Seven Assignments - Critical (New York Pitch 2018)

A forum where New York Pitch Conference attendees post assignments related to their novel or nonfiction project. These assignments relate to conflict levels, antagonist and protagonist sketches, plot lines, as well as story premise.
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Seven Assignments - Critical (New York Pitch 2018)

#1 Post by WritersBlock » 22 May 2018, 01:02

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.


Joined:22 May 2018, 22:34

Re: Seven Assignments - Critical (New York Pitch 2018)

#2 Post by CAHeiner » 24 May 2018, 01:18

1) The Act of Story Statement:

Make peace between her family and the boy they blame for her brother’s death.

2) Antagonist Sketch:

Andy is the leader of the band that Evan joins after Evan stops participating in viral challenges online. Andy makes fun of Evan’s role in the accidental death of Jesse, the little brother of the protagonist, Vera. Andy’s song lyrics celebrate cruelty and violence. While Evan tries to come to terms with the death, Andy gloats over it, trying to get Evan to perform a song that attacks Vera and her family. Andy’s biggest goal is to promote the band, where he is the most talented musician. This is his only connection to Evan and the other band members, who otherwise would not want to have anything to do with Andy. Andy wants to outshine his father, a guitarist who owns the local music shop. Andy is disappointed in him for giving up on his dream of becoming a rock star. Andy reacts to the world around him by mocking and belittling it, and by insulting people. He behaves this way to compensate for his insecurities, knowing the other band members don’t hang out with him outside of school and band activities. He pretends they’re his friends, but he really doesn’t have any friends.

3) Breakout Title:


4) Comparables (YA):

NERVE, by Jeanne Ryan
A teenage girl joins a shadowy online organization that offers people rewards for doing cruel and dangerous things. The people involved are more dangerous than she suspected, and she and the attractive boy they paired her with struggle to escape with their lives.

PHANTOM LIMBS, by Paula Garner
A teenage boy is being trained in competitive swimming by a one-armed swimming has-been when his former next-door neighbor, whom he has a crush on, and whose brother's death he blames himself for, returns to his town with her father. The two teenagers and their families rekindle their old friendships, and the boy realizes he is not responsible for the death, and that he has to move on from their shared past and let others move on too, so he can be there for those who need him now.

5) Conflict Line:

After a teenage girl loses her brother to a deadly trend, she must make peace between her family and the boy who started it.

6) Conflict:

Inner Conflict-
When Vera loses her little brother to a dangerous viral challenge he found online, she goes on the attack, shaming the boy who started this challenge, Evan, and the community that encouraged him, but soon she sees the unintended consequences of her actions. As Evan learns from his mistakes, she learns about him, and about herself. Her rage persists, but there is room for love in this rage.

Hypothetical Scenario for the “Secondary Conflict”-
In revenge for what he thinks Evan has done to his family, Vera’s father hires someone to dig up dirt on Evan’s mother, exposing her drug abuse and getting her fired from her job as a surgeon. Even though Vera appreciates the lengths to which her father will go for their family, she disagrees with what he has done. Her mother, also disappointed, responds by leaving her father, and attempts to take Vera with her, but Vera, preferring to stay at home with her flawed but loyal father, violently fights her mother off.

7) Setting:

Vera lives in the college town of Smithburgh, Virginia, which has a population of about 60,000. Her house is filled with her mother’s paintings, which portray naked young men and animals. Some of the men are wearing animal costumes. Some are part animal, with antlers, udders, and other animal parts. There are also paintings of animals with human characteristics. Her mother is an art professor. After her brother Jesse's death, her mother paints two portraits of him. The first attempt, which she displays in the kitchen, shows Jesse with antlers growing from his eye sockets. The second attempt, also displayed in the kitchen, is a more realistic portrayal. Both paintings are about four feet tall and three feet wide. Vera's father, a real estate developer, often leaves blueprints on the kitchen table. They live in an old stone house, which creaks and groans. Vera’s bedroom has a dark-varnished wooden desk, with a Herman Miller Aeron desk chair, and a maroon, dark green, and mustard yellow Persian rug. The floor of her room, and of the entire second floor, is dark-varnished wood. Her dead brother Jesse’s room has light green carpet, a sky-blue bedspread, and curtains with pictures of old fashioned open cockpit biplanes. Part of the house's roof is flat, and accessible through an attic window. This is where Jesse has his fatal accident.

The house has a semicircular driveway, with a slate path leading down a small slope to the large back yard, which is about three acres. The sides of the house are bordered with boxwood bushes, including the one Jesse jumps into in his accident. There is a willow tree with a bench under it, where Vera’s older cousin braided willow moss through her hair when they were little, and a cherry tree her mother made her pick cherries from for pies, a task her father worried she would fall and get hurt doing. The part furthest to the back is filled with large, old trees. This part of the yard is surrounded by a tall wooden fence to separate it from the four smaller houses that border it, including that of Jesse’s friend, Tyler, and from Cloverleaf Street, since Vera’s family lives on a through lot. On the outside of this fence, Tyler has nailed boards to make a ladder from his yard to Vera’s. Further down Cloverleaf Street is the home of Vera’s best friend, Jen, who lives in a one-room cottage in her parents’ back yard. Jen’s small home is made from cracked white stucco, with an air mattress, a few small wooden chairs, one large soft chair, a small end table, a large TV, and a kitchenette. Jen’s parents live in the main house, a white modernistic steel frame house with large windows. Cloverleaf Street has no sidewalk, and is overhung with low tree branches. Davis Street, where Vera’s address is, is a wide, busy street. Her house is near a busy intersection with a stoplight.

At the back of Vera's school is a brick patio with a picnic table where she and her friends sometimes eat lunch. Brick stairs lead down a hill from there to a field. Across that is a forest where students go to make out and smoke pot. A burbling stream runs through the forest. Vera’s father has bought the land this forest is on and plans to turn it into a mixed-use retail, office, and residential community. In its current state, the area is a popular spot for neighborhood children to play in. Part of it is used as a community garden. The school and the surrounding community are organized against her father’s plans to develop this area, and many of Vera’s classmates and teachers are angry at her father. A few skateboarders, however, are excited about her father’s plan to include a skate park in the community, in memory of Vera’s dead brother, who was a skateboarder.

Evan lives 200 miles away, in Wexler, North Carolina. It has a population of about 30,000. Although Evan's house is in good shape, having been built in the 1990s, the hedge along the sidewalk is badly in need of a trim. The chain of events that leads to Jesse’s death starts in Fabby’s Fabulous Fashions, a large, two-story clothing store in Wexler’s largest mall. Fabby’s has a second-floor mezzanine level. This store is where Evan finds the metal dolly stacked with cardboard boxes full of clothes that he dives off the mezzanine into to start the viral challenge that leads to Jesse’s death.

One of Wexler’s popular restaurants is Lonnie’s, named after Evan’s father, who started it and owned it until Evan’s parents divorced three years ago and he moved out of town. Lonnie’s is decorated with a light display in the shape of a cartoonish cowboy that towers over the building. Next door is the restaurant’s rival, Snells, which has a giant hamburger-shaped light display on the roof.

Joined:22 May 2018, 19:26

Re: Seven Assignments - Critical (New York Pitch 2018)

#3 Post by RoseFerrell » 24 May 2018, 23:46

FIRST ASSIGNMENT: write your story statement.

Love of family, love of self; finding real love is what makes life worth living.

SECOND ASSIGNMENT: sketch the antagonist
John is a tall handsome special forces officer in the United States Army with plenty of raw ambition and hubris. He will do anything to get what he wants; including selling guns and secrets to terrorists. While betraying his country for money, he still enjoys his rank of Major in the Army and being an officer among his troops. His betrayals don’t stop there. In Fayetteville, North Carolina outside of Ft. Bragg John has a wife, Stella of 18 years and a teenage son, Paul living the all-American life full of baseball and backyard pool parties. However, not only is John not very interested in them. We learn he is keeping a second wife, Rain and daughter, Dove in the middle east. John believes he is smarter than everyone else and that he can lead this double life making money on the side and no one will catch him. The enormity of John’s secrets triggers a string of events that has his wife Stella’s life imploding.

THIRD ASSIGNMENT: create a breakout title
What THE MISST revealed
The All-American family and other lies
The wife is always the last to know

FOURTH ASSIGNMENT: Genre and Comparables
Thrillers: Spy novels with romance and a touch of science fiction

The Unsanctioned Patriot, by Alex Ander
Kill and Tell by Linda Howard
The Bourne Identity by Robert Ludlum

other authors with similar style:
AJ Tata
AG Riddle
Catherine Coulter
Sherilyn Kenyon (I am more PG13, less science fiction)

Primary Conflict: After an all-American wife and mother finds her life blown-up. She must work to put the pieces of her life back together with the help of MISST Secret Agents.

Secondary Conflict -1: Stella, our wife and mother thinks she has the perfect marriage, until she meets MISST agent Chris when he saves her from the bad guys shooting up her home. Sparks fly as they race around the globe trying to find some answers.

Secondary Conflict-2: MISST agent Jane tracks down Stella in Italy to tell her the whole sordid story about her husband John. As she tells Stella about John’s illegal activities of selling guns and secrets, Jane enlightens Stella about John’s second wife, Rain and daughter, Dove in the Middle East. After this rollercoaster Jane is fatally shot and at first Stella, tired of all the drama, walks away to leave Jane to fend for herself; changing her mind she goes back and saves Jane. Making a devoted friend, learning more about MISST and realizing she is stronger and more capable than she ever believed.

Internal Conflict: Stella has held together the perfect picture of her life and marriage. She needs to deal with the fact her husband has betrayed her and their country. As the story unfolds, she comes to realize she did not need that perfect picture life or her husband John and that she is stronger than she realizes.

SIXTH ASSIGNMENT: Protagonist conflict
Stella, our protagonist, must deal with the death of her husband, son and her marriage. Coming out the other side of the pandemonium, she must learn to trust her instincts about men, sex, and love.

7 - FINAL ASSIGNMENT: sketch out your setting in detail
Setting 1 – Beautiful home of Stella and John Finch in Fayetteville, North Carolina - home, backyard, pool area and driveway.
Setting 2 – funeral home, breezeway, parking lot and local grocery store
Setting 3 – I-95 and surrounding roads from Fayetteville, N.C. up to Washington D.C.
stops at Chris’s townhouse and McDonalds
Setting 4- The Mandarin Oriental hotel and spa in DC
Setting 5 – Airplane to St. Petersburg Russia, drive to hotel, hotel, bar and restaurant
Setting 6 – Civitavecchia and Rome Italy, apartment, church, police station, highway, piazza, hotel, U.S. embassy, hospital and streets
Setting 7 – Highway between Rome and Bern Switzerland with rest stops
Setting 8 – MISST headquarters Bern, Switzerland

Thanks for reading - Rose

Joined:25 May 2018, 03:19

Re: Seven Assignments - Critical (New York Pitch 2018)

#4 Post by Raleigh01 » 25 May 2018, 03:30

1. Story Statement

A brash young intelligence officer is tasked to hunt down a violently anti-American terrorist.

2. Antagonist Plot Points

An amorphous, Balaklava-hooded terrorist who styles himself “Brenrique” is the illusive driving force behind an ultra-violent band of campus militants.

Doug’s hidden opponent is his liaison counterpart in state security (Amilcar Bautista) who leads a campaign to suppress student activists and, after the military coup, defines an ‘insurgent’ as anyone who simply opposes the dictatorship.

Condescending Deputy Station Chief Harding Phelps is well-born, well-connected and Ivy League-educated but insecure and jealous of his prerogatives. He views energetic, bright and ambitious Doug Ford as an upstart, a shameless opportunist and potential rival.

3. Breakout Title

A Ladder in the Dark

The Theory of Two Demons

Missionaries of a Secular Faith

A Zero-Sum Game

4. Comparables:

Genre: Cold War era espionage fiction

Paul Vidich, The Good Assassin
It’s authentic, plausible (not Marvel Comics), Cold War era spy fiction set in Havana in 1958 amid a revolution. The protagonist is a retired intelligence officer who, at the behest of the Director, undertakes a high-risk operation.
Likewise, my project is authentic and plausible Cold War era espionage fiction but set in Buenos Aires in 1975-76 amid Argentina’s Dirty War. The protagonist is a novice intelligence officer—almost a trainee—who is thrown into a conflict that tests his moral compass.

Charles McCarry, The Mulberry Bush
No-nonsense narrative, clever dialogue, intimate 1st person portrait. (Mine is in very close 3rd.) And once again, plausible, authentic Cold War era spy fiction.

5. Primary Conflict

An ultra-violent terrorist begins a reign of terror against American "neo-colonial institutions and their guilty henchmen," and Doug must hunt him down before he can carry out any more of his high-jinx.

6. More Levels of Conflict

Inner-conflict: A tough kid from a broken home, Doug struggles to reinvent himself in the Ivy League world of American intelligence. (Antecedents: Clarice Starling; Bud White; Bruno Stachel)

Conflict: Determined to succeed in an Ivy League world, Doug clashes with priggish Deputy Station Chief Harding Phelps who wants to thwart his ambitions.

Conflict: Doug is drawn into an increasingly desperate struggle among left-wing insurgents, a brutal dictatorship and Agency hardliners.

Conflict: Doug clashes with Bautista when he learns that state security is conducting a campaign of state-sponsored extermination.

Conflict: Doug falls in love with Marisa, a headstrong leftwing activist, and must find a way to snatch her back from state security (Bautista) before she joins the ranks of the "disappeared."

Conflict: Struggling to find redemption after a lifetime of human exploitation, Station Chief Coleman Fannin (Doug's mentor) clashes with rigid bureaucratic orthodoxy in the person of Division Chief, Joyce Reynolds.

Inner-conflict: Doug must somehow cope while forever acting under false pretenses (his cover identity), especially with Marisa with whom he’s falling in love.

Inner-conflict: Doug must find his moral compass in the bleak, muddled, morally ambiguous world of American espionage.

