As some of you already know, this is a rather busy weekend for me. I lost my elder cat, Nimue, to a combination of kidney failure, hyperthyroid, and general old age (she was 19) a couple of weeks back, and on Wednesday I acquired an 11 week (or so) kitten to keep Caz company. She’s a rescue kitten, part of a litter found in a window-well; gray tabby shorthair and barely more than a handful at the moment. She is tentatively named Karma, and is totally fearless…and fascinated by Cazaril’s tail. Caz, in turn, was rather dubious to begin with but is rapidly warming to the idea of having a self-propelled chase toy, even if it means his tail gets chewed on from time to time. I have put the breakables in the cupboard for the forseeable future.
On Thursday night, we had terrific thunderstorms; I woke to crashing at 3:30 a.m. and went downstairs to discover my living room ceiling raining on my good rug. Luckily, the water landed mainly in the open part of the room and not on any of the good furniture, but there was still a lot of scurrying around to make sure everything was pushed back and I had enough buckets and bowls in place to catch what was still coming in.
I spent the rest of the night ferrying buckets from living room to kitchen and back, in between getting books and papers and other easily portable stuff that might get water-damaged out of the living room. Friday, I spent on the phone with roofers and insurance people.
By 6 p.m. Friday, the roofer had put a temporary patch on the quarter-sized hole that the falling cottonwood branch put all the way through the roof – not just the shingles, the board underneath was splintered, and you could see daylight in the inside of the eaves where no daylight should have been. Now I’m waiting for the insurance claims adjuster to set up an appointment, which could be a while – there are a LOT of damaged homes in the area (apparently the wind blew the third story off a three-story building in a small town west of here – not just blew the roof off, blew the whole third story off. Not a tornado, eithe). I’ve had power off and on, and it seems mostly to be back by now, but there’s more thunderstorms expected tonight, so who knows…and my sister called because her power’s into its second day of being out and if it doesn’t come back on, she may want to spend the night in my air-conditioned spare room, cats or no cats (she has allergies).
And it’s 4th Street Fantasy Con weekend, which means I’m juggling panels and convention stuff on top of all this. And the kitten is doing gravity checks as I type (batting pens, hair clips, book marks, flash drives, scissors, paperbacks, and other small items off the edge of my desk to make sure gravity is still working properly). I will pick them up later.
All this is in aid of explaining why this is a somewhat disjointed post today. My brain is full of a jumble of fascinating 4th street stuff, plus insurance and cleanup stuff, plus remembering to call the vet on Monday to schedule the second round of kitten immunizations, and so on.
Protagonists rarely have this kind of jumble of events to deal with all at once (OK, it’s rare to have it all happen at once in real life, too, so this is reasonable). But the characters in a book, if they’re at all realistic, have as many roles to juggle as actual people: personal, career, family, friends, community, etc. Often, one or more of these possible roles gets ignored in the course of the story, or subsumed into some other role. A fantasy hero who’s busy saving the world isn’t expected to go to work at MacDonalds or volunteer at the food shelf – her/his job and contribution to the community is Saving The World, and that’s plenty enough to be going on with.
Nonetheless, it can be extremely useful to think about all the other things the protagonist could or should be doing, all the stuff he/she is neglecting in order to Save the World. Because some of it will have consequences. Maybe those consequences won’t come home to roost within the confines of the particular story the writer is telling, or maybe they’ll all show up at once, but if the writer never stops to think about them at all, they’re very unlikely to show up on their own even if it would be extremely useful to the story.
Of course, it’s at least as difficult to juggle a bunch of miscellaneous events, their setup, and their aftermath, as it is to juggle a bunch of characters all onstage at once. Some of the techniques are the same – keeping track of the various threads and making sure that each one gets some time onstage every few hours/paragraphs so that no balls get dropped. (This works pretty well in real life, too, though this writer is a lot more comfortable when it’s happening to fictional characters.)