Description of a Time Machine Terminal in WIP (593 words)

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John J. Falco
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This description came with my idea that with time travel all buildings would essentially be more confusing to get through than an airport is today and it evolved into the following scene:

Here, one of my main characters, Dorian Black is in what is essentially a densely populated Congressional Building.

Red floating notification popup boxes alerted him about the incoming, outgoing and present destinations of travelers and various long-form time machines. He saw the blue triangular shaped personal pods shooting into the building through large pipes that shot out by the corners of temporal hallways. People hurried past him and climbed into their own quite luxurious looking pods on the way to greener pastures. The destinations sounded more and more exotic as the notifications came through as he walked past.

Dorian also passed through the exciting interconnected passageways where vacationers who were leaving for their two-week vacations were going to experience a longer trip. He witnessed a family of time travelers with two grade school looking boys, who had gotten into a bit of bad luck when all their temporal papers and documentation blew away upon the arrival of their time machine.

Luckily a Temporal Agent in his bright blue uniform and cap, helped them out and warned them, “It’s very dangerous to go travelling to Colonial America without your papers. You will likely be burned at the stake or worse deemed a traitor to this country.” He said with a toothy grin as he handed them their papers back. With their papers neatly organized the family went on their way and got into the big canoe looking time machine that fit hundreds of people heading to the year 1776. It was one of the more popular destinations in America.

When Dorian finally spotted an empty seat, he suddenly froze. He couldn’t move and he knew what that meant. He had the misfortune of getting stuck in a security immobilizing field. The security check points randomly popped up to prevent suspicious characters from travelling through time until a Temporal Agent deemed whoever inside was safe, but Dorian wasn’t a frequent time traveler.

“What’s your business here?” A temporal agent barked at Dorian pointedly from behind.

Dorian responded with a look of innocence, “Honest I’m just here for a meeting today.” Even his eyeballs were stuck where they were as he couldn’t even see what the agent looked like. “No Time Travel for me today.”

The Temporal Agent took out his tablet and Dorian felt the grip around him begin to loosen. He could move again! Though his empty seat was now occupied by a guy who was dressed up in a 1970s disco outfit. It took everything Dorian had not to laugh at his afroed face. He spun around to see who had been accusing him, but the agent vanished and a loud continuous beeping noise distracted him.

Looking up he saw a big red band crawling across the roof. It was warning people about a potential ripple in the space-time continuum, and to avoid any timeline relating to someone called Leslie Striker. Apparently her grandfather had just been murdered and the authorities were looking into if it was going to leave any devastating effects to the original timeline. “The boys will have their handful with that one.” Dorian muttered to himself.

Though they were rare, the really big crimes ultimately cancelled each other out. In the past few months since the arrival of the pigs there was a sort of equilibrium where temporal crime was concerned. Basically the thrill of looting one’s successful grandkids’ fortune had vanished to make way for other more questionable thrills. Just because people can go the other way on the parkway, doesn’t mean they do.

Yet as Dorian knew, that didn’t mean there weren’t other opportunities to exploit, he couldn’t remember a crime this big in his tenure as a Department of Mistakes Officer.
 

VinceK

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I think the story has potential, but the writing needs a little work. I read the scene and at the end thought about how much the story had progressed. Dorian arrives at a time-travel station, the reader is introduced to the time-travel mechanism, security and fellow passengers; which is all story world building. At the end the story moves forward through Dorian's thoughts. In all, you have written around 600 words to get to this point. One question to ask is; "What am I trying to say and how can I convey that message in as few words as possible while maintaining the story world image?"

A couple of points:
1. If the Temporal Agent was standing behind Dorian, how would Dorian respond with a look of innocence?
2.
It took everything Dorian had not to laugh at his afroed face.
This doesn't sound correct or appropriate.
 

Brian W. Foster

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Red floating notification popup boxes alerted him about the incoming, outgoing and present destinations of travelers and various long-form time machines.
I really have no idea what the last part of this sentence is telling me, but maybe it's because I haven't read any of the rest of the story ... "Incoming, outgoing and present (?) destinations" and "long-form time machines" both don't really compute.