7. Setting

Buenos Aires: A dangerous, densely-populated urban jungle amid a revolution. Rising above the jungle are two rival, sometimes colluding, castles—the Secretariat, home to Argentine state security and, perched on an island of America, the United States Embassy.

The Secretariat is an austere, ten-story Classical Revival structure, an expression of the tyrannical power and reach of the dictatorship. Somewhere out in the urban jungle, the Secretariat maintains Automotorres Baressi, a dingy auto repair shop that has been converted into an interrogation center—a house of horrors, a dungeon.

Home to the judiciary, the haunting, neo-Gothic Tribunales is a symbol of archaic and crumbling Argentine justice.

The modern, fortress-like American Embassy is a symbol representing American power and prestige. But it can both wall out and wall in. For Doug, it is a symbol of his enslavement, a restrictive place governed by rules promulgated by people like Harding Phelps. Within the embassy’s walls is the acoustic conference room, a clear plastic enclosure within a windowless room, an expression of sightless and unreasoning bureaucracy.

Joined:22 May 2018, 11:05

Re: Seven Assignments - Critical (New York Pitch 2018)

#5 Post by katblakeney » 25 May 2018, 14:07


A disfigured American war pilot in 1920s Paris stages a surreal theatrical operation to punish the traitors who destroyed his face and honor and stop them from initiating WWII.


Claude/Klaus Francois Conbert is a devious and manipulative media mogul who sees himself as a “Kingmaker” and uses blackmail and the power of the media to create and control influential puppets who will help him further his political agenda as a Nazi agent.

Character Arc - He begins his journey as a double agent for his overbearing mother, an undercover German spy. Ambitious and drive, he joins a regimental newspaper in the French Foreign Legion during World War I and learns first-hand that the media may be the most powerful weapon of all. Intoxicated by this new sense of control, he expands his activities and becomes an influential media mogul. Manipulating others through blackmail and strategic press campaigns, he builds a global conspiracy to assassinate US President Wilson and French Prime Minister Clemenceau, free the imprisoned Hitler, and launch a new world war. Led deeper into vice by his lust for power, he betrays his mother to protect himself and remove her influence and eventually loses the control he values so highly and falls victim to his own weapons.


The Gargoyle of Sacre Coeur
Watching Wolves
Wolves of Vendôme


Carr, Caleb. The Alienist (New York: Random House, 1994) - this is novel is also a historical “Whydunnit”, set only a couple of decades before mine. I felt the setting was strongly integrated into the mystery and character development. This is something I strive to do in my own writing. The main characters of The Alienist are intellectuals and highly specialized professionals who use their professional knowledge and unique skills to solve a dangerous and complicated crime. The plot revolves around an exciting area of niche knowledge that is explored through a thrilling story.

Barker, Pat. Life Class (London: Hamish Hamilton, 2007; released in the US by New York: Doubleday, 2008) and its two sequels, Toby’s Room (2012) and Noonday (2015) - Barker’s novels offer a fascinating contemporary take on WWI and its aftermath on a very individualized and personal level. I was interested in her treatment of a subplot featuring a disfigured veteran character re-assimilating in the post-War world, although I want to take the concept much further by making my disfigured veteran the center of the story and using his internal and external struggle to establish a new identity as the main driving force of my narrative.


After losing his face and reputation in the trenches of World War I, a young American fighter pilot seeks revenge against the traitors who framed him and their secret ringleader, a powerful and corrupt media mogul involved in a global plot to incite a new world war.


Inner Conflict - Can a disfigured American war pilot reconcile his fractured identities - the merciless, broken gargoyle staring back at him from the mirror and the heroic and loving inner face he once had and perhaps never lost?
The protagonist, an American golden boy and intellectual, joins the French Foreign Legion during WWI with romanticized and idealistic visions of becoming a heroic “Knight of the Air” only to burn with his plane a couple of years later, framed posthumously for treason. Alive but disfigured and disillusioned, he must find the strength to redefine himself and discover a true face that he can never lose. In the process he learns to acknowledge and accept the love and friendship of his kid sister and his childhood best friend and eventual romantic interest, who both see past his fragmented facade and inspire him to keep living and fighting.

Secondary Conflict - The secondary conflict centers around a group of disenfranchised wounded veterans who join the protagonist in his underground war. The group is comprised of former farmers, factory workers, engineers and craftsmen who served under the protagonist in the War as aviation mechanics and pilots and suffered as a result of their association with him. He struggles to understand his moral responsibility towards them - is it selfish of him to involve them in another fight when they’ve already sacrificed and suffered so much, or is it his duty to lead them in stopping another terrible war from beginning and destroying the remnants of their world?


As a filmmaker, I take a very thorough view of location choice and usage in my writing. The concept of characterization through an individual’s relationship with his/her natural or architectural environment plays an important role in all of my creative work. I’ve personally scouted and recorded each of the locations used in this novel and will apply my personal experiences of their imagery and sensory landscape in my descriptions.

The main setting for the novel is Paris in the spring of 1924. Below is a detailed list of some of the most significant locations used in the story.

1. The search for the missing protagonist, Richard, takes his kid sister Henrietta and his childhood friend Florence, on a whirlwind tour through the streets of Paris following a trail of clues they believe he left behind. They are lead to the Hotel de Invalides and the magnificent sarcophagus of Napoleon, up to the top of Notre Dame’s famous towers to mingle with its silent gargoyles, to the steps of the Paris Opera and into the eerie confines of Place Vendôme .

2. Richard’s headquarters, hidden in plain sight in the mansard of the glamorous Ritz Paris, are furnished with his personal treasures, an environment as mysterious and eclectic as the caverns of the Count of Monte Cristo.

3. With Richard’s secret army of “Watching Wolves”, Florence and Henrietta join a theatrical game of disguise and illusion to uncover and expose the devious plots of Richard’s enemies. Infiltrating the villains’ places of work and leisure, they pursue a trail leading from the Moulin Rouge, through film studio backlots, to the winding streets of Montmartre, to the confessionals of Sacre Coeur Basilica and the halls of the Ministry of Justice, back to the abandoned trenches of Verdun. Particular attention will be devoted to the backstage workings of a 1920s film studio, and the unique quirks and mechanics of silent film production, a topic that is rarely explored in detail in contemporary literature about this period. My descriptions and anecdotes within this setting are inspired by the research I conducted for my PhD in early film history.

4. From the glamor and culture of 1920s Paris, the narrative will plummet to the depths of the Parisian underworld, from seedy underground pubs to secret bunkers concealed in the city’s sewer system.

5. The backstories of the three central characters will also be closely entwined with the environments of their childhoods and significant moments of their lives - the Victorian summer mansions of Far Rockaway, New York, the townhouses of New York’s elite, and the trenches and airfields of World War I in France.

Joined:22 May 2018, 15:02

Re: Seven Assignments - Critical (New York Pitch 2018)

#6 Post by Thomask1 » 25 May 2018, 18:36


In 1813, idealistic Kitty, 16 year-old heiress to her father’s plantation, slave holdings and fortune, is being pressured by her parents to marry a man of her father’s choice—but Kitty is gay.


The antagonist in this plot is Kitty’s father’s will, both literally and figuratively. He has no son, and doesn’t believe in a woman’s ability to run a vast enterprise like a diversified plantation. He believes that he is a man of learning, business and science. He wants his daughter to marry so that he can train her husband to manage the family estate. If she doesn’t marry, the inheritance is not clear. Kitty disagrees with her father about some aspects of how the plantation is managed, especially his treatment of slaves, and wants to change these things if she inherits, but cannot bring herself to marry.


“Art and Artifice”


My primary inspiration for this story came from The Scarlet Pimpernel. There are several plot twists that are reminiscent of that book. In the second part of the story, her exasperated father sends Kitty to visit relatives in England to marry well, and then the story becomes reminiscent of Jane Austen type stories, but with a gay main character.

I consider this to be a historical romance, minus the bodice ripping and the devilishly dashing dark-eyed dukes. I’m attempting to write literary fiction, something more along the lines of a Philippa Gregory novel.


One of the primary conflicts in this story is the fact that the protagonist, Kitty, has to defend her sexual orientation without stating it, since being overtly gay isn’t possible for her. She is in love with her black maid, Missy; they spent their childhood together on the plantation. Since she is Kitty’s lady’s maid, Missy is supposed to sleep on a palette in Kitty’s room, but in fact, they sleep together in Kitty’s bed every night, yet manage to maintain the guise of propriety. The fact that Kitty is lesbian is also at the basis of the other primary conflict because of her resistance to getting married as her father demands and society dictates. As a wealthy young woman, there appears overtly to be no impediments to Kitty getting married, yet she refuses, angering her father.

Kitty’s father is a real dynamo, used to getting his own way. He is not only a well-educated man of science and letters with extraordinary business acumen, he is also the county judge. He has created a mega-plantation out of four plantations, and has diversified income across industries, including holdings in the Caribbean, with business partnerships internationally.


The story starts in 1813, during the war between the U.S. and England. Background facts: In 1808 the U.S. banned the importation of slaves, however demand for slave labor was unabated. At the time, breeding slaves for the market was a common practice, with the general practice of allowing a slave woman freedom after she bore 15 children.

The Judge, as a man of science, applies the principles of animal husbandry to slave breeding. When Kitty discovers this, she is disgusted and appalled. As heiress to the plantation, she resolves that she will inherit the estate if only to abandon the practice of slave breeding. But she is also aware that in order to inherit, she will have to marry. Kitty knows that any man her father chooses will not allow her to abandon something as lucrative as the slave breeding. Kitty doesn’t know how she will reach her goal, but this is her mission.

One of the suitors proposed by her father is Mr. Frayme, an Englishman who is her father’s business partner. He is extremely good looking, and all of Kitty’s friends find him extremely attractive, and cannot understand Kitty’s dislike of him. In fact, he is a reprehensible person, but he is hell-bent on marrying Kitty, and pursues her relentlessly. This is another conflict Kitty faces.


The setting for the first part of the story is a large plantation in Southern Maryland, close to Washington, and near the port of Baltimore. In 1813 this was the site of a lot of the conflict of the war with England. The second part of the story takes place in England, in London, for the “season,” and on a country estate owned by Kitty’s relatives, a wealthy family. The final part of the story takes place back in Maryland after Kitty comes back from England.

Joined:22 May 2018, 09:27

Re: Seven Assignments - Critical (New York Pitch 2018)

#7 Post by drdenhow » 25 May 2018, 19:47

Assignment 1:
Expose the unethical activity of the High Commission and get justice for those who were harmed by its actions.

Assignment 2:
Madeleine Barrett Stanford, the only non-physician member of the High Commission is more than capable of standing up to a room full of opinionated doctors. Madeleine’s mother died from colon cancer at age 35 and her father never remarried. He reared her with the discipline he would have given a son minus the love and affection he would have given to a male heir. She learned to shoulder the burden of her families’ legacy early in life.

Had her mom received proper healthcare, she would be alive today. The country can’t afford to provide complex care to every person, but everyone deserves basic healthcare. It's what civilized countries do and it is an investment in the future.

Madeleine is a master manipulator, she knows how to appeal to a person’s sense of self-preservation, ego or greed. Love of country motivates her. As a true American, she believes difficult choices need to be made to ensure the United States remained a world leader. She is willing to do this and membership in the Patriots for an Exceptional America (PEA), a shadow organization that has surreptitiously advanced the American cause for more than two centuries, gives her the venue to act.

Assignment 3:

The High Commission
Cold Hard Truths: A Dr. Erin St. Clair Thriller
Blurred Lines of Justice

Assignment 4:

It is difficult to find specific comparables as there aren’t any medical thrillers I can identify that feature a woman of color as the protagonist. This makes “The High Commission” unique and it should appeal to women, especially those of color, who enjoy thrillers, those fascinated with the medical field while providing a touch of romance.

While I am reluctant to put myself in her league, the closest I can come to a successful thriller that matches is Harvest by Tess Gerritsen, where a medical resident is recruited by an elite transplant team. Like my main character, Abby Mateo is presented with an ethical dilemma that forces her to investigate the true nature of the group she was so anxious to join. They both discover covert activities that the members will kill to keep secret.

In Deadly Errors by Allen Wyler, Dr. Tyler Matthews investigates a series of deaths which have resulted from errors tracing back to the electronic medical records. Like my protagonist, he must challenge the power structures to prevent further harm but doing so places his life and career in harm’s way.

Assignment 5:

Dr. Erin St. Clair must expose the covert agenda of the High Commission to get justice for the murder of her beloved mentor and save the life of an intelligent teen while placing her life and career in jeopardy.

Assignment 6:

Erin realizes she is no longer a helpless girl who should be grateful for the opportunities sent her way but an accomplished physician and woman of moral character who has the power and strength to do what’s right even if this means exposing the unethical actions of her beloved mentor to whom she owes much.

Erin has no other choice but to seek the assistance of her ex-lover Wesley Sey, who has the skills and connections to help expose the commission but doing this place her at risk of heart break a second time.

Assignment 7:

It has been ten years since the People’s Revolution where violence against the affluent and lynching of public figures led to sweeping changes in healthcare provisions. The High Commission (HC) was created and tasked with the equitable distribution of healthcare resources ensuring basic care for all and more comprehensive coverage for those meeting defined criteria.

The commission consists of nine appointed members who oversee resource allocation, hears arguments for funding specific cases and consider appeals. It has an evidence-based objective approach which allows them to distribute resources in a fair manner. Hearing the members discuss the cases and argue for funding of those they feel strongly about give readers a unique view of how healthcare could be funded and provides a venue ripe for conflict.

The hospital setting and especially the operating room provides insight into the professional activities of the main character, highlighting the demands of her job, the skills required to provide lifesaving care and a taste of what often happens when a group of opinionated people (doctors) must work together in stressful situations.

The Baltimore combat center provides an intimate look into the personal life of Erin which includes her chosen hobby of martial arts and the relationship with her lover, Wesley.


