First thing in the morning is a great time for me to work on the Possible Third Book. My cats usually give me a half hour or so before they insist I get out of bed and feed them. I take that time to ponder, before facing the harsh realities of kitty litter cleaning and the suchlike.
This morning I did some truly fabulous pondering, which is why I'm blogging instead of eating breakfast (which I have to do before the skating starts again in an hour or so).
I focused on two different parts of the book, the first, the infamous hanging/nonhanging scene, and the second, a scene I don't think I've told you about, where Caitlin somehow finds a house with a body in it, and that discovery leads them to find a car with a little bit of gas still in it. I actually did a lot of high quality pondering on that scene this morning, and as a result I discovered that Caitlin had had a sister who died before the whole moon business. Who knew? And somehow all that led me to understand better just what the understudy's position in the troupe was (I mean I've understood pretty much all along, but it gave me a chance to explain it to Caitlin). We're talking some truly fabulous pondering.
But the really big ponder moment came with the hanging/nonhanging. Don't worry- there still won't be a hanging. But it won't be Tyler who gets caught and sent off to the coal mines, along with Sara/Lyra/Lara/Lark. It'll be Will, Caitlin's one true friend in the troupe.
You should see me. I'm making my heroine suffer more and more and I'm doing the happy dance.
Once I realized it was Will who gets caught, the troupe fell into place. They have a three piece band, Jimmy on accordion, someone on banjo and harmonica and someone on drums. I'd had Will on the banjo. I saw the troupe as being created to protect Jimmy (Derrick the engineer's partner), Rashad and Eboni (Derrick's niece and nephew, who he and Jimmy have raised). Then I figured Julie could be Eboni's best friend from school, and Tyler could be Rashad's, so they become part of the troupe, since the alternative for them would be nothing good. Lark gets selected because she can actually sing, and Will for his banjo playing.
But if Will plays the banjo, then he can't go off to the coal mines. I know people are desperate for entertainment, but accordion and drums just don't make it as a band. And if Will doesn't play the banjo, why is he in the troupe?
All this while my cats were patiently waiting to be fed.
So this is what I figured out. Tyler and Rashad were in a band together. Tyler played guitar, but when the troupe idea was first formulated, he taught himself banjo. Will knew them from school, maybe even from the band (maybe Will played bass). Anyway, Will convinces them to take him along because he loved old comedy, and he knew all the old comedy routines by heart (Who's On First, old Burns and Allen stuff). And this skill becomes desirable because it gives Julie something to perform. Derrick's a magician, and Eboni's his assistant, but Julie really needed a job or else how could they justify taking her?
You see, it's not all rules and regulations and keeping down the bleakity bleak. It's show biz.
If Will gets caught, he's now expendable to the troupe. By this point, they pretty much all know the comedy routines just from hearing them over and over. The band keeps its banjo player, and while it loses its lead singer, Caitlin actually can sing and take over that role. Caitlin would be much more likely to go off looking for food with Will, who she at minimum likes (as opposed to Tyler, who's been kind of nasty in my pondering). And (best of all), losing Will has far more emotional resonance for Caitlin than losing Tyler would.
And as Caitlin suffers, so do the readers. They'll love Will too. Ha ha wicked snicker ha!
Having it be Will solves a whole bunch of problems, and doesn't seem to create many new ones. I'd been trying to make Lark likable, so that Caitlin and the readers would be saddened when she's sent off, but I kept bumping into the Megan Issue. In Life As We Knew It, Megan, the one really religious character, dies, and there are readers who object to her death. I think religion is pretty much a non-issue in P3B (although I do think when the troupe goes into a town, at least some of them, Julie in particular, go to whichever church is open), but I didn't want The Martyrdom Of Lark (I can't, for fear of spoilering, discuss the dead & the gone, except to say to those who haven't read it that it has its share of dead bodies).
But if it's Will the readers mourn over, then Lark can be whoever Lark turns out to be. Will is the only member of the troupe Caitlin's gotten truly close to (although I think Julie's pretty nice to her). And Caitlin can not only assume she'll be the girl sent as part of the Keep Will Alive trade, but even volunteer, a moment of personal sacrifice that will show how much she's grown from the somewhat spoiled girl who begged to join the troupe because she didn't want to get married.
I like those sacrifice moments. I liked them in LAWKI and I like them in P3B.
I sent an e-mail to my editor on Friday, with a link to a blog review of LAWKI, and she very nicely e-mailed me back and asked when I might have something from P3B to show her. I think this is a very good sign. As it happens, I've been looking at my calendar to see when I might write P3B. I'm currently favoring starting mid-Feb. (assuming the prewriting keeps going as strongly as it currently is), and then working on through March, a month when my mother only has one doctor appointment. In April, she has a bunch of them, but by then I should be so close to finished that I can work around them.
US Nationals (which I've been enjoying each and every lutz of) ends tomorrow. Monday I'm going to clean the apartment (which I didn't do yesterday like I was supposed to because of all those lutzes), but maybe in the afternoon I'll start putting all the P3B stuff on paper, looking to see what sections need more developing (I can tell you right now, I need more fun stuff, or else P3B is going to make the dead & the gone look like the happy & the healthy). Mid-Feb. will be here before I know it, which is a good thing as far as I'm concerned, what with a birthday to celebrate and spring to look forward to.
Naturally, my cat Emily has chosen this very moment to get on my lap. I must dump her and eat breakfast, since the skating will now start in less than half an hour. Pairs, dance, and women will all be decided today, and I have many people to root for.
I'm sure you do too. But if you have a moment, root for me as well!