Seven Assignments for New York Pitch 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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Re: Seven Assignments for New York Pitch Writers

#26 Post by SandraTylerP6 » 09 Mar 2020, 19:12

The Night Garden of My Mother: a Memoir
By Sandra Tyler


A middle-aged “sandwich” mom to very young children, strives to keep her promise to her elderly mother that she may live out her last years in her own home, and in the process discovers truths about her mother, like the real meaning behind her painting of “The Night Garden.”


My elderly but spirited mother propels the “plot” with her steely willfulness to maintain her independence. She holds me, her only child, to my promise that she may die in her own home, regardless of the lengths I must go to keep that promise—If I offer to find her a plumber she asks for her outdated copy of the Yellow Pages, and reminds me that she has been taking care of herself since she was 18, when her father had a stroke and she had to leave school to support her parents. She can gripe about the care-giving, how she’d sacrificed her youth and dreams of “making it” as an artist to take care of everyone, including my own father with Alzheimer’s. But in the care-giving she had been the one in control. Now, from the smaller challenges of her arthritic hands, to the larger one of losing her license after crashing her car into the wall of a carpet store, she must face up to the loss of that control. And with each new setback, she grows all the more defiant toward the last person she wants to depend on: me. But the fierceness of her will matches her love and concern, and therein lies the real friction between this mother and daughter.


The Night Garden of My Mother

When Your Mother Calls

A Daughter Divided


Wild Game: My Mother, Her Lover, and Me
By Adrienne Brodeur

Wild Game, published last year to great acclaim, chronicles a daughter as confident, the keeper of her mother’s secret about an extramarital affair. The mother/daughter conflict here is different, but resonates of a similar struggle with allegiances; those high stakes of the devoted daughter. What I found missing is a greater universality to this mother/daughter relationship, beyond what finally seems a myopic chronicling of events. This may be just one reader’s oversight, since Emily Rapp Black in her New York Times review found that “This triumphant moment shows what a good memoir can do, using one person’s singular experience to shed light on a fundamental truth of being human. In this case: maternal love, that most primal and powerful kind.”

But it is exactly this “fundamental truth” that is the bedrock of The Night Garden, one perpetuated by daughters laboring to love/be loved by their mothers unequivocally. Primally. And in both memoirs, the mothers are strong antagonists driving the story, and there are clear denouements. Perhaps there finally is that fundamental truth to Brodeur’s own mother/daughter story, but the real success of Wild Game may be its strong narrative; The Night Garden as well, reads much like a novel, replete with equaling compelling detail and scene.

Mother Daughter Me
by Katie Hafner

In contrast to Wild Game, Hafner’s memoir, an Oprah Book of the Week, resonates beautifully of those fundamental truths. With real thoughtfulness and sensitivity, Hafner mines her relationship with her mother in the present, while lending it greater dimension with compelling flashbacks. She clearly had a most reckless and irresponsible mother growing up. But the mother here—again, the antagonist—is rendered complex; our mothers often are at war with themselves over how best to love us daughters, and that inner conflict is nicely probed. It is this complexity I found lacking in the Wild Game, and one I have honed in my own antagonist; readers will not only be sympathetic toward the mother in The Night Garden, but by the end, understand her in a way they may be trying to understand their own mothers. In Mother Daughter Me, Hafner considers her relationship with her mother while her mother is still able to live independently. Night Garden nicely complements this stage with the next — what happens to that relationship when our mothers become dependent and we their caregivers.


Mother and daughter vie for control as one grows increasingly more dependent on the other, and often at the expense of their life-long close relationship to each other.


This daughter, while trying to stay true to her mother, also must remember she is a mother herself. I am torn between my children’s and my mother’s varying needs, a conflict that is illustrated most clearly when my ten year old son is seriously injured in a football accident. Finding myself now at the emergency room with my son rather than with my mother, I am struck by the parallels in their neediness, though also by the differences; while my mother is in denial of her dependence, my son surrenders himself to it entirely. Back when he was a baby, his needing of me had substantiated me as his mother. Now, when I am truly needed most, I feel far more inadequate as a mother than I had ever felt as a daughter.


The mother/daughter conflict is further complicated by the introduction of a full-time aide, when Chandice moves into my mother’s corner bedroom and insinuates herself into both our lives. She further skews tensions between mother and daughter as she comes to know my mother in her present state, one now complicated by dementia, better than I am able to know her myself.


Primarily, Night Garden is set in the world of my mother—in her home which she fondly referred to as her “happy house,” on the east end of Long Island. Unlike the house I grew up in, this is the first space in her life where she was able to come into her own as an artist. Inherited from her godmother, it also is a house full of history, of remnants from my growing up back on Staten Island and things from her own childhood: her baby doll with the china head sits beside mine on a bookshelf. Then there’s my grandmother’s Victorian lamp, sewing box, and vanity contrasted against her more breakout tastes of the modular. After she dies, I find crumbling sepia-toned photographs of my mother as a child, even locks of her baby hair and hand-drawn birthday cards to her own mother, all things that echo stories she told me over the years, mixed in with snapshots of me as a child and my own scribbled cards and drawings. In death, our lives as children, young women, and finally as both mothers, seemed melded together in a way they only perhaps can in our mourning—when for the first time, we might be able to imagine our mothers as having been children themselves.

Other scenes are set in my own world, specifically to accentuate our differences in how we both define home. Then there is the more neutral setting of summers on New England Lakes, that hark back to both our childhoods as together we try to recreate the past—even at the expense of the present.

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Re: Seven Assignments for New York Pitch Writers

#27 Post by JinjuRichardsP6 » 10 Mar 2020, 19:20

Assignment 1: Story Statement

Mayah must determine whether or not her beloved serf guardian, Sukren, truly cares about her or whether he views her as nothing but a tool for the Uprising. Sukren must decide if his loyalties lie with Mayah, the princess he raised, or with Lady Nari, his leader and mastermind of the Uprising.

Assignment 2: The Antagonist

Lady Nari is both extremely violent and extremely principled. She lives her life for one thing only: the good of the serfs. The daughter of a castle serf, who in turn was raised by a Matterist prophet, Lady Nari comes from a long line of resistance fighters. None of her ancestors, however, had her single-mindedness. It was Lady Nari, and Lady Nari alone, who turned her family’s informal religious network into a serf army dedicated to the Uprising. And dedicated they must be, for Lady Nari demands nothing but the highest levels of commitment from her followers. Whatever she is willing to do, they must be willing to do as well, whether it be murder, torture or enduring a lifetime of lying and manipulating those they love. She is no hypocrite, however. She cares nothing for her personal comfort or glory; her love for the serfs is genuine. Her arrogance convinces her that she knows best what is best for the serfs, and nothing can change her mind on that, which results, sometimes, in incredible acts of grace, and other times, in the absolute devastation of those who live by her word.

Assignment 3: Breakout Titles

Raising the Promised Daughter
The World Beneath the Hollow-Trees
Hunt’s Table

Assignment 4: Comparables

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke (in that the novel is deeply focused on a non-romantic but still intimate relationship, the one between the two main characters, while drawing a world around them and a plot through them)

Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey (in that the novel takes place in a complexly ordered society with multiple different identity groups clashing politically, forcing the main characters to balance their allegiances)

Assignment 5: Conflict Line

The political handler of a prophesied child messiah struggles to balance both his love for the child and his commitment to, at any cost, ensure the fulfillment of the prophecy.

Assignment 6:

Inner conflict: Sukren’s primary inner conflict comes from his inability to want what he feels like he should want. In one scenario, his patron Lady Nari orders him to abandon his charge, the prophesied child messiah Mayah, because he is prioritizing too much her well-being over the successful execution of the Uprising. Reluctantly Sukren obeys. He is terrified to leave Mayah, whom he raised since she was a baby, without protection. He wants, however, to demonstrate loyalty to Lady Nari, who rescued him from an abusive master; moreover, he wishes he actually felt unmitigated loyalty to Lady Nari instead of feeling conflicted. Furthermore, Sukren dislikes that Lady Nari’s orders require him to pretend to be a lower status serf, as he has for the past decade enjoyed the higher position of Mayah’s guardian. He feels guilty, at the same time, that he cares about status at all. He feels like he should care solely about the Uprising, but he can’t bring himself to mimic Lady Nari’s single-minded focus despite her insistence that he do exactly that.

