Last week, I entered The Devil Particle in the 2024 ScreenCraft Cinematic Book Competition. In addition to the $1,000 prize, “the grand prize winner will receive a mentorship meeting with writer/author Sara Shepard (PRETTY LITTLE LIARS). They will also be welcomed to the ScreenCraft Writer Development Program and receive personal introductions and phone calls with one or more top industry producers, agents, or managers.” The runner-up and finalists also received prizes. Pretty cool.
When I discovered that Linda C. Riedmann, who worked on The Hunger Games movie, is one of the judges, I thought The Devil Particle might have a chance.
But I know it’s a long shot, so I paid an extra fee for their story analysis feedback. Here is what they said,
2024 CINEMATIC BOOK COMPETITION
THE DEVIL PARTICLE by Kristin Oakley
This is a hugely topical and really interesting story that has the potential to attract a large-scale audience. The project is clearly written for a specific young adult audience, but the synopsis suggests some really interesting and relevant themes that look at morality and ethics and the conflict with the advancement of science and tech – both topical within our world and the story world. There is a clear character arc for the central character who has a powerful motivation to become the Devil Particle [Vessel]. Seemingly unlike the other characters who want to [be] the [Vessel] because of the celebrity or reverence that it brings, his personal journey forces the audience to invest in his journey and success. The setback when his brother is murdered gives him a real personal and heavy motivation to succeed as he has to give up looking after his father, which raises the stakes and forces him to really try and win the coveted position.
In terms of the manuscript, it is written in a really engaging and entertaining way that feels generally appropriate for a visual medium. The tone is well-suited to the genre and feels well-written for the target audience of young adults. The writer writes in a way that is already relatively strong for the screen. There is little time spent on creating and explaining the world and instead gets the audience to work out and understand the strange sci-fi world in real-time. The writer exposes information as is necessary, and never before, which creates a level of intrigue and also somewhat of respect between writer and reader as they are not patronised into an explanation of the workings of this strange world.
The opening pages do a good job of getting the audience into the world, and there are clear parallels with the Hunger Games trilogy, with the idea of a competition for young adults in a near future dystopia. The stakes are just as high, with characters having to give so much physically for a coveted spot that ultimately does not seem as though they should really be going anywhere near it. The fight to save the Creeper does a good job of showing off Paul as a morally sensitive citizen who works hard to be good where he can, and the visuals here are striking to engage the audience very quickly into the story world. The change of pace then, when Paul returns home to find his Congratulations memo from the government is a good way to ensure that there are peaks and troughs within the story that gives the audience a chance to breathe. These moments of quiet and loud ensure that the impact of each is felt very strongly and that there is a range of emotions and actions in each scene.
It does feel as though some further development on why Paul wants to be the Devil Particle Vessel before his brother is murdered might be worth looking at in the next draft. Is it something his mother wanted him to be? Or what specifically is it within Paul that wants this, other than something he feels would just be great? The differences of opinions are great to challenge the characters, but whilst his father has some great reasoning and understanding of the process, Paul does not really seem to be able to defend his desire and remains very quiet when the conversations are happening around him.
Overall this is a great read and has a clear audience, and the pace is well-matched to that of a screenplay. Structurally, each sequence has a clear function and takes the audience up and down at good points. Some work on Paul’s initial motivation or other character desires to be the vessel would be helpful – why is it a coveted spot to be the vessel for all the evil in the world? Understanding this is key to the success of the world overall.
I’m pleased — this is a pretty good review. If you’ve read The Devil Particle, can you picture the elevator scene? Or what happens in the Cafeteria when the red “Pain” button is pushed? Do you think the story would make a good film?
The winners will be announced next year, starting with the quarter-final winners in January. I’ll be sure to keep you posted!
For this holiday season, don’t forget to get your copies of
Paperbacks are $13.99.
They make terrific
Happy Holidays and