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The Steam Locomotive (590 words)

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Old 06-08-2015, 03:54 PM
garviel (Offline)
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Default The Steam Locomotive (590 words)


Greetings

I am interested to hear your opinions on this short piece of writing. Mostly I would like to know if this story piques your interest, triggers your imagination and such. Do you want to know what happens next, or did you lose interest after a few moments. Did you feel that you could relate to it, or did it become too techy?

All comments are appreciated





The Steam Locomotive


I had just barely made it down to the crowded platforms when a female voice announced over the public calling apparatus that the Siberian Transcontinental was due to arrive at any moment.

As I slowed down, relieved at having arrived in time and trying hard to contain my heaving chest, I took in the scene before me.

Almost on cue, three pale yellow lights appeared out of the morning mist beyond the far end of the huge station building. The black massive bulk of the locomotive followed soon after, accompanied by the hissing of hot steam, the screeching of multiple brakes and the sounds of oiled mechanical parts working to bring the gigantic mass to a stand still.

As the wheezing colossus slowly passed by, the smell of hot steel and warm lubricant oil blew into my face. An all together not unpleasant odor. Up close the train was indeed even more massive than I had first thought. Easily standing at least twenty, maybe twenty five feet tall, with the trailing double decker carriages just as tall as the locomotive. Steel stairways ran up the side of the huge boiler, connecting with a narrow platform midway, then continuing all the way up to the top where dual chimneys extended even higher towards the ceiling of the station building. An intricate system of steel girders, meshes and gantries crisscrossed high up beneath the arched roof, all supported by numerous massive steel columns.

I must admit, for a second my mind wondered if the weight of all those people gathering on the gangways suspended across the tracks, peering down at the arriving train would indeed collapse the whole construction leaving them tumbling helplessly down to their deaths.

Even before the mechanical giant came to a halt, people where already massing around it on both sides. Women in long dresses and elegant hats seemingly floated along the platforms, their gentlemanís extended arm being the only aid that kept them from gliding off into the train. Their curiosity for this amazing feat of engineering apparently taking away any thoughts of personal concern.

Alas, I could not afford time to ponder such minutiae. I tore my bemused mind away from the wondrous scene that unfolded in front of me and refocused it on the task at hand. I pulled an electronic dataslate from a pocket inside my leather coat, punched a few commands and was greeted by a short list of two names: Alfred von Hapen and Ulrich Hofmann.

Although none of these individuals were criminals as such, the object in their possession had not gone unnoticed by the Bureau of Heretic Anomalies. The moment the bureau had received its first intel regarding the object and its current possessor, a message was transmitted to the Inquisitorial Order requesting the immediate investigation into the matter. Hence I, Inquisitor Bastian Vogel, had received a transmission two days ago urging me to commence inquiries as soon as possible.

The train came to a halt and people poured out like streams and waterfalls. I clipped an Identi-augmenter to my monocle, pulled the front of my wide-brimmed hat a bit lower and started surveying the passengers as they exited the carriages. The augmenter was an advanced piece of high-tech. It contained a small but powerful camera connected to a holographic imaging system that projected information about known individuals that happened to pass through its censor range onto my monocle glass. So far, a few familiars crossed my vision, but the machine-soul gave them a green light.

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Old 06-08-2015, 10:32 PM
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It did pique my interest in the beginning, but towards the end I noticed info-dumping starting to creep into the narrative. A little sometimes works - for instance, the short passage on von Hapen and Hofmann - but the description of the identi-augmenter was a bit much.
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Old 06-09-2015, 10:12 AM
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I agree with Scott.

Also, while you descriptions are quite vivid, the story could start off with a big more band. Something like:

"Siberian Transcontinental will arrive in three minutes. Please stand clear."

The words blared from loudespeakers throughout the station.

I slowed from a run, struggling to ease the need of air in my lungs and getting my heart to pump with less urgency.

Let your reader experience the scene with their senses. Let them hear the announcement and feel you physical being as you attain your urgent goal.
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Old 06-09-2015, 10:50 AM
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Definitely piqued my interest. You do have excessive info dumping and detail, but as that has already been mentioned I will avoid it.