Secondary conflict: When Mayah decides that she no longer trusts Sukren, he cannot bear it. He forces her to flee with him to the edge of the bio-dome, beyond the reach of Lady Nari, or so he hopes. Without knowing it, however, he plunges them into an even worse situation. The edge of the bio-dome is populated by a people who deliberately limit the extent of their technological development. They live, in fact, as hunter gatherers, for the most part ignoring the rest of the bio-dome. Normally they are a stable, happy people, but Sukren and Mayah arrive during a social crisis triggered both by a series of unsuccessful hunts and a rapid increase in the number of refugees coming from the bio-dome proper. Thankfully, through his devotion to Mayah despite Mayah’s increasing bitterness, Sukren manages to win the admiration of a young hunter named Rajani who, despite the looming famine, takes both Sukren and Mayah in under her protection. Rajani, in addition to finding herself drawn romantically towards Sukren, wants to continue her people’s tradition of welcoming refugees into her society. She is resisted, however, by the rest of her people who apply more and more pressure to stop her efforts. Eventually Rajani’s entire family is ostracized, forcing Rajani to make a choice between her deeply-held convictions and budding feelings, and her family’s fate.

Assignment 7: Setting

The planet Chudami’s atmosphere clings weakly to its surface, which means both glorious visions of auroras every night, and nearly unbreathable air. It is only beneath the bio-dome that anyone can survive. The bio-dome itself is made up of hollow-trees. Hollow-trees are native to Chudami; indeed, they are the only type of flora or fauna endemic to the planet. With leaves that gleam green and blue in the dark, hollow-trees also produce fiery-red and orange breathflowers that emit oxygen.

The original colonists who crash-landed onto Chudami created the bio-dome and set up a rigid, stratified society underneath it. One of the scientists, Sarana, who became known throughout history as the Eternal Queen, decided to establish a dynasty of her own lineage. She did so by gene-locking the Dome Ring, a ring used to catalyze the breathflowers into producing enough oxygen to last through each winter. Her descendents became the Rajas while everyone else became their serfs.

The serfs live generally in greenhouses villages scattered around the bio-dome. Because the breathflowers create too much oxygen for Earth flora to handle, massive greenhouses were built and serfs moved into them so that whatever carbon dioxide the serfs breathed out would stay inside the greenhouses for the plants to absorb. The Rajas, on the other hand, live in massive hollow-trees they call castles. Some serfs also live in the castles, as servies to wait on the Rajas, as soldiers to protect the Rajas, as doctor-priests to tend to the Rajas’ physical needs, and as regents to handle the Rajas’ administrative concerns.

Population pressures due to the bio-dome dwellers’ limited space means serfs are considered disposable. Anyone who cannot in full health serve the Rajas is killed. Doctor-priests and regents are banned from reproducing. A legal system has developed that requires serfs to successfully apply for protection from a patron--or be considered fair game for abuse and murder at anyone’s hands. Not all the serfs, however, buy into this Rajas-centered worldview. And for the past several hundred years, they have been organizing. The Uprising is at hand, it is whispered, from one end of the bio-dome to the other.

Only one corner of the bio-dome remains ignorant of these sweeping changes. Indeed, the people who live on the other side of the shelterbelt, along the edge of the bio-dome, don’t care about the bio-dome proper at all. They live their lives as they have since the crash-landing, hunting mammoles (descendents of Earth moles mutated into giant, but still low oxygen-needing creatures) for meat and gathering nectar from breathflowers to drink. They are not a primitive people though. Scientifically-minded, they deliberately curtail their technological development in order to live out the rhythms of the truly good life. When a season of unsuccessful hunts collides, however, with an increasing number of refugees fleeing the bio-dome proper, the tribe is forced to respond to the pressures their neighbors face, or risk being wiped out themselves.

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Re: Seven Assignments for New York Pitch Writers

#28 Post by TravisP6Travis » 11 Mar 2020, 02:22

Travis Travis

First Assignment (The Act of Story Statement):
Failed G.U.A.R.D.I.A.N angel loses his love in a punishment of his own creation.

Second Assignment (The Antagonist Plots the Point):
The antagonistic force in the story is the bureaucracy in the heavens and the self. John’s spiral into chaos is fueled by his misguided desires to make up for past misdeeds. The gods exile his love to purgatory for the ring he stole and gave to her. Spinning down into self-loathing and despair, John makes one bad decision after another. He is given the chance to save his love from perdition only to find that she prefers purgatory to his love. To the gods, humans are like ants or animals. Most gods don’t care and some only care when we are having sex. Though to those beings not affected by the great anthill floods, the self that is the real enemy.

Third Assignment (Conjuring Your Breakout Title):
Life is Better with Polytheism: Death is Another Dead End Job
Is Heaven Really Heaven if you Forget your Toothbrush
Don’t Forget to Die: Practical Advice for the Immortal on Holiday

Fourth Assignment (Deciding Your Genre and Approaching Comparables):
First: The Ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
- I crafted this book in the dry British humor of Douglas Adams
Second: Heaven is for Real/ To Heaven and Back/ Proof of Heaven
- Each of these non-fiction(?) books follow in the tradition of near death narratives from a number of various religious traditions and cultural contexts à la Dante’s La Divina Commedia (The Divine Comedy), St. Patrick’s L'Espurgatoire Seint Patriz (The Legend of the Purgatory of St. Patrick), and King Yudhisthira’s journey to Naraka (hell) in the Mahābhārata (The Great Bharata).
- Though these are three recent after death narratives, and widely popular in the U.S., they lack a little bit of the social commentary and character of the more historical narratives. My book is a humble addition to this genre.

Fifth Assignment (Considering the Primary Conflict - Coming of the "Agon"):

Facing exile from the heavens because of his misdeeds, he must risk it all to save the one he loves from himself.

Sixth Assignment (Other Matters of Conflict: Two More Levels):
Inner Conflict: John’s inner conflict is an attempt to escape the memories of his past at the bottom of a bottle. Even in the heavens, one is not liberated from their past actions.
Secondary Conflict: A second narrative arc follows a band of friends as they interact with the man, Charlie Tackle, that died on account of our G.U.A.R.D.I.A.N angel’s negligence. Charlie must come to terms with his recent demise and wrap his head around his death which marked the end of John’s stay in the heavens.

Final Assignment (The Incredible Importance of Setting):

Polytheistic heavens, check. Monotheistic heavens, check. Monistic, Henotheistic, and Kathenotheistic heavens… wait what, check. Atheistic heavens, now your just f*&%ing with me, check. While the setting of this novel caters to the religious demographics in the U.S. – approximately 70.6% Christian, 5.9% non-Christian Faiths, and 22.8. non-religious according to Pew – it is largely based on the Buddhist 31 planes of existence. Spice that up with the fact that the districts of heaven would have been perfectly fine if humans hadn’t arrived and we are getting there. The food and drinks are next world, the scenery wraps your mind in a warm blanket and beats it with a wet coloring book, and the detail is so fine that it will leave you with a look that suggests that you wipe you’re a$$ with perfumed chinchillas. The setting strives for honesty in the afterlife beyond all else before getting lost along the way for a drink at the local pub.

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Re: Seven Assignments for New York Pitch Writers

#29 Post by KathleenP6Zglav » 11 Mar 2020, 23:16

Re: Seven Assignments for New York Pitch Writers
by KathleenP6Zglav

1. The act of the story statement.

A twelve year old boy takes a journey to the San Francisco Fortune Cookie Factory to find out who has been sending him secret messages to change his life.

2. The antagonist plots the point.

There are two major antagonistic forces in my novel. The first is Anthony the 12 year old boy's father Ed Lockhart who just does not " get " his son who dabbles in all and excels in none. Ed is distant and tough and unbending and makes Anthony feel like a failure even before he gets a chance to prove himself. Anthony has never felt this more acutely than trying out for the sixth grade track team. Ed almost refuses to sign the permission slip. But when Anthony finds his encouragement not from his Dad but a fortune cookie message his life begins to change. And, Anthony finds himself hiding the changes from his father who has lost his own notions of magic and mystery long ago. In the end this antagonistic energy leads Anthony to defy and dupe his Dad and travel across the country in search of who has sent him the messages of hope that have helped him transform his life.

The second antagonistic force is Clyde Montgomery the sixth grade bully who has bullied Anthony since kindergarten. This is a vendetta Clyde has inherited from his own Dad Bo whose superior athletic abilities in high school kept the resentful elder Montgomery on the bench often. Now, Clyde carries on the family tradition and revels in seeing his Dad's arch rival's son fail. But, Clyde has enough disdain not to limit himself to just Anthony as he preys on students weaker than himself.

3. Conjuring your breakout title.

The Fortune Cookie Club and The Sweet and Sour Summer

Crack Goes the Secret Messages

The Sweet and Sour School Year

4. Com parables --perhaps

Fish In A Tree by Lynda Mullay Hunt and Restart Lose Your Memory and Find Your Life by Gordon Korman and Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech All these books show the hardships of Middle School and are realistic yet funny and poignant.

