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Friday, September 24, 2004

Plant Your Wagon, Part Three

Again, I needed perspective. I switched gears and went back to work on what was becoming the dead end of "The Quality of Marcy." Once that ground to a halt, I thought I'd give "Plant Your Wagon" another read through in order to see if it was salvageable.

When I reread it, I was pleasantly surprised. Although it wasn't really good, it wasn't quite really bad either. The songs were fun, and there were good things here and there, but I needed to rethink it and get rid of anything that slowed down the story or made it needlessly complex.

As always, I started at page one and rewrote word-by-word. I wanted to highlight a character who hadn't even appeared in the previous version, a barmaid named Rosie, so, drawing on the many years I spent watching "Gunsmoke" with my Dad, I made her the owner of the local saloon. In the previous version, I had invented a new first scene which was set in the saloon. I added in Rosie, and tried to sharpen the dialogue.

The next major change had to do with the character of Sam Trellis. In the original version, Sam was the somewhat naive, somewhat incompetent employee of an East Coast flower seed and lawn ornament company owned by two German brothers. I retained this in the second version, but by the third version, I was ready to rethink it. It took three scenes to get Sam out of New York and on his way to Lonesome City, three scenes which barely moved the plot along and included passel of characters who would never figure in the rest of the story. I scrapped it all and started fresh.

I moved the company to San Francisco and made Sam the owner. Instead of Sam being the naive incompetent, I gave him an assistant, named Elias, to perform that function. Now Sam was showing a lot more of an edge, a shrewdness that I figured would help in later on in the story. I put him under the pressure of having his business fail, and replaced the three scenes with one scene in which he is getting evicted from his office. This gave him the impetus to just pack up and go to Lonesome City in order to set up shop there.

From that point on, it was mostly just a straight revision of the second version, which was, after further inspection, a pretty radical departure from version one. The only other significant difference was that, after filling out and smoothing out several scenes, version three reached the limit for Episode One five scenes quicker than version two had. Those would form the basis of Episode Two.

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