"As I slowed down"-- why "as"? Why can't he just slow down? These types of transition words tend to clutter. You have a lot "alas, even etc." you can eliminate these and just let the story convey the time frame.

"Before me"-- in front should work. Before in that context speaks more of an Arthurian aspect to me.

"Slowly passed by"-- "lumbered" or something would give it more definition.

"Maybe twenty five feet tall"-- this negates the easily aspect. I would suggest combining or letting one be.

Very nice read. I would definitely want to read more. Hope something I said helps.
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Old 06-11-2015, 12:47 AM
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Black =your original text
Blue - areas to focus on
Green = comments and suggestions


I had just (remove) barely made it down to the crowded platforms when a female voice announced over the public calling apparatus (seem too formal, language wise, compared to rest of the piece. Try using the short form. Also, since the actual speakers aren't the key to your story, there's no real need to give the full name) that the Siberian Transcontinental was due to arrive at any moment. (Turn this into the actual announcement. It will make the announce more immediate for the reader, which is what you want to do to engage them)

As I slowed down, relieved at having arrived in time and trying hard to contain my heaving chest, I took in the scene before me.
(Try a switch in wording for example "Relieved at being on time, I did my best to contain my heaving chest". I would re think contain. It might just be me, but it does flow as well as some other words.)
Almost on cue, three pale yellow lights appeared out of the morning mist beyond the far end of the huge station building. The black massive (Usually, you would reverse the order of these two words as in "massive black". just a part of english, like how you say "deff and dumb" instead of "dumb and deff".) bulk of the locomotive followed soon after, accompanied by the hissing of hot steam, the screeching of multiple brakes and the sounds of oiled mechanical parts working (Can this be made into a better image? What would the sound be?) to bring the gigantic mass to a stand still.

As the wheezing colossus slowly passed by, the smell of hot steel and warm lubricant oil blew into my face. An all together not unpleasant odor. (Good) Up close the train was indeed (remove) even more massive than I had first thought. Easily standing at least twenty, maybe twenty five feet tall, with the trailing double decker carriages just as tall as the locomotive. (Tighten this. Say the same thing with less words with focus on the last half of that sentence.) Steel stairways ran up the side of the huge boiler, connecting with a narrow platform midway, then continuing all the way up to the top where dual chimneys extended even higher (remove) towards the ceiling of the station building. An intricate system of steel girders, meshes and gantries crisscrossed high up (remove) beneath the arched roof, all supported by numerous massive steel columns.

I must admit, (remove for better flow and increase immediacy.) for a second my mind wondered if the weight of all those people gathering (perhaps "gathered" would be better here, it helps to build the crowd and give a better sense of weight. It also creates the feeling of a moment stilled if that makes any sense.) on the gangways suspended across the tracks, peering down at the arriving train would indeed collapse the whole construction leaving them tumbling helplessly down to their deaths.
(This reads awkward to me. Reword.)
Even before the mechanical giant came to a halt, people where already massing around it on both sides. Women in long dresses and elegant hats seemingly (remove) floated along the platforms, their gentleman’s extended arm being the only aid that kept them from gliding off into the train. Their curiosity for this amazing feat of engineering apparently taking away any thoughts of personal concern. (I believe this is a sentence fragment.)



Although none of these individuals were criminals as such, the object in their possession had not gone unnoticed by the Bureau of Heretic Anomalies. The moment the bureau had (remove to make sentence more active) received its first intel regarding the object and its current possessor, a message was transmitted to the Inquisitorial Order requesting the immediate investigation into the matter. Hence I, Inquisitor Bastian Vogel, had received a transmission two days ago urging me to commence inquiries as soon as possible.

The train came to a halt and people poured out like streams and waterfalls. (Doesn't really make sense. I know what you're trying to say. Reword.) I clipped an Identi-augmenter to my monocle, pulled the front of my wide-brimmed hat a bit lower and started surveying the passengers as they exited the carriages. The augmenter was an advanced piece of high-tech. (is this really needed? From you description, this can already be understood.) It contained a small but powerful camera connected to a holographic imaging system that projected information about known individuals that happened to pass through its censor range onto my monocle glass. So far, a few familiars crossed my vision, but the machine-soul gave them a green light. (Clarify; does this mean that those who has seen before and cleared no longer turn out green in the glass? Or does everyone in the mission field is tinged green like with NV goggles? If the latter, then say that more directly. If the first, then perhaps add a few words of explanation about those cleared would not appear with a green light.)

