in the increasingly colorful reality that her father brings home in tow of his cool decisions. He has bravely volunteered as a techno-Guinea pig for the gaming technology! The resolution of this secondary conflict is a peaceable one wherein the previous combatants rest in a warm, fulfilling embrace after so much egotistical wrestling.

7th Assignment, Settings.

The morning sun is the overarching illuminator to an otherwise stagnant downtown Minneapolis. From the glistening reflection of the dawns rain on the still wet streets, up past the rousing army of shuffling shoes, the rising slants of sunrise give movement to the angles of concrete and shadow--gleaming depths to the elsewise flats of steel and glass that rush to the highest stories.

Up where the sounds of a waking city follows throughout the thinner breeze, a window slides abruptly closed, shutting the outside behind a clear and impenetrable pane.

The world inside of the office occupies the vast half of the entire 27th level. Size withstanding, it would be typical, with its expanded array of blue and maroon cubicle, were it not for the youthful adornments of mostly female interns that grace the breadth and width of the floor.

Amidst it all rises the chatter of business, the chimes of human, machine and keyboard that flourishes amidst the sometimes-incessant conversations about winning the lotto, moving to Mexico, or the switch of the crooked skirt around that newest intern from India.

All of this is too much and too close to the frosted glass of the large office at the far corner. The sounds and shadows that snoop along the other side of that frosted pane is an intrusive distraction for the one who is inside. When time meets like one staggered collection of deadlines, as time does, he only wants collect himself here, to visually escape out of the body-length windows at the 25th-floor sky beyond. Besides the poorly renovated design of the opaque, wall-length partition un-between the floor at large and himself, his office is a place of welcome respite and worry.

This corporate setting of building and sky-way, along with the occasional run-in with homelessness while en route to-and-fro, is the primary backdrop for the initial intrigue that the protagonist begins to feel concerning a strange technological newcomer.

The abode of the protagonist and family is amongst what the lesser percentages would consider more of castles than mere houses. The wealthy Kenwood neighborhood of Minneapolis, Minnesota is one of manicured shades of summer green, sweeping colors of fall and shimmering wintery whites that are tamed by angles of heated driveways and the forces of the earliest snowplow. The house itself is a Victorian-risen style of a few earthen shades, a 3-story height crowned with multidimensional roof. The composite asphalt driveway opens welcoming to the street from whence comes the triple-burgundy Mercedes with leather interior. Inside the house it is notably drafty at times, unfulfilled space for protagonist and family to grow into home.

In the state of Minnesota there is a building set apart within the space of a wooded clearing. It is a tall, single story front with a warehouse sized addition that looms beyond the roof-line. The older brick construction broken by a few, elongated windows is indicative of the 1980s. And once inside, the outdated marquis of black felt, spotted with white alphabet pieces, is an indicator of who’s who inside the un-extraordinary building.

It is after a short move down the hallway, past the plywood door and through a plain waiting room with equally passé artwork, that the scene opens with the space that is the outer laboratory.

Sleek, body-width podiums rise smoothly as if in host of the one who enters, elevating to various heights along the walker’s pace, until the restlessly deep gloss of their surfaces reach away into the dimness. Gracing that gleaming and silhouetted company of computer towers is the occasional, dim pulsation of redness in lightening linear. The intermittent throb of information sequences is like a winking beacon of the great, hibernating data-banks of memory here.

When stirred, at the command of Doctor Bennett, manifestations of said memories can be seen literally in the very air, the luminous streams of holographic symbology that swarm the warehouse of space, feeding into intelligent--if not quite conscious--clouds of glittery, articulating expression.

On at least one occasion the antagonist, protagonist in tow, walk through these dynamic mists of green as if they weren’t there, the same passing visibly through the two men that make their way to a far wall.

The inner laboratory is accessed by opening one of the large, obvious wall panels that is obviously not a hidden portal. Passing through this vacuum from the vaster outer into the smaller inner laboratory is moving from dimness to bright. This room is immaculately white, except for the metallic framing of a more traditional-looking computer console that is stationed above the lone, white podium near the center. It is next to what is at the very center of visual gravity here; a large, white chair. The chair appears with a design that mimics the familiar aesthetics—if not the comforts—of a huge recliner. From the expanded foot base and up along the extended armrests, one might imagine the sorts of bands or restraining devices that will emerge to make some repentant subject to feel more secure. The surges of sequencing data flow through this room only during times of experimental activity, bringing to pulsating light the otherwise inconspicuously transparent cable lines that are hardwired to several key locations. There is an old-fashioned monitor above the white recliner--a cardboard-thin and flat rectangle of a thing that might oscillate automatically with respect to the eye of the beholder.