He saw the blue triangular shaped personal pods shooting into the building through large pipes that shot out by the corners of temporal hallways.
Presumably, we're in the character's head, so we see only what he sees. Thus, "he saw" is superfluous. Eliminating the phrase also makes the sentence more dynamic as "pods shot" is a lot more active than "he saw."

People hurried past him and climbed into their own quite luxurious looking pods on the way to greener pastures.
"Own" is superfluous.

If the fact that the pods are luxurious is important, you probably should describe a pod in detail and show us the luxury. "Quite luxurious looking" doesn't really add a lot for me.

The destinations sounded more and more exotic as the notifications came through as he walked past.
I tend to try to avoid unintentional repetition. You've already used "notification" once this paragraph, and you're repeating "as" as well.

Dorian also passed through the exciting interconnected passageways where vacationers who were leaving for their two-week vacations were going to experience a longer trip.
Same thing here as the last sentence. You have "vacationers" going on "vacations."

He witnessed a family of time travelers with two grade school looking boys, who had gotten into a bit of bad luck when all their temporal papers and documentation blew away upon the arrival of their time machine.
"He witnessed" is just like "he saw" in my comments above.

My main problem with these two paragraphs, though, is that it appears to be a series of random observations. Why is the character noticing these things? How does he feel about them? Is he overwhelmed? Underwhelmed? (He reads as whelmed at the moment :) ) Certainly, none of this seems confusing to him. Instead, he seems to understand exactly what everyone is doing and why. If he's supposed to be confused, he should not know that people are going on vacation or why the nature of the boys' bad luck.

Luckily a Temporal Agent in his bright blue uniform and cap, helped them out and warned them, “It’s very dangerous to go travelling to Colonial America without your papers. You will likely be burned at the stake or worse deemed a traitor to this country.” He said with a toothy grin as he handed them their papers back. With their papers neatly organized the family went on their way and got into the big canoe looking time machine that fit hundreds of people heading to the year 1776. It was one of the more popular destinations in America.
You use "warned them" as a speech tag. You then end the dialogue with a period and use another speech tag.

"This is how you punctuate dialogue with speech tags," Brian said.

Brian clarified, "You wouldn't want to add another speech tag on top of the first one."

When Dorian finally spotted an empty seat, he suddenly froze. He couldn’t move and he knew what that meant. He had the misfortune of getting stuck in a security immobilizing field. The security check points randomly popped up to prevent suspicious characters from travelling through time until a Temporal Agent deemed whoever inside was safe, but Dorian wasn’t a frequent time traveler.
Up to this point, there's no tension in the scene. It seems like this incident could be used to add tension, but you have to put this Temporal Agent in direct opposition to Dorian's goal. This makes it seem like the agent is an annoyance, not an obstacle.

“What’s your business here?” A temporal agent barked at Dorian pointedly from behind.

Dorian responded with a look of innocence, “Honest I’m just here for a meeting today.” Even his eyeballs were stuck where they were as he couldn’t even see what the agent looked like. “No Time Travel for me today.”
You devote a lot of story space to Dorian not being able to see the agent. Unless it's really important to the plot, I'd combine the two sentences into a single thought by deleting the "at Dorian pointedly from behind" and adding the agent's position to the sentence in the second paragraph.

Note that you repeat "today."

The Temporal Agent took out his tablet and Dorian felt the grip around him begin to loosen.
If Dorian can't see the agent, how does he know that the agent took out the tablet?

Note that "Dorian felt" is the same as my earlier comment on "he saw."

Reading to the end, I feel that the scene is lacking in both tension and character emotion. Use Dorian's observations to give us insight into who he is and what he feels. Give him a clearly defined goal and create opposition to that goal.

Hope this helps.