Overall a good read. The concept is interesting, though this read more like the middle of something than the introduction. If this is an introduction, then try to create more tension. Start for example, with a direct conflict instead of him just arriving. You could try starting with the last bit when he is observing the people then slowly trace back to the reason he's here. This just might create a better hook as it immediately get the reader asking questions. Also, cut, cut, cut! Lots of what you have makes the narration not smooth and some words are not needed for your meaning to come though. The more concise you are the more power each of your sentences would have. I noticed you used sentence fragments here and there. That's alright, but try to save them for situations when they are especially important, say as a thought or something along those lines. Over using sentence fragments takes away their power. Nice piece generally and I hope my comments helped.
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Last edited by Elisa/win; 06-11-2015 at 02:22 AM..
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Old 06-11-2015, 07:26 AM
garviel (Offline)
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A big thank you to all who commented !!

I do see the points you are making. Some I agree with, some not so much I like the idea suggested by longknife and Elisa/win, that the actual announcement of the train is made instead of the main character telling about it. This may add more dynamics.

The comment made by Scott is noted. My reason for the exposition on the Itenti-augmenter was that I was unsure if the more non-techy readers would understand what that gadget is supposed to do. So I spelled it out. However, I have shortened it a bit in my edited version.

The comments made by daes13 and Elisa/win about many of the small words added here and there: alas, even, indeed, before me and so on, is not really that I made a mistake of adding unnecessary words. My reasoning for using these words, is that it is not the non-participating narrator that is telling the story, but the participating main character who is telling about his adventures. So I added these words (perhaps unsuccessfully) to hint at his personality.

Also, this story does not really take place in our real world. It is more a parallell world if you will, where the time period would be similar to our 19th century. However in this world, the age of steam never went away, and is still used after the invention of electrical power and such. Hence the use of a steam locomotive and electronic dataslate, holographic systems and computers (machine souls).

Elisa/win, thank you for the long and detailed review. Thanks especially for noticing the word order in the sentence: the black massive bulk of the locomotive ... and correcting it. These small things are very valuable for me as English is not my native language and it can often be very hard to detect such details

When it comes to the structure of the story, it is the actual beginning you are reading here. I am not sure I agree with you that the need for tension/action is necessary so early on. After all, this whole excerpt is only a little under six hundred words. I have seen published books, even shortstories do much worse But I will think about it.

On the other hand I agree very much that I need to work harder on the smoothness of my sentences.


Again, thanks to everyone who commented, and I am happy to learn that the story piqued your interest

Garviel
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Old 06-12-2015, 02:14 AM
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Hello, you are very welcome indeed. I'd just want to clarify the comment I made about tension and conflict. I assume you disagree because you are thinking of the major conflict as being the climax of the story, which yes, you would be right and that doesn't usually come until the middle or end of the story.

The tension and conflict I mean here is how you hook the reader in. You have done it here a bit, by saying that the MC (main character) is an investigator and is looking for two suspect. That's good, it makes the reader wonder what these two people did. However, I feel that this can be elaborated upon, not here per se, but with in the introduction you will be continuing to write. Every good story draws the reader in somehow, and it's important to continue with the tension if you want the reader to keep reading until the end. That's what i mean by tension; sorry for the slight confusion

Good luck writing it! I'd be happy to read more of this story if you so choose to post it.
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Old 06-19-2015, 11:07 AM
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Interesting mix of futuristic hi-tech and old-fashioned imagery (the steam train; monocle; hats; long dresses) evoking a future in which the nineteenth/early-twentieth century is now retro kitsch.

I was made curious about the teased suspicious object which has attracted the authorities' attention and about the Bureau of Heretic Anomalies, of which we are as yet told little. Curiosity and intriguing, unanswered questions make a reader read on
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