Home Alone 3: Up Too Early

>> Tuesday, August 14, 2007

The builders arrived at 7:00 a.m. for the second morning in a row--which meant that I woke up at 7:00 a.m. for the second morning in a row. They're just trying to beat the heat, which I totally respect, but they're killing me here. Now what am I supposed to do? Work? Geez.

You can see from the black tarp that they've prepared the patio for concrete. Does that mean an Explosives Supply Company truck will be paying a visit today? Perhaps. That long board set across the black tarp is for them to slide their leveling board across, which means the patio isn't going to be nearly the drop we worried it would be. It'll still be a tad below the inside floor level, but not so much of a step down.

As I write this, the guys are prepping the sheathing. This one is going to be trickier, due to the door and windows cut into the wall. I watch what they're doing--and how easily they do it--and I think about our original plans to do all this work ourselves. In addition to our day jobs. We were insane. In the time it would have taken us to put up just one wall, these guys will be done with the whole first floor. It would have taken us years to do what they're going to do in a month.

Okay, I'm off to get some work done. Yesterday I made great progress on The Brooklyn Nine, finishing the new First Inning and then planning out in detail and actually starting the rewrite on the Second Inning. This is the one that takes place in the Civil War. The most tedious thing about this rewrite has been shifting from first person chapters to third person chapters. It's a simple thing to translate, really, but I catch myself slipping into the first person time and again because that's the way I first wrote it. The biggest challenge though has been to rethink the short stories as tales that can only be told about these particular kids. This was one of the suggestions from editors Liz and Brad, and it was a great one. Doesn't make it any easier to do, but it's going to make the stories way stronger if I can pull it off.

The idea is that a short story--I suppose any story, for that matter--will be much stronger if the plot can be only about your protagonist. In other words, there is no other person for whom this story would be the same. Now, you can argue that changing protagonists will change any story, but not always fundamentally. Yes, the dialog might change, the attitude might change, but has the story really changed? That's what they're getting at. If my protagonists in the short stories are interchangeable, the protagonists aren't unique. That's a problem.

In a few of the stories I got it right right off the bat. (So to speak.) Those will be much easier to handle. A few though, like the Civil War era inning, are taking some serious rethinking. I don't want to make all these kids "gifted" in some way--I resisted this early on because I don't want to create a fictional family in which every generation was unbelievably exceptional--but I do need to make sure each stands out as a unique character, with assets or flaws or tics that make that kid the only person who could star in their story. That's tougher than it sounds.

I'll be getting back to that now, unless the guys ask me to come out and raise another wall . . .


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