5. Primary Conflict Line In order to find and be true to his own emerging destiny, Anthony Lock hart must disobey his Father and allow his eccentric Great Aunt Jane to dupe her nephew and kidnap his sons.Then along their best friend Petra they call themselves the Fortune Cookie Club and travel across the country to trespass in the San Francisco Fortune Cookie Factory to find the person responsible for the messages who transformed Anthony's sixth grade life.

6. The primary inner conflict is Anthony's fledgling self worth. He must find his niche and his purpose and a genuine connection with his best friend even if it means standing up to a bully and defying his own Father.

7. Setting is a major character in my novel. Anthony along with his best friend Petra and his little brother Nicholas and his 80 year old Great Aunt Jane leave the familiar in Chattanooga Tennessee and get bombarded with the sights and smells and sounds of San Francisco's China Town. It is as if the world had been black and white and suddenly someone hit a switch and the world became color. In China Town the Fortune Cookie Club find streets strung with red lanterns that blow in the breeze like balloons at a state fair and rooms with huge shelves of Buddhas--- laughing and fat and meditative and skinny ones. In San Francisco they discover green cable cars and yellow taxis and the expanse of the orange Golden Gate bridge. From the setting the Fortune Cookie Clubs eyes are open wide to the world and they respond by wanting to see and do more . The Fortune Cookie Club revels in the novels setting and responds not with making their " bucket lists" but their ' just getting started lists ".

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Re: Seven Assignments for New York Pitch Writers

#30 Post by BarbaraDumas » 12 Mar 2020, 04:55

Assignment 1 - Story Statement:
A tale of judgement, love and redemption in a world in which a handful of people chose to protect an individual, rather than a cause.

Assignment 2 – The Antagonists:
The antagonistic force of the novel is Judgement, represented throughout the Witleigh years (1950-1962) by almost everyone, however those most affecting the life of our protagonist, aside from himself, are:
1. Neal Thompson, the monster in a three piece suit who appears to walk on and off the stage unscathed. Andrew liked him, even envied him, comparing him to Nick Charles: handsome, rich, and a bit of a drinker.
2. Claire McCauley, William Baltimore’s agent, and the force behind the artist’s success. She worked hard, amassing a fortune for them both through a long career marketing his work. Following William’s death, Claire decided to buy into the rumors that would spice up the biography of this quiet, honorable man – while increasing sales.
3. Frances Griffith, an angry bitter woman who tripped and fell into a life that she loathed. The happiest and most fulfilling years of her life were spent working at the Beachwood Mill during the war. Ultimately promoted to line manager, she began to feel secure in her job, and with her life, but still she was forced out of the mill when the men returned. She might have been a little more accepting of the rule that returning soldiers must have their jobs restored to them, but when they hired William Baltimore, a man who had never before worked at the mill, her anger found a target.

Assignment 3 -Breakout Title:
1. A Tree Called Ezra
2. Judgement
3. Reconstructing Maggie
4. The More Things Change
Assignment 4 – Comps:
1. The Cider House Rules by John Irving – As with Dr. Wilbur Larch, Ms. Patricia Costello looks forward to a more enlightened time when women will be able to control their own bodies and their own destinies.
2. Bridge of Sighs by Richard Russo - Maggie Thompson, like Sarah Berg, fell in love with a family before she loved the son and when she is gone, Andrew is left to wonder if she ever really loved him at all.
3. A Man Called Ove by Frederik Backman The structure of the novel is similar, in that we are moving back and forth, to understand how Andrew arrived at today. Ultimately, both Ove and Andrew come to understand that: "It is difficult to admit that one is wrong. Particularly when one has been wrong for such a very long time.”

Assignment 5 - The Conflict Line:
Andrew Baltimore is devastated by the death of his first love, his best friend, and wondered, throughout his life, what he had meant to her and then, decades later, he is forced to confront the possibility that his adored and respected father was responsible for the pregnancy that led to her death. How many heroes can one man lose in a lifetime?
Assignment 6 - Protagonists Inner Conflict:
Andrew lost his muse, his best friend and fiancée, Maggie Thompson, when he was 19; he never recovered. Maggie died as a result of an illegal abortion; Andrew was not responsible for the pregnancy nor even aware of it – although he spent the next four decades thinking of ways he could have prevented her death – most involving white knights and marriage.
When a credible claim is made that his father, the artist William Baltimore, had been responsible for the pregnancy Andrew first pushes it aside. He will not believe it and wonders how so many can simply accept it as truth. Slowly those believers, including Claire McCauley, began to chip away at Andrew’s soul.

Andrew remained firm in never wanting to know who was responsible, , and then Andrew’s daughter, Carla, hired a lawyer and initiated a suit against the agent and the publisher

Andrew was away at Princeton when Maggie died. His father, traveled down from Witleigh on the night train to tell his son what had happened.

For the remainder of his life, Andrew would be able to step through the moments of that day, with scenes rising up before him in response to stimuli that he could neither identify nor control. There were no hiding places, and alcohol only sharpened the images.

“Maggie was pregnant, Drew. Rachael Thompson took her to a clinic in the city, apparently not a very good one. She, she bled to death. I don’t want to tell you this now, but I have to. There’s a sea of ugliness in store for us all.”

“She was pregnant? How could she be pregnant?”” Andrew asked, realizing immediately everything that the question made clear. He turned away, he wanted to run away. He never wanted to know. But William continued speaking.
“Rachael Thompson was arrested. I spoke to Pat Costello just before I came to your room. They’ve let her come back home, but it’s not clear for how long. Pat’s staying with her until her sister can come out from Indiana. There’s a lot of pressure on the police to put Rachael back in jail. They don’t know Maggie, or Rachael; all they know about either of them is this one thing, but it’s so easy for a one thing to wipe away everything that precedes it.”

“How it happened doesn’t matter,” William said.

“Enough!” Andrew said, closing his eyes and raising his palm – pushing it back and forth, pleading for his father to stop.

Assignment 7 – Setting: Griffiths’ End
The novel takes place in a small neighborhood of 8 houses two miles south of the village of Witleigh, Massachusetts. The Griffiths, an extended family of farmers, initially owned all of these homes, but this was a neighborhood in transition, within a world in transition.
The book opens during WWII and ends during the Month of July 2004, however the principle scenes take place between 1950 and 1962, with the final scenes occurring over four days in July, 2004.
Andrew Baltimore’s grandparents, his mother’s parents, bought Morgan Griffith’s house from the Griffith family in 1942. The house was one of three Victorians designed by Roland Griffith, grandson of the Griffith who first settled the land between Witleigh town center and the mill town of Beachwood, Massachusetts. Roland, it was said, grew up building tree houses with papered walls and elaborate cornices and then, before the Great War and the flu epidemic ran off with half the Griffith clan, studied architecture in Boston returning to Witleigh to design homes for his brothers, Morgan and Walter, before building a final home for himself. These three houses were built for beauty, rather than practicality, with the attention to detail that gives great Victorian houses the exquisite dollhouse quality.

Julian Costello, and his daughter Patricia, owned the Victorian built on a slope overlooking the neighborhood, the house Roland built for himself. Julian, a Witleigh native, owned and operated the first Ford dealership in the county; he would later become a close friend of William.

Julian’s daughter, Miss Patricia Costello, taught high school English at Witleigh High. One of the main influences in Patricia’s young life was a maiden aunt who operated a women’s clinic, hiding women from abusive husbands and supplying married women with contraceptives when it was illegal to do to. Patricia would later blame herself for Maggie’s death – because of the word she had not spoken.

George and Bunny Hastings were the farmers who lived next door to the Baltimores. Both were readers, something that Caroline, who viewed Witleigh as Carol Milford had viewed Gopher Prairie – but without any attempt to find out for herself: she just knew.

Edna Bishop, sister of Morgan and mother of Bunny Hastings, had never traveled farther than Boston, but there she marched with Margaret Sanger and worked with Pat Costello’s ‘Auntie’ in a woman’s shelter. At the ripe old age of 33, she shed tears of joy when she was able to cast her first ballot – unfortunately for a man who lost the election.
Many of Maggie’s short stories were based on the exploits of Edna Bishop, and one referenced the 19th amendment:
In 1902 Boston Edison brought electricity into the center of Witleigh, and by the end of that year streetlights shone up and down Main Street. But electricity followed the telephone poles, and it was 1920 before they made it all the way down to Griffiths’ End. Mrs. Bishop proclaimed it a banner year for the neighborhood women: we got electricity in June, and then in September we finally got power.
Caroline Baltimore, naturally shy, assumed the worst of these people, and had as little as possible to do with them. They were farmers, but many were also politically active – without stridency - quiet self-effacing men and women who enjoyed their lives while understanding that the world could be a better place.

