366. Three comments on Spirit Deer

[1]  When I was a very young writer, I read everything in the library under Dewey Decimal 808. It’s called Rhetoric & collections of literature, but really, it’s where they stick all the how-to-write books. In one book of articles, there was a piece titled Multiply by Two. The author’s thesis was that it is always better when starting a book to have two people in front of the reader, to allow for conversation while setting the scene. That’s probably reasonable advice, but I disregarded it in Spirit Deer. Tim is completely alone by page six, and remains that way until the last page.

At the time I wrote Spirit Deer, it just seemed right for Tim to be alone. I had spent half my childhood alone, walking to round up cattle twice a day or on a tractor, endlessly circling innumerable fields. Nothing could seem more normal for Tim the adult, and that didn’t change when he became Tim the youngster. And it wasn’t just me. In the outdoor adventures I read as a child, boys were always out in the woods, and often alone.

I read those books in the fifties and I wrote Spirit Deer originally in the seventies. In 2017, I wonder if the cell phone generation has ever been alone, or ever will be again.

[2] Speaking of cell phones, the cell phone bit in Spirit Deer Post 2 was introduced because no modern kid would be without one. I didn’t want it in the story, so I used one sentence to both establish Tim as responsible and get rid of the damned thing. This scene also introduces a girl, who has no part in the story, but would be missed if absent in 2017. Her absence would have been taken for granted back in the seventies. Or the fifties. Or the thirties, or the nineteenth century. Actually, I see the automatic inclusion of females as progress, but I still wanted Tim to be alone in this story.

[3] Until Tim fires his rifle in Spirit Deer Post 3, he could always just go back to the campground and bike on the his grandfather’s place. There would have been no story. I wanted Tim to have some responsibility for getting himself into trouble. This book is about choices, so it would have been inappropriate for him to get dumped into the wilderness due to forces beyond his control.

This is very different from the original version of Spirit Deer where the hunt had been the legitimate act of an adult.

I also give Tim an out in Post 4 and he doesn’t take it. He could just walk away from his responsibility. But Tim is a moral being, as all my main characters tend to be. I like a stalwart hero. I don’t like the weaselly, vacillating type who finally talks himself into doing the right thing — in real life, or in the characters I write about.


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