When I was a kid, I was a member of two very exclusive clubs, the Explorers Club and the Knife Club. Both clubs were created by my brother Alan, and both had more than two members, but not much more.
My favorite of the two was the Knife Club, because of the knife. It was made out of plywood, and I have no idea how we came to own it. Possibly my brother made it. I don't remember there being more than one knife in the Knife Club, or what exactly we did in the Knife Club (we explored in the Explorers Club) with that knife, but I really liked that knife. I still have a great fondness for plywood.
I've been hard at work on the Possible Third Book. On Sunday I wrote preliminary notes for it, and have continued to do so over the past couple of days. When I wrote Life As We Knew It, I referred to several parts of it as set pieces (crazy shopping day, Miranda goes skating). There are similar set pieces in the dead and the gone. It's those set pieces that I've been working on for P3B. One example would be the hanging/nonhanging scene, which I've been working on in this blog.
With all the set pieces I've been creating, there's been a struggle between reason and bleakity bleak. LAWKI and d&g certainly have their moments of unpleasantness, but because both books were set in the immediate aftermath of the world's biggest catastrophe, they're about a downward spiral. P3B takes place two or three (more likely three) years after the end of those two books and nothing good has happened during the interim. It's important for me to establish just how bad things are right away, but if I do establish just how bad things are, we're knee deep in the bleakity bleak, which may be off putting to any normal healthy human being (which at least a handful of my readers might be).
In my notes on Sunday, I wrote a brief synopsis of a scene where Caitlin, the heroine understudy of P3B, goes into the woods to gather kindling (I love that kindling) for the campfire. While she's in the woods, a guy lunges at her. She is able to escape, goes back to the camp very upset and scared. She's comforted by Will (he who will end up not being hung), but is told she has to go back into the woods to get the kindling.
This morning I woke up at 4:30 and pushed the scene further. What if Caitlin sees the guy in the woods before he sees her? What if she has a hunting knife on her and plunges it into the guy, then runs back to the camp, gets comforted by Will, and is told she has to go back into the woods to get both the kindling and the knife.
Obviously this is a much more frightening and powerful scene. But it's also very heavy in the bleakity bleak. And this evening, while I was exercycling (my second favorite place to work), I asked myself if Harcourt would really like my heroine to kill someone, even if it was self defense. Then I asked myself if I would really like my heroine to kill someone, nifty and dramatic though it would be. In seventy five books, I've never had one of my heroes or heroines ever actually kill somebody (although a few have bored the readers to death). Given that I'm committed to a fair amount of bleakity bleak anyway, is it really necessary to have Caitlin plunge the knife (nifty and dramatic though it would be).
I'm like the little Dutch boy with his finger in the dike, holding back wave after wave of the bleakity bleak.
Meanwhile, on the left side of the blog, you may have noticed that LAWKI has not yet been splatted by a tomato in the Coventry Book Award competition. Frankly, I'm quite startled and delighted about this. I do have to confess that one young cynic on that site expressed shock that LAWKI had not yet been voted off and placed full responsibility for this injustice on power voting from my fan club.
I'm very excited to learn I have a fan club. When did this happen and why wasn't I invited to join? Trust me, I am my biggest fan. I'd be a charter member, especially if that allows me to learn the secret handshake. My favorite clubs always have secret handshakes.
Secret handshakes and plywood knives that is.