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Re: Seven Assignments for New York Pitch Writers

#31 Post by BarbaraDumas » 12 Mar 2020, 18:56

Assignment 1 - Story Statement:
The story of a man who finally learns that where there is smoke, it is best to turn away before you're engulfed in the fire.

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Re: Seven Assignments for New York Pitch Writers

#32 Post by SHARONP6SPAULDING » 13 Mar 2020, 22:02

1. Story Statement:
The duty-bound New Englander must keep the promise she made at her father's graveside – to make the world a more just place – without breaking social, political, or legal norms.

2. Antagonistic force: In every way Mary’s opposite, Margaret is bold, beautiful, and brash, and will stop at nothing to get what she wants – to be the sole voice of the reproductive rights movement. United in vision, they are divided in approach. Mary is duty-bound to work through the system to change unjust laws; Margaret will break every unfair law if necessary. Mary is the daughter of a long-line of Boston intellectuals while Margaret is the daughter of working-class, Irish immigrants, and one of 11 children. Each is jealous of the other: Margaret craves Mary’s respectability and education, and Mary wishes to shed her Puritan morality to be emotionally free to live from her heart.

Mary must also break through and change the cultural, social, and political norms of her day to bring about lasting change.

3. Breakout Title: The Cat Bird or Who's Obscene?

4. Comps:
America’s First Daughter by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie
Impossible Saints by Clarissa Harwood
Free Thinker by Kimberly A. Hamlin (W.W. Norton & Co, 3/17/2020)
The Scarlet Sisters by Myra MacPherson (Twelve, 3/3/15, 4 stars)
Rebel Cinderella by Adam Hochschild (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 3/3/2020, 5 stars)

5. Conflict line:
A.Torn between her head and her heart, a young woman wrestles with her Puritan morality of duty to God and one’s fellow man, and her deep desire for a simple life of love and the passion of her art. Will she rise up against the social, political, religious, and legal norms to fight for what she believes is right, or retreat to the shadows?

2. In a government sting operation in January, 1929, a grandmother is indicted, arrested, and jailed in Brooklyn for sending obscene material through the mail. The material is a pamphlet on sex education for teens she had written and illustrated with anatomically correct drawings. Will she die in jail, lose what little she has, or emerge victorious in the battle for free speech and reproductive rights?

At age 10, Mary watches as her father’s coffin is lowered into the ground and listens as the Congregationalist minister drones on about the path to God’s salvation through selfless works and duty to one’s fellow man. She promises God and her father that she will dedicate her life to making the world a better place, though she has no idea how or what she’ll do. Already at this age, her dream is to be an artist and she laments that her skills are merely those of a child.

A short time later, she overhears her aunt describe her as “the most dull and uninteresting child imaginable.” Mary takes it to heart. From then on, she sees herself as plain, with nothing important to say. In the face of a scandalous divorce and then ever-increasing public humiliation on a national scale, she must overcome her lack of self-worth to stand up in the face of crushing political, social, cultural, and religious norms to bring about social change.

7. Setting

Boston 1872 – 1910 – a world in transition. On one hand, it is the hotbed of intellectual and philosophical debate, yet the city is steeped in the history and traditions of Britain and the American Revolution. Its Puritan roots run deep, yet this same soil gives rise to the religious renaissance of the 1830s and not long after, the Transcendentalism of Emerson and Thoreau. This is the city that embraces the Arts and Crafts movement, originally founded by Ruskin and Morris in Europe, and in many ways, it becomes the standard bearer of a backlash against the industrial revolution.

New York 1910 – 1947 – is a melting pot of immigrants and titans of industry. With the massive and successive influx of immigrants, comes new religions, languages, foods, and ideas, but also the extremes of poverty, disease, and a glaring lack of social services. Eventually, these prompt not only labor strikes and changes in the laws, but also reform movements dedicated to improving health, working conditions, and education. This period marks a complete break with tradition in the arts as evidenced in the Armory show of 1913 and its “anything goes” promotion of Cubist art and not long after, abstract art.

While Boston strains against the confines of its corsets and stays, New York gives birth to the Boogie Woogie and Jazz.

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Re: Seven Assignments for New York Pitch Writers

#33 Post by P6JOHNMATHI » 14 Mar 2020, 08:50

FIRST ASSIGNMENT: write your story statement.

The dragons maintained order, but they disappeared when the Oculus shattered. To bring them back, Jarin and his friends need to reach the Spire before winter's fall and reconstruct the Oculus. If they fail, the plague will destroy what's left of humanity.

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.
121 words

The primary antagonist is Malchior, a ruthless mercenary that is pursuing the Named in order to steal the power of their dragonstones for himself. His motivation lies purely in a need for “excitement.” Ordinary matters are boring for him, and the thought of more power, money, and influence makes him ecstatic. He is charismatic, cool under pressure, and has a moral code that he follows. However, he will not hesitate to strike down anyone that gets between him and his goal. He is a smooth-talking, slick manipulator. He is also an extremely skilled fighter and can handle multiple opponents with ease. He is described as cold, aloof, and determined. He doesn’t really maintain many relationships, but keeps a select few friends close.

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

The Nameless Gems
The Eternal Jewel
Shadow of a Flame

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

Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas - Multiple POV narrative from the Throne of Glass series is similar to my own. The POVs in Crown of Midnight can shift from character to character even in the same chapter, but only at certain points when it is necessary to illustrate a point or develop the characters more. The action in my story and the strong female characters are comparable to Crown of Midnight.

Ruin of Kings is similar as it has dragons and false prophecies. The chapters are mostly on the shorter side and full of energy. The humor, banter, and dark undertones are comparable to my manuscript as well.

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.

The Oculus gave us life, but it couldn’t save itself. Jarin and his friends hold the key to its restoration. With a cruel mercenary tracking their every step and hordes of monsters spawning from the shadows, they have to make it to the Spire before the path closes for good.

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?

Inner conflict that occurs in Act 2 of the story. Ian, one of the protagonists, discovers the body of a woman who had been killed by a rampaging monster that he failed to stop. Her young daughter is standing next to her, sobbing uncontrollably. His healing powers do not work—not on someone who has already passed. But, there is one solution. He has some water, purported to resurrect the dead and heal all wounds. He had saved some from when he had visited the Gifted Oasis earlier in his journey. Does he use the water here, on someone who is a stranger to him, or save it in case he needs it later when his own group is in danger? A group that consists of friends he’s known since childhood.
Whatever his decision, he would need to live with it for the rest of his life.
When Katterin heads off to complete his own agenda without telling the rest of the group, they need to decide whether to chase him down or let him complete the mission by himself. They only have a hastily written note to figure out where he is. Do they trust in his judgment and let him come back on his own time, or prioritize their main quest and bring him back as soon as possible?

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.

The narrative takes place in an alternate retelling of the Holy Roman Empire during the late 17th century. Europe is called Valorys, and the main difference is the existence of magic, which was brought to the world by the Oculus when it crash-landed on Earth, long before the dawn of human history. There are touches of Hindu mythology weaved into the setting. The story starts off in an abandoned library, covered in dust and grime, untouched for decades. The protagonist is led here by his dragonstone, which glows to indicate the importance of a specific book. In it, he finds one of the only maps that reveal the location of the Spire, the ancient home of the dragons.
The Spire is atop the tallest mountain in the realm. At the center is an altar, surrounded by an array of obelisk-like structures.
Jarin is an intrepid scholar. Years ago, he awoke to the feeling of acrid smoke in his nostrils, and the heat on the skin. The fire went on to claim the lives of his family, and he was the only survivor. After the fire died down, he found a glowing red dragonstone in the smoldering wreckage. He hopes to find out the reason he has been given this strange gem.
Each dragonstone has unique properties, and every member of the main cast has their own type. The gems are imbued with arcana, the magical energy that powers the world.
The group’s travels lead them through deserts dotted with ancient shrines, petrified forests, and twin islands. In one instance, they’re taken prisoner on an island where the major landmark is a massive castle, decorated with swaying banners. They’re trapped in steel cages that are suspended above the water, where the briny ocean spray soaks their clothes and leaves them shivering, chilled to the bone. Another location is a haunted forest that is patrolled by an unforgiving guardian, made of bark, with twisted antlers and a sinister scythe bigger than a human’s body.
The world is filled with stories of heroes past, and the protagonists learn about some of them on their travels. The shrines are dedicated to elemental dragons and provide more information on the inner workings of the dragonstones and the powers they contain. At one point, the protagonists discover a labyrinth of tunnels filled with enormous statues that have plaques inscribed in a language they can’t understand.
Overall, there are mystical elements infused into the everyday world, along with unique creatures, and characters that experience emotion. They aren’t unflinching, unkillable superheroes.