Joined:22 May 2018, 18:44

Re: Seven Assignments - Critical (New York Pitch 2018)

#8 Post by amyina68 » 25 May 2018, 23:32

Story Statement

Sylvia Sager wants to go to college for drawing, but her high school canceled their art program long ago. When she takes on an after-school internship at a computer graphics lab and meets a group of hackers, she’s lead to a decision that forever changes her future.

Antagonist Plot Points

Sylvia’s parents are divorced and have opposing lifestyles. She’s grown up with her quirky, extroverted mom and vegetarian step-dad, attending an ethnically diverse inner-city public school where she blends in with the crowd. Her dad and older brother live in an expensive Georgetown townhouse, earning high salaries at their jobs on Capitol Hill. They like red meat, guns, and beauty queens. Sylvia is tied to both fences, but what she really wants is to break free and become her own person. At the lab, she meets Dirk. He’s one of the most skilled hackers in the Linux User’s Group and the roommate of Zero, the guy she’s in love with. Dirk shows Sylvia the flip side of every situation, calling out hypocrisies and challenging her to question the status quo. She never intends to become a hacker herself, but he tempts her to break into her dad’s secret server to answer a few questions about his work. But Dirk can go lower than she ever thought, incriminating Zero to keep himself clean. Sylvia ends senior year with an impossible question: Should she turn herself in and sacrifice art school, or live with the guilt and let Zero take the blame?


Angel of the City
Rich White Girls
Tofu Bones


"All American Girl" by Meg Cabot; "Love, Life, and the List," by Kasie West; "Sometimes it Happens," by Lauren Barnholdt.

Primary Conflict

A high school senior negotiates between family, love, and the technological lures around her.

Inner Conflict

Sylvia has always been able to keep both sides of her family at peace, but senior year has arrived and it’s time to think about where she’s heading after graduation. When she meets a group of hackers who help her become an Instagram sensation, she struggles to find a balance between her dad’s demands, her artistic ambitions, and the private pain of loving a guy who’s keeping her at a distance. After she makes a big mistake by hacking into her dad’s secret computer server and puts three people in criminal jeopardy, she finds a way out by admitting blame, accepting the punishment, and reorienting herself in a direction she never thought she’d go.

Secondary Conflict

It’s senior year and Sylvia wants to stand out more and become known for something. Her English teacher asks her to come up with an app that will count the Homecoming Court votes in real time, but she never expects that same teacher will secretly manipulate the votes to award Sylvia with the homecoming queen tiara. The school’s popular girls are angry, so Sylvia tries to redirect the subsequent Snowball crown to the class favorite, thereby sidestepping her best friend Paris’s wish to win the title.


Sylvia’s story takes place entirely inside Washington, DC, the place where she has grown up and where all members of her immediate family live.

Setting 1: Mt. Pleasant High School. Shabby but loved, the high school is an old brick building with a lack of good resources. The girl’s bathroom is especially gross, with orange-yellow paint and glass block windows.

Setting 2: Sylvia’s home, a dark-red townhouse in Mt. Pleasant. She lives here with her mom, step-dad, and dog. There’s a “gluten-free” zone sticker on the front door. The side of the townhouse borders a Spanish restaurant.

Setting 3: The George Washington University Computer Lab. A beige room lined with computers, it’s across the quad from Vick Dorm, the residence of Zero and Dirk. The LINUX user group meetings are held in the dorm’s basement.

Setting 4: Room 415 of the Mayflower Hotel, the temporary headquarters of the Mike Jake senatorial reelection campaign. Sylvia’s older brother works here with Darcy, an assistant, where they plant propaganda using a server named TEXAS*COW.

Setting 5: The Church of Two Worlds, a beautiful old Spiritualist Church where Zero films his indie movie. Sylvia comes here to reflect and come to terms with her dad’s manipulations.

Setting 5: The Georgetown condo owned by Sylvia’s dad. She comes here to visit and to meet with her dad’s lawyer. The condo is dusty, cold, and the china cabinet is filled with guns.

Setting 6: Ashley Chavez’s probation office. After Paris and Sylvia are arrested for saving the science lab reptiles, they come to this small cinderblock office for probation meetings. This is the room where Sylvia turns herself in.


See you soon,


Joined:27 May 2018, 00:16

Re: Seven Assignments - Critical (New York Pitch 2018)

#9 Post by mjbeehm93 » 27 May 2018, 01:28


Cure her otherworldly migraine while facing her unbelief and fears of insanity.


Gwen initially dismisses the Nothing as yet another hallucination. It’s a gnawing absence just behind her. It’s a legion of not-there-hands and shadows dripping from the ceiling. It’s a headache that winds tighter as days go by, a pressure building at the back of her skull threatening to crack her open and spill her out across the concrete.
In the first chapter, the Nothing takes on physical form to defend Gwen, grinding her attacker into a bloody pulp. But once manifest, the Nothing can no longer fit comfortably inside Gwen’s skull. The dried blood caked to Gwen’s boots defies her insistence that the attack was a hallucination, but if she killed a man, why doesn’t the blood go past her boots?
The Nothing wants to reintegrate into Gwen’s mind, but how can abandonment coexist with intimacy, how can self-protection go hand-in-hand with venturing into the unknown? It shifts and twists and refuses to settle.
While Gwen searches for a cure, she must choose between denial and acceptance, between running away and turning to face the unreal world she’s always teetered on the edge of. If she doesn’t, the monsters inside her own head are going to eat her alive.


The City on the Other Side of the Wall
The Other Side of Nothing
Bird-Boned and Breakable


Genre: Literary/Upmarket Urban Fantasy/Horror
Comparables: Mark Z. Danielewski’s “House of Leaves,” Helen Oyeyemi’s “White is for Witching.”


When a supernatural Nothingness manifests and threatens to tear a young woman apart from the inside out, she must choose between protecting her fragile world-view by once more running away from the unreality nipping at her heels, or turning to face the monsters she’s always told herself were nothing more than the mirrors and smoke of her own damaged mind.


Internal conflict
The first time Gwen goes over the Wall and finds herself in the impossible city on the other side, she is torn between believing she’s finally hallucinated herself right off planet Earth, relief that the journey over the Wall somehow rid her of her agonizing headache, and a horrified fascination of the world opening at her feet. It can’t be real! But if it wasn’t real, could a little exploration really hurt her? Wanting to hold on to her pain-relief a little longer, she convinces herself she’s dreaming and wanders off into the city, but because she can’t admit the possibility that the city is real, she can’t accept the reality of its dangers and allows herself to be carried off by its dream-logic.

Social conflict
When Gwen arrives in the City after four years wandering the country, desperate to find somewhere to lay low while she recovers from the hallucinatory attack that left blood stains on her boots, an old friend, Jeremy the bartender, offers to let her crash on his couch. But while Jeremy’s empathy makes him aware that Gwen is dealing with some very serious problems and his compassion makes him ask about what’s going on, Gwen sidelines him with stories of her problems with her ex rather than admit the truth. Jeremy has no experience with the Otherworld, and like her ex, would pressure her to seek professional help were she to let him in. The situation is complicated by Jeremy’s live-in boyfriend, Quincy, who is pressuring Jeremy to get Gwen to leave. Jeremy, aware that Gwen isn’t telling him the whole story and hurt by her unwillingness to trust him despite all he’s done to help her, sides with Quincy and politely tries to help Gwen make other arrangements for a living situation.


The majority of the story takes place in the City, which we experience through Gwen’s often migraine-distracted, drunk, disoriented point of view, a place of pooling shadows and malignant observers. Within the City is DISASTER, the club where Jeremy works and where Gwen starts helping out while she stays with him. DISASTER has a wall full of the inspirational quotes penned by those who have completed the fifty shots in fifty days challenge and is known for the obnoxiously loud bands that play there. Also in the City is Beckett’s Tea and Herbs, a shop run by the alchemist Thaddeus Brown, a green maze of overcrowded shelves, dried and potted plants covering every surface and hanging from the ceiling. Thaddeus is usually found lounging on the used furniture that sits at the back of the shop, brewing tea in a charred Bunsen Burner that sits on the coffee table. Jeremy’s apartment, where Gwen splits her time between sleeping on his couch and using his computer to look up “GORY ALLEY MURDERS” and the mysterious Lady Morana’s Theater, is a cramped place with thin walls and a half-completed mural that Jeremy and Quincy never bothered to paint over. Finally, there is the meeting place of a Support Group for the supernaturally-afflicted, the basement of a community center that still has some of the old décor from when it was a church.
But beyond/on top of/within the City is another city, the city on the other side of the Wall. It is an old city, empty and shrouded in mist, where distances don’t stay distant and close-by is always moving farther away, where trees grow up through brick buildings that look like the plywood fronts in a play, where falling leaves burst skyward as flocks of birds, where stunted gremlins whisper of the Lady Morana, and ghostly singers lead Gwen into knots in the trees.
Connected to the Otherworld is the Lady Morana’s Theater. The theater is the seat of the Lady’s power, the place where she holds court and various denizens of the Otherworld come to pay homage to her and attempt to win her favor. While the stage and lower half of the auditorium are that of a traditional theater, the balcony above them holds the Court, filled with silk pavilions and purple smoke, all centered around a dead tree under which the Lady reclines.
And finally, there is Grandmother’s house. It is the setting of Pig Story, a parallel story about Gwen’s childhood found between the chapters of the main narrative. Grandmother’s house is an old farmhouse filled with dust and decaying memories. Grandmother never takes care of it, instead spending all of her time in her vegetable garden waging war against the fairies no one else ever sees. The room upstairs with the piano is filled with cardboard boxes. At the bottom of the hill is the forest, and in the forest, a creek. It is into this forest that the neighbor’s pig escapes every day.

Joined:14 May 2018, 17:40

Re: Seven Assignments - Critical (New York Pitch 2018)

#10 Post by evmarino1 » 28 May 2018, 16:33

Seven Pitch assignments.

Gene Marino

1. Act of Story Statement

Save the insular, unorthodox sect that has nurtured him and find fulfillment in the outside world.

2. The Antagonist(s)

The protagonist, Abel, faces in turn two antagonists. As an 11-year-old, he must overcome the enmity of Hiram, the religiously zealous head of the Children’s House. Abel at first doesn’t understand why Hiram is hostile to him, but he soon learns that Hiram sees in Abel a painful reminder of his hard early life. He believes that Abel, the strong-willed outsider, will never fully embrace the commune’s principles of selflessness and is therefore a threat to Elim and should be expelled.

As Abel comes of age, he moves into the adults’ mansion house and finds himself increasingly in conflict with Father Hall, the charismatic founder of Elim, whom his followers believe is divinely inspired. Abel’s desire for a greater degree of personal freedom, of autonomy for himself and others, runs up against Hall’s implacable belief in the need for community discipline, for solidarity, for selflessness, for subordination, if Elim is to endure. That conflict eventually puts Abel at odds also with his beloved Wendy, Hall’s daughter.

In addition, two other antagonists help animate the story: a firebrand preacher bent on destroying Elim, and the strange misfit Daniel Gaston (based on Charles Guiteau, assassin of President Garfield).

3. Titles

Perfectly Shameless

World Without Shame, Amen

World Without Shame

4. Comparables

First, it’s important to say what this book is not: It’s not about a dystopia, of which we have had a hundredweight and then some. My novel picks the stick up at the other end. It is inspired by an actual utopian experiment (the Oneida Community) that flourished for an astonishing 30 years, had many fascinating, admirable aspects to it, and yet contained the seeds of its destruction from the beginning.

What the novel is: A combination of Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See and E. L. James’ Fifty Shades of Grey, as unlikely as that may sound. It’s like Doerr’s book in two ways. It’s a serious, upmarket work of historical fiction in which a young man and a young woman come of age in extraordinary circumstances, and it’s (coincidentally) structurally similar – alternating scenes between Abel, the protagonist, and Wendy, Abel’s foil, protector, and eventually lover and rival. The book is like Fifty Shades of Grey in its frank, celebratory portrayal of sex. In my novel, the sex takes place in a religious community that liberally and joyously practices free love, that believes that lovemaking is a gift from God, and that when it is undertaken in the spirit of universal love – love for God, for yourself, and for your partners (one at a time, please) – it is tantamount to a sacrament and is as free of shame as shaking hands or drinking lemonade on a hot summer’s day. (Yes, the Oneidans actually believed and practiced this – with much, though far from total, long-term success.)

5. Primary Conflict

After a hard early boyhood, a young man struggles to save his unorthodox adopted community from the unbending strictures of its aging leader and from the onslaught of the increasingly hostile outside world.

6. Two more levels of conflict

Inner conflict:

Two competing desires are at war in Abel: his wish to remain loyal to Elim, the community that has nurtured him, and his desire to pursue the enticements and opportunities of the outside world. In short, he lives in, and loves, a rural religious commune yet dreams of Paris.


There are two triggers: One is Abel’s ambition to follow in the footsteps of other bright young community men and attend Yale. That will give him access to other opportunities in the outside world, such as living in Paris and tightening his grip on French (he's a talented linguist). The other trigger is his attraction to Gracie, who is doubly forbidden to him by Elim. She is, first, an outsider. Second, under the commune’s rules, he is too young and not spiritually advanced enough to have “love interviews” with anyone his own age.

All of these conflicts and ambitions put Abel on a collision course with the head of the commune and with Wendy and other true believers who remain loyal to him and the community’s principles.

7. Setting

The main setting of the novel, the Elim Community, has two chief components. One is cultural. Elim is a utopian experiment that is flourishing, in both the social and economic sense. It is in its sunny, vigorous heyday. At Elim, community is everything. There is an ethic of selflessness, an enthusiasm for life, for being grateful to God for the opportunities and pleasures He has provided to the world, and Elimites believe that the best way to take advantage of God’s gifts is to live life communally, as the first Christians lived and as people in heaven live. So they love doing everything as a community. They love learning and working together and trying innovative ways of doing things. They dine and dance and listen to music together, and the entire community (200 to 300 people) assemble every evening to discuss community business, personal and otherwise, and to be enlightened by their leader’s home talks. In this above-all-else sociable community, any signs of ego, of possessiveness, of exclusivity, including with a lover, a friend, or one’s child, are severely discouraged, even punished. So Elim's culture is both a main part of the setting and a sort of collective character.

