I've gone through some serious blog withdrawals over the past few days. Tuesday was particularly difficult, but thanks to the Australian Open and the US National Figure Skating Championships and a time consuming lunch with friends, I've managed not to write anything and give you, oh beloved and running out of patience slowly gained readership, a much deserved break.
While my fingers weren't working, my brain was. I've solved any number of Possible Third Book problems, and created a few more in the process.
I'll start with a quick update on the great hanging/coal mine issue, which I'd mostly worked out on Sunday. It's still no no to the hanging and yes yes to the coal mine. Tyler and Caitlin go food foraging, Tyler sees food on a porch, goes to steal it, but it's a trap, and he gets caught. Porch Owner (it turns out) leaves food out there to trap human varmints, because the town offers a bounty. So Porch Owner takes Tyler in to town, Caitlin tells the troupe, and Jimmy (former lawyer, current accordion player) goes in to see what he can do. When he returns to the troupe, he explains (this is the short version) that he's made a deal- coal mines for Tyler and one of the girls in the troupe, instead of the hanging. Caitlin (who has every reason to believe this) assumes she'll be sent, but instead Jimmy tells Lyra (previously known as Sara- I was watching skating and thinking about Tanith Belbin and I thought, Who the heck is named Tanith, and dumped the 1000 most popular girls name list and created the name Lyra) that she's going. Everyone is shocked, since Lyra is the lead singer in the troupe, but it turns out Lyra's been coughing blood (in my first fab version Lyra was pregnant, but that turned out to be way too complicated), which she didn't realize anybody knew, but as Jimmy puts it, "We know everything." So Lyra was going to have to get dumped anyway, and this way at least she keeps Tyler from getting hung. And Caitlin, the understudy, gets the lead singer job.
All this happens very close to the end of the book. I don't seem to be working P3B chronologically. My guess is I never do, but this is the first time I've kept this kind of diary during the prewriting, so I can't be sure.
Meanwhile I keep creating all these governmental rules and regulations, tinkering with them and playing with them and polishing them so they're nice and shiny, and then I have to remind myself that nobody who reads the book is going to care, so they're all (or at least almost all) a waste of time. And then yesterday, to make things even more difficult, I remembered that the President was referred to a few times in Life As We Knew It, and apparently he was at best ineffectual (he's mentioned only in passing in the dead & the gone). All these wonderful rules and regs are most likely not federal anyway and why was I wasting my time inventing them?
Well, for fun, if you really want to know.
So my new mantra is, Simplify, Simplify. I'll try to give you a quick and easy example, using the beginning of the book (which has been one ding dang problem after another for me).
Okay. We need to establish who Caitlin is, how her world is, and get her to join the troupe, all in as few pages as possible (start as close to the center of the action as you can). I've consistently liked the idea of her joining the troupe to avoid a marriage. I've also consistently liked the idea that the thrust of the book is Caitlin's learning what the real world is like (she's been sheltered by her position as a dentist's daughter) and her gaining compassion for those less well off than she. Only if she has to gain compassion, we need to see her lacking it, and if she lacks compassion on page 1 or thereabouts, the readers aren't going to like her from the get go. That one was quite the headache, and I wasn't making things any easier on myself with endless (albeit delightful) rules and regs.
Then, for Caitlin to know about the troupe, she has to see the troupe, and why would she see the troupe if her father just died? Which I assumed he was going to have to do, because if he was sick and Caitlin left him to join the troupe, then she was a pretty unlovable kind of daughter, and the readers wouldn't like her from the get go for a whole other reason.
So I kept creating more rules and regs as a means of maneuvering my way through this situation. Pretty soon the good old US of A was resembling a cross between Nazi Germany and the Cultural Revolution. Don't get me wrong. I think this is quite nifty. But if P3B takes place a mere two or three years after the end of LAWKI/d&g, then that's a real change in how Americans act, and I just don't think they'd get that rotten that soon. Especially not with an ineffectual federal government.
So I've decided to go traditional. Caitlin's mother died pre-book, and her father has since remarried. Caitlin has, thank goodness, a wicked stepmother! Caitlin herself is sheltered, and perhaps unquestioning, but if there's any nasty to be done, wicked stepmama can do it, so the readers won't dislike Caitlin from the you know when.
Meanwhile, I simplified all those complicated marital rules and regs to one basic one- girls can't be married until they're sixteen. Caitlin's sixteenth birthday is just a few days away. Caitlin's father, her stepmama (who is probably all of eighteen herself), some guy old enough to be Caitlin's father, and Caitlin go to the performance of the troupe. Caitlin loves what she sees. At the evening's end, Guy Old Enough goes back with Caitlin's family and announces that he's satisfied, and will marry Caitlin on her birthday. Caitlin protests privately to her father, but she's told it's a done deal, and it's the only means he has of seeing to it that Caitlin will continue to live in a house with heating and get three meals a day. Besides, his wife says Caitlin has to go.
So now Caitlin is vulnerable and sympathetic. She slips away from the house the next morning, finds the troupe leaders (Derrick and Jimmy), who agree to dump the girl they'd selected to be the new understudy and take Caitlin instead, because she's healthier (although Caitlin may think it's because she can sing). Caitlin goes off with them, still sheltered and with a sense of privilege, but never having been shown as cruel or unfeeling. Thank goodness for a long and honorable tradition of eighteen year old wicked stepmothers.
Now all this may seem easy as apple pie to you, and you may well be thinking, "Why did Susan have to sacrifice that many brain cells for such an obvious solution?" All I can say in my own defense is, "I've been working on other parts of the book as well." That's true, and it leaves out the more obvious answers of, "I'm not as bright as you are," and/or, "Hey watching all that figure skating takes up a lot of time."
But I have been working on other parts of the book, in between split triple twists and twizzles. Not only do I have to figure out characters (pish tush- such a minor consideration) and governmental rules and regs, I've had to work out an evening of vaudeville, and which character does what. Not to mention actual action to take place in between Caitlin Joins The Troupe and The End Of The Book. I love the latter, by the way, more and more, although when I worked on it this morning, a whole new problem rose to complicate my fabulous solution. And between simplifying rules and regs, trying to decide just how much government there is in this post LAWKI world, and keeping the bleakity bleak to an acceptable level, working out the opening of the book has taken longer than it might ordinarily do.
But the important thing, for me at least, is that I love the stuff I'm coming up with. I still have a lot to decide (obviously). I'm hearing the book third person, in part because I can't come up with a justification why Caitlin would be writing everything down. And at first, I saw things in good old fashioned chapters (LAWKI is a diary, and d&g uses a diary format, only third person), but I'm favoring the d&g solution now. My first thought had been dates would no longer have meaning, but I think the troupe is on a specific schedule, and it's immensely important for them reach their destinations and give their performances within a three day framework; if they're late, they'll no longer be paid in food, which is how they keep going. So dates will matter big time after all.
Speaking of dates, I have one with the live streaming of the Junior Free Dance in a little less than an hour. Or is it the Senior Original Dance? Either way, it's time for twizzles.
Feel free to write the rest of P3B without me!