Brian
 

Cli-Fi

John J. Falco
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I think the story has potential, but the writing needs a little work. I read the scene and at the end thought about how much the story had progressed. Dorian arrives at a time-travel station, the reader is introduced to the time-travel mechanism, security and fellow passengers; which is all story world building. At the end the story moves forward through Dorian's thoughts. In all, you have written around 600 words to get to this point. One question to ask is; "What am I trying to say and how can I convey that message in as few words as possible while maintaining the story world image?"

A couple of points:
1. If the Temporal Agent was standing behind Dorian, how would Dorian respond with a look of innocence?
2. This doesn't sound correct or appropriate.
Well what I was thinking here was that 600 words of descriptions was better than saying: Dorian walked through the crowded temporal building and found a seat. Which is what I started with when I first wrote it. Nobody would know what I meant, now you have a clear albeit random picture of the building.

This is the first major description of a building in this world so I wanted to touch upon how everything worked and also how infused time travel had become to the people's way of life in this society. If there is a common ground I should look at then perhaps I'll go back to it in the second draft of the novel.
 

Cli-Fi

John J. Falco
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I really have no idea what the last part of this sentence is telling me, but maybe it's because I haven't read any of the rest of the story ... "Incoming, outgoing and present (?) destinations" and "long-form time machines" both don't really compute.



Presumably, we're in the character's head, so we see only what he sees. Thus, "he saw" is superfluous. Eliminating the phrase also makes the sentence more dynamic as "pods shot" is a lot more active than "he saw."



"Own" is superfluous.

If the fact that the pods are luxurious is important, you probably should describe a pod in detail and show us the luxury. "Quite luxurious looking" doesn't really add a lot for me.



I tend to try to avoid unintentional repetition. You've already used "notification" once this paragraph, and you're repeating "as" as well.



Same thing here as the last sentence. You have "vacationers" going on "vacations."



"He witnessed" is just like "he saw" in my comments above.

My main problem with these two paragraphs, though, is that it appears to be a series of random observations. Why is the character noticing these things? How does he feel about them? Is he overwhelmed? Underwhelmed? (He reads as whelmed at the moment :) ) Certainly, none of this seems confusing to him. Instead, he seems to understand exactly what everyone is doing and why. If he's supposed to be confused, he should not know that people are going on vacation or why the nature of the boys' bad luck.



You use "warned them" as a speech tag. You then end the dialogue with a period and use another speech tag.

"This is how you punctuate dialogue with speech tags," Brian said.

Brian clarified, "You wouldn't want to add another speech tag on top of the first one."



Up to this point, there's no tension in the scene. It seems like this incident could be used to add tension, but you have to put this Temporal Agent in direct opposition to Dorian's goal. This makes it seem like the agent is an annoyance, not an obstacle.



You devote a lot of story space to Dorian not being able to see the agent. Unless it's really important to the plot, I'd combine the two sentences into a single thought by deleting the "at Dorian pointedly from behind" and adding the agent's position to the sentence in the second paragraph.

Note that you repeat "today."



If Dorian can't see the agent, how does he know that the agent took out the tablet?

Note that "Dorian felt" is the same as my earlier comment on "he saw."

Reading to the end, I feel that the scene is lacking in both tension and character emotion. Use Dorian's observations to give us insight into who he is and what he feels. Give him a clearly defined goal and create opposition to that goal.

Hope this helps.

Brian
Thank you for the grammar corrections. I will have to go back to this when I go over my novel for a re-write.
 

VinceK

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Well what I was thinking here was that 600 words of descriptions was better than saying: Dorian walked through the crowded temporal building and found a seat. Which is what I started with when I first wrote it. Nobody would know what I meant, now you have a clear albeit random picture of the building.
Point taken. I wasn't aware this was the first time the reader had been inside a temporal building.
 

Dave Barsby

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You're in danger of info-dumping and breaking up the rhythm of the piece. If, say, the family's papers scatter into Dorian's path, you can describe what happens to them more fluidly as it directly affects the protagonist.

