Friday, November 21, 2014

Grouse Eggs and Grilled Lizards (NaNoWriMo November 21st)

Maybe it was last night making 900 words toward my goal for tomorrow before I could go to sleep, then rising early this morning to go to the gym. (Okay, I'll admit that my spouse woke me early to go to the gym...) 

But all at once, this morning I can't write dialog. I can't move the main story forward. Instead, my attention seems focused on food and food sources. What do my characters eat? How do they prepare it?

This is particularly important in the two flash-back historical tales embedded in the novel. I have a fairly good idea, informed by reading period literature, of how and what a frontier woman would cook on a blustery October day. Less clear is what a Plains Indian woman would prepare for a meal in that same season. I do know that the food available to a hunter/gatherer society would have been less plentiful as the year winds down to winter.

Grouse eggs would be nice, I thought, though unlikely to be found in autumn nests. This was triggered in part by a brief speculation I read years ago (in a Jared Diamond book, I think) about semi-nomadic Native Americans, north and south of the equator, and their attempts to domesticate the wild animals they used as good sources. So while prairie grouse eggs would not normally be available in the fall months, once the grouse hen was domesticated, she might (as chickens will) lay eggs out of season even if they had not been fertilized. 

The novel now has three visitors arriving with a gift of food. One is a shaman who is bringing the Plains Indian tribe of the novel the powerful token they will need to combat the ancient hunter whose lands they have transgressed. While the shaman presents the elders of the tribe with this token of power, one of his companions is bringing a more transformative gift: four fertile eggs from a domesticated prairie grouse, with instructions on how to hatch them.

This replaced my earlier plan to have the gift presented by the lone shaman: a pair of torpid lizards, caught sunning themselves on a rock. First I changed the diet from Grilled Lizard to Grouse Eggs, and finally decided that both would be needed. What could be a better and more wizardly gift than meat for the spare meals of autumn and food for the tribe for the years to come?

Thus, the lone shaman arriving on foot became a trio arriving on horseback: old shaman, young man and woman, and a description of the gestural conversation that welcomed them, and told the women of the tribe how to use the vital gift of eggs. If even one egg hatches, their society is poised to make the shift from hunter/gatherer to farmer/rancher.

Pity I have to kill them all off...

Total: 40,107 words.