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Novel Audit Checklist

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(Disclaimer: All the 5s and most of the 4s are humbly stated). 


Originality, freshness, high concept: 5

The plot and concepts of this novel are original not only in the sense of the relatively rare combination of urban/ethnic with ultra-advanced scifi/technology, but in the sense that there is the featuring of a wide range of cultural characters and origins. The scenic stage of this concept ranges from the environment of an ultra-violent urban American ghetto, the launching site for the protagonist, to multi-linguistic "high-end" societies of eastern and western Europe, the native base for the alpha protagonist, the international terrorists. Besides highlighting a range of culture and gender, the environment also spans stages of time, being that one of the crucial plot points, the technology to reconstitute the mental information for past persons (revive the memories of the dead), causes salient ripples in time that are experienced by the protagonist as moments of "serendipity" or "dejavu."     


Clear target readership: 4

The target readership for this novel will be the typical drama/action/sci-fi aficionado. While the origin and race of the protagonist (urban black male), may appeal to a more niche market in particular, the diversity within the cast and the human nature of the conflicts and struggles have universal appeal, while the writing, drama and rhythm can "tether" the John Doe reader sequentially through the pages and plot succession. 

In terms of the setting and theme, to include grittiness and the consummate sex scene/s,  the ever rising, Urban Noir crowd will feel at home in this novel as well.  


Hook: 4

The 4 represents a 4.5, while following the rules. I believe the hook itself as a concept is a 5 dialed back to a 4 while the expression of the hook is articulated from mental concept to literal expression. The hook needs work in balancing conciseness with the necessary artistic expression--how to communicate the higher-end nature of the concept in general with as few words as possible. 

I am and will be rewriting the hook as many times as possible. 


Act Zero backstory development: 3

While the backstory development for the protagonist and (main) antagonist are between 5 and 4, respectively, the backstory for one key (antagonist side) character is dubious and must be developed. What leads this character to become not a terrorist in his own mind but a freedom fighter who uses death and fear as the most expedient and logical tool with which to bring the greater world into the knowledge of truth? Some people must be made to see truth, when truth is not expedient. The tools of death and fear, in a freedom fighter's mind, are officially tried and true by developed governments around the world. Ironically it is this same world that has labeled him, and unjustly, as a terrorist. But how did he get here in way that is reasonable and yet... atypical. 


Concise, effective setup with inciting incident: 5

The initial incident is inciting and interesting. It is not a dream or false reality, but actually is interesting in its own moment, while effectively a place holder for the plot to unfold. The initial action scene is a murderous one, letting the reader see not only who the protagonist is impelled to be at the time, but it is a glimpse of who he will be forced to become because of the circumstances. The language is actionable even when certain necessary backstory and character is revealed through reflective thought or conversation, for example. Such conversations are necessarily paced with action and the timely distractions. The incident and the looming reality of the protagonists plight and destiny is evident throughout. 


Plot line arc, and subplots (if appropriate): 5

I give this a humble 5 (all the 5s are humble), because of the transformative effect revealed in the character arc that happens parallel within the plot line arc. I believe this is impelling and interesting because the plot line arc is in sync with the character arc, and so in sync with the readers own sense of empathy for the protagonist. It is tried and true in the essence of; In order for the protagonist to overcome the ultimate evil, he must first overcome something within himself. He must come to know and dominate himself as a prerequisite of overcoming the external threats. This essence is not overwhelmingly stated or cliché, rather it is foundational to the nature of the events and plot line arc as it is drawn.  


Well designed reversals (major and minor): 5

The apex major reversal is one that flows coherently from the build up, substantiated not only by the plot arc, but by the previous quirks and intuitions of the protagonist. I believe that once the reader experiences the major plot reversal, the reader will do a retroactive audit and come to appreciate the protagonist on a entirely new level. Finding out that the reason Nicco has always been so different since puberty is due to the fact that he is experiencing memories from his future self explains a lot of quirks that, in the moment, simply made him stand out as odd and interesting. 

The minor reversals are timely and paced, following that emotional rollercoaster of peaks and valleys, of ebbs and flows wherein the ebbs themselves are going somewhere.   


