The Truth Is Hard To Tell

Ashley Atkins

Book Cover

GENRE

DRAMA/SUSPENSE

    Core Theme

    TRAGEDY, JUDGMENT, SELF-REFLECTION/IDENTITY

    TIME PERIOD

    2000s

    COMPARABLE TITLES

    LITTLE FIRES EVERYWHERE

    CHARACTER LIST

    • JENNIE – 30S. DEVOUT. DEDICATED. STEADFAST. JUDGMENTAL.

    • PHILIP – ELIZABETH’S HUSBAND. HE’S SO WRAPPED UP IN HIS OWN WORLD THAT HE OFTEN DISREGARDS THE EFFORTS HIS WIFE PUTS FORTH ON HIS BEHALF.

    • ELIZABETH – JENNIE’S NEIGHBOR. INITIALLY, JENNIE IDOLIZES ASPECTS OF ELIZABETH’S LIFE AND ENJOYS SPENDING TIME FOR HER, BUT HER VIEWS SHIFT WHEN ELIZABETH LEAVES HER CHILDREN IN A HOT CAR.

    • ELI – 80S. A MAN SUFFERING DEMENTIA SYMPTOMS AFTER THE DEATH OF HIS BELOVED WIFE. JENNIE ATTENDS HIS FUNERAL.

    • JARED – JENNIE’S RELATIVE THROUGH HER HUSBAND. HE RUNS AWAY FROM HOME AND BECOMES HOMELESS.

    • FANNY – JENNIE’S NEIGHBOR WHO ENCOURAGES HER TO THINK DIFFERENTLY ABOUT HER RELIGIOUS PERSPECTIVE.

    Logline

    Smile. Nod. Bake a perfect cake. Dress your children well and turn your head against anything you find distasteful. Even if it’s your neighbor... or your own family. There are skeletons hidden all over the South. It’s OK. Look how perfect your cake is! This is your story. You own the truth.

    Target Audiences

    Age: 18-34,35-54,55+

    Target Gender: Universal,Female Leaning

    Setting

    Charleston, South Carolina

    Based on a True Story

    No

    Publishing Details

    Status: Yes: self-published

    Publisher: self

    Year Published: 2018

    Starting Description

    Jennie tries so hard to be a godly woman, loving mother, attractive wife, attentive neighbor, and dutiful sister, stepmother, daughter, and aunt. The problem is that everyone keeps getting in the way of her success. If it weren't for circumstances and, well, people, she could be just about perfect.

    Ending Description

    Echoed by the fall of the Twin Towers, Jennie's world comes crashing down as she tries to make sense of it all. Sadly, heroic action does not always follow good intentions. Within the matryoshka structure are the interrelated stories of eight characters that together form one complete narrative.

    Group Specific

    Information not completed

    Hard Copy Available

    Yes

    ISBN

    0986290831

    Mature Audience Themes

    Language/Profanity,Nudity,Sexual Abuse

    Plot - Other Elements

    Philosophical Questions,Twist

    Plot - Premise

    Tragedy,Other

    Main Character Details

    Name: Jennie Walters

    Age: 27

    Gender: Female

    Role: Antagonist

    Key Traits: Complex,Engaging,Naive,Narcisstic,Uneducated,Religious,Patriotic,Strong Moral Code,Gracious,Desperate,Charming,Insecure

    Additional Character Details

    Name: Elizabeth

    Age: 34

    Gender: Female

    Role: Mentor

    Key Traits: Aspiring,Charming,Complex,Desperate,Faithful,Gracious,Educated,Leader,Religious,Secretive,Funny

    Additional Character Details

    Name: Jared

    Age: 16

    Gender: Male

    Role: emotional

    Key Traits: Complex,Desperate,Educated,Insecure,Underdog,Blunt

    Additional Character Details

    Name: Eli

    Age: 85

    Gender: Male

    Role: emotional

    Key Traits: Charming,Clumsy,Complex,Desperate,Engaging,Honorable,Naive,Modest,Uneducated,Selfless

    Genre

    SUSPENSE, DRAMA

    Brief

    Jennie tries hard to be the perfect Christian woman, the perfect wife, and the perfect neighbor, but her neighbors and family members don’t make it easy. Jennie forms a bond with Elizabeth, but when Elizabeth accidentally leaves her children in a hot car, killing them, Jennie begins to question everything she thought she knew. Through Jennie and Elizabeth, and a range of characters that are tied together in unexpected ways, this book studies a variety of characters, and the way they make their ways through life.

    Overall Rating

    GOOD

    Point of View

    THIRD PERSON

    Narrative Elements

    Authors Writing Style: EXCELLENT

    Characterization: EXCELLENT

    Commerciality: GOOD

    Franchise Potential: FAIR

    Pace: FAIR

    Premise: GOOD

    Structure: FAIR

    Theme: GOOD

    Accuracy of Book Profile

    The logline is quite vague at the moment. Detailing a little more of the actual plot in the logline would give readers a clearer view of the story they’re about to dive into.

    Draw of Story

    The writing in this story is impressive and it will immediately draw readers into the story. This writer has a knack for character development, vivid descriptions, and world building.

    Possible Drawbacks

    At times the perspective unexpectedly shifts from one character to another in this story. It can be confusing, and a little difficult to keep up with the shifting point of views at times. Certain storylines are also far more compelling than others. Eli’s story, for example, doesn’t seem to fit into the greater narrative as well as others do. Weaving these characters together in more memorable ways would be beneficial, as would cutting back to Jennie’s story more frequently, in order to better ground the narrative.