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Re: Seven Assignments for New York Pitch Writers

#34 Post by GaryGoldhammerP6 » 16 Mar 2020, 01:49

What would happen if a Death Row inmate survived his execution?

Death Row inmate A.J. Mercer had 12 years to think about the night he murdered an innocent man. As the prison guards strapped him into Alabama’s ancient electric chair, and with his victim’s family watching behind one-way glass, the 38-year-old career criminal was finally ready to pay with his life. But when he wakes up just minutes after being declared dead, it starts a chain reaction of anger, debate, and mystery that leads to his release.

There’s just one catch: he must remain a dead man.

Stripped of his identity, A.J. tries to survive in world that won’t accept him or forgive him. And to make matters worse, the secret he meant to take to his grave may now cause more people to die.

1) The Act of Story Statement

An Alabama Death Row inmate is set free after surviving his execution, forcing him to find acceptance, forgiveness, and redemption in a world where he doesn’t belong.

2) The Antagonist Plots the Point

Charlie Starke’s world is black and white, but also green – his business success is his roadmap for winning at all costs; for demanding perfection from everyone, including his perfectly compliant wife; and for his conviction that happiness can be bought with money or, if necessary, with deception.

He is not just a death penalty supporter but an advocate. He sees liberals, like his almost daughter-in-law, as naïve and weak. He is self-absorbed and hyper-aware of maintaining every appearance of a modern Southern gentleman. And he views the homeless, the struggling immigrant, and the ethnic minority as ugly refuse to be ignored at best, and at worst, discarded.

Charlie wants one thing: To see A.J. Mercer executed for killing his young-adult son. When A.J. miraculously survives the electric chair and is released, Charlie descends from hate into rage, assuming the role of A.J.’s judge, jury, and executioner. He becomes the embodiment of the broader heartlessness and fear that A.J. experiences throughout his journey back from the dead.

3) Conjuring Your Breakout Title

• The Nothing Man
• Mercy
• Nowhere to be Seen

4) Deciding Your Genre and Approaching Comparables

Genre: Cultural Fiction


We are Called to Rise – Laura McBride (Simon and Schuster, 2014)
This novel deals with the immigrant experience and how we can connect with each other despite our differences (or in some cases, because of them.) It also demonstrates, in great emotional detail, how the smallest act can have vast, irrevocable consequences.

Whereas in my novel the plight of immigrants and other “underserved” communities are mirrored by A.J. Mercer’s experience as an “invisible man,” in McBride’s story these communities are at the center of the plot. I found the writing personal and real, and despite having so many storylines going on at once, she does a wonderful job of making the narrative work seamlessly.

Sample reviews:

• “Laura McBride's debut is a genuinely affecting story of innocence, resilience, and the surprising ties that connect us all. The characters' voices are so real, so raw and human, you will find yourself thinking of them long after you have turned the last page.”

• “A masterful, affecting novel that is, at its heart, a story about hope, compassion, and the beautiful chaos of life.”

Just Mercy – Dorothy Van Soest (Apprentice House, 2014)
This novel is the closest I’ve found to my story, from the main plotline to the underlying themes of forgiveness and acceptance.

Like my novel, Just Mercy is about a Death Row inmate set to be executed, and how people on both sides of the debate, including the murder victim’s family, feel and react. Although in this case the inmate is actually killed, the book’s message is similar, with a twist at the end that makes you rethink the “value” all people have (or give up through their actions.)

The author also has a similar background to mine, in terms of my experience reporting on Capital Punishment and interviewing dozens of people on all sides of the issue. Ms. Van Soest investigated the executions of 37 Texas Death Row inmates, and has a history writing about violence, oppression and injustice.

Sample reviews:

• “This book is a gem for smart, socially conscious readers of all ages. I loved being inside the heads--and hearts--of each character. Eager to read her next one.”

• “From the first few lines to the last few words I was totally engrossed in this novel, wanting to know the ending but not wanting it to end.”

5) Considering the Primary Conflict – Coming of the “Agon”

A freed murderer must reveal a dark secret that will either lead to redemption or more death.

6) Other Matters of Conflict – Two More Levels

A.J. Mercer’s inner conflict revolves around one immutable truth: that he should be dead, his secret buried with him.

He wanted to be executed; he practically begged for it. He was ready to sit in Yellow Mama’s wooden embrace and let her 2,000 volts do its work. But neither he nor anyone else expected him to wake up in the coroner’s van – legally dead, but still very much alive.

While set free from prison, A.J. isn’t free from his past. He is shunned by the public and stalked by an unknown assassin. He would be destitute if not for the small-town church pastor who houses and protects him; friendless if not for the few locals who believe him worthy of forgiveness and redemption. And if he continues to conceal the truth behind the man he murdered, more people will die.

A.J.’s social conflict involves his right to exist, or lack thereof, as his freedom came at the expense of his identity. A dead man can’t stay in prison, but he can’t get a Social Security number or a credit card, either. As far as the law is concerned, A.J. Mercer is dead – and if he decides to keep his name, then he is admitting that he did not in fact die in the electric chair, and therefore could be executed again.

7) The Incredible Importance of Setting

The South is an idea as much as it is a place – a concept beholden to its past while desperate to shake it.

There is the South you see in movies and television, from billowing farms and murky swamps, to towering monuments to football and the voodoo alleys of New Orleans. And then there’s the other South – the version where Reconstruction is still ongoing, and where, as with A.J. Mercer, its greatest struggle is for its own identity.

From the gentrified Peachtree streets of Atlanta’s Buckhead neighborhood, to the humble port city of Mobile, Alabama, we encounter a South desperate to be seen and understood. We see French-inspired restaurants where ladies lunch on fine linens, and Cajun cafes with huge murals of African musicians, and grits on every plate. We hear affected Southern charm, unfiltered drawls, and joyous “amens” rising from an unassuming black church. And we experience the subtle racism that sticks to the South like sap on a Chevy – the collective turning away from anyone Other, anyone too poor or too in need to be accepted as equals.

These Souths – the ascendant and the stuck, the progressive and the painful – collide in Mobile. The city wants to be the Bohemian shops and hipster clubs of Dauphin Street, where young progressive thinkers and intellectual gig workers drink $6 lattes as they pound on fancy Apple laptops. But just outside these new millennial meccas, on the same streets imprinted with vintage shoes, lies another world just beyond our collective line of sight. A world of invisible people -- the homeless and the hard up; the African Americans barely a handful of generations removed from slavery.

Mercy Baptist Church -- with the Midwest transplant preacher hiding from his past, and the predominantly black and homeless congregants who just want to be seen -- is A.J.'s world, the South in microcosm. Mercy, the church located on Mobile’s African American Heritage Trail, a refuge that once hosted meetings during the Civil Rights Movement.

The building’s white paint is peeling away, like scars unable to heal; patches of grass are brown and parched, neglected not out of malice but surrender. Like much of Mobile itself, this is a church that has been left for dead.

But it is also magic – for inside Mercy, for all too brief moments, the invisible can be seen.


8) Marketing Pitch

I know, you didn’t ask for this, but I did it so I figured what the hell:


He paces the concrete floor of his 5x8-foot cell for the last time, eager to say goodbye to Death Row and the nightmares which have haunted him for 12 years: The knock on the door, the struggle for the gun, the young man’s body bleeding out on the carpet.

Twelve years of mourning and regret, all leading to this irrevocable moment.

It comes with a deafening burst of 2,000 volts. In a matter of seconds, A.J. slumps forward in Alabama's ancient yellow electric chair, a wisp of smoke curling away from the metal crown attached to his shaved head.

It’s finally over – until 15 minutes later, when on his way to the coroner’s van, A.J. opens his eyes.

A.J. is either a miracle or a monster. Everyone has an opinion, from the media talking heads to legal experts and religious leaders. But the courts have the final say, and A.J. is released into the care of his protective prison pastor.

It's a false freedom, however; A.J. is alive in body but dead on paper. Shunned by the public and stalked by an unknown assassin, A.J. would be destitute if not for the small-town church pastor who houses and protects him; friendless if not for the few locals who believe him worthy of forgiveness and redemption. And to make matters worse, the secret he meant to take to his grave may now cause more people to die.

A.J. can't move forward, so he does the only thing left -- try to find his way back.

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Re: Seven Assignments for New York Pitch Writers

#35 Post by ElizabethGhoniemP6 » 23 Mar 2020, 23:53

Assignments for NY Pitch Conference – Elizabeth Brodbine Ghoniem

FIRST ASSIGNMENT: write your story statement.