Pinch Points (at least 2): 1

While the pinch points exist idealistically, they need to be made more concrete in terms of their significance and timeliness within the plot line. The 1st pinch point is related to the antagonists demonstrated ability to track, relocate and capture the protagonist at a crucial point in his life, part of her ultimate and believable plotting of his future and his very consciousness according to her own will. The 2nd pinch point is related to the reality that he, even as he thinks he is coping with the changes and hardships of his past and present, he has not been gaining control at all, that he has fallen even deeper under the control of the antagonist and has been doing her will for longer than he has realized. 

Whether via cut-away scenes, internal realization, or other salient means, work needs to be done on exactly when, where and how the pinch points will occur. 


Catalytic situation driven: 4

The situations for the protagonist are what they are, a drama-filled ghetto in one of the most notorious cities in the United States. But as dire as the situation becomes, it means that his will and willingness to overcome them and to escape become that much more driven. Drastic times call for drastic measures. The antagonist, on the other hand, and initially on the other side of the world, though raised and surviving within the same zero-sum context of violence and death, is driven within a more sophisticated situation. Being the bride of an international terrorist is more socially honorable than being a hoodrat. Though the drive required to live in such circumstances is just as intense. 


Conflict, tension, rising action: 4

The nature of the inner conflict of both the protagonist and the antagonist are such that they cannot be denied. The inner conflicts are coincidental with the external conflicts and in some cases instigate the external conflicts. In either and both cases it feels more natural that the inner and external conflicts be in harmony. This "synergistic" relationship betwixt the levels of conflict are intuitive to the extent that the reader can imagine and assume a certain extent of the conflict as it is.  For example: Nicco wants to be free of the hood. His dead father also wants him to be free, a note which he wrote in his own dying hand. Nicco has a plan to be free but will he? Time will tell, but then at the same time, time is telling us that it is running out. Winning the metaverse game and going to New is like a pipe dream when people are killing and nobody believes it. 

Every scene relevant (i.e., driving plot forward): 4

I say 4 because every scene, if not action packed full of baddies saying "ride or die," has a definitive role in the ongoing plot. The moments of reflection, backstory and character build are seasoned with actionable moments even in the context of memories. The richness of the language also helps to occupy the inquisitive senses, holding the reader's proverbial hand through the necessary plateaus of backstory or need-to-know sessions. Example: Learning who Sasha via a brief memory regress is going back to see a young girl almost caught up in sex trafficking, a young girl who is rescued by a younger, international terrorist and husband to be who literally kills for her. We learn how she has become to be both beautiful and loyal as she is, the logicalness of her love for Vladimir. At the same time we understand as well how Vladimir himself showed restraint and mercy, waiting for her to flower and taking her to wife.... Etc. 


Effective, believable climax: 4

The climax will necessarily be both effective and believable especially to the extent that it follows as one of several inevitable results of the situation. Harboring the recollections of a terrorist will mean having the ultimate show down... a battle of the wills and consciousnesses that will playout in realms both real and imagined, both spaces being just as valid and impactful as far as the reader is concerned. 

The fact of something  being outrageous and incredible does not make it less believable, as our own reality constantly reminds us all. In the novel it will come down to matters of perspective, as it always does in reality.  


Resolution: 5

The resolution is one where the good wins out gloriously, the bad is soundly defeated but then, there is the tried and true seed of without-a-doubt, that the terminator will be back. The nature of the resolution is as satisfying as a surviving antagonist, slightly marred now but literally pregnant with conflict and the promise of a resurgence. I believe this is a greater philosophical truth or reality that has therefore time-tested and proven through good literature. I plan to take a page from the playbook of both.  


Antagonistic force: 4

This is one that is more challenging to gauge. The antagonistic force is just that, present from the very beginning in an ominous sense. It is host to acute action indeed, while not immediately visible, it continues in this fashion until the embodiment of said force meets with the antagonist in real future. The nature of the technology which the antagonist will ultimately use to impose their will and persona on the antagonist causes ripples in the quantum field which, as you know, sends those ripples concentrically through the information field of possibilities, hence the future memories... the instances of dejavu, and the overall ominous presence that he antagonist feels over his life, undeniable since the advent of puberty. The antagonist that is yet to come is there looming and can be felt. There is no lack of the acute presence of the antagonist however, since the inevitable manifestation of that future force is shown to brew via the storyline of the antagonist yet to be. Her loose but telling connection to the younger version of the protagonist is established first established as strangers in the metaverse, a few messages between the antagonist and the random follower who comments on his exploits and success in the gaming world. Having found him, it is a connection that comes back to haunt him when the antagonist, now a woman scorned with life and death, needs surrogate body for her dead, terrorist husband. 