    Use of Special Effects

    THE STORY DOES NOT RELY ON SPECIAL EFFECTS

    Primary Hook of Story

    The hook of this story is the way it explores real, nuanced characters and a variety of themes and issues. Each character looks at life differently. Each character faces distinct personal struggles. The tragedy at the heart of this project would also likely draw readers and viewers in from the start. It’s a strong hook.

    Fanbase Potential

    This story would likely have a relatively large fanbase, especially with female fans and fans of twisting and surprising character studies. The relatability of the characters would also likely provide a little something for everyone to connect with.

    Awards Potential

    With the right team attached, there is a chance this project could be adapted into a prestige mini-series. The actress portraying Jennie would probably have particular Awards potential, as the role would require a nuanced and emotional performance.

    Envisioned Budget

    LOW BUDGET

    Similar Films/TV Series

    BIG LITTLE LIES. DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES. LITTLE FIRES EVERYWHERE.

    What’s New About the Story

    The way that this story simultaneously follows a large cast of characters is very original. Certain characters, such as Jennie and Jared, also stand out as being particularly original. Tying these characters even more closely to each other and focusing in on certain themes could make this project more unique.

    Lead Characters

    Jennie is a nuanced and emotionally fascinating character. She is a strong pivotal protagonist, as she sees the world in such a unique way. Cutting back to her more frequently and adding more historical context to her character to help explain why she is the way she is would make her stand out even more.

    Uniqueness of Story

    For fans of character dramas with flashes of dark comedy and unexpected plot developments, this project is a rare gem. Further revisions, as noted above, would make it shine even more.

    Possible Formats

    Film: Indie, Streaming TV Series: Cable, Limited Run / Mini-Series

    Analyst Recommendation

    CONSIDER

    Justification

    While this project isn’t as strong as it could be at the moment, the interesting premise, strong writing, and compelling characterization of certain leading characters certainly deserves consideration.

    Brief

    Through the eyes of a highly religious woman, this story paints a vivid picture of the modern world and the way different characters play a part in it. When the woman’s neighbor leaves her children in a hot car, leading to their deaths, she questions everything she thought she knew about herself and the world.

    What We Liked

    The writing in this project is superb. The characterization is interesting and original. The premise is topical, and a wide variety of audiences would appreciate the different perspectives reflected in this story.

    Film: As it’s written now, this project would be an easy film adaptation. It has a clear beginning, middle, and end, and the ending feels poignant and satisfying in a dark way.

    TV: The characters in this script are perfectly primed for a mini-series. There are numerous storylines that could be explored through future episodes, and the way that many of them intersect in each other’s lives would make for a satisfying and surprising series.

    Key points:
    Nuanced Characterization.
    Low Budget Potential.
    Diverse Cast.
    Strong writing and plotting.
    Relatability.

    Synopsis

    When Jennie moves into a new home with her husband Philip, she is glad to make a friend in her neighbor Elizabeth. Jennie meets her neighbors and does everything she can to be the perfect Christian wife, though Philip doesn’t always appreciate her efforts. Jennie’s carefully curated life takes an unexpected turn when her daughter Rainey begins experiencing strange symptoms.
    Readers also meet other characters:
    - Jared, a young and troubled man that is kicked out of his home after selling drugs. He longs to return home, but he tries to make his way on the streets. He falls into mental illness and begins eating cat food.
    - Eli, an 85-year-old man suffering from Alzheimer symptoms, struggles to take care of himself after the death of his wife.
    - Avery Garrison spends most of his time in online chat rooms.
    - In a hospital waiting room, Melanie learns that her 7-year-old son Matthew’s cancer has returned. The prognosis is grim.
    - Kinsey recalls snapshots of her life as she contemplates suicide.

    - Alison and John get into a fight, and John leaves to drive to a meeting with a doctor. He tells the doctor that he needs help. He scares his wife and other people, but he doesn’t want to do it and he doesn’t know why. He comes home and he and Alison seem to be in a good place, until she tells him he’s been cheating on her and she wants him to admit it. Even though John denies the accusation, Alison tells him that he’ll agree to whatever she says.
    Back with Elizabeth and Donald, Elizabeth decides she needs some time away. She prepares for her trip, and before she leaves she takes her children out for a treat. She returns home and packs, and then she realizes… her children are still in the hot car.
    In Jennie’s home, Philip informs her that his mom told him that Jared ran away from home, revealing that Jared and Philip are related. Readers also learn through Jennie that Eli has died on his birthday. She attends his funeral, though she didn’t know him well. Soon after, Jennie is on the phone with her mother when she watches the Twin Towers fall. The tragedy deeply upsets her.
    She has cake with a neighbor named Fanny, who reminds her not to take herself or her religion so seriously. Just be decent to your neighbors. Jennie seems to take this in. As she’s leaving, she runs into Elizabeth, who looks unwell and tells her she’s going away for a while. The police arrive, and Elizabeth pushes Jennie into her home.
    Jennie, horrified by what she feels Elizabeth has done to her children, takes her kids to the beach. Afterwards, she spots Jared, homeless and confused. She drops her parents off and returns to help him, but she ultimately turns away from him, deciding against it.

    About The Author

    Ashley Atkins has has been a laundromat attendant, fast food drive-thru worker, police dispatcher, wine accessories salesperson, magazine editor, and community newspaper publisher, and more. She uses her unique experiences, as well as her MA in English Literature and Creative Writing to craft compelling stories that explore human nature. She has written two novels. Ashley currently resides in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.