Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Getting Focus Group Feedback

Like a lot of you, I continue working on a number of story projects. One current project is NAUGHTY LITTLE NAZIS (D.K.N.), originally written by Nikita Mungarwadi when she was 13. At the time Niki went to the middle school where my wife, Pam, teaches. One day Pam came home and said that one of the students at school (but not one of hers) had read my book, The Moral Premise. That got my attention. It wasn't exactly written for early teen consumption.

The second sentence out of Pam's mouth was that the girl had written a screenplay and wondered if I'd read it for her. If the sentences had been reveresed I would have said "No, thank you." But how could I refuse to at least flip through the first few pages of the screenplay a teen had written after reading my book? It seemed "sacriledge" to say no.

Nikita Mungarwadi
So, a few days later a screenplay came home with Pam titled NAUGHTY LITTLE NAZIS. To say the least, it rocked my socks. I could hardly put it down. It needed some work to be sure, but the third thing that caught my eye was the author's name, "Nikita Mungarwadi." I have some connections to India, and as I found out Niki was an American off spring of Indian immigrants. Her Dad is the director of water distribution for S.E. Michigan for the City of Detroit.

I had to meet her. To make a long story short, I volunteered my time to work with Niki at their kitchen table with her dad helping us with Internet research about Germany during WWII.  We worked off and on for six months, and then I bought an option on the project to develop it further.

Here's the log line for the war-time action story:  A rebellious 14-year old German girl battles the Nazis to free her Jewish friends from the Ghetto before it's liquidated.  (The story is loosely based on a compaction of the teenage resistance groups active in Berlin during the war, which required considerable research on Nikia's part.)

Sanjeev (dad) and Nikita Mungarwadi, Stan Williams, Alex Krüger, Pam Williams. 

One of the problems with stories that are outside your experience is how to get a reading form someone that might know more than you do about it. The story had to read well to a German teenager, preferable form Berlin, I figured. Where was I going to find one of those, I thought. I'm in Michigan, and it's been decades since I was in Germany.

Niki and Alex. Alex returns to Berlin this week.
As it happened (for the convenience of this story) my son's family, who lives nearby, were hosting a 17-year German boy from Berlin as a foreign exchange student. The boy's uncle was in the Hitler Youth Corp. Such luck. Alex agreed to read the recent draft, and after Niki read it, and Pam, we all met for dinner at a local Indian restaurant.

Alex had a lot of great ideas for the character names to make them more traditional and German. With Nikita and Alex we refined a few scenes that they thought needed more danger and excitement. It's been fun working on a script written by a teenage an American-Indian girl, with a teenage young man from German (who's nearly forgotten how to speak in German after being the U.S. for a year), while sitting in an Indian restaurant in Michigan. Great Feedback. Now it's on to the next draft.


Janet said...

Sorry, this is completely unrelated to this blogpost, but I didn't know where to post it :)

I’m learning so much from your blog.

Going back to your blog post on Nicomachean ethics--mean


I'm very interested in writing romance novels and love your idea of giving one main character an absence of the virtue, the another an excess of the virtue and both coming towards the mean (ie the virtue) for a happy ending

You said "And feel free to send me examples which I can include in a new table that I will be building.

So far I have:

From left to right: Deficiency - Mean virtue- Excess

1)Lying –truthful – tactless.
2)Blindly led by emotions -healthy balance of heart and head – emotionally detached.
3)Impatient - tolerant – doormat.
4)Timid - confident –domineering.
5)Fickle – loyal- gullible.
6)Impetuous -vigilant - self doubting.
7)Cowardly -protective – bullying.
8)Impulsive –patient- unresponsive /slow to act.
9)Rigid /inflexible -open minded- rudderless.
10)Cynical –idealistic –naïve.
11)Wimpy-assertive – arrogant.
12 )Selfish – nurturing- martyrdom/self sacrificing
13)Low self esteem -self respect –arrogance.
14)Stubborn - flexible - easily swayed.

That's all I could come up with I’d love to see more examples. Any chance of a blog post revisiting this?

Stan Williams said...

Hi Janet,

Say, why don't you post this excellent comment also on the post you cite, on nicomachean-ethics? I'll leave it here for the time being. Since you're hoping to write Romance novels I wonder if you've discovered Seekerville? http://seekerville.blogspot.com/

Thanks much for the fodder. I'll add most of these to the table.

Janet said...

I'll do that.

And thank you for the link to seekerville. :)

Anonymous said...

Hi Stan,

How have you been? I hope some day you'll read my novel. :)
Your book is among my favorites about the craft of writing. :)

Anna Labno

Stan Williams said...

Anna, thanks for the vote of confidence. I hope I read your novel someday, too. Keep writing. Make it great.

Anonymous said...


Anna Labno