Consistent opposition: 5

The opposition faced both by the protagonist and the antagonist is, and has been, consistent throughout their lives. The protagonist has faced opposition from the angry womb, being spit out into a world that spits... the blood the raps the bullets.... Even his down time is cocked and loaded. The antagonist, on the other hand and side of the planet, has managed to mitigate the constant, mortifying opposition in her life by accepting her birthright as a whore. A girl cannot be much let down when she lies submissively... except she is no whore and hence, she gets up to things, ways to beat the odds and the men that wager on them. Vlad becomes the first genuine love interest... if only she knew love, and if only she could marry love with being a serial killer. He is tender with her within the boundaries, but it is, at least, structure and security. Dangerous though it be, what more can a girl want? Until life... until death... takes Vlad himself from her. 

Protagonist goals: 4

His goals are clear in the beginning: 1, get out of the streets if he has to die to do it and 2, the best way to do it is to win the tournament in the metaverse. When hopes for 1 and 2 are dashed, he can even die right. The goal becomes an ambiguous survival then, running with hoodrats and starting to get high until, another goal and purpose saves him from dying inside. Because of tragedy and a scarred face, he is reawakened to purpose, his father's words from the grave rising within. He knows only to get out of the streets, that he doesn't belong. After being exiled he finds a possible purpose in newfound love... but alas, the antagonist comes in time to rescue him from such mundane endings. She kills that lesser purpose and gives him vengeance... gives him survival... gives him saving the world as a greater purpose.


Sympathetic protagonist: 5

I like Nicco myself, but not just because he works with me to make himself known, but because I have know him to work throughout his levels of humanity. The young Nicco is naïve. He has secrets to achieve his goals. He wants to get away and believes he can make it by playing the metaverse games. He is confident that by covering himself with that make believe blanket, he can disappear right in front of all the toxic people. But the see him and they snatch it away. I feel for him, even as he transitions by necessity, lowering his mind and body temperature to mitigate the shockingly cold world. Even as he accepts his birthright as a hood nigga. The dreams that he doesn't dream cannot be ridiculed or taken.... Except he is not a nigga at all. He can no longer feel cold in a cold world any more than a lonely star in vast blackness. Though alone he be, he must be. To find balance, things must heat up around him or he will heat them up himself, if he must self destruct in the process. He was likeable, understandable and heart-wrenchingly naïve as a child.

As a man we will rally him to a higher purpose... into a welcomed destiny which defines itself as he continues in it, step by running step, exciting those empathy genes that we have within a common humanity.    


Protagonist arc: 5

The protagonist goes from a citizen of the ghetto, a native speaker of the lost language in all its forms: body, tongue, mind.... But he dreams with a greater mind, one seemingly not native to a poor black ghetto. Is it those greater visions that come rippling from a future filled with international terrorists and travels? The aspirations of a conflicting destiny that makes him, starting at puberty, stand out in the hood as that one dude so special but weird, a distinction without a difference amongst toxic people. 

It is his inner drive, undefinable to a child at first, and the exigent circumstances of the violent world that drives him to become the man he is destined to be.  


Supporting characters: 3

While the supporting characters ideally help the character arc in the sense that they provide stimulus and motivation, both positive and negative, for the protagonist and antagonist, I believe that their personable stage presence could be stronger. Example; Buck is Nicco's day one, the one who, while young as Nicco, shares his old experience of alleyways and streets, the drug game educational system and the pubescent basement parties. Buck is obviously a don't give a fuck kind of kid, one who's native tongue moves with the streets where no other language is necessary. He is a great juxtapose to Nicco who, while understanding those same streets to a poetic verb, is undeniably born to be something more. Buck serves as the voice that tells him that certain "more" is less and much worse, will get you killed in the hood, that far side of the ghetto. True to his words, it is likely Buck who betrays Nicco, telling the clique about those strange notions of winning national gaming tournaments, of saying strange words like Japanese or Russian now and then, shit the dude gets from them on line nerds. This is an "echo-locator" voice that helps define how much Nicco stands out with respect to the streets. Buck, as all of the supporting characters, will become more salient to the necessary degree, enough to keep it real, not enough to take up too much space. 