Elim’s physical setting, the other chief component, reflects this culture. The community’s buildings, gardens and farm fields are models of cleanliness, beauty, efficiency, skill. In both the Children’s House (where the young are raised communally) and the adults’ mansion house, the private spaces are spare, small, sparsely adorned. The public spaces are the opposite – they are spacious, richly furnished and decorated, to encourage people to spend time in them with other members of the community.

Two other settings are briefly prominent. One is the canal village, near Elim, where the protagonist, Abel, spends his early boyhood. It is a tough place: Abel’s bullies prowl the streets, the rich keep to themselves in turreted homes, the poor, like Abel and his elderly aunt, his caretaker, endure life in gritty, cramped boardinghouses, and the village’s main streets are alive with the tumult of travelers and tradesmen, boatmen, factory workers, shopkeepers, farmers, etc.

The other briefly prominent setting is the city of Rochester. To Abel, now a young man, it is a striking contrast to the sociable but insular Elim. It seems a huge, teeming place of endless possibilities, succored by the canal, river and railway, an impressive portal to all the possibilities of the outside world. But on entering Corn Hill, Rochester’s ruffled-shirt district, Abel is disheartened by the ostentatious displays of private wealth – the fancy homes and carriages – exactly the sort of selfishness that is anathema to Elim’s culture.

Joined:23 May 2018, 03:26

Re: Seven Assignments - Critical (New York Pitch 2018)

#11 Post by tldburton » 29 May 2018, 02:12

Act of Story Statement:

1. Cast into a world of uncertainty with forces at play that are stronger than she realizes, Leona is faced with decisions hinged upon gaining control of her inheritance, loving the man she shouldn’t care for but does, and not letting family secrets destroy what’s left of her life in the process.

Antagonist Plots the Point:

2. Catherine (Cat), Leona’s cousin, is almost eighteen years old. She is entitled and privileged, as well as impulsive and spiteful – and these are her good qualities. She despises Leona from the moment she enters her family’s household and doesn’t think of Leona as family. The tensions only build throughout the story, especially when she sees the way Aedan looks at Leona. Her jealousy of Leona drives her to say and do things that cause division and animosity. Always looking for ways to insult and embarrass Leona, Cat is truly an antagonistic force, propelling the plot line forward with major complications, and forces Leona into a predicament that jeopardizes all that she holds dear.

Conjuring Your Breakout Title:

3. Eyes Upon Us
The World in Their Eyes
Stars Above Us

Genre and Comparables:

4. When the Moon Was Ours or Wild Beauty by Anna-Marie McLemore – Her style of prose and the way she approaches subject content is comparable. Even though she leans more toward the YA category and I, the Historical Romance and Literary Fiction categories, the magical realism, multiculturalism, folklore, and themes of love, family, loss, and romance weave in and out of both of our writing with elements of strong description and imagery.

Outlander Series by Diana Gabaldon– I chose this as a comparable because the focus throughout each book is centered on two dynamic characters for whom all other characters and storylines revolve around. The trials and tribulations through a love triangle that is reliant on magical realism is vital to the plot but unfolds in the way that literary fiction does, and I found parallels that connect with themes in my novel. Additionally, Outlander is able to seamlessly include romance that is an integral part of the story, and when there is an undercurrent of thought that literary fiction and romance genres don’t necessarily go hand in hand, it goes against that. I wrote my novel as Literary Fiction that includes erotic romance in a similar fashion, as well as included heavily researched material which adds detail to enrich the historical fiction component. The way that Outlander is included in various genres makes it artfully and academically adventurous, and through researching various books, I kept returning to this one as a comparable.

Primary Conflict:

5. Pulled between the inheritance that is her birthright and the man she has come to love, someone who is not her intended, Leona is susceptible to family strife and societal expectations that reveal undercurrents of racism, classism, jealously, and envy.

Other Matters of Conflict: Two More Levels

6. Inner Conflict: Leona struggles with familial duty – her connection to the parents she loses on the ill-fated Lusitania. In this, she wants to hold onto the last tie to her parents, which is her inheritance, but she can only gain this birthright by marrying her cousin. On the other side of this, she grapples with breaking free from the family that she has been tethered to for her inheritance because she loves another. Her heart belongs to Aedan, and she is willing to give everything up for him. Thus, the stakes weigh heavily on her with the burden of grief, duty, and love, all wrapped up and tangled in a tug of war.

Social Environment: Leona would like to be accepted in her family’s household and society at large as the independent, free-thinker she is in 1915 America. However, her willfulness and outspoken ways aren’t the only attributes of acceptance for which she seeks. In a country steeped heavily in systemic racism, Leona has to live in the world of “other,” with an identity that descends from her Aristocratic English father and her French-Creole mother, which is kept secret, so Leona can “pass” in society. Even though Leona was raised to be accepting and proud of her ancestry, she knows for her safety, she must live according to what society dictates.


7. In Post-Edwardian New York City, the main setting of my novel, class dictates one’s living standards and this sentiment comes to life with rich detail through my characters’ interactions with the city.

Part One begins outside of Leona’s Upper-Class home, as she exits onto the stoop surrounded by a black, wrought iron fence. Trees line the horizon and as she looks upon the street, she has her first encounter with Aedan Shaw, who is tinkering with his car.

Some of the scenes take place within the home, such as in her bedroom, which could best be described as the typical rich, dark wood walls and slatted floors synonymous with the Victorian/Edwardian Era. Her furniture includes an armoire, vanity, desk, and large bed. However, there is the sense that it lacks a personal touch, with the exception of her floral bedding since she doesn’t feel like it is her home, still having boxes and crates throughout the room that she hasn’t unpacked since arriving. Other scenes take place in the dining room, foyer, study, and garden.

The garden is an important setting for one chapter because this is where the reader sees Leona and Aedan’s relationship blossom into something more, as well as reveals another layer to the antagonistic force. Lizzie, Leona’s cousin, transforms the garden into a French motif for a garden social that includes a plethora of sweets on silver trays, finger sandwiches, wine, and lemonade to tempt her guests’ palettes. She also displays an array of lawn games and flowers throughout the garden, as well as live musicians in the drawing room which add to the element of detail where entertainment is key to the setting.

Aedan’s home is also vital to the setting and reveals the nuances of old and new money with a plethora of accoutrements that show his family’s penchant for the finer things and the need to belong. In their drawing room, the settee or lounger and grand piano are essential to the scene and add layers to the setting and what these statement pieces come to signify in the story.

The city itself is the backdrop with locations such as The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Plaza Hotel, a nickelodeon, pre-Central Park locations, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, gas and electric lit city streets that bring the night to life, and a theatre and hotel that no longer exist today: Longacre Theatre and Hotel Astor. To recreate the Beaux-Arts architecture of Hotel Astor, I relied on the few pictures available and infused those images with wedding reception décor to embellish the setting. The plot comes into full view with the imagery of softly lit candlelight that bounces off the filigree, making it sparkle. Flowers are in abundance throughout the dining hall to reinforce the similarity to the garden party chapter. This touch connects two chapters wherein both Leona and Aedan make decisions about their relationship, which in both cases, have major consequences. The Rose Ballroom continues the feeling of the Upper Class setting with a live band, formal dancing, and champagne abound. The Observatory, where there is a gallery of artwork and sculptures and the Rooftop Garden, fashioned after a Grecian motif with greenery and more sculptures, are pinnacle in this chapter. The setting resonates unique beauty, like Leona, and is put in stark contrast with the conflict and strife the characters bring to the environment.

Philadelphia becomes another setting in Part Two but strictly through the lens of another family member's home but who are working class, a train station, and a refined hotel. In the hotel is where the reader finds Leona and Aedan grappling with the dilemma of being in separate bedrooms alone with only a parlor room that separates them. The parlor room, which includes an area to dine, a fireplace, a bookshelf, and a Chesterfield sofa is a pivotal to setting. It leads to Leona’s bedroom, which is no less important as the reader is, once again, immersed in their world with details such as Persian rugs, Tiffany lamps, a four-poster bed, windows that let in natural lighting, and another fireplace. The novel ends with the hotel suite being the setting that is the catalyst for what comes next.

Joined:25 May 2018, 06:18

Re: Seven Assignments - Critical (New York Pitch 2018)

#12 Post by JackieAnn » 29 May 2018, 03:58

1st assignment - story statement:

In a harrowing moment on the switchbacks of a Montana mountain road, Gordon’s world turns upside down. Everything is on the line now. He must find the courage to confront the aftermath of his misfortune. But can he face his most dangerous encounter of all – his own fears? Here’s an inside look into the mind of a seventeen-year-old whose life takes an uncompromising twist of fate.

2nd - sketch the antagonist or antagonistic force in your story:

Gordon, our protagonist, is confronted by antagonistic forces beyond his control. Yes, he is a bullet-proof teenager who takes risks that place him in a position to get hurt. We have all been there, done that. Yes, he is overly confident that he can overcome whatever challenge comes his way. After all, he’s lived his seventeen years mostly controlling the outcome of any situation that comes his way. He is a large, strong young man who can withstand confrontations of any kind. He can win those confrontations and chooses to do so. He is confident he’s going to play out his “hand” in life just as he’s imagined it.

Suddenly, he’s dealt the cards that challenge his very existence. Can he withstand the guilt he feels over how he’s lost his best friend to a fight over money and perceived security? Can he overcome the guilt that washes over him every day when he thinks of his family and the sacrifices they make just to keep him alive?

What can Gordon do to crush the false hopes generated by the doctors who tell him that he will recover and will walk again?
In re-entry to his pre-accident world, Gordon comes up against not only the obstacles of daily life but also reconnecting with former classmates, including his steady girl and his best friend. He sometimes cannot distinguish between who are his allies and who are “enemies.” He’s being tested on the most basic of levels, that of survival.

After he finally acclimates to the new order, the new way of interacting with those he knew in his former, “pre-accident” life, Gordon now has to face the pity, the indifference, the fear, even the intolerance and bias of the “normies”, plus the social system he has to work within to attain somewhat of a quality of life as a quadriplegic. The apathetic attitudes of his case workers continue to hinder him from achieving his goals to live a normal, productive life.

3rd assignment - breakout title:

Kings and Cowboys
Walk Like a Man
The Chrome Chariot

4th assignment - Develop two smart comparables for your novel:
As I dove deeper into genres, I became even more confused! My first two comparables (below) were autobiographical memoirs! Although the stories are compelling, it didn't fit the genre for my story. I researched further and this is what I found:

My novel is difficult to corral into genre – it is fiction, based on a true story about my brother, but with many embellishments by me, the author. I looked at “Bio-fiction” and “biographical memoirs” and many other genres. My story just didn't fit into those "slots". Also, literary agents see a plethora of memoirs and family sagas but the stories have no commercial value.

If, however, those family stories are crafted with plot, characterization, dialogue, and POV, their commercial value increases immeasurably. Then those true stories about the lives of honest-to-goodness men and women might speak to our own lives.
How then, to categorize this story?

By definition, a memoir is a record of events written by a person having intimate knowledge of them and based on personal observation. So you can use all the great details and insider knowledge you can harvest from family accounts to write a gripping story based on your father’s experiences as a prisoner in World War II, but unless you yourself were trapped behind barbed wire, you can’t write it as a memoir; in spite of your best efforts, you’re still imagining what happened.

Laura Manivong, author of Escaping the Tiger, based on her husband’s experiences as a Laos refugee, wrote it as a novel both because “the holes in my knowledge and my husband’s memory were too big,” and because it’s not her story.

Because she is recounting a story worth telling, but telling it based on someone else’s experience, here is my comparable:

Escaping the Tiger
by Laura Manivong
When you're so skinny people call you Skeleton Boy, how do you find strength for the fight of your life?
Vonlai knows that soldiers who guard the Mekong River shoot at anything that moves, but in oppressive Communist Laos, there's nothing left for him, his spirited sister, Dalah, and his desperate parents. Their only hope is a refugee camp in Thailand—on the other side of the river.

When they reach the camp, their struggles are far from over.

Laura Manivong has written an evocative story that is vividly real, strongly affecting, and, at its heart, about hope that resonates in even the darkest moments.

Because Laura is recounting her husband's life story, it parallels what I'm trying to achieve with sharing my brother's life story, and his struggles for not only survival but ultimately finding a quality of life that is worth living. This comparable hit the mark for me!

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly by Jean-Dominique Bauby
In December 1995, Jean-Dominique Bauby, editor-in-chief of French magazine ‘Elle’ and the father of two young children, suffered a massive stroke and found himself paralyzed and speechless, but entirely conscious, trapped by what doctors call ‘locked-in syndrome’. Using his only functioning muscle – his left eyelid – he began dictating this remarkable story, painstakingly spelling it out letter by letter. Here is the story of the indomitable human spirit, and how one can triumph in face of impossible odds.

This story compares to “Kings and Cowboys” in the sense that, although it can be melancholy and sad at times, it reminds us that any one of us can persevere in the face of adversity, no matter how severe it is.

My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist’s personal Journey by Jill Bolte Taylor
When Jill’s world exploded with a blood vessel in her brain, she watched her mind deteriorate whereby she could not walk, talk, read, write, or recall any of her life. Through her story, Taylor helps others not only rebuild their brains from trauma, but also helps those of us with normal brains better understand how we can consciously influence the neural circuitry underlying what we think, how we feel and how we react to life's circumstances.

In “Kings and Cowboys,” we see how Gordon reacts to life’s circumstances in a positive way, pressing forward until he achieves many milestones of success that any “normal” person would love to aspire to in the course of their life. Gordon shows, through his everyday life, that there can be a way to dig into the ice even when we don’t have crampons or an ice axe.

5th assignment - create your own conflict line:
Primary Conflict: When the accident leaves him lifeless from the chest down, Gordon must find the resolve to rebuild his life despite the obstacles he now faces.

