Finding the Focus of The Young City


I've been playing around with temporal paradoxes thanks to The Young City. Part of the reason for it is my initial assessment that Peter and Rosemary need to be separated from each other at the climax of the story. Using Welwyn's points for plotting, the worst thing that can happen to our characters is not that they'd lose their way back home, but that they'd lose each other. So, what if Rosemary was able to access a portal and Peter wasn't?

But this story isn't to be a tragedy, so Rosemary has to find a way to get back to Peter. Fine, I say, she finds an earlier portal and has to spend a week to a month in 1884 Toronto, keeping out of sight of Peter and her younger self. A pretty pat ending. Too pat.

But I forgot the other part of Welwyn's point: the worst possible thing that can happen to our characters has to relate to the initial theme or idea of the story. In reality, the worst thing that can happen to anybody's character is that an asteriod drops from the sky and kills every living thing on Earth. But that's not something you'd expect to read in a romance, is it?

"Oh, Sherry!" "Oh, Jim!" "Our love shall be eternal!" "Yes, dearest-- what's that bright light in the sky?" BOOM!

Erin recently talked to me about The Young City and made a point that helped clarify things considerably. The central story is about Peter and Rosemary growing up. It starts with Rosemary kissing and carrying on with Peter to the point where Theo says "you two are shameless". Then Peter and Rosemary fall into 1884, have to share a single apartment and a single bed while posing as a married couple. They're very much in love and their hormones are raging, but very quickly we learn that they're not shameless. They're not ready for such a step in their relationship.

So, what do they do? Do they torture themselves and keep their hands to themselves while trying to find a way back home? Or do they decide that they can't go home, accept the situation they have found themselves in, and make the best of it?

Under this scenario, the turning point for Peter and Rosemary is not realizing that losing each other is worse than losing their way back home, it's coming to a decision to accept the fact that they can't go home, and making the best of it. When they make this decision (symbolized by Peter asking Rosemary to marry him), they grow up. At the beginning of the book, they were not ready to move their relationship into an adult stage, at the end of the book, they are.

The Young City still has to tie the portal and Peter and Rosemary's dilemma to Faith and Edmund's story, but this central story should help make things clearer. No fooling around with temporal paradoxes. That would just make Aldous Magnait's head explode, not to mention my readers.

Rosemary nudged Peter and led the way into the apartment. There, she stopped dead. Peter bumped in behind her.

Faith wasn't kidding: the apartment was small, one room, but it was bare to match. A metal tub sat in a corner by the window, a small table held a wash basin, and a single throw-rug covered a small square of bare floor of rough-hewn wood.

The centrepiece of the room was the bed, singular, narrow, laden with quilts, jutting from the wall.

"Huh," said Rosemary at last. She took a deep breath and closed the door. "I'm turning in." She reached behind her and undid the buttons of her dress. Peter stared, then turned away and strode to the window, taking a deep interest in the sky.

"Gee, that's a lot of stars," he said.

Rosemary pulled her skirts over her head. "Hmm?"

"No light pollution," said Peter. "The view is just as good as Clarksbury--" He caught his tongue.

Dressed in a camisole and bloomers, Rosemary blew out the kerosene lamp and slid under the covers. She still felt more dressed up than on a normal day. "Good night, Peter."


Rosemary stared at the ceiling. Though tired, her mind whirled with the day's events too much for sleep. Then she became aware of the unnatural silence in the room. She looked up.

Peter hadn't moved from the window. He stood, staring at the bed. Finally, he turned to a straight-backed chair at the other side of the room. Stripping down to his underwear, he folded his clothes beside the chair and sat down.

He leaned back and stretched his legs, but the back of the chair pressed into his shoulder blades. After several minutes of trying several different positions, he finally stood up, pushed the chair into the corner, and sat back down. Leaning back in the chair, he was able to brace it against the wall. He folded his arms across his chest and breathed deeply.

With a scrape, the chair slid out from the wall an inch, and hten another, lowering him step by step until he was flat on his back, his legs in the air, his head wedged in the corner.

Rosemary rolled onto her elbow. "Peter?"


She nodded over her shoulder. "Come to bed."

"Nope! No room! Quite comfortable here, thank you!"

She sighed. "Peter, come on, don't be silly. Come to bed before you hurt yourself."

Peter picked himself up and came over. Rosemary made room for him as he slipped beneath the covers. Even with their arms touching, each felt the edge of the bed on their other side. They pressed as close to each other as they dared, and stared at the ceiling.

"Well, this is interesting," said Rosemary.

"Isn't it?" said Peter.

She looked at him sidelong. "Is it?"

Peter chuckled sheepishly. "It's like a dream come true, in some ways."

She stared at him. "How?"

"Not the time travel parts, you know, but..." He hesitated, then ploughed on. "But, you know, the rest: us, together, with no family around... that sort of thing?"

Rosemary lay back. "Yeah, I know what you mean." She chuckled tersely. "Be careful what you wish for..."


They lay in silence a moment. Then Peter took a deep breath. "You remember what we talked about?"


"We're not ready; maybe not until we're married... that still stands, right?"

Rosemary thought a long moment. "What do you think?"

"I asked you first!"

They laughed at that. The tension eased from their shoulders. Then Rosemary grew serious. "I think it still stands."

"Good," said Peter.

"Good," said Rosemary.

Silence stretched. Then Rosemary rolled onto her side and looked at him. Peter stared back. She leaned in and kissed him on the lips. "I love you."

"I love you too," he croaked.

"Good night," she said.


Rosemary stared at the ceiling and tried to make herself relax. The ceiling stared back, mottled and unfamiliar as the musty-smelling quilts.

Us, together, with no family around, she thought. Had she spent the night in her unfamiliar University of Waterloo dorm room, she wouldn't feel like this. Her family would be one homesick phonecall away. Here, the phone hadn't even been invented yet.

I could walk a million miles, but unless it took me 115 years to do it, or passed through a time portal along the way, she'd never see her family again.

"Be careful what you wish for," Peter muttered under his breath.

A tear trickled past her nose and ran salty into her mouth. Beside her, Peter sniffed.

"Peter?" she gasped. "Are you crying?"

"No," he sobbed.

They rolled into each other and held themselves close. There they stayed until they drifted off to sleep.

blog comments powered by Disqus