More than 4,000 years ago, a papyrus is hidden from the world. It is a document about choice and consequence; a document that has the power to determine the future. One woman will risk everything to find it and save it from falling into the wrong hands.

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.

There is an overarching antagonistic force in the story and that is the power of evil over good; our choices have consequences.

Evil is manifested in the primary antagonist, Hussein. Hussein is the leader of an international cartel that is hoping for world domination. A critical turning point in his life was when he was younger and was planning his future, post high school. He learned that he would not be able to follow his passion for medicine and healing but would instead be required to join the family business, the business connected to this secret international cartel. At first he was reluctant but the money and power that came with it, seduced him. His first murder was not that difficult. When he had amassed enough money, it then became a matter of the power that he must have, a power with a goal to control and manipulate all people. He will betray whoever he needs to betray to achieve it.

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

The Venice Declaration
The Black Headed Gull
This Has Been Foretold


- 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?

I still need to narrow the below down to two “smart” comps, and will do say after more research.

Sue Monk Kidd – The Book of Longings – even though I have not yet read this book when I was asking about comps at a local bookstore, the buyer suggested that this might be a good comp. I have pre-ordered the book to read. This newest novel from SMK is about Ana, the fictional wife of Jesus, “a female centered version meticulously researched story of the times”, according to Good Reads review. In addition to providing a woman-centered version of New Testament events, the story is about a woman striving to preserve and celebrate women’s stories during a time when women were relegated to home and were kept illiterate. The daughter of privilege, she uses that power to better other women. My story might start with a man, the pharaoh, but this is Abi’s story and I have tried using my Middle Eastern educational background and knowledge combined with additional research into events and religion to provoke the reader into believing that the story is real.

Rhys Bowen - historical mystery writer and her Royal Spyness Mystery Series. Her main character, Georgie, aka Lady Victoria Georgiana Charlotte Eugenie, cousin of King George V of England, is penniless and trying to survive on her own in London in the 1930s. She has limited choice being in line for the thrown but irrespective defies convention and manages to get some interesting positions and at the same time finds herself thrust into situations where she must solve crimes, including high stake plots to takeover of the crown. Her character descriptions are fun and quirky and it is a quick read yet her attention to details, incorporating actual events of the time bring plausibility to life.

Barbara Metz aka Elizabeth Peters – her Amelia Peabody Series brings you the history of ancient Egypt. Her unforced descriptions of the time of her characters in upper Egypt during the late 1800’s through mid-1900’s, is historically accurate and is a credit to her Egyptology training. Her fictional characters are well formed and memorable and I want the reader to feel the same with my Abi, John, Tariq, etc. Like Abi, Amelia Peabody is an accidental sleuth with high stakes and love tangles.

Dan Brown – Da Vinci Code – Abi could be considered a female version of a Robert Langdon, methodical and intelligent in his pursuit of answers. In addition, there are similarities of using religion and hidden clues as a vehicle for finding the truth.

Salman Rushdie –Satanic Verses – It is a story of east meets west – good versus evil and takes on religion, which my story does as well. The Venice Declaration tries to recognize the value of religion but is clear to point out that no religion is superior and that this separation or belief is directly responsible for the tragic events that have happened since the pharaoh’s time and which prevents humankind from experiencing a life of eternity.

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.

Abi, determined to understand why her mother and sister were killed, discovers the answers lie in finding a 4,000-year-old papyrus before it falls into the hands of an international cartel, their final acquisition that would allow them to dominate the world and control the future.

SIXTH ASSIGNMENT: sketch out the conditions for the inner conflict your protagonist will have. Why will they feel in turmoil? Conflicted? Anxious? Sketch out one hypothetical scenario in the story wherein this would be the case--consider the trigger and the reaction.

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?

Inner conflicts:
Abi’s inner conflict is forgiveness to herself. She believes she could have stopped the brutal murder of her mother and sister and it is this belief that creates a wedge in her marriage to John and also what fuels her determination to risk everything to find the truth. In her relentless drive to find the papyrus she will risk everything believing this will be her amends for their deaths.

Secondary conflicts/complications
Abi and her husband, John, have a marriage that is unraveling. They have been struggling to conceive a child for several years unsuccessfully until it happens by accident, but the struggle caused an additional fissure, blaming each other and each hiding in their work instead of forced to address the underlying issues – not the infertility but their abilities to be honest and open with each other.

John is an international operative who is involved in a black operation; only few in the US know because it is suspected that the president and his team are part of the international cartel which is finalizing a plan to get the remainder of the countries under their control. He reluctantly involves Abi in the operation to infiltrate and finally stop their plans.

Tariq, a friend from her past and first boyfriend, resurfaces. His company is buying her company and she is forced to spend time with him in closing the deal. John, of course, is jealous. Abi knows this and while sometimes she is sympathetic, her anger at some of John’s reactions, also pushes her to seek comfort with Tariq, knowing full well her flirtations are misleading Tariq and she will never break her marriage vows.

Abi and her best friend, August, have co-founded a company that has developed a neurological device that when implanted into someone with memory loss can restore these memories. The technology was developed to help brain-injured people and Alzheimer patients but the international company sees other uses for the technology. Abi has relinquished control over the company through the acquisition and just maintains a board position but August, her co-founder, has retained a role as president of the new wholly owned subsidiary and Abi realizes that August has plans to use the technology maleficently. Abi will try to stop him.

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.

The Venice Declaration is an international flight through time and place. Abi touches many places in her pursuit of the papyrus, but it also reveals the ease in which modern advances has allowed the cartel to assume power across the world.


2650 BCE in Saqqara, Egypt, a burial place for Pharaoh Sekhemkhet, a ruler of lower Egypt, and the prologue for our story. Within the same prologue, we learn of the escape of the Pharaoh’s scribe to a place across the desert that later in more contemporary times will become known as Qumran. Qumran is a place of desert, few to no inhabitants and a natural fortressed area to allow a civilization to grow and thrive but in obscurity.

It is also the place to hide from the Pharaoh’s enemies who are after the scribe to obtain the papyrus that is believed to have powers to predict the future.

Contemporary times

Venice, Italy during Carnival.
The magic of Carnival allows the setting to take on the magic of the story. Our protagonist, Abi, is introduced, standing at the window looking out at a square reflecting on her life and how it had changed since the night her mother and sister were killed. Abi and her husband have come back to Venice during Carnival hoping this special time will help them rekindle the hope for their marriage they had during their first trip.

A photograph found in a mask shop is the inciting incident for a search for the truth of Abi’s great uncle’s death. The scene on a vaporetti allows us to introduce a character who is following Abi and a dinner and scene at the masquerade ball to give further display to the characters and add intrigue to mysterious conversations that occur.

Our story ends in Venice where the discovery of the papyrus is announced and its significance is shared, the Venice Declaration.

Cambridge, MA
The home for Abi and John. Abi is a neuroscientist and has co-founded a company with her best friend, August. She met August while a student at MIT and then later met John through August. John at the time was a post-doc. While August and Abi left academia to pursue their commercial interests, John stayed at MIT and joined the faculty. We learn that in addition to his faculty position in the political science department, John uses it as a front for his clandestine operations to protect the United States. With the exception of a meeting that occurs in law offices located in South Boston overlooking the harbor and the airport, and a scene with airport security at Logan airport, most of the action occurs in Abi’s office building, Cambridge restaurants, and her house on professors’ row in Cambridge.

Cairo, Egypt
Cairo, Abi’s home for the first seventeen years of her life. We get to experience some of the cultural nuances and rituals of living in Egypt and the place itself invokes the exotic. It is where many of the murders occur, and we are able to witness one of these with the death of her great uncle’s foreman. It is also where Abi is asked to assume responsibility for a teenager upon the death of his adopted father, a former foreman to her great uncle and learns that her great uncle’s death might be the result of a papyrus he is believed to have found and is missing. We learn about ancient Egyptians customs and practices through a scene at the Egyptian Museum and a glimpse into the political turbulence in the 1950s that still reverberates in Egypt today.

London, England
Abi will travel back and forth through London to stop at the University of Oriental studies to meet with William Boyles Cheswick, a historian of religion who plays a critical role in helping Abi understand the significance of the 4,000-year-old papyrus and then later helps to translate it. In London, we also are brought into the Mayfair Hotel and then later into a hospital not far from the university after Cheswick is left for dead in his office.

Alexandria, Egypt
We are brought to another city in Egypt, on the Mediterranean Sea. We learn more about family life in Egypt and during this scene another clue is provided to help Abi discover where her great uncle might have hidden the missing papyrus.