6th assignment - sketch out the conditions for the inner conflict your protagonist will have:
Gordon, a heavy weight wrestler in high school, is now as helpless as an infant and has to ask others to help feed, dress and bathe him. The embarrassment for this strapping seventeen-year-old is almost more than he can endure.

Gordon worries about how his condition affects his family – they have to make huge sacrifices for him, setting aside their own aspirations just to help him with his daily care.

Gordon’s guilt and fear over the failure of his marriage and his subsequent spiral into depression and attempted suicide.

6th assignment - sketch a hypothetical scenario for the "secondary conflict":

Initially, Gordon has a lot of guilt over his best friend, Vincent, as their friendship crumbles. They want to remain friends, but forces beyond their control – the insurance claim and the fight over money - tear them apart.

Gordon starts to re-assemble his self-view while spending months in the rehabilitation center, making friends with the nurses and his new classmates at school. Then, he has to face “re-entry” into his old school and schoolmates, including his former girlfriend who he hasn’t seen since shortly after the accident.

As he attempts to settle into the world of paralysis, where even the simplest tasks take on monumental efforts, Gordon finds an indifferent antagonist in the form of rehabilitative resources. His case worker tries to funnel Gordon into a convenient “slot” within the Wyoming Vocational Rehab Program, insisting that he study accounting, which Gordon loathes.

Later, Gordon strives for a normal life and tries dating, with less than desirable results. He is determined, however, to find the love of his life and eventually meets Josephine. Gordon wants to marry her, but worries about an important element – sex. He’s quite romantic and charming with women, but how can he satisfy her in this realm?

Later, as he experiences married life, he discovers that he’s bound through his vows to an untreated alcoholic. Gordon is left alone and unattended for hours at a time, unable to get himself to bed, falling into a tormented sleep and slumped in his wheelchair while waiting for his wife to come home.

7th assignment - sketch out your setting in detail:

Part One: The main setting is a curious combination of “American Graffiti” meets the West in the early 1960’s. For Gordon, it’s muscle car drag races, dances and dates with girls, parties at the lake, and school sports. There’s also deer hunting and Friday night poker games with the group of friends. Some are being drafted and sent to Viet Nam and some come back in body bags. Gordon leads a somewhat charmed life because he’s big, has a mature look about him, and is constantly mistaken for being older than he really is. So, there’s boxing, street fights and bar brawls where the toughest one is the cowboy, the smartest is the king. It’s a time of risk and a time of reward if the cards are played right. Set against the backdrop of Wyoming and Montana, where a semi-displaced family consisting of three boys, a little sister and a mom finally settle in to a small town, the story takes shape when the stakes of the game rise quickly.

Part Two: This portrays the time when Gordon’s and his family’s world is transformed into hospital and operating rooms, rehab centers, doctors, and a mound of medical accouterments that must be used to help sustain this teen boy’s life. As re-entry into “normal” life takes place, we revisit the school and schoolmates, but now the cards have been shuffled and re-dealt, yielding a hand that’s challenging to play out. A long period of reconstruction must take place, so we see vignettes of the family and friends trying to adjust alongside Gordon and his struggles.

In between his efforts to regain a normal life, we get a glimpse into Gordon’s past and childhood from a series flashbacks of miscreant step dads to poignant memories of adventures with his brothers.

Part Three: From a small town in Wyoming, the story migrates to a health care hub in Montana and then south to Arizona. Scenes are played out of Gordon learning to drive again, living independently, and counseling other disabled men. There are some zany experiences with home health care help, especially with one male nurse who turns out to be a horse thief. Gordon also plays the dating scene in Phoenix with some unexpected results, then meets his dream girl and gets married. In general, Gordon’s leading a quality life as a “quad,” finding meaningful work and personal happiness.

Part Four: After the disintegration of his marriage and his subsequent depression, Gordon slips down to the dark side, spiraling ever further into the depths of despair. He did it once, but he doesn’t have it in himself to reconstruct his life again. He contemplates suicide and ultimately plans to play his final hand at an isolated area near Sedona, Arizona.

Joined:27 May 2018, 17:07

Re: Seven Assignments - Critical (New York Pitch 2018)

#13 Post by kmitch00 » 31 May 2018, 03:24

Seven Assignments


A father must overcome psychosis to rescue his kidnapped son.


Likely a victim of schizophrenia himself, the “old man” has subsumed his psychosis into lifelong identity. Estranged to the greater world and living in a shack in the forest, he exercises an animalistic power over his wooded domain, proving himself wilder and more terrifying than the beasts that surround him.

By unknown means he procures a child, and in raising this boy, shows the psychotic cunning and control of a hermit despot, all the while striving to bring the child up in the animal-ways of the woods. When a small church on the edge of his territory begins to interfere with the rearing of his “son”, he takes extreme steps against it, enlisting the boy in his deadly scheme.

But when the child escapes, the old man is left for dead and left without an heir. Taking years to resurrect himself and to plan retribution, he revisits his runaway son—now an adult—and steals his own grandson as a replacement for the child he lost, the child that got away.


As If Through Fire
A Hand In The Fire
Seeing Through Smoke


Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn
The Revenant, by Michael Punke
One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest meets The Road


Stricken with sudden psychosis, a father must fight though mental illness to escape an asylum and track down his kidnapped son.


Inner Conflict Sketch: This protagonist does not trust his own mind, and has no recollection of the actions he has been accused of, so he is constantly dealing with the possibility of his own guilt: that he may have taken and injured his own son. Nevertheless, he endeavors to find the child, all the while second-guessing whether he is helping or hurting the situation at hand.
But as he recovers his more recent memory, so too does he recover repressed recollections from his childhood and from events he is ashamed to revisit, calling into question his capacity for doing evil.

Secondary Conflict Sketch: The protagonist is confined to a psychiatric hospital, and is befriended by a pyromaniac. Given his own hallucinations of being engulfed in flame, and the fact that he was found outside a burning building, the two patients are linked. This relationship begins with wariness and embarrassment on the protagonist’s part, and ends in friendship and ultimate aid, as the pyromaniac proves instrumental in the protagonist’s escape and eventual rescue.


The story begins abruptly in a small white room: the protagonist’s interrogation inside a county mental facility. Unsure of where he is or what is going on, he hallucinates much of the setting, blurring the details of reality into strange and sometimes distressing scenes. This introduction engenders a post-concussive sensation, or the mental daze a psychiatric patient experiences while emerging from a psychotic break. The setting is unstable for him, made all the more so by recurring visions of the forgotten past, the institution’s sense of confinement, and by his encounters with impersonal staff and bizarrely probing patients.

From that facility, the narrative moves—by lively bus ride—to a larger state facility, where the protagonist is exposed to higher walls and old buildings that, along with his hallucinations and returning memories, give the sense of a haunting. As well, the cast of characters at the state asylum—peculiar patients and hostile staff—maintain the continued feeling of the protagonist’s lack of control and faulty grip on reality.

After the protagonist’s escape from the facility, he must trek through the unknown wilderness—mostly wooded—giving a sense of being lost, but also of being hidden. Short stints in a small town emergency room and a secret hobo camp illustrate the unusual adventure he is on, paralleling the tides of his sanity.

The setting culminates in familiar forest, the hermit shack of his upbringing, where memories and present time begin to separate out. Though when the protagonist loses his medication, the setting of his journey devolves into oddity until it is almost abstract, causing his surroundings to feel dreamlike through the final surreal scene.

Joined:01 Jun 2018, 01:29

Re: Seven Assignments - Critical (New York Pitch 2018)

#14 Post by promenade775 » 01 Jun 2018, 01:32

Wounded, young, and ambitious, Detective Elke Lavender is driven to seek justice for Liam Lambert, a professor writing a tell-all memoir about his father and the psychological experiments that occurred at Fine Acres School for Boys, where Lambert's father grew up. When Lambert's student assistant also turns up dead a few days later, Lavender is certain Lambert's death was not a suicide.

After his mother kills herself in 1954, Aaron Brussard arrives at the Fine Acres School for Boys an unwanted child whose father cruelly named him Adolphus Harms. The boy's high IQ and good looks draws the attention of a new teacher with ties to the newly-formed CIA, which considers the orphanage a perfect human laboratory for experimentation. The experimenter/teacher slants his experiments to create a group of super achievers, boys who believe they are superior in nature and nurture. Following the utilitarian principles of their school and acting in secret, only they are capable of deciding what is best for the many. Brussard becomes the leader of the Themis Pack, named after the Greek goddess of justice. Under his direction, a classmate is killed and buried on the grounds. Hearing rumors of strange experiments, the state eventually investigates and shuts down the school. But the Themis Pack survives for decades with Brussard at the helm. The group thrives, even murdering one of their own when he threatens to publish the memoir. In a rush for justice and perhaps glory, Lavender mistakenly believes Brussard is Lambert's informant for the memoir he never finished.


1. The Memoirist
2. Fine Acres School for Boys
3. The Force that Uproots Trees
Upmarket psychological thriller
1. If We Were Villains by M.L. Rio: This author's work is aptly compared to Tartt's The Secret History. My setting also involves a college campus and includes academics.
2. The Trespasser by Tanya French. Having read all her work, I particularly love her use of language, admire her creation of settings, and am amazed by her characters.
3. Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate. Reading this novel helped tremendously in structuring mine. She shifts seamlessly from past to present, which increases interest (How will this all come together?) and creates tension/suspense.


Held captive by an older and supremely arrogant man whose abandonment by his wife has left him sexually impotent, a young, tough detective struggles to free herself. In the process she learns to accept that she is not alone and can be helped by others.
--Secondary Conflicts
Two have emerged: 1) Before being captured, the protagonist, Elke, age 27, has a few brief love sessions with her very married boss. That she chooses to be with someone who cannot love her completely speaks to her inner conflict. Like her antagonist and her partner, in a sense, she also becomes orphaned at age 14 (before the forward motion of this novel) when her younger brother is killed in a school shooting. 2) Elke's partner, a middle-aged man, suffered for a few years at the orphanage he is obliged to investigate. When he discovers the link, he endures a Hamlet-like stasis that precipitates Lavender's ill-advised trip to the antagonist's home, Fine Acres School for Boys.
--Inner Conflict
Elke Lavender's brother, Chris, is killed off scene when she was 14, he 10. She has suffered ever since from her parents' neglect of her and their interminable sadness. One does not "get over" such a horror, but she does gain insight about herself, realizing her open wound is the tribute she has chosen to pay to him.


1. The fictional Fine Acres School for Boys sits on a hundred pretty acres, rubbing elbows with Philadelphia's Main Line in Publicity, Pennsylvania. Publicity is a fictional borough, and the orphanage had been an apple orchard and then a dairy farm that had not fared well during the Depression. After the orphanage is closed down in the 1980s, the antagonist purchases the home, along with the outbuildings and the land. A number of scenes, both in the past and present, take place on these acres.
2. The fictional Pyramid College, near Publicity, is a struggling branch campus of Sylvania State. Sinkholes have formed on the property. Red herrings, the sinkholes lead the detectives astray for a short period.
3. Sanibel Island is, of course, a real place in Florida, a state the protagonist and her family were supposed to visit before her brother died. Elke has never been, but quickly decides she wants to move here when she witnesses its natural beauty. She flies there to interview the notable author/memoirist, Layla Ardvani, who was helping Liam Lambert compose his memoir.
4. Elke finds her rented townhouse in Philadelphia near South Street, funky and cool, unlike her. New to PA, Elke hates the suburbs and bravely commutes to Publicity, PA on I-95.
5. The police department in Publicity as setting serves mainly as a transition point for some exchanges between Elke and her boss, between Elke and Brian, her partner and boss, and so on.
6. A mansion on Philadelphia's Main Line is the home of Carl Alves, Liam Lambert's father and mother. They live here, in a beautiful stone house, very unhappily. At some length, Elke's partner goes on about the stone.
7. Longwood Gardens. Elke visits the famous gardens to see/interview Lambert's fiancé, head horticulturalist for the upcoming orchid extravaganza.
8. Sylvania Arboretum. Elke meets Cass, a custodian at the college who found Lambert hanging in his office, at this beautiful spot near Publicity. Cass enjoys sitting on a bench or walking among the trees after her shift.

Joined:27 May 2018, 22:03

Re: Seven Assignments - Critical (New York Pitch 2018)

#15 Post by DSnow2018 » 02 Jun 2018, 00:37

Survive an abduction and return home.

Physically, Mint is capable of almost anything. Her skills and abilities are so strong that at times she doesn’t seem human, which is exactly why she is such a valuable asset to her former boss. Her personality is frighteningly unstable.Her intentions seem to be good but her moods are stormy, and she is prone to long periods of depression. Mint struggles to gauge whether people are trustworthy or not. She swings between childlike naivete and deep suspicion. She is harsh, unpredictable, and sometimes violent when things go wrong. As the stress mounts, Mint’s physical abilities become stronger, more superhuman, but her mental and emotional states disintegrate further.


JESSICA JONES (Okay, I know this one is a TV show and a graphic novel series, but I still think it works...)

When a group of students is abducted and held in a remote cabin, they must learn to live with their unpredictable captor, keep out of the crossfire between her and her enemies, and survive long enough to get home.

The students have a deep fear of Mint. The students are wary and suspicious of her, her superhuman skills, and everyone connected to her. However, as time passes they also feel drawn to her, even possessive. As much as they want to go home, it becomes harder and harder to imagine life away from her.

Mint’s former boss, Kevin, wants her back in his criminal organization. But the students have seen so much that it’s imprudent to leave them alive as witnesses. Kevin continually pressures Mint to eliminate them and rejoin him.

Apartment - The brief opening scene happens here. It’s nothing but an average college apartment, small and a little shabby, with mismatched furniture. But it’s the last time the students will be in any kind of average situation for the rest of the book.

Cabin - In a remote part of Oregon, there’s a small clearing with a cabin and a lone tree. Even though it’s out in nature, it feels stifling and claustrophobic. It’s cut off from all society and information. Mint controls everything there, and no one else has much say. The vast majority of the book takes place here, where the students feel trapped and helpless.