A specific problem could be that Buck typically reacts to things that Nicco says, reminding Nicco through crude criticism and strange looks when he's said something crazy. Buck hasn't thus far expressed any of his own personal philosophy, crude and practical as may be, about the world they face as black male youth in an impoverished squared-city-blocks, blocks that lay hard and large as the boxed universe, as far as he is concerned.  


Narrative development: 4

The projected narrative development is seamless overall. The transition between challenges and the related rhythm and conflicts make crazy sense. What needs to be scrutinized is the time/word count allotted between each of the plot milestones or significant moments. Nicco's character development and the actionable moments that happen along the journey to the first disappointment.... the time and story line that will then lead to the next event of his falling out of favor with the clique and getting his face cut from the eye down (what he watched Lex do to Raymond the dope fiend out in the street that day, that day Lex pointed the stainy gloved finger his way in an ominous show of acknowledgement)... The pace and details of the ebb and flow need to be ridden reasonably. 

The significant factors that lead and contribute to the development, in terms of character arc and action, are present however.  


Effective transitions: 4

The transitions are generally seamless. Typically showing a fine or focused connection between spatial scenes which then segue into that next part of the story. For example, one of Nicco's storylines ends with him plugging into the metaverse and the transition he feels--the escapism--as he get's into the persona of the Black-faced Samurai, the childish alter ego he uses to combat the villians of the metaverse. While it is implied that the villians of the metaverse are stand-ins for the toxic characters that surround him in his immediate surroundings, one of the anonymous followers on line is Sasha, a young woman in France at the time. She is the bride of the great Vladimir (full name), who is inside the luxury condo preparing her favorite dinner. The sun is going down, pulling the shade of heaven down to the coast. This is the first time that Vlad intuitively calls her from looking at the American character on line. One of these times he will come from over her shoulder and see it for himself. She will have some explaining to do and much manipulation, the latter more crucial than the first.    


Clarity of spatial set: 3

I believe that the set so far is defined enough to host the action. I believe that the story and action is contextual enough so that the reader is able to imagine the set to the necessary degree or perhaps have somewhat tunnel vision in terms of the story, not involving the more panoramic set to a great degree. I believe the set will need more development and presence especially when the places are more interesting, places that offer more character to the story, such as the poverty-stricken lowlands of Chicago hoods, where all heads are on swivels or they may roll.... or the high-rise of Paris, France where the antagonist overlooks the far scape of a sunset.... or the quaint coffee shops that borderline the boroughs of London, England. The futuristic tech facility deep beneath the monotonous surface tundras of Alaska may be a particular challenge. Sounds, smells and general perspectives may be the way to clarify the various spaces for the various people who may not have any personal connection outside of the pages... all sewn together with interesting narrative and verb. 


Comprehensible prose narrative: 4

I believe the prose narrative in engrossing and leading. It will only get better. The narrative, especially when closer to pov 1st close, flow "synergistically" between action and thought. 


Tension on the page: 3

While there is tension on the page, it seems the strength of that tension is due more to the situations and not the explicit writing in the literal sense. I will work so that the word play, verbiage, and sentence structure etc., create more of a tangible tension on the page.... the tension and the eventual energetic consequences.    


Dialogue mastery: 4

The dialogue is natural and sensible, in agreement with what the characters are thinking, doing, or plan to do at any given moment. Not contrived, for example, to have someone say something shocking for the sake of shock value, but the character and intentionality are first capable first, and then it must make sense to say such things. There is pace and balance between dialogue and narrative telling. I believe dialogue is one of the strong points. But since the word "mastery" is so strong, I must leave room for growth. 4. 


Exposition delivery: 4

The framework is there and the timeline is conceptually sound. The events the lead successively, some eclipsing betwixt, need to be more infused or detailed. For example, Nicco winning successive gaming modules as he makes his way to a trip to the nationals... meanwhile his closest cohort, Buck, may be snitching about those plans to escape/betray the clique. Meanwhile the men who robbed were located. they must die, and the clique will kill two birds with one bullet. They will send Nicco on his first mission, killing his own character as much as the accused and getting the consummate blood on his young hands.... One penultimate rite of passage, though not to the greater world he had hoped for.  There are a couple of other dimensions of conflict/interest, such as the bloody note from his dead father and what it means for Nicco's own self determination, the hate/love relationship between his aunt and himself, and the odd, inexplicable moments of dejavu en crescendo, particularly recalling, and in such real detail, killing someone who is still on the run way over on the south side.  


