The Talking Drum

Book Cover


1960s & '70s

Lisa Braxton

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Submision Type



The Talking Drum explores intra-racial, class, and cross-cultural tensions, along with the meaning of community and belonging. Examining the profound impact gentrification has on people in many neighborhoods, and the way in which being uprooted affects the fabric of their families, friendships.


Drama,Historical Fiction

Short Summary

It is 1971. The fictional city of Bellport, Massachusetts, is in decline with an urban redevelopment project on the horizon expected to transform this dying factory town into a thriving economic center. This planned transformation has a profound effect on the residents who live in Bellport.


Fictional Massachusetts eastern seaboard port city

Based on a True Story


Plot - Premise

Internal Journey/Rebirth

Plot - Other Elements

Meaningful Message

Mature Audience Themes

Information not completed

Main Character Details

Name: Sydney Stallworth

Age: 26

Gender: Female

Role: Skeptic

Key Traits: Aspiring,Naive,Modest

Additional Character Details

Name: Kwame Tolliver

Age: 32

Gender: Male

Role: Antagonist

Key Traits: Adventurous,Badass,Aspiring,Aggressive,Charming,Criminal,Leader,Power Hungry

Additional Character Details

Name: Omar Basarri

Age: 30

Gender: Male

Role: protagonist

Key Traits: Adventurous,Aspiring,Underdog,Masculine,Clumsy,Sexy,Honorable

Additional Character Details

Name: Della Tolliver

Age: 33

Gender: Female

Role: antagonist

Key Traits: Badass,Aggressive,Complex,Underdog,Outspoken,Faithful,Insecure

About The Author

Bio Lisa Braxton is the author of the novel, The Talking Drum, winner of a 2021 Independent Publisher (IPPY) Book Awards Gold Medal, overall winner of Shelf Unbound book review magazine’s 2020 Independently Published Book Award, winner of a 2020 Outstanding Literary Award from the National Association of Black Journalists, and a Finalist for the International Book Awards. She is an Emmy-nominated former television journalist, an essayist and short story writer.

Target Audiences

Age: 35-54,18-34

Target Gender: Universal,Female Leaning

Group Specific

Information not completed

Publishing Details

Status: Yes: with a Publisher

Publisher: Inanna Publications

Year Published: 2020

Hard Copy Available







Bellport, MA has a string of arsons just as Sydney and Malachi are trying to set up roots in their new town. The area known as Petite Africa is slowly disappearing due to gentrification at the same time as the investigation for the fires is tearing the remaining community apart. Malachi and Sydney start a community center for drumming to keep some traditions alive. The identity of the arson surprises the whole town.

Overall Rating


Point of View


Narrative Elements

Authors Writing Style: GOOD

Characterization: GOOD

Commerciality: FAIR

Franchise Potential: FAIR

Pace: FAIR

Premise: GOOD

Structure: FAIR

Theme: GOOD

Accuracy of Book Profile

The book profile accurately summarizing the plot of the story. The development pitch does a good job exploring the marketability through themes, the logline is succinct and the summary represents the main points of the story. The character details could be more accurate in that Malachi and Sydney both appear to be the protagonists and it doesn't seem fair that Della is listed as an antagonist. It also may be useful to keep Kwame off the list and replace him as the antagonist such as perhaps with Lawrence so the ending is not ruined as to the arson culprit.

Draw of Story

The topic gentrification is certainly compelling and showcased in both perspectives through the newcomers like Sydney and the residents like the Uncle and hair braiders. The arson mystery represents a tension about change in a neighborhood.

Possible Drawbacks

The dialogue can lack subtext which makes the characters sound less realistic and sometimes even feels like it simplifies their complex dynamics. The focus on the romantic couple dynamics outside of Sydney and Malachi also don't always feel like they are subplots that enhance the plot. Although the individual characters are relevant to the main themes, making sure their dynamics aren't just to add tension but the progress the main plot would help make the romantic partner scenes more cohesive.

Use of Special Effects


Primary Hook of Story

The hook is that people are upset about gentrification and the local government but there are arsons in their town that need the teamwork of everyone to solve. This creates a natural tension of a community reluctant to work together for justified reasons but needing to in order to protect the status quo.

Fanbase Potential

This could potentially have a strong fan base with both those affected by gentrification as well as gentrifiers seeking to figure out acceptable roles in the communities they join. The period drama piece depending on the cast and strength of the message could prove popular.

Awards Potential

While the concept is compelling and well explored, in terms of acting there is limited range in the roles due to the amount of characters. Therefore, this has potential to be nominated for adapted screenplay and the like but likely not for acting.

Envisioned Budget


Similar Films/TV Series


What’s New About the Story

The originality of the story stems from the representation of arson as somewhat of a metaphor for gentrification's rapid shift in community appearance and makeup and the threat the existing community feels to the change. Making the main conflict and the mystery figuring out the culprit the focus more rather than many of the romantic subplots would help make the story's tension build consistently rather than get distracted in other drama that is not plot related just other aspects of the character's lives such as Kwame's infidelity.

Lead Characters

Sydney is reserved but loyal. Malachi is idealistic and brave to take risks but diligent to see them through. Kwame is selfish, entitled and misguided. Della is patient and becomes self-reliant. Omar is supportive and dependable.

Uniqueness of Story

The concept has a ton of potential especially involving the theme, but the focus seems more character oriented rather than plot centered even though not all of the characters have a clear transformation to their inner conflict. This makes the main conflict feel like a subplot at times.

Possible Formats

Film: Streaming, Indie, Studio

Analyst Recommendation



While the story has many positive points, it has room for improvement (see possible paths below). If you can't change the story at this point, my suggestion is using your notes as a guide to highlight the best aspects of it when taking the next steps, either putting a pitch page together, a treatment, or a presentation.

Tips for Improvement

Creating more nuance to the dialogue and refining character dynamics to support the main conflict will help make the main conflict feel more centralized, cohesive and evenly progressive.