Office - In a shady area of downtown Eugene, Oregon, there is an abandoned office building. Down in the basement is where Kevin, Mint’s former boss, has set up his criminal enterprise for the time being. There is plenty of privacy for violence.

Rambler - This is a normal-looking, unassuming house on several acres of property, where Mr. John lives. Because Mr. John has to hide his affair with Mint, there is a small, hidden room. The house isn’t located too near any neighbors, so there is no one to hear the commotion when Kevin discovers the relationship, and his henchmen come calling.

Forest - Mint parks her van in a secret spot at the base of the mountain, from which she can hike up to the cabin. This area, heavy with trees, is the setting for the final showdown between Mint, the students, and Kevin’s men. The weather also plays a part, as a storm howls around them and the snow turns red.

Joined:04 Jun 2018, 19:25

Re: Seven Assignments - Critical (New York Pitch 2018)

#16 Post by CMSlavin » 04 Jun 2018, 19:28


Surviving the untamed wild country and finding a mythical artifact.



The wild north country is untamed and unforgiving, filled with harsh terrain and violent inhabitants.



The Mirror Road



A fantasy-adventure, in the vein of stories by David Eddings and Paulo Coelho.



An apprentice farrier must survive a trek into the wilderness in order to prove his worth and claim an ancient artifact.



Inner Conflict: Cleary ventured into the Wilderlands once before in the train of a large army. He barely escaped with his life when that army was ambushed and slaughtered by a horde of barbarians. Returning to the wilderness means confronting the nightmares of his past.

Secondary Conflict: Cleary’s own liege-lord blackmails the young man into betraying the other members of the expedition. Cleary must decide if his loyalty lies with his own family, or the company he has survived hardships with.



A great empire once stretched across the known world, bringing knowledge and peace. However, those days are past. With its collapse hundreds of years ago, the land is now divided and uncivilized.
Cleary lives in the shadow of a remote castle along the northern border of a small kingdom. The people there eek out a living in scratch farming while watching the occasional band of adventures disappear into the wild north country in search of the Mirror of Sovereignty.
Not much is known about the WIlderlands. An army of 10,000 men advanced north a decade ago, but only a handful limped back. They bore stories of lawless prospecting camps where men ventured into the mountains in search of gold and silver. Of mad and mystifying hermits that spoke only in riddles. And most terrifying, of ferocious barbarians that seemed to swarm out from behind every tree and under every rock.

Joined:26 May 2018, 21:04

Re: Seven Assignments - Critical (New York Pitch 2018)

#17 Post by karengphelan » 04 Jun 2018, 21:42

1. Story Statement: Janice Hetteridge must find her husband's killer in order to exonerate herself

2. Antagonist: Martin Sheehan is a former Boston cop who has moved to Miami to reinvent himself in the FBI. As a cop, he succumbed to a moment of fear and ran from a crime. This brief mistake coupled with his loyalty to a corrupt partner led to his disgrace in the police and ultimately the destruction of his marriage and loss of custody of his daughter. When he finally feels like he's put his past behind him, he gets assigned to a case in Boston where the only suspect reminds him of his ex-wife. Even though Janice dredges up all his feelings of inadequacy, Martin is determined to solve the case and not to make the same mistakes twice. However, his gender bias prevents him from seeing Janice for who she is rather than who he expects her to be, and he completely misreads her motives.

3. Titles:
Creatures of Habit (working title)
Patterns that Bind
Heedless Repetition

4. Comparables:
Gone Girl is the most obvious comparable as it also alternates POV between a man and a woman.
Girl on a Train shares the perspective of a flawed female character who takes matters into her own hands.
The Flight Attendant shares a murder that happens when the protagonist has been drinking.

5. Primary conflict: Janice must find a way to exonerate herself without revealing her husband's secret refugee network to the FBI.

6. a. Inner conflict. Scenario where Janice has to decide whether to take the blame for the murder in order to protect the refugee network:
It was so unfair. All her life she battled her family, her dad, everyone, just to live the life she wanted to live. Why was this so hard? All she wanted was to make her own choices. She wasn't asking for much – just an interesting job with challenging work and relationships with some equally intelligent and interesting people. Why did people deny her this? They had no right to ask her to sacrifice her life. None at all. In the midst of her rage, her logical voice quietly interjected. But they do have a point. Sacrificing one life for the sake of many – how many names were on that spreadsheet? about seventy? – sacrificing one to save seventy made sense. Janice couldn't bear listening to her voice of reason. She knew the right choice, but she couldn't make it. It's not just one life, just anyone's life. It's mine. And I like it the way it is.

6b. Secondary conflict. Scenario between Janice and her new boss who was promoted over her:
"I don't care what Marc let you do. I'm your manager now and all communications with the senior clients go through me. You're still a junior consultant, and your role is to work with their direct reports."
Janice summoned a massive surge of willpower to keep from lunging over the desk and gouging out his eyes. Instead, she sat back in her chair, crossed her legs, and took a deep breath.
"I've known Carl for much longer than you. We have a very good relationship and we like each other. It's kind of weird to need permission to speak to him. What do I say when he calls? Oh, I'm sorry, my new manager says we can't be friends anymore."
"That's exactly why I don't want you speaking with him. You're too immature. He's not your friend. He's our top client, and you shouldn't be sharing the internal workings of our company with him."
Again Janice needed an act of willpower to keep from rolling her eyes. She hated John and found it hard to disguise her disdain.
"Give me some credit. I was being sarcastic, as you well know. Somehow, despite all my immaturity, I was able to manage the relationship for the past two years and sell several projects. But you're the boss, as you love to remind me. Do I have your permission to return his call and let him know that all further communications will come from you?"
"Absolutely not. I'll explain the situation to him and tell him you won't be returning his calls. That's all."
Janice uncrossed her legs slowly and calmly and deliberately rose from the chair, pretending to be unperturbed by the conversation. On her way out the door, she muttered, "Asshole."

7. The book takes place in a variety of settings around the US, as the protagonist takes a road trip from Boston to Key West that takes her to towns in Ohio, West Virginia, Tennessee, and Florida. The following is more detailed description of Key West as the two main characters search for an out-of-the-way address.

As Janice and Martin drove through Key West looking for the address, Janice took in the sunny island atmosphere and beach bum vibe. Her memories from her prior nighttime trip were fragmented – a bar, another bar, and of course, the shack, but now she could put the places in their proper environment. She directed Martin along a circuitous route so she could see more of the island. Duval Street was a main drag, lined with cheery shops catering to tourists where deciduous trees were spaced equidistantly along the sidewalk, and outdoor bars and cafes beckoned with their bright blue canopies or lemon-yellow umbrellas. The low and narrow buildings with their white-painted balconies signaled that they were from another time, a time when people were accustomed to sharing bedrooms and bathrooms. They turned left, and the road narrowed to one lane. The houses narrowed and shrunk, too, and painted in even brighter shades of pink, yellow, and peach, they sat almost on the street. The tropical flora and mix of palms was thicker here and less groomed, providing a wall of lush green leaves against the white picket fences that separated the properties from the street. The fences proffered little in the way of privacy. She could easily see into the windows to determine who was home and into the postage-stamp backyards to see whose swimsuits were hanging out to dry. Several back porches held mini-fridges, most likely for beer. A simple glance showed her who entertained, who surfed, who swam, and who had a green thumb. The neighborhood, bright and miniature like a Victorian doll house, was unbearably intimate. Everyone's business was on display like the panties on the clothesline. How could Jack have kept so many secrets in a place like this?

Joined:22 May 2018, 02:27

Re: Seven Assignments - Critical (New York Pitch 2018)

#18 Post by SydYoung » 05 Jun 2018, 03:41


Ruined man must fight everyone, including himself, in order to find his destiny and people, and finally determine who he is.


Not quite a bastard, no, Sam Houston is a runaway, a handsome carouser, an Indian lover, a man who charms with words and whiskey, a survivor. But, as Governor of Tennessee, he is blindsided by a fiery mob roused by his fleeing bride. Men of character, like slaver and political opponent John C. Calhoun, must be right to revile him. Nothing he’s done has turned out for the good, even for his beloved Cherokee tribe whom he’d wrongly counseled to fight with the Union during the War of 1812, claiming they’d keep their land, only to be wrong, only to betray them and his own character by helping remove them under General Andrew Jackson’s orders. Now, with the rise of the mob, there is only one escape: to New Indian Territory, where his tribe and first love may reject him, and where his General, the new President, will believe he is agitating for a fight, provoking diplomatic disaster, in Tejas. As Houston plunges into a Hades not all of his own making, he must decide if the Fates control, whom he loves most, and who, exactly, Sam Houston is.






This book will be enjoyed by fans of BENEATH A SCARLET SKY and NEWS OF THE WORLD.

Beneath a Scarlet Sky: Based on the true story of a forgotten hero, Beneath a Scarlet Sky is the triumphant, epic tale of one young man's incredible courage and resilience during one of history's darkest hours.

News of the World: In the aftermath of the Civil War, an aging itinerant news reader agrees to transport a young captive of the Kiowa back to her people in this exquisitely rendered, morally complex, multilayered novel of historical fiction from the author of Enemy Women that explores the boundaries of family, responsibility, honor, and trust.


One step ahead of a mob, the infamously flawed Sam Houston flees Tennessee to seek sanctuary with his Cherokee tribe whom he'd betrayed in removal, where he struggles to better their lives without betraying his President, and without losing himself.


Multiple conflicts:

Primary: Sam Houston's enormous drive to be a hero, to forever etch his name in glory cast against his great talent for running away, drinking, and losing his temper.

Secondary conflict: The ghost of his larger than life Revolutionary hero father and Houston's two adopted fathers (Chief John Jolly and General Andrew Jackson, now Mr. President) compete for his love, as he fears their rejection and, possibly, stymies himself for them.

More conflict: Love. Houston's heart's desire is to be loved by a people and a good woman, for once and for all. This desire comes head to head with his very public rejection by his new bride and the Tennesseans. (This gives the softer though not less important conflict to this novel, as the women appear now and then to help tell the story).

Grand Scale Politics Conflict, and the idea that a politician can be true to himself despite his constituents. (*For those who know Houston and how he voted against the spread of slavery regardless of his constituents and office, fought against slavery and for Native Americans in Texas, and finally platformed to stay with the Union over secession, ultimately resigning as Governor rather than follow the Texas vote to secede, this book is the prequel that explains how Houston's character developed so he could stand up against the popular vote in such vitally important ways.)

Brotherly Jealousy: Houston's good friends, the Rogers family, and in particular brothers John and James Rogers, welcome him into their home as Chief John Jolly adopts him into the tribe. But when he returns to them, they stand to lose if he gains Jolly's favor again and wins a seat to the tribe Counsel. This conflicts with their sister Diana's love for him.

Finally: Houston himself. Heroic and extremely flawed. He's somehow in the right place at the right time, and wretchedly in the wrong place, doing the wrong things, too. One or the other must win out: Honor or Infamy.


Scene Names:

Nashville, 1829, wooden hotel "governor suites" mob and torches outside.

Allen Plantation, sitting room

Rivers, traveling to New Indian Territory

"Coming of Age" flashback:

Newly white settled and wild Tennessee

Tennessee River

Hiwasse, Cherokee Territory

The Roger family Plantation in Cherokee Territory

Alabama, The Battle of the Horseshoe (1814)

The Hermitage, Jackson's Plantation, both when they lived in a log cabin and then later when the Plantation home was built

Washington City: When it was burned in 1814, being rebuilt in 1817, and back to its glory in 1829, both the President's home and Brown's Indian Queen Hotel

Back to novel's "present day" 1829:

New Indian Territory

Chief John Jolly's Plantation

Wigwam Neosho

Annuity Day at the Arkansas River

(Washington City and The Hermitage in 1829)

Crossing the Red River to Texas

MORE about the Scenes:

The Tennessee and Oklahoma wilderness, as well as the Alabama battlefield, take preeminence in this novel, though a young Washington City and Jackson's plantation are also featured. Less about the antebellum features and more about the wilderness and youth of the nation, this book shines a light on a setting all too often ignored: how the rivers sounded, how the Cherokees lived in (not in tepees!) in croft type cottages and homes that began to rival plantations, in their doomed efforts to assimilate in order to be able to remain in their country. (That is an oft repeated family narrative, and how I came to write this book about Houston which shines some ground breaking light on the Cherokees).

We begin in the middle in Nashville, which was such a young government that its Governor's home was a suite in a wooden hotel, on this particular night awash in ash and pitch, due to the torches of the mob outside. Then on to the sitting room of Eliza's parent's plantation near Nashville, dominated in pink. Then flashing back to the ghost of a ruined plantation in Virginia, which the doomed Houstons sold. Next is Cherokee Territory in Tennessee, some of it newly opened up to settlers, including Houston's mother. Jolly's isle, Hiwassee, is the best, with campfires, crofts, and vegetation, all surrounded by the mighty Tennessee. On to the little-known battlefield in Alabama, the Horseshoe Bend on the Tallapoosa River, where the young ensign Houston made his name, being the only officer in the advance guard to survive the field, seeing Andrew Jackson on a white horse amid the smoke, while his white, black, and native friends died. The field gets extra treatment at night, where Houston first learned to fear the dark of the night after a battle, told with a magical realism true to the idiosyncrasies of Houston and his tribe.

Move on to Washington City, which Houston sees torched in August of 1814, sealing his lasting love of the Union and desire for it to survive. Then to Jackson's plantation, The Hermitage, where Jackson first lived in a log cabin with the militia, and later the regulars, stationed on his front lawn. Back to Cherokee Territory and Knoxville, while Jolly's tribe is packed up to leave, then back to Washington City to battle with the hated John C. Calhoun, newly appointed secretary of war, gentleman, racist, and bigot.