At a pivotal point the protagonist is surprised to learn that he must fly to the Kingdom of the Netherlands, somewhere in South Holland more precisely, to personally oversee an important offshore account there.

There is a taxi from the airport in Amsterdam, a ride into which asphalt weakens as it stretches between God’s vast organic blankets of country-side, the beautiful patch-workings of the busy locals, where mammoth windmills rove here and there faithfully. The drive eventually returns to tar however, the city of the Hague is where protagonist and ladies stay at The Den Hague, a 4.5-star retreat in South Holland’s quainter version of urban life. It is a place where the façade of a modern city breathes in the oceanic air of a far simpler county.

There are two days of exploration before the scheduled meeting with the business contact. These first days include the far-fetched protagonist tales at sunset about the fiercely bloody battles carried-out at the skyline. It is over a sparkling white wine glass on a high balcony, peering to the space above the restless shoring of the northern sea, that the protagonist re-envisions how the slave king of the blacken-elves disemboweled the high boogeyman of the Netherlands. Apparently it is this resurrected scene, right before the naïve young eyes of his daughter, that causes such spontaneous, crimson sunsets that spill far-reaching overhead.

The trio also explore some of the more local attractions, including a few quaint museums off cobblestone ways, a standing medieval prison with restored torture-room to boot, and even float on a noon-day water way that slips glistening passed the shops, stirring the natives who gladly intercept with wines, cheeses and all sorts of oliebollen.

The days come to an end before the business contact, being in and of themselves an oasis of reprise grounded between 10-hour flights in a place known for its flatlands.

It is a ruse, however. When the protagonist goes to meet the business contact, stepping into the portly, euro-conic car with complimentarily accented driver, he is serpentined quickly above ground and then spirited below. There is a considerable length of tunneling where hollow passes with rushing dimness, the beams of the headlights like a movie projector that casts this dampening and surreal film.

It is much ado for a regular offshore account because it is not. After the drive ends at the cavernous opening, stopping before the underground entrance of a building that will extend high above, it is soon revealed that the antagonist himself is here for the greeting.

This building actually hosts a more advanced and expansive laboratory where the final experimental phase must be conducted. A few strings were pulled to bring him here, and the protagonist finds himself being guided down hallways, where at times information flows as incandescently as soundwaves… at times returning suddenly from around corners to pass over and away again like echoes throughout these chambers. Stopping before one expansive room, the luminous green smokes the floor impassively, stirring quickly as the two pair of high-end shoes pass into this one of the main sets.

In this space the antagonist gives a mood-altering demonstration of the theoretical beginnings of time and space, illustrated anew via the burgeoning glitter of articulating holographic tempests. The symbology swells to envelop the two bystanders in the far center, shrinking them in scale to a point where they can witness the intimate coalescing of molecules from a virtual insiders perspective, on down to the very threshold of quantum physics which overtakes this sky of special conjuring. There are several floors whereupon such dissimilar displays and technological functions are carried out.

This building, wherein the main laboratory appears to thrive like the vital organs and skeletal system of an otherwise concrete and steel body, is amazingly accessible to a limited public at the lower levels. There is a common museum on the 1st floor where rudimentary holographic technology is the highlight of traditional displays of art and storytelling. There is a deliberately mediocre cafeteria on the 2nd floor, where only the most inconspicuous seem to return. But it is from that subterranean entrance that the elevator bypasses all lower levels, even for those with the highest of security clearance.

Other mention-able settings that appear in scenic transition are those of a brick and mortar Minneapolis Firehouse with equally characteristic inhabitants, the churning-black guts deep inside a fiery room at the irrevocable point of explosion, the brashly intimate environment of a police station during roll-call and then the subsequent crooning insides of the patrol car… and last but not least, the incessantly uprising energy in the midst of a pressing crowd during a BlackLivesMatters rally. It is one that goes on into the deep night, eventually spilling into a terrifying foot chase that paints a tragic, crimson scene on the canvas of a north Minneapolis park.

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