Saturday, January 26, 2008

Where There's A Will There's A Way

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!


Anonymous said...

I still favor a boy scout troop as roving police officers / heroes of sorts.

Question: If you put out a ton of food, would your cats eat it all?


Marci said...

This is sounding good. Very good!

I still like my skating show idea. They won't have trouble freezing the ice. And this could be part of the fun stuff that you need.

So pleased that your editor is getting curious. This is a very good sign.

Dawn said...

I think that ice skating is a great way of bringing in Miranda. If not in person then defintely through Jon, which another person posted somewhere.

I am rooting for your continued success with this series...although I really don't think you need it.

I am certain that this is a dumb question, but do you have any rough titles for the third book? What exactly does P3B stand for?


Susan Beth Pfeffer said...

Hi Glen and Marci and Dawn-

Let me start by saying I thought about the boy scouts in between triple axels, and I'm not sure I can fit them into P3B. They're a great idea, but there's the Simplify Simplify issue.

However, Glen, if you want to end the world and write a book with roving Boy Scouts, go for it. I can really see it working.

In my very very early musings on P3B (which stands for Possible Third Book, something I had to explain to my agent), I wanted an ice show, and was going to have Miranda be part of the troupe. But I decided, after a few days of thought, it was better to leave her back home, where the readers remember her, and once I made that decision, the skating show wasn't as necessary.

A real concern for me has always been when can you use previous characters and when does it become coincidence. I figured one character from each of the two books isn't coincidence, just as long as there's no real connection between them. So Julie from d&g is a reasonably important character in P3B (although not the main character), and Jon is someone passing through, with a lovely little cameo, where he gets to tell us what happened to his family.

I just got off the phone with my cousin Ellen Conford, and she, as she put it, cross examined me about a lot of the P3B plot, mostly on the what would the government allow and why (all those rules and regs I've worked so hard to simplify). But when I explained to her the fanulous plot twist I came up with for Julie in P3B, she grew stern and demanded to know if each of the three books could be read separately, or would readers of P3B be confused about my fabulous new Julie twist (when I explained Jon's cameo, she loved it). So I assured her each book was a separate entity, and that while nothing would make me happier than people reading and loving all three, it would be just fine to read any one of them and not the other two. People who have read d&g will gasp at the fabulous Julie twist; those who hadn't read it will like the twist simply as a part of P3B.

As far as what's become of Miranda, Mom, etc. (which Dawn just asked about in a different comment), they're fine. I'm queen of the universe, and I say they're fine. Once they got some food in their systems, they decided they had to figure out a way of making things work, and they did. Jon will mention all this in his cameo. But I don't know what became of Dad and Lisa, and my guess is Jon doesn't either.

I've always wanted P3B to be called Starry Night, but I don't know how Harcourt will feel about that as a title, if P3B becomes 3B. A perfectly reasonable title is The Understudy, but since LAWKI has Life and d&g has Dead, The Understudy just seems too mundane to me.

I am now going to type fnuksifc into the the word verification box (although what kind of word fnuksifc is I sure don't know), and eat lunch. I was on the phone with my cousin Ellen well past lunchtime!