Otherwise I like the concepts you've built up, though it momentarily confused me that Dorian was completely frozen, even his eyeballs, but he could still speak.
 

pambaddeley

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The problem is that if the scene is completely familiar to the character then "Dorian walked through the crowded temporal building and found a seat." is exactly how he would view it. Same as you wouldn't have a Western character devoting 600 words to saddling and mounting a horse and then riding off somewhere. So I think you need a compromise somewhere in the middle, to gradually shoehorn in the telling little details that make the scene clear to the reader.
 

Cli-Fi

John J. Falco
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The problem is that if the scene is completely familiar to the character then "Dorian walked through the crowded temporal building and found a seat." is exactly how he would view it. Same as you wouldn't have a Western character devoting 600 words to saddling and mounting a horse and then riding off somewhere. So I think you need a compromise somewhere in the middle, to gradually shoehorn in the telling little details that make the scene clear to the reader.
Dang now I am confused. I heard of that analogy before, but the readers don't know anything about a time travel world! It's something that hasn't really ever been done and if so, it's not globally well known place in actual history like Westerns. I think I may be able to cut out some of the more random scenes, but I need some type of description otherwise people will fail to distinguish the difference between a regular building and a temporal one. They won't get why temporal is a descriptive word I used.
 

Dave Barsby

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That's why it needs to be actually relevant to the protagonist - eg what I said before about the family's papers getting in his path. Or maybe he can scan the list of destination years looking for something he wants. That would immediately give an indication of there being time travel both backward and forward in the story universe
 

Cli-Fi

John J. Falco
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That's why it needs to be actually relevant to the protagonist - eg what I said before about the family's papers getting in his path. Or maybe he can scan the list of destination years looking for something he wants. That would immediately give an indication of there being time travel both backward and forward in the story universe
All right then, so I thought it over. I kept most of it but cut out the more repetitive random scenes and I made it more connected to the character. I took your two suggestions too and added them. I added that he knows he is looking for a flying pig that has landed somewhere in the building that will cause some type of commotion.

I made the boys literally bump into Dorian while they are chasing their papers and they explain where they are going on vacation, which makes the explanation for temporal vacations fit better in the flow of the scene.
 

Dave Barsby

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All right then, so I thought it over. I kept most of it but cut out the more repetitive random scenes and I made it more connected to the character. I took your two suggestions too and added them. I added that he knows he is looking for a flying pig that has landed somewhere in the building that will cause some type of commotion.

I made the boys literally bump into Dorian while they are chasing their papers and they explain where they are going on vacation, which makes the explanation for temporal vacations fit better in the flow of the scene.
Another thought (and this is just my own opinion so take it or leave it at your own discretion) is while there may still be random security spot checks, presumably there'd be an airport security type of system before he gets to that part of the building, so while he's waiting in line he could hear the disco afro man being grilled under your advanced lie detecting sensor freeze ray thingy: "Destination?" "1973" "Are you carrying any contraband such as technology made after 1973? Do you have any temporal terrorist plans, such as murder, visiting relatives or gambling with foreknowledge of the winners?" etc
 

Cli-Fi

John J. Falco
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Another thought (and this is just my own opinion so take it or leave it at your own discretion) is while there may still be random security spot checks, presumably there'd be an airport security type of system before he gets to that part of the building, so while he's waiting in line he could hear the disco afro man being grilled under your advanced lie detecting sensor freeze ray thingy: "Destination?" "1973" "Are you carrying any contraband such as technology made after 1973? Do you have any temporal terrorist plans, such as murder, visiting relatives or gambling with foreknowledge of the winners?" etc
yeah something like that will give the disco guy something to do instead of just being random, plus that can transition onto Dorian getting grilled quite easily.
 

Stuart Suffel

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Agree with a lot of the above. The concept has great potential, but it needs a lot of tiding. Just because the 'airport' (time-machine) is chocablock/ confusing, doesn't mean your description has to be.

A complex situation simply described, can be very engaging and a powerful catch. This definitely has potential , if you strip out the made up words, the (small amt) of 'telling', adverbs etc. Good stuff.

As ever, the writing is all.
 

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