During the flashbacks to Houston's come of age story, he is traveling rivers to New Indian Territory, the land of the now dubbed "Cherokee of the West." About half way through the novel, he arrives, after making a brief stop in Arkansas. He finds the New Indian Territory much like the old, except that Jolly's home dwarfs the others, the mountains don't smoke as much, and the lean-tos for the wretched tribe members are shameful at best. On to Annuity Day, with Cherokees in tents far and wide during the harvest, the men crossing the river to Arkansas while the women wait, and know that the men have been given specie paper and the ability to trade if for drink, leaving them destitute again. Back to a thriving Washington City with the newly built President's white house occupied by a mob loving Jackson. Home again to the territories, with a stop at The Hermitage, now built up with the gorgeous Plantation home fit for a western king. Houston and Diana spend a little time making love in the Wigwam Neosho, the half decent trading post Houston has built in an effort to make trade like his mother did. Back to Washington City, and a trial in front of Congress, with the emblems of liberty, the eagle, and the flag, blazing their way into Houston's weakened heart. Back to a fireside chat with Jackson, a tribal blessing from Jolly, and a haunting farewell in the chill of late fall with the dying Diana. The book ends with Houston crossing the Red River on a sunny day in December to Texas, to his destiny.

Joined:22 May 2018, 02:14

Re: Seven Assignments - Critical (New York Pitch 2018)

#19 Post by SALMAUNA » 05 Jun 2018, 10:25

FIRST ASSIGNMENT: write your story statement.

The American Dream at Any Cost.

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

The antagonistic force for each of the characters is modern day San Francisco. It’s goals are to create immense value and wealth, to harness unbridled optimism, and it’s indifferent or aloof to the world around it. The pace of change is far too brisk to stop and consider the cost. It welcomes anyone to join this race to disrupt the status quo and makes no promise that you yourself won’t be disrupted and swept under the rug, along with the countless, nameless souls that migrated to this city with undying ambition. The only rule in this new age wild wild west of capitalism is that yesterday is no predictor of today and today offers no promise of tomorrow.

THIRD ASSIGNMENT: create a breakout title list

All Street
New Francisco
Sandy Hill

FOURTH ASSIGNMENT: Novel Comparables

My comparables are the underwriting by Michelle Miller, Everybody Rise by Stephanie Clifford, and Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe.

The Underwriting and All Street both explore the theme of immense wealth creation in the tech industry. Wealth creation that attracts the brightest minds of this generation. Both novels are told from multiple points of view as well.

Everybody Rise and All Street share the thread of following a millennial relocating to a Metropolis and their coming-of-age story unraveling. Both stories are centered around technology apps as well.

Bonfire of the Vanities and All Street both explore themes of ambition, social class, and gentrification. The former is set in New York of the 1980’s whereas All Street is set in modern day San Francisco.

FIFTH ASSIGNMENT: write your own conflict line

Three hopefuls come to San Francisco to join the tech gold rush and escape the past. Now, the city is in a rush to make them history.

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

Each of the protagonist’s has an inner conflict of whether they can become men and provider’s for the ones they love.

Ousama — Trigger :: Ousted from the company, Reaction :: Launches a competitor.

Pablo — Trigger :: Gets eviction notice, Reaction :: Borrows money from his gangster brother & starts driving for ride hailing app.

Jasper — Trigger :: Foster dad’s land is being challenged, Reaction :: Decides to do something he swore he wouldn’t do which is take money from venture capitalists.

Next, likewise sketch a hypothetical scenario for the "secondary conflict" involving the social environment.

Jasper — Secondary conflict is whether he decides to oust his co-founder Rouser in order to raise the money he needs.

Pablo — Secondary conflict is will he agree to repay his debt to his brother? and if so, how?

Ousama — His step brother wants to escape ISIS and asks Ousama to sponsor him to San Francisco. Meanwhile, the US government wants his help in capturing his brother.

FINAL ASSIGNMENT: sketch out your setting in detail.

My setting is the city of San Francisco and the various sub-settings reflect the changing face of the city, the metropolis leading the 4th industrial revolution. From the posh mansions of Venture Capitalists, to the cramped one bedroom apartments in the rundown buildings of the Mission neighborhood, to the quirky startup offices complete with kegs of Kombucha. Each sub-setting reflects the fluidity of the city, the tug of war between tradition and innovation.

Ousama’s Apartment — A standard bachelor apartment. Rather bare other than the few furnishings and Persian kitty he’s recently acquired — a crate and barrel sofa and television. These purchases are symbolic of his betting on the future, hoping for success in San Francisco which will restore his families dignity.

Pablo’s Apartment — A cramped junior one bedroom dwelling in a run down apartment building in the mission neighborhood. The apartment is full of family heirlooms collected by his grandmother who migrated to the Mission neighborhood from El Salvador. The apartment is the glue holding his family together, representing his desperate attempts to keep his family intact. His mother, who he locks in a bedroom for her drug detox, escapes and steals from a neighbor. This prompts an eviction notice from the building manager, who knows he will easily be able to rent the apartment out for a much higher price to any of the tech transplants.

The Battery Social Club — The ultimate manifestation of new San Francisco, an elite invite-only social club for the tech industry. Nestled above the financial district, a high powered hub for making deals and granting dreams.

The Marina District -- Untouched, nestled in the far corner of the city, with protected views of the magnificent San Francisco bay area and Golden Gate bridge. While the tech industry disrupts other corners of the city, the Marina district hums along undisturbed.

Joined:25 May 2018, 21:16

Re: Seven Assignments - Critical (New York Pitch 2018)

#20 Post by gotastory » 05 Jun 2018, 23:54

FIRST ASSIGNMENT: write your story statement.

After finally finding purpose atoning for her damned immortality in modern day, Sephina’s master and creator discovers her efforts to raise arms against him and will command her to stop and leave no one she loves alive.
SECOND ASSIGNMENT: in 200 words or less, sketch the antagonist or antagonistic force in your story. Keep in mind their goals, their background, and the ways they react to the world about them.

The Fallen Brother stills harbors hatred and jealousy from his defeat at the beginning of time. As one of the four sons of The Great Mother he was charged with the protection of an ancient gift one night long ago. But he deceived them all in an effort to claim the gift of immortality for his own. Betraying his brothers and forsaking his mother he knowingly released evil into the world, but ultimately lost to his brothers’ strength and self-sacrifice in the end. Seizing his opportunity for revenge soon after, he created the ultimate weapon from a descendent of his brother’s tribe. Throughout time he has plagued humanity with war, famine, disease, depravity and his strongest demon, Sephina, to turn them all against each other until they lose all hope and turn to his darkness in desperation and fear. He’ll stop at nothing to take back what he wants even if it means sacrificing her, his prize possession, to ensure his victory after discovering her plot to destroy him.
THIRD ASSIGNMENT: create a breakout title (list several options, not more than three, and revisit to edit as needed).
The Broken Series

Broken Sacrifice
Broken Atonement (Book being pitched at conference)
Broken Hope
My book would find a home in the Urban Fantasy genre. The story is set in modern day but based on a unique creation myth that drives the plot. There are only few on Earth that know of the truth. The battle that continues to wage from the beginning of time for the control over humanity’s immortal. There is a love subplot but it doesn’t drive the story so it wouldn’t fall into paranormal romance. It is hard to find a book that is very similar to mine, but if I had to choose, I would pick Ilona Andrew’s Kate Daniels’ series.
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.

An immortal woman created and enslaved by the master of evil seeks to find the key to her freedom, while protecting those closest to her, and keeping safe her secrets from a man she can’t allow herself to love.


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. 

Sephina’s internal conflict is one of responsibility and shame. Even though she has no control over her will at night when her master uses her to weave fear, darkness, and torment throughout mankind, she in plagued by her mortal heart’s guilt that returns upon each daybreak. As a descendent of the Two Tribes that defeated her master ages ago she has a calling to defeat him again. But how? The mortals, and even the other descendants of the Two Tribes she finds stand no chance if she can’t find a way to break free. Sephina struggles to get close to anyone in fear of their judgement, hurting them of course, and of the eventuality of their death.

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?

Once a prophecy is made by a Seer in her team, she has no choice but to rethink everything. How much should she risk to stand against her master? On one hand if they succeed she could be released from his control and keep immortality from his hands forever. On the other hand, if she fails everyone she cares about will die and he will finally have the gift he’s craved since it all began.
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.

Major Settings
Ty Warner Penthouse- This opens the novel and sets a cold and lifeless stage as Sephina is taken by the night.
Manhattan Italian Restaurant- This moves the plot forward by letting the gaudy restaurant personify evil’s lucrative existence in modern day. The arrogant blood money flaunted drowning the materialistic knowing crowds lining up to get in.
Manhattan Police Precinct-This a parallel to the penthouse setting. Cold, numb, and emotionless feel.
Boathouse Bed and Breakfast- Stark opposite from the precinct and the penthouse. Family-oriented and comprised of everyone making a stand against evil. The setting is serene, beautiful, and hand-built. Later, it needs to be burnt down by one of the residents in an unforeseen emergency. This loss, weakens the groups’ resolve and forces them to find a new home.
Bannerman Castle: A modern day ruin currently being restore serves as the meeting ground for evil. “A tiny jewel in the setting of the Hudson Highlands is called Pollepel, now familiarly known as Bannerman Island. Once an uninhabited place, accessible only by boat, it was considered haunted by some Indian tribes and thus became a refuge for those trying to escape them. These superstitions and others promoted by later Dutch sailors make for many fanciful tales. Even the name Pollepel (Polopel) originated with a legend about a young girl named (Polly) Pell who was romantically rescued from the breaking river ice and landed on the island shore, where she was promptly married to her sweetheart, who rescued her and her companion. The island was thereafter called Pollepel.

Oheka Castle- The new safe-haven for the group, owned and run by former guests of the boathouse, who are in debt to the family and also fight on the same side. The prophecy takes place here and this is the last place the characters are all together before the ending of the novel.

Joined:06 Jun 2018, 05:02

Re: Seven Assignments - Critical (New York Pitch 2018)

#21 Post by Michelle427 » 06 Jun 2018, 05:15

1. Story statement
Survive the mining camp long enough to create an escape plan.

2. Describe your antagonist
My antagonist, Vikas, is the leader of a small group who terrorizes the rest of the prison camp. He is physically strong, wolf-like, with long teeth and claws. He can be charming at times, speaking in a low sexy drawl, but can then suddenly turn vicious. He attacks new inmates of the camp stealing anything they may have, often taking things of no real value, simply because he can. He frequently abuses the other characters for amusement, as there is very little to do. He sees the world as a brutal place, but it is his brutality that has allowed him to survive for as long as he has. He has been at the camp longer than most of the other inmates, wanting to escape more than any of them and eventually creates a truce to work toward freedom.

3. Breakout title:

4. Comparable titles
People who have read these titles may enjoy my book:

MATCHED by Ally Condie- 2010- Dutton Books. I think readers of MATCHED will like the romantic triangle in my story and respond to my protagonist.

A THOUSAND PIECES OF YOU by Claudia Gray- 2014- Harper Teen. Like this book, mine features a strong, smart, capable teen age girl.

5. Primary/Secondary/Inner Conflicts
Primary Conflict- Annie, finding herself prisoner in a harsh mining camp on Cabash 3, must find a way to escape.

Secondary Conflict- The Odenm, who run the mining camp, have no concerns for what goes on inside the camp as long as they make quota, so prisoners are left to fend for themselves. A small group has taken over the camp, taking what they want and abusing weaker inmates. Annie, alone, must find a way to evade Vikas and his men.

6. Inner Conflict
Annie’s older brother David, communicates with her through her dreams. She and David have never gotten along well, but for the last few months he’s been unbearable. Through their conversations, Annie learns why he has been so angry making her take a hard look at her past behavior.

7. Setting and Subsetting
Setting - The setting is a mining camp on Cabash 3, one of the 29 moons of the Vaperian system. The camp is surrounded by a band that allows for an atmosphere in their small area. There is one building, the headquarters for the Odenm, which holds their barracks, mess hall and medical unit. Otherwise there is nothing else but white hills with tunnels dug into them. The planet is covered in a fine white dust which constantly blows, making everything hazy. The prisoners eat and sleep in vacant tunnels which have had tables and berths carved out in them. The tunnels give Annie the feeling of working in a dungeon.

Subsetting - The subsetting is Annie’s dreamscape which takes place in different parts of her home or often on the wide open expanse of the beach, a contrast to the tight tunnels where she is now.

Joined:06 Jun 2018, 06:08

Re: Seven Assignments - Critical (New York Pitch 2018)

#22 Post by StephenII » 06 Jun 2018, 06:14

FIRST ASSIGNMENT: write your story statement.

Infiltrate the Administration to discover what the government is hiding outside the city borders

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.

Just as America is a grand experiment of democracy, the City of Golden Skies is an experiment of utopia. The Administration, the very elusive government of the city, is the mastermind behind the experiment. Through tradition, technology, and the rule of law, the Administration ensures that the city is the perfect utopia. The Administration will do anything to protect the welfare of the city and its citizens despite the moral implications. It focuses only on the ends and not the means. Unlike typical antagonistic governments, the Administration is not feared, but loved and praised by citizens.

The Administration very strategically manipulates its citizens into ignorance and happiness to keep them from questioning the cost of the perfection experienced within the city. As an additional firewall, the Administration is structured in a way to make it unclear just who is really in charge. Although the Administration is not one literal person, it is very much a consistent character in the novel embodied through different governmental characters that Jara, the protagonist, interacts with throughout her journey toward the truth. As a truth-seeker, Jara threatens the very foundations of the city, and is a liability that must be dealt with.

THIRD ASSIGNMENT: create a breakout title.

1. Burn the Golden Skies
2. When Gods Go Rogue
3. The Whitewashed Tomb of Heaven

FOURTH ASSIGNMENT: Develop two smart comparables for your novel.

Genre: Half science fiction thriller, half fantasy adventure


1. More modern take on the themes of Aldous Huxley's BRAVE NEW WORLD, with fantasy world building that reflects the cultural diversity of a futuristic globalized society

2. MILES, MUTANTS AND MICROBES (VORKOSIGAN SAGA) by Lois McMaster Bujold (both novels follow the story of an engineer in a futuristic society who faces a moral dilemma)

FIFTH ASSIGNMENT: write your own conflict line following the format above.