Paris, France
John and his colleagues are holed up in a non-descript building in a suburb of Paris trying to breakup, a cartel and prevent it from taking over the last remaining seats of world government. The cartel also uses Paris as a city to convene its international leadership. Both of these are not about the city but about a convenient point for travel from various parts of the world and is also one of the countries on the brink of falling under the cartel’s power.

Later, we have a scene on a yacht in the Mediterranean, where a plot to kill the daughter of the French president is foiled and the world learns of the treachery and starts to reclaim and rebuild democracy.

Sinai, Egypt - St. Catherine’s Monastery
Abi and her colleagues travel to the Sinai believing the papyrus was given by her great uncle to a previous archbishop. St. Catherine’s is a place where the three religions intersect – Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. We learn about the significance of place to all religions and the protection of the monastery by a document that Prophet Mohamed is believed to have imprinted with a mark of his hand. The papyrus is found in the ossuary, the burial place for deceased monks.

Farafra and White Desert, Egypt (Sahara)
The final act of treason by our major antagonist, Hussein, occurs in the White Desert, a place that was formed over centuries and is remarkable for its geological formations, white pillars of uneven formation some looking like overgrown mushrooms. The area is known to be dangerous. It borders on Libya and people escape here to disappear or not to be found. The jihadists have an encampment here and it is where Hussein has elected to build a home. It is also here that both Abi and Tariq learn of the true deception of Hussein, and the desert battle and rescue culminates in the death of Tariq and the near death of Abi.

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Re: Seven Assignments for New York Pitch Writers

#36 Post by RICHARDKELLEYP6 » 22 May 2020, 20:23

By Richard C. Kelley

FIRST ASSIGNMENT: write your story statement.

David must stop his wife from cuckolding him and inserting her lover into their marriage.

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.

David (protagonist) seeks help from a sex therapist, Zsófia, to keep from losing his wife. Christi (antagonist) is beautiful, lusty, and emotionally castrating.

But Christi is not a self-absorbed trollop. She volunteers at a women’s shelter, lavishing love on the children she can’t have. She struggles to stay faithful to David despite his impotence and controlling behavior.

Christi becomes deeply depressed by her upcoming 40th birthday. She tells David she’ll leave him unless he lets her date her seven college lovers again, to find the joy she felt in her youth. David tries to save his marriage by giving his permission for her to date them- but not sleep with them.

Christi uses her first six increasingly erotic dates to emotionally castrate David while remaining nominally faithful. The seventh lover, Eric, broke her heart sixteen years ago and she has loved him ever since. She tries to impose a “new normal,” taking Eric as her lover while staying married to David.

Zsófia comes to care for David and despise Christi.

Christi learns Eric is only using her, and is wracked with guilt over cuckolding David. She determines to kill Eric, but David and Zsófia may have different ideas.

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

The Cuckold’s Therapist
A Faithful Wife
His Wife’s Seven Lovers

- 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?

Fifty Shades of Grey By E.L. James
Fifty Shades of Grey is a cultural icon, with references to it passing into popular usage. Its obvious similarity to The Cuckold’s Therapist is that each presents an emotionally complex story in the context of a sexual relationship outside society’s norms. The bondage and discipline practiced by Christian Grey is frightening to Anastasia Steele yet somehow draws her to him, and her acceptance of him draws him to her but threatens to break his carefully constructed emotional armor. They find out about themselves by each learning how far the other will go to be together.
Like The Cuckold’s Therapist, Fifty Shades of Grey is more intriguing and memorable in its appeal because of its original, genre-bending concept.

On Hart's Boardwalk By Samantha Young

Like The Cuckold’s Therapist, On Hart’s Boardwalk is the story of a long-married couple who are no longer meeting each other’s needs but desperately want to find a way to stay married. To excite each other and get thoughts of other people out of their marriage, they take a trip and embark upon a sexually-charged game to energize their fading love.
Both The Cuckold’s Therapist and On Hart’s Boardwalk, a more traditional romance, sustain the reader’s interest by using the couple’s ongoing sexual tension, which both animates and threatens their relationship.

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.

David (protagonist) and his therapist Zsófia struggle to keep his young wife Christi (antagonist) from using dates with her seven college lovers to cuckold him and thrust her old boyfriend Eric into their marriage.

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?

David’s inner conflict focuses on keeping his wife, Christi. Christi says she will leave him if he doesn’t let her date her seven college lovers. He agonizes over the thought of seeing her with another man, but decides he’s more likely to lose her if he doesn’t give his permission for innocent dates. She uses the first six dates to emotionally castrate David. The seventh, Eric, is the lover Christi lived with and now can’t live without. David must deny his own sexual impulses to break out of the cuckold role she has made for him in her “new normal,” Christi with Eric as her lover and David as their cuckold.

An early scenario which David describes to his therapist, Zsófia, involved a wild summer pool party to which David was invited by a client. David enjoys watching Christi, in her new tiny bikini, dance closely with several men while drinking heavily, but his anxiety is building and he tries to get her to go home with him. She spots four young guys in the hot tub at the far end of the pool deck and plunges in, making her suit top transparent. She looks at David across the deck as if asking how far he will let her go. He smiles and nods, but his anxiety is cresting and he briefly considers fleeing the party.

One by one she straddles the young men, her arms around their necks, and laughs as they keep their hands underwater. She stays much longer on the fourth guy’s lap, and she isn’t laughing anymore. She pulls his head up and whispers in his ear, then points at David. The young man looks straight at David and with a smirk on his face yanks her top off and throws it out of the tub, then wiggles one hand at David with the first and fourth fingers up. All of them roar with laughter. More of the other guests begin taking an interest.

Christi is laughing with them.

After a few minutes, David gestures to her to come out, and she does so right away. The men in the pool look acutely disappointed. The guy she had spent the most time with stands up, naked, and turns toward David with a big smile. He says something over his shoulder to his friends and they stand up to show David they had all been naked with his wife. The other party guests give her and them a loud round of cheers and applause. Christi is so thrilled she lets her top drop on the stairs and does a drunken pirouette in her thong, which provokes even greater cheering. Some of the men in the crowd laugh derisively, pointing at David while they talk to people around them. A few of the women look at him with pity in their eyes.

One secondary conflict focuses on how Christi’s friends and co-workers view David, and how she responds. Her friend Janine, hearing Christi’s anger at David spying on her, uses “girls’ nights out” to lure Christi toward sleeping with other men as a way of easing her out of her marriage. She invites Christi to a lively, elegant bar where they are sure to be propositioned by attractive men, and she gives Christi a gold “hot wife” ankle bracelet to fuel the flames. Christi’s reaction to Janine’s urgings is ambiguous and conflicted, because through sixteen years of sexually frustrating marriage she has remained faithful to David.

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.

The novel is set in Seattle, not the Seattle of the Space Needle and the Pike Place Market first-time visitors remember, but the Seattle I grew up in, with honest references to neighborhoods, restaurants, the lakes and bridges, and the weather. The events of the novel reach from mid-spring to early summer.

Seattle would normally expect a lot of rain in the spring with not much sunshine, and almost no rain by summer. But as the events of the novel are painted against an early canvas of sunny days followed by increasing rain and unseasonable wind and darkness, changes in the weather contribute to the dire direction of the story.

The first scene, in mid-spring, shows David’s therapist, Zsófia, in late-afternoon sun and literally in a fog about the events to come.

"Zsófia stood at the window in the late-afternoon sun. She smiled tiredly as she gazed down the wooded hill at an unseasonable thick white fog that spilled under the University Bridge and laid itself around the shoulders of Portage Bay like an ermine stole, accented by a multicolored necklace of houseboats. She turned when she heard footsteps on the porch and then a knock."

Several weeks later, the night is dark for David’s assault on Doctor Bobbie’s house, and the streets are slick from a bit of rain. There is less light, more clouds building, and more rain.

"The night was just dark enough as David drove carefully up Queen Anne Hill nearly to the Counterbalance with last night’s sprinkle greasing the street, leaving the incline and every turn slick. On Bobbie’s block there were no lights, and the street was silent the way rich people’s neighborhoods are at night."

A few weeks after that, Christi sits in a fancy restaurant on Magnolia Bluff watching Elliott Bay and the ferry dock. An unseasonable steady light rain is coming down, the night is very dark, and events are darkening as well.

"From force of habit, Christi arrived early and sat taking in the view over Elliott Bay. A State ferry was loaded to the gunwales with Seattleites in their black SUV’s, ignoring the soft, apologetic Irish sort of rain, heading for a weekend of hiking on the Olympic Peninsula. The M/V Samish blew a long blast on its horn and slid away from Colman Dock onto the glassy waters of the bay."

