Earl, Squirrels, Theme, and Robert Frost

squirrel4Yikes.  I just realized that Earl and squirrel rhyme.  That’s either tacky or divine; I’m not sure which.  (Yeah, yeah, I know the picture is REALLY tacky — but I couldn’t resist when I saw it.) Earl has been a character in Tap Dancing at the County Fair since its early pages and the squirrel incident cropped up late in my NaNo process, well after I’d named him.

It seemed like a little snippet that could stand on its own, sorta, and that’s why I posted it as yesterday’s Friday Flash.  But Darksculpture’s challenge on Theme today pushed me to expand on it a little bit, since it’s actually a fairly important incident in my novel.

I guess the theme of Tap Dancing is some variation or combination of the following clichés:

  • there’s no place like home
  • everyone deserves a home
  • home is where the heart is

Or something like that.   Searching for, losing, and/or finding a home (both tangible and emotional) fills up most of my characters’ lives and therefore most of my pages.

Earl had been homeless for a long time.  He and his partner, Sharene, shared a tent in the woods behind Costco.  But when bulldozers began tearing apart the woods for a new housing complex and Sharene’s health began to fail, staying near the Costco dumpsters and fighting over food scraps there became just too difficult for them.  So reluctantly they and their tent made a move to Reba’s back yard.  It was a big move for them both.  (How Reba got from that junky-funky little country store to the big house in the suburbs is a couple of chapters worth.  Some other day.)

As far as eating the squirrel brains?  As Dayner put it in her comment on my post, “Could have gone either way.”

Exactly.  The old Earl would have kept on eating them, tomorrow be damned.  So what if they’d make him crazy?  Living outdoors this way, without a safe home, would do him in first.

But Earl was taking steps to move to another plane.  He felt responsible for Sharene and wanted to be able to help her.  With the move, he began to realize he might have some options, and he didn’t want to be too crazy from squirrel brains to be able to act on them.

So, yeah, passing on the squirrel brains was a big deal for Earl.  And as Robert Frost would say – that has made all the difference.

8 comments to Earl, Squirrels, Theme, and Robert Frost

  • Fantastic indepth analysis! I love it. Also, now that I have more insight into the character Earl and his motivations I’m even more excited about your story. Seems you and I have a few more things in common than living on the East coast and I can’t wait to see what you do with these colorful characters. Excellent post Natasha.

    • Nancy

      Thanks, DS. Whatever, let’s still not get together for squirrel stew when we meet at a writers’ conference or at one of our book-signing events! And thank you for the impetus to finally articulate what my theme is.

  • Shaddy: For lack of better words, I agree totally with darksculptures comment. You’re very clever, Natasha and creative.

  • Sounds like your getting a good grasp on your Nano novel. So does this mean your doing lots of editing or just tinkering around?
    BTW, I like the picture and noooo let’s skip the squirrel stew thank you very much.

    • Nah, so far I’m not doing any editing. I’m just trying to figure out what I’ve got and whether or not there’s anything worth salvaging. DS pushing me to write down the theme (thanks, DS!) was a good thing because using that as a filter is gonna be worthwhile in figuring out what to chuck and what to work on further from the shards of November’s writing. Initially this dialogue was more about Reba than Earl, but it seems to work okay as a two-fer.

  • I love your treatment, thoughts about this homeless couple. Great! I am really looking forward to reading your entire story.

    BTW, I love the title, I immediately wanted to read your post when I saw it!

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