Last Passenger on the Ship

        If one were to think of a book as an ocean-liner, one might think of the engine room as the characters, their relationships, and goals, while the ship's wheel is what is steering the plot and course.
        I could honestly -- honestly -- sit here for the next twenty minutes making ship-to-story comparisons (the ship's bow thruster is like the end of the second act) but I shan't. (Quickly, though: Isn't "shan't" a great contraction? I'm afraid it'll go away in the next few centuries, though, because it already feels antiquated."Shall" needs to step up in wider conversation, is the thing, but shall is a very polite word and shan't be stepping up, I fear.)
       Moving on.
       And what of the passengers on the ocean-liner? They represent all of the many, many parts of a book that are neither character nor plot nor theme nor any of the larger frameworks. To me, at least, they're the bits of dialogue and word usage and description and tiny story beats and the thousand things that build out a tale.
       So the lady in the big hat over by the stairs? She represents Sutton's love of math. The man next to her? He's The Wilfair hotel's Ferris Wheel.
       In writing the first three books, I'd encounter many of the same passengers again and again, but new ones would embark at different ports. "Little firsts" -- something Fair likes -- boarded the ship in "Stay Awhile."
        Some passengers, however, leave the ship, or must be escorted off, because they're not serving much purpose. Some arrive late, running up the gangplank at the last minute, fully out of breath. "I'm here, I'm here!" they seem to shout, and I sit at my computer and think, with worry, "why are parts of this book shouting at me?"
       This is all leading up to the very last passenger on "Stay Awhile." I took a hard look at this passenger with each reading, and had the ship's crew ready to kick it off, but it continued to grow on me. Other passengers got escorted off -- meaning other sections got cut, deleted, or dispatched -- but this one held on, literally grasping the rail near the gangplank. It would not leave the ship.  

“Hey, Fair.” Sutton lifted her chin at me, then hefted the baguette again.
“Hey, Sutton.” I leaned against the sink next to Gomery. “Hey, Gomery.”
“Hey, Fair.”
“Hey, Monty.” Sutton lifted her chin.
“Hey, Sutton,” said Monty, who joined me and his cousin at the sink. “Hey, Mer. Has Sutton been throwing breadstuffs?”

       The reason I thought about cutting this section, which comes near the middle in The Redwoodian's kitchen? Moments of entry, with their usual salutations, are almost entirely unnecessary. "Hello" is one of the most not-needed words in writing. I mean, sometimes it is needed, but having multiple characters say "hello" is pretty ridiculous.
       Which is one reason I liked it. Ridiculousness has a lot of purchase with me.
        But the reason I ultimately kept it? It's an important beat that says this: These people are a unit.
        That's essential, for what is just ahead, but it is essential because of what has just gone down. They've been in groups of one or two for a lot of the book, but now Sutton is awake and they are together.
        And their casual "hey"-ing -- they all say the same thing -- lends a unit-strong flavor to the moment. They're not just together but together.
        Fair doesn't say "hello" and Monty doesn't say "yo" -- they all say the same word.
        Same word=same page.
        I'm glad you've now met the very last passenger on the "Stay Awhile" ship. Nearly not kept, because "hellos" can too often be filler, but ultimately invited on-board because of the purpose it served: Showing that this group of friends, now all awake and together, is a cohesive unit.
        Now, to think of the ocean-liner that is my day. Which passengers will I entertain and which must remain on land? The passenger that represents the second scoop of cream cheese I want to put on my toast can definitely stay off the ship. The passengers already on deck include family time, work, writing, coffee with a reader, writing friends, a walk with my dog, and visiting with you at Wilfair HQ.
        Good passengers, all.



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