A week later, as David prepares himself to confront Christi at Eric’s ducal suite, the scene feels like Halloween, death and all.

"An hour later David sat quietly in his car concealed by the darkness, across a walkway from the Chrystal Palace. Cool air poured in through his window as bruise-purple clouds began to drop great globs of rain, a wind grew, and a murder of crows noisily mustering made the early-summer scene feel like Halloween."

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Re: Seven Assignments for New York Pitch Writers

#37 Post by JackieBardenwerperP6 » 27 May 2020, 23:45

Four ambitious new mothers fight to achieve their professional dreams while meeting the demands of modern motherhood.

Meet Vita Sands. A failed actress who dreams of riches, Vita thought marrying her wealthy husband would give her the life she desired. Only once their daughter is born, he becomes incredibly controlling and Vita decides she must free herself financially. She turns to blogging but struggles to capture an audience, so she recruits a group of skilled moms to help. Yet Vita only cares about saving herself, and repeatedly betrays her friends for her own means.

She especially lashes out at Addie, the protagonist, who quit her marketing job to become an artist. Desperate for Addie’s expertise, Vita promises to connect Addie with her husband’s art contacts. But when Addie begins to shine, Vita becomes threatened and lashes out. She befriends fellow mom Laney to manipulate situations so that Addie fails. She also begins seducing Grady, a stay-at-home dad on her team, and becomes irate when he and Addie develop a platonic friendship.

Vita is insecure and competitive and determined to rise above her own oppression by oppressing those around her. Vita wants to be loved, famous and free. And she will do anything to achieve her goals, even if it means destroying the lives of her new friends.

Having Enough
CLIMB (name of the moms group the characters join)

The genre for HAVING ENOUGH is upmarket women’s fiction.

HAPPY AND YOU KNOW IT by Laura Hankin. This book is similar as it follows a group of new mothers who meet at a mommy and me music class and is also written in multiple narratives. However, it is different in that while HAPPY AND YOU KNOW IT is more of a dark comedy which is compared to the television series The Real Housewives, HAVING ENOUGH is less about excess and more about real moms – it takes an honest look at motherhood, with the characters confronting real challenges facing women today.

THE PERFECT MOTHER by Aimee Molloy. This is a bestselling book about mothers, written in multiple narratives. Like HAVING ENOUGH, it explores what it means to be a good mother. However, while THE PERFECT MOTHER is a thriller and mystery focusing on a kidnapping, HAVING ENOUGH focuses on how women can find happiness as mothers while achieving their dreams.

When a fellow new mother promises to help Addie Madigan launch her art career in return for help launching a blog, Addie finds she must choose between pursuing her career at the cost of others and remaining true to the type of mother she always wanted to be.

Inner Conflict
Since giving birth to Evy, Addie has struggled with postpartum depression and anxiety, making it hard for her to connect with others and develop the network of help she desperately needs. Her husband is working long hours at a new startup, her family lives a thousand miles away in South Carolina, and for the first time in her life, Addie does not know where to turn for help. Her daughter has colic, making Addie terrified to leave her with a babysitter. She has no friends to call who have had babies of their own. And her own mother is so judgmental, Addie cannot imagine confiding that she is struggling. Addie is so overwhelmed by the care of her infant that she finds herself not only hating motherhood – which she wanted so badly – but unable to paint a stroke, let alone launch an art career. Addie feels like a total failure. She has never felt more alone, more vulnerable, or more scared.

So when Addie finds the strength to join a team of moms launching a new blog, she holds on for dear life. Yet even as she begins to pull out of her depression, she is unable to stop worrying. For example, when she is placed in charge of an important photo shoot, even though she appears confident and enjoys using her marketing skills, the entire time she worries about her behavior – first that she’s talking too much. Later, not enough. Then, when the women praise her, she catches Vita rolling her eyes, causing Addie to worry that she has annoyed Vita, her only lifeline to this group of new moms and the art world. This worrying causes Addie to lose focus and make mistakes, until once again Vita appears to be the star. Addie so desperately wants to be accepted, that she allows herself to be used and manipulated, all so she can avoid the painful alternative of being home on her family room floor alone, trying to calm a screaming infant.

Secondary Conflict
In addition to battling feelings of depression and loneliness while trying to launch her career through Vita’s blog team, Addie is also struggling with unresolved issues with her family. She left her southern home to attend college up north primarily because of her younger sister Poppy. Poppy, who had learning disabilities as a child, always received the majority of her parents’ attention, causing her to grow up selfish and pampered, while Addie, who always did well in school without much help, had to fend for herself. As a kid, Addie reacted to this lack of attention by working hard and making her own success. But now Poppy, who still lives in Charleston, is happier than ever with a rich successful boyfriend and an ironclad relationship with her parents. Now that Addie is struggling, she finds the pain of her parents’ indifference and Poppy’s success to be unbearable. And yet Addie has always been afraid to address these issues with her family because whenever she did as a child, she was told her needs weren’t as important as her sister’s. So, conflict-adverse, Addie has buried her pain by avoiding her family.

That is why when Poppy offers to visit Addie and finally meet her four-month-old niece, Addie is elated. Maybe with Poppy now in her twenties, their relationship will finally change. Only after Addie opens her home to her sister, she realizes that Poppy is using her only so she can park her car in her driveway while she jets off to Europe for a three-week vacation, similar to the one Addie and her husband had planned, then cancelled, to pay for IVF. This realization devastates Addie, and yet she never confronts her sister. Instead, she swallows her disappointment and buries her grief.

In addition, Addie faces challenges with her husband’s family, specifically when her brother-in-law decides on a whim to start painting and gets his work into her favorite gallery. She also must confront friction in her own marriage as her husband increasingly spends time at work instead of coming home. Lastly, she must examine her own moral compass when confronted with inequities among her new blog group, along with suspicions that Vita might be trying to seduce Grady, the stay-at-home dad they recruit as their photographer.

Other Conflicts – Multiple Narratives
Since this story includes multiple narratives, there are many other conflicts within the parallel story arcs that are important to the plot. In addition to Addie’s conflicts, we learn about those facing Laney, Kate and Vita, whose struggles are outlined in the Antagonist section above.

Laney’s primary conflict is that after being laid off from her education job, she is torn between starting her own business or getting a stable job in education. Her secondary conflict is dealing with her mother, who has moved in with them for financial reasons, and now is having health problems.

Kate, a high-powered attorney on partner track at a major law firm, is forced to confront whether she can continue to excel at her all-consuming job while preserving the relationships with her newborn daughter and increasingly distant husband, Grady, who joins Vita’s blog team after agreeing to be a stay-at-home dad. Her secondary conflicts include coming to terms with regrets she has over how she handled an incident where she was abused by a senior attorney early in her career, as well as control issues with trusting others with her daughter, and unresolved grief from the loss of her mother years earlier.

The story is set in Stamford and New Canaan, Connecticut, two towns located about forty miles outside New York City. This setting was chosen for its diversity of income levels as well as its proximity to New York, which is central to many of the characters’ ambitions.

HAVING ENOUGH follows four new mothers in different stages of life and with different financial situations. Addie is living in a starter home in one of the vintage, working class neighborhoods of Stamford. Laney, a first generation immigrant from Poland, lives in an overcrowded apartment with her son, boyfriend, and mother in the predominantly Polish part of town. Kate lives in a comfortable apartment near the train station allowing for a quick commute to her Midtown office. And Vita lives in a huge mansion in the New Canaan countryside. Thus, Stamford is the ideal setting because geographically it presents a unique situation where you have thousands of people from different income levels and backgrounds all living within a few miles of each other and within an hour of New York.

This location also allows for each character’s personality to shine through by looking at the living situation they have chosen. For example, Addie, who grew up in the South, loves flowers and gardens and spends a lot of time working on her small yard. Vita, who cares a lot about status, has chosen to live in New Canaan, one of the wealthiest towns around. Laney sees a mansion as a huge waste and cares more that her apartment provides walkability, which allows her to feel connected to her local community. And Kate is so busy with her job that she doesn’t have time for anything more than a sterile apartment with an easy commute, until her husband nudges her to look at houses near the beach.

In addition, because this setting encompasses everything from dense city neighborhoods, to beaches, to sprawling parks, the characters are able to spend time in many different types of locations outside of their homes. Yet Vita’s mansion remains one of the most important locations for setting and plot, as its very composition provides challenges for the characters, such as when Vita must learn to bypass the security system so her controlling husband can’t monitor her, and when Addie is forced to search the halls for her husband during a party, making what turns out to be a dangerously ill-fated decision to entrust her daughter with others.

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