Faith in the Future


Hm. I haven't been off-blogging over two days for a long time. Possibly not since the early days of the blog. Things have been a trifle busy, here, and not worth writing about. What spare time I've had has been spent tackling a troubling plot point in The Young City.

My father-in-law, Wendell, was here, and that's worth writing about. We had a low-key holiday visiting used bookstores and watching DVDs. Erin made her special garlic shrimp and we sat around eating with hunks of bread and sighing with contentment. A productive holiday of doing nothing. What can be better than that?

I have written myself into something of a quandary in The Young City. As the story shaped itself out, I saw my plotlines going in different directions. We have the initial river-bourne time portal bringing Peter and Rosemary to 1884, and then we have them get embroiled in the criminal mechanations of the sinister Aldous Birge. I feared that the time travel element, which features so prominently early in the story, got rendered to the level of a convenient plot device and, as Birge's motives were unclear at the time, I decided to tie the time travel elements back into the story by having Birge discover other portals to the future and profit from them. This keeps the original plot device topmost in Peter and Rosemary's minds and tightens the structure of the story.

Ah, but shame, shame, James: you didn't sit down and map out a coherent plan for your temporal portals. Imogen warned you, but you didn't listen. And now you're paying the price!

I initially thought: there are temporal portals along the length of the river, existing at points between 1884 (when the river was completely buried) and 1999 (where plans exist to bring the river to the surface). The actual temporal points are basically random, correlating only to when portions of the river accidentally get exposed to the sun, however temporarily (a construction accident, for instance).

Rosemary and Faith are chased into the sewers, and from here, the story developed in such a way that I decided to take them through the portals. Faith (and the reader) would be shocked to find herself in the future, and that would be a nice, dramatic moment. So, I wrote it, and then my problems really started.

Where do they exit? Initially, I decided the 1950s, so that would be far enough in the future to give Faith a big shock, but far in the past so that Rosemary would still be lost. Okay, write the scene, have Rosemary explain herself to Faith. Get some comedy, and then put in an action sequence where Rosemary confronts Rob Cameron for the last time, and then escapes just before the building is demolished. Not bad... but something was missing. The chapter proved to be the shortest in a book of fairly long chapters, and the diversion of taking them to the 1950s felt to be just that: a diversion. I needed more.

Erin suggested that what was missing was dramatic tension arising from a choice Rosemary has to make. Right now, Rosemary has no hard choice: she's no longer in 1884 but, since this is the 1950s, she might as well be. She's still not home. What if the portal lets her out closer to her home time, so that she has to choose between staying home, or going back in time (likely permanently) to rescue Peter?

This tempted me, as did the realization that she could emerge in, say, 2005 (she's from 1999), and decides that she has to call her parents. Could you imagine the scene on the phone between her and her mother? Remember, if Rosemary tells her mother the truth, her mother will believe her. Rosemary's mother was a participant in the first book, "Rosemary and Time", after all.

But this threw other wrenches into the plan. If Rosemary enters 1884 in a portal from 1999, and then walks through a separate portal that puts her close to 1999, that's not very random, is it? And then Erin came up with another suggestion: there may be multiple portals, but they're all in 1999. Worse still, instead of having time at one side of the portal move along slower than at the other side (giving Peter and Rosemary the opportunity to return home the precise moment they left), why not have time move at the same speed on both sides.

In other words, what if those three months Rosemary has spent in 1884 translate into three months away from 1999? How would the phone call to Mom go then? Not only does this pull The Young City away from the gigantic reset button that infests other time/world portal fantasy stories, this means that Rosemary has to make the decision, when in 1999 with Faith, to turn around and walk back through the disappearing portal to 1884 to fetch Peter. And she has to explain the decision to her mother.


That sort of wrenching decision is something some writers salivate over, and reading over this post, I can see it's clearly what I'm leaning towards. It's sure to cause disturbances throughout the storyline. Peter and Rosemary can no longer expect to crawl back through the hole they left in. As I intend to bring them back to 1999 (albeit 3-4 months later), how shall they go back?

Just another example to show how stories can surprise even those people who write them.

What do you all think?

blog comments powered by Disqus