After discovering that the utopian government is suppressing the DNA of its citizens, a young engineer infiltrates the Administration to find out why and to discover what other secrets lie behind the government’s deception.

SIXTH ASSIGNMENT: sketch out an inner conflict and secondary conflict.

Inner Conflict: Though she lives in heaven, Jara has always dreamed of the so-called hell outside its borders. Though she seeks to uncover the truth, part of her feels a profound sense of guilt because she is motivated by her own selfish curiosity and desire for adventure. Time and time again she is confronted with the reality that truth demands a response. She fears that the truths she find may undermine the very foundations on which her city was established and she wonders, will she be willing and able to pay the price of truth when it is due?

Secondary Conflict: The social structure of the city is dependent on the family unit and when Jara obtains a position in the Administration, she is forced to wed her political counterpart, a man she does not love. Throughout the story he attempts to gain her affection but she responds with only ice and venom. Through her relationship with her husband, Jara is forced to question the meaning of love, and what it takes to be worthy of her love, especially in a city where romance is forced and manufactured.

FINAL ASSIGNMENT: sketch out your setting in detail.

The two major settings in the novel are the City of Golden Skies and the world outside the city borders. The city is a utopia with immortal citizens called celestials and teleporting servants called droids. It is a perfect city constantly being enhanced and beautified by technology. Every stitch in the social fabric of the city is overseen and manipulated by the Administration, which seeks to ensure that its citizens never grow weary of eternity.

To Jara’s surprise, and to the readers’ as well, the world outside the city is also beautiful, covered with salts flats and black stone mountains. There are many civilizations outside the city, all of which have found their own unique ways to survive in a lawless world where humans are hunted by thieves, cannibals, droids and spectres.

Joined:23 May 2018, 07:11

Re: Seven Assignments - Critical (New York Pitch 2018)

#23 Post by cjmelnrick » 06 Jun 2018, 06:29


Overcome an evil spirit to protect both reality and the dream world.


Solomon is an Unwritten, a spirit from somewhere beyond Reality. The Unwritten do not truly exist and must steal the “story” of another by sneaking through their dreams. Solomon comes from nothing, and he will not go back. He will take it all, making everything in both reality and all its dreams his.

Old and clever, he has watched the greatest conquerors in history fail because of their greed and impatience. He bides his time, stealing a sentence here and there from the stories of the most powerful people in history, growing in strength and frustration for those who take their existence for granted. As such, Solomon’s goal is to take it from them. He will bring The Unwritten to Reality and blur the lines with the Dream World in a place called In Between. There, he will rule everything.

Malcolm is the only one who’s power as a Dream Weaver who's power is raw enough to achieve his goal. Solomon will do whatever is necessary to take that power for himself.


The Unwritten
The Shadows In Between
Shadows of a Dream


Dream a Little Dream by Kerstin Gier, featuring a young hero in a contemporary world who discovers an ability to walk amongst dreams.

The Archived by Victoria Schwab, featuring a unique world revolving around "stories" and dangerous enemies connected to them.


When the monsters from a young man’s nightmare begin bleeding into reality, he must defeat them before they take not only his life, but all of reality and the dream world for their own.


Inner Conflict:

Malcolm’s inner most conflict is feeling like he’s caught “in between”. This plays out in his entire identity: being an athlete or an academic, navigating different social groups, a child of divorce stuck between mom and dad, watching his dad choose between him and his work, between reality and dreams.

The most significant source of his anxiety is being bi-racial. The son of a black father and a white mother, he is light skinned and constantly feels stuck between two worlds. He feels like he has to reach into both, but never gets to stand in one.

Scenario: Malcolm feels stuck “In Between” at school and on the football field; The black players tell him he isn’t black enough, while the white players tell him he isn’t white enough. They are both his friends, but they usually hang out with the people who look like them, as evidenced in the locker room. When he goes between the groups, one player points it out and tells him, “one day you’re going to have to decide if you’re black or if you’re white” and whose side he’s going to take. He angrily decides he doesn’t belong in either group, instead once again walking the fine line in the middle by himself.

Secondary Conflict:

A major secondary conflict is with his father. Malcolm’s dad is gone for work and not present in Malcolm’s life like Malcolm wants him to be. He’s only been to two football games all season and isn’t seeing Malcolm perform. Malcolm’s drive is to prove he’s worth watching.

Scenario: When Malcolm is playing in the last game of the season, he constantly looks up into crowd. He wants his father to be there, to see him lead his team to the first undefeated season in school history. But, like every week, his father isn’t there. In the opening chapter of the book, Malcolm is furious with his father and determined to play so well in the playoffs his father will have to notice him.


Seattle sets the stage for the story. The city itself is a dichotomy, caught “in between” as much as the story’s main character. The “Emerald City” famous for rainy, gray days. Beaches and ocean watched over by magnificent mountain ranges.

It’s late fall. Football season, cold and gray. The sun rises late and the night arrives early. Long nights make for longer dreams, and more time to get lost in them.

It’s the perfect setting for running towards dreams.The rainy days leave people daydreaming for sunnier, warmer adventures. The long, cold nights beg for an escape. It’s a city built on hard work, studio art, underdog sports teams, world class universities, and grunge rock. With major companies like Boeing, Amazon, Microsoft, and more, people from all over the world are calling Seattle home, introducing a wide range of cultures and ideas. It’s the perfect city to inspire dreams.

In Malcolm’s world, he visits the world of In Between, the tightrope that connects Reality and the Dream World, a place where imagination really is your best friend. It’s only limitation is your own mind. What you do or no not allow. What you create.

The setting allows for grand adventure that can go literally anywhere with a simple thought, from a mountain lodge to a hidden forest to a pent house suite looking over the Las Vegas Strip. However, Seattle is home for both me as he writer and Malcolm as our young hero. Grounding the action in the city keeps Malcolm connected to what is important to him and keeps the tension high. It keeps him focused on the issue. It keeps him fighting.

Joined:06 Jun 2018, 19:56

Re: Seven Assignments - Critical (New York Pitch 2018)

#24 Post by izzyferguson » 06 Jun 2018, 20:27

Giving It Up For Rodney
Nick must uncover a plan to kill Rodney Dangerfield - or maybe help it along.

The ‘antagonistic forces’ that are here at play manage – at least it’s nice to think they do – to choreograph a tortuous ballet for three dancers: Harlan Singer (a fat, angry man with a fractious, and easily fractured, sense of his own dignity), Rodney Dangerfield (an old, angry man who doesn’t give a damn about any of that crap), and Nick Stringham (a well-intentioned man angry at his own failings, if insufficiently angry to confront them effectively).
Dancing around one another - figuring out who’s harmed whom, and what to do about it, and whether to do anything at all - the three men pursue, avoid, dismiss, entangle one another in one angry man’s stupid, ill-considered plan to get back at the second angry man’s aggression, both of them stalked by the third angry man in an attempt to evade both his wife’s antagonism (a cloud that hangs over him constantly) and his self-disdain.
All of which climaxes when the various solo numbers converge into a pas de trois, in a dark theater where the dark interior forces can be picked out by spotlights.

The Fat Man Sings
(Way down upon the) Lazy River
Down in Front
Love is for Suckers

Gary Shteyngart, borrowing a David Sedaris cardigan for warmth
Some Karen Russell cake, with Nell Zink icing
Edward St Aubyn Americanized by a bit of Gary Shteyngart
Woody Allen without the baggage, just a pocketful of Jess Eisenberg
Raymond Chandler relaxing a bit with Steve Martin

Uncovering a gambler’s plan for revenge on a famous comedian who injured him, a confused doctor agonizes over breaking up the plan, or breaking up his marriage.
A vacationing family man risks losing his wife and daughter in an attempt to save a famous comedian from the revenge-lust of an angry stranger.
A disturbed doctor, torn between saving his marriage and saving a famous comedian from danger, wrestles with finding a way to do both.

Hypothetical 1 - Given that the protagonist (Nick) is driven, in his involvement with bad ol’ Singer, almost entirely by his desire for distraction from himself, it can be assumed that all signs of outward conflict are reflections of the inner sort. Nick is both aware of this and in denial of it. So a hypothetical scenario in which his inner turmoil would be intensified, if not ‘triggered’, might be Nick’s admission to Rodney – when they meet on the pool deck (while both are hunting for love) and engage in passing conversation - that bad ol’ Singer is after him. This would be followed by Rodney’s dismissive Ah, that guy – don’t worry about that guy. Whereupon Nick might find himself confronting the essential emptiness of his pursuit of Singer’s ‘plot’, which is to say explicitly confronting himself. Which would not end well at all.
Hypothetical 2 - And if Nick ever does find himself confronting himself, he’s certainly going to have to confront his wife as well. In light of the structure of the novella (at least as it stands, prior to being shredded by the NYC Pitch gang), this would have to occur in some ill-lit backwater of Vegas, let’s say a car rental office while they angrily debate the timeless issue of ‘family-sedan vs. convertible’ for their side-trip to the Hoover Dam – which would give Stace a chance to rip ol’ Nick to pieces, perhaps with metaphorical automobiliac references to ‘all body, no top’. (The Hoover side-trip would no doubt metastasize into a very tense tour of the great humming turbines in the belly of the dam – but that’s probably a hypothetical, and a metaphor, too far.)

The setting? It bloody well better be different from every other Vegas setting, or what’s the point?
And I like to think that it is. So, despite the admonition Don’t simply repeat what you already have . . .here’s what I already have:
The setting is the in-between spaces, the ill-lit backwaters, the unsung Vegas. And it’s cinematic because every scene - with the exception of the instant-bang opener (near-homicide on the sunny pool deck) and the wrap-it-up closer (opening night show!) - involves a significant move (let’s make it sound better than it might be and call it a kineticism) away from the standard hurly burly and hot lights of standard Vegas.
And there aren’t a hell of a lot of scenes – it’s a novella, goddamit, and it’s tightly controlled, or it better be:
1. Moving from the symphonic jangle of the gaming floor into the dark, closed daytime theater
2. Moving from the circus’s amped-up spotlit clown car into the dark, traumatized backstage full of damaged clowns
3. Moving from the frenzied onstage nightclub action into a dark, quiet man-to-man at the back table
4. Moving again from the gaming floor jangle to the dark, empty midnight reception hall under the eyes of a depressive concierge, then doubling down on dark with a move up into a room full of decrepit comedians waiting for death in a penthouse
5. Moving from the new-day bustle of the hotel into the sealed trap of a monorail car
6. Moving from the high glassy Adventuredome, echoing with children’s happy howls, into the a dark closet full of dusty dinosaurs
7. Plus some interstitial, knit-it-together scenes, always down at the Lazy River.
I mean, what could be more lazily kinetic than a Lazy River?

Joined:28 May 2018, 03:14

Re: Seven Assignments - Critical (New York Pitch 2018)

#25 Post by Mitternight » 07 Jun 2018, 18:51


Jade Boudreaux must find her lover’s killer before she is his next victim. Police believe that her lover’s death is simply an escalation of some local burglaries that must have gone wrong; she knows it is not because she and her soon-to-be-ex-husband are the thieves.


There are possibly two antagonists.

One is the killer, who wants the flash drive that Jade’s lover has, unbeknownst to her, given her before his death. The killer menaces Jade and those around her, escalating the threat from break-ins, to beatings, to murder. Jade’s fear of the unknown antagonist’s violence is at war with her determination to regain the person she used to be before her father’s suicide and her husband’s later betrayal. The suicide and the betrayal – both abandonments by the men she loved the most -- have made her afraid to fully engage with life. Despite the killer, she is trying not to let fear define her any longer.

The second antagonist is Jade’s soon-to-be-ex-husband, Adam. Jade can not start her life over because Adam uses their lingering love for each other as well as emotional manipulation to keep her in his life and stealing jewelry with him. There is a part of her that wonders whether the two antagonists are the same person. Her confusion over whether she should trust Adam prevents her from the new beginning she longs for.


_Stealing Nights; High Security; Alarmed


Lawrence Block Bernie Rhodenbarr series (for smartass hero) and Diane Capri’s Heir Hunter series_(professional on the wrong side of the law with deep emotional subplot)


Police think the death of a Charleston woman’s lover is an escalation of recent jewelry thefts; she knows it is not because she and her soon-to-be-ex-husband are the thieves, and she must find out who the killer is – and why her lover was murdered -- before the killer comes after her.


1. Inner conflict: Jade is still robbing houses as her “night job” alongside her soon-to-be-ex-husband, Adam. Adam cheated on her, and she doesn’t want to be around him, but she finds herself still drawn to him and still charmed by him. The trigger is when he tells her that he has borrowed money from criminals and will be killed or hurt badly if he can’t make the payments that the robberies are funding. His story exemplifies her conflicted feelings for Adam: anger at his taking the easy way out and involving her, mixed with concern for his welfare if she simply refuses to go on any more jobs with him. She doesn’t want to need him, but a large part of her still does.
2. Secondary conflict: Because of emotional incidents in Jade’s past culminating in the betrayal of her husband’s infidelity, Jade wants nothing to do with the complicated or committed. She writes a light column about restaurants for a local alternative newspaper and sets her own schedule and topics. It suits her. But when a friend asks her to look into the unsavory practices of a local restaurateur and that restaurateur starts getting nasty about her investigation, she is drawn against her will into a more in-depth commitment to the story and the “day job” of writing for the paper.


The setting is Charleston, SC. The city allows for the kind of old wealth that makes burglars salivate, and also the kind of old wealth attitudes that make the protagonist feel a bit like an outsider. Jade’s husband is from Charleston, so his insider status is an irritating contrast. The sub-settings of restaurants that make up the world Jade covers for the newspaper are all fictional, but vivid in reflecting the personalities of the restaurant owners. The slightly raffish alternative newspaper where Jade works during the day is a contrast to the over-the-top homes she robs at night.

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