Narrative composition (quality of set, tension, cinema, character interactions): 4

The narrative composition is strong. What remains is to continually polish the components, perhaps tuning the various pitches between the components so as to make the piece more harmonious. The right balance of clarity and depth without being too shallow nor too jumbled. Some of the aforementioned dimensions of conflict are simply mentioned, succinctly enough to plant the presence or second thought, without being a distraction. Others are simply presented as a factor of life and the setting, such as the way his aunt sees the world (it is a bad place on the verge of the purge always). Thus some of the narrative factors are prevalent to the story and composition of the conflict in more of an organic way. If his aunt is a bitch, and she seems to be, maybe that bitch will say something that helps him to strengthen his resolve, because she loves him in her own way. She may remind him, in a condescending way most likely, that his father "never gave up on shit," how that Terrance was a stubborn motherfucker that would rather die than be wrong. These factors, the intimate dancing of conflicts, aspirations and toxic relationships, especially in the early stages set the stage and composition, the sink or swim... live or die... reality in which Nicco, the protagonist, exists. He choses to live. 


Cinematic imagery (static and dynamic): 5

This will be a weak 5 for now. The visual setting is enhanced and imbued with the energy and personality of the characters. The hood is only the hood because of the people, otherwise it is an allotted geographical location with brick construction, tar streets and high-rises. Paris is beautiful this time of year, especially when Sasha sips wine on high on a windy balcony, her raven hair as unruly as her deepest thoughts. She secretly messages Nicco, whom she knows as the Blackface Samurai in the metaverse. He is a great player, and she wonders what he is like in reality. Would she dare to find out one day if given the chance? Across the horizon she sees the sunset, she knows it well. But the greater world beyond that horizon, she imagines, is yet awakening. 


Proper point of view: 5

Distant, close, first-close, whatever the point of view, no one speaks who doesn't have the mike. The points of views of present characters are made clear through strong insinuation, vocalization, the credible assumption of the person who does have the mike (pov), or any non-confusing means. So far, the protagonist and antagonist are the only two with genuine points of view. The others are made credible and made known, to varying degrees, through the experience of these two. The (1st) cutaway scene is introduced within the first 50 pages as well in order to tell of the terrorist cell and the impending world-changing act they are planning. In this case, none of the characters have the voice, but the scene is relegated to a general "eavesdropping" point of view. 


Wise use of craft technique: 4

Example; the background and scenery, including the narrative voice, remain consistent and supportive of the stage and composition.  While the scene is in the hood in Chicago, the passive narrative voice uses descriptive language the is harmonious with the mindset and personal language of the characters involved. There are no 7+ letter words used to explain a place and time where 4 letter words are the people's order of the day. Like wise, in the Ukraine of her childhood, the Paris of her blossoming and the epilogue-esque boroughs of London, the verbiage, sentence structure and lengths should be narrative of the mindset of the culture. In agreement with this craft technique, however, that sharp personality of the protagonist will cut throughout, no doubt, his brazen, native tongue telling folks that they can go to hell, wherever he finds himself. Sasha's yielding but undying poetic nature, whether expressive of pissy sidewalks or surviving black roses, is prevalent, at least in her own world view, which is ours at times. When in the presence of Vlad and his sleeper cell, those that will kill millions, it's about how she sees it sometimes, interpreting those inevitable harsh realities via romanticized notions of a untroubled future with Vlad.      


Interior monologue and rumination: 5

Nicco is getting to know himself always, his mind made up about what must be done. The problem is that he is layered beyond his own reach and internally, he reaches depths that none of us knew were there. You don't hold on to naïve dreams of being a gaming samurai king after blowing someone's head off in reality... the images still moving as you're taken to a strip club and a grown assed woman seals the deal, making you a man of sorts on the spot. No, you go to another place, a place like where Lex seemed to go when he was cutting the side of Raymond's face open. You go there deep in the moment and you come back only peeking at first, that side-eye checking if its safe to come out again... if it will ever be safe to come out again. Only the interior monologue can hope to come close to the secrets deep in the closet of the mind, places where rumination reveals clues and the reader may see the thing long before the protagonist himself. 

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