It's Been a Good Holiday...

…but I’m back at work. Actually, this isn’t so bad. The University of Waterloo doesn’t begin its Winter 2003 term until Monday, so today and Friday act as a good transition, gearing us up from holiday mode, until we’re ready to face the onslaught of students come the 6th. The University still has that unnatural quiet that existed the day before holidays began.

It was really nice hosting my mother-in-law, her husband, my sister-in-law, her husband, and Wayne and Marguerite, and Teri. Teri’s still here; her plane doesn’t leave for Omaha until Sunday, but we’re glad to have her these extra days. They all made this holiday special and fun. And, I’m glad to say, I got a lot of writing done on The Young City.

Pacing seems to be this story’s greatest problem, at the moment. There is so much setup: reintroducing Peter and Rosemary, taking them to 1884, letting them get accustomed to their surroundings and introducing Faith and Edmund Watson before bringing in Aldous Magnait and really getting the plot moving. This is not helped by the fact that Peter and Rosemary’s culture shock, and the simmering tension of having to share a one-room apartment have little to do with Aldous and his plan to use Toronto’s sewer network as a tunnel system smuggling goods beneath the feet of the police. What do I do in order to keep the early chapters interesting, if all of the action is at the end?

I’m realizing the benefit of having scenes do double duty, or triple duty, as the case may be. Kathy Stinson told me that good writing should be compact. An image that is an image is good, but an image that is an image, and illustrates character, and moves the plot forward, is better, because it gets more things done with this one act, image or sentence.

Chapter two of The Young City was dangerously close to toppling under the wait of too many different events that happened in isolation of each other. I’ve fixed things a bit by combining some elements, and smoothing over transitions, deliberately connecting one element to the other. Rob Cameron and his gang of ruffians no longer just appear, but are explicitly connected to Aldous Magnait, walking behind him as he pays a visit to Edmund’s store.

I saved so much transition time, I was even able to move up a plot explanation that would have dragged the narrative down later: why don’t Peter and Rosemary just turn around and walk back into a sewer as soon as the realize it’s 1884? Well, it’s dark, for one thing, and they have no idea where the hole is. More importantly, they were in that cavern for half an hour, and there was no sign of Theo calling for them. This leads Peter (originally it was Rosemary) to theorize that time may be moving at different speeds on either side of the portal. Barely a second may have passed in 1999 while several hours have passed in 1884. Either way, they’re on their own, and they have to make a bit of a life for themselves so that they can buy the equipment they need to get home. The explanation doesn’t drag down the narrative, anymore, and coming earlier, it explains away one of the first questions the reader might have.

Any scenes of Peter and Rosemary dealing with privacy issues while living together will also be coupled with other elements that further the plot along. Writing is all about finding these connections, building a path that takes the reader from the beginning to the end, on a journey that’s interesting, and not too long for the reader’s taste.

Rosemary sat down on a crate and rubbed her brow. “How am I going to explain this… Have you read The Time Machine by H.G. Wells?”

Faith blinked. “H. G. Who?”

Rosemary stared. “This is going to be harder than I thought. All right. Let me just come out and say it: Peter and I are from the future. I was born in 1981, and the year was 1999 before we fell down a hole, crawled through a sewer and stumbled into your shop. That’s why our accent is like nothing you’ve ever heard of before. That’s why we couldn’t tell you truthfully where we came from when you first asked us.”

Faith goggled at her. “From the future? Falling back through time? Jules Verne himself could not think of such a story! That’s the silliest explanation I’ve ever heard. What sort of fool do you take me for?”

Calmly, Rosemary got up and walked over to the warehouse door. She opened it. Outside, a tractor-trailor sailed past, horn blaring.

“All right,” said Faith, colour returning to her cheeks. “So you’ve travelled back through time. And I’ve travelled forward… what year is this?”

“At least 1952,” said Rosemary.

“What are we to do now?”

Rosemary bit her lip. “I don’t know.”

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