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Stationary [one-shot]

Discussion in 'Completed Fics' started by Dramatic Melody, Aug 22, 2015.

  1. When I first saw the quarterly challenge in the second issue of the Fan Fiction Quarterly, I laughed at how appropriate the term “challenge” was for it when applied to me, seeing as the prompt of the challenge—to write an entire story with no dialogue—was the exact opposite of the form I chose for my main project right now. I knew that pretty much all of my works relied on dialogues, thoughts, and conversation to move the plot or project forward, so trying to create a story where all of that is taken away was really a challenge for me.

    “Stationary” is the result of that attempt. It took weeks of convincing myself to find time to sit down and write it, and it pretty much just poured out in one sitting of wanting to see how I fared with the challenge. I’m not even sure if I managed to follow the prompt since I couldn’t help but insert some form of the protagonist’s thoughts here and there. I did make sure that they were presented as actions rather than unspoken dialogue, but if ever you catch anything that breaks the rules of the prompt, feel free to call me out on it.

    The story itself is very simple and short, revolving around an idea I thought would fit well with the prompt—a man waits for someone to arrive in a train station. It’s been done a lot of times, but I wanted to go with it partly because of how it fit the prompt and partly because I wanted to create a story set in Johto, which would allow me to say that I’ve visited all six regions in my past six works. Shallow, yes, but the challenge did give me a reason to finally write the Johto one-shot I’ve been wanting to write for the past year, and I did!

    So, yeah, comments and criticism are highly appreciated, especially in terms of how it relates to the challenge. Thanks for reading “Stationary”, and I hope you enjoy it. :)

    Stationary


    He sat on the left side of a two-seater bench waiting for the right train to arrive.

    He checked the time: 9:16 p.m.

    He had been sitting there for four hours and eleven minutes, only standing up thrice to go to the bathroom, twice to stretch his legs, and once to remove a rock that had been playing with his left foot. In each instance, he left his bag in his seat to secure his position, as he didn’t want to give up the seat nearest the platform’s sole entrance and exit. For the same reason, he opted to skip dinner, though that was more motivated by not wanting to dine alone—he hoped that she would join him this particular night.

    As usual, he didn’t know which train she would board, for her schedule with the Pokémon Center was erratic at best. So he went there on the whim that she would board the Magnet Train in Saffron after her afternoon shift ends—if she had an afternoon shift today—which meant that she would arrive on the 4:30 train, twenty-five minutes after he sat down on the bench.

    When the 4:30 train arrived and she wasn’t among the exiting passengers, he chuckled at his shallow and overoptimistic reasoning and assumed that she would be on the 5:30 train so that she wouldn’t be pressured to hurry to the station right after her shift ended. When the 5:30 train arrived and she wasn’t among the exiting passengers, he figured that she must have started a later shift and therefore ended later. When the 6:30 train arrived and she wasn’t among the exiting passengers, he thought that she must have taken a nap at her apartment before taking the train so that she would be fully rested once she arrived. When the 7:30 train arrived and she wasn’t among the exiting passengers, he found it strange that she was working for such late hours. And when the 8:30 train arrived and she wasn’t among the exiting passengers, he was sure that she would be arriving on the final train an hour later, his only reasoning being that it was odd of her to miss their monthly visits to each other.

    He checked the time: 9:18 p.m.

    They had been going out for more than a year now, though the long distance only came into play six months ago. He was offered a high position at the Goldenrod Radio Tower, the salary more than double his pay at Silph Co. Increasing expenditures and waning interest in Silph convinced him to accept the offer, a decision she half-heartedly agreed to. She tried convincing her boss to allow her to transfer to the Goldenrod Pokémon Center, but she was needed in the understaffed Saffron branch now more than ever.

    As a way to make the distance less agonizing, they agreed to set aside the last weekend of each month so that they could see each other. They alternated on who would visit who—if he went to Saffron one month, she would go to Goldenrod in the next. They spent the whole weekend together, arranging it so that they would take the first possible train they could on Friday and the last possible train they could on Sunday. Their time together in Saffron last month went by smoothly, so he didn’t know what would delay her visit today.

    He had tried calling her several times in the past few hours, although all of them were met with the same generic message of a number that couldn’t be reached. The calls became more frequent as the Saffron trains came and went, but he became more worried and dejected as each call failed.

    He checked the time: 9:22 p.m.

    Someone sat down beside him, a woman around his age. He assumed she was from Goldenrod because of the distinct perfume that only people in the city wore. He heard her let out a big sigh when she sat down, but he couldn’t tell if it was out of relief or out of nervousness.

    He checked his surroundings to see why she had picked the empty seat next to him, and he was confused when he saw various unoccupied benches behind him. In the four hours and seventeen minutes that he stayed on the spot, he had never had a seatmate, partly because he would sometimes place his bag beside him to deter them and partly because many of the bench occupants didn’t want to be bothered by someone who looked like he had been sitting there for days. But he didn’t want to ask her to move now, especially when she looked like she needed to sit in that particular bench as much as he did.

    She hurriedly retrieved her Pokégear and started texting, her fingers moving as if they were automatic. He resisted taking a peek with all his might, but he could tell from the quick beeping that it was a message that needed to be sent at that very moment. The many beeps suggested a long text, and her grip on the Pokégear made it look like she was hanging on to the reply like oxygen.

    He checked the time: 9:25 p.m.

    He managed to sneak a longer glance at her while she was staring at the blank screen of her Pokégear. The first thing he noticed was her nurse’s outfit—that distinct uniform he could have seen from miles away. The tatteredness of her clothes and headgear said that she had just come from her shift in the Goldenrod Center, and her decision to not change to more casual clothes made it clear that she was also looking forward to the arrival of the 9:30 train.

    He played around with the thought of talking to her to relieve some of the tension, but it didn’t seem like she was in the mood for any sort of conversation. In fact, the way she looked mirrored how he had been acting for the past four hours and twenty minutes: crossed legs that changed position whenever it had the chance, interlocked fingers that closed around a Pokégear that served more and more as a relic or precious heirloom, a chest that rose and fell rhythmically and frequently, a pair of shifting eyes that seemed to look at possibilities rather than realities, a worried look that teetered between certainty and hopelessness.

    And that’s when it hit him—they were there for the exact same reason.

    He checked the time: 9:28 p.m.

    He hoped that his assumption was wrong, although he knew that it was the most certain thought he had mustered up in the past four hours and twenty-three minutes. In a sense, he was envious of her, for she didn’t have to wait as long as he would for her visitor to arrive—her later arrival meant that they must have talked about what time they would meet, and she at least had the distraction of work to make the waiting less stationary. But as he watched her incessantly check the time on her Pokégear and grip it even tighter, he knew that her waiting wasn’t any better—her firm stare at the platform didn’t look as though the difference between their waiting times mattered.

    He thought about talking to her, this time more sure of his intentions as he wanted to offer some relief by making her know that he shared her uneasiness, that he shared her pain. But he knew that it was meaningless, that anything he would say would fall into deaf ears, for they both wanted their next words to reach their respective visitors, words that would melt away any doubt and fear that built up over all their waiting.

    He checked the time: 9:30 p.m.

    He heard the familiar whistle, and both his and his seatmate’s expressions lit up. Their breathing synchronized with the sounds of the Magnet Train’s engine as it rested on the platform and opened its doors. The first few passengers exited, and they scanned each face in the hopes that one would meet theirs. They sighed as a passenger would reunite with one of the people they waited with, imagining how happier their own reunions would be compared to theirs.

    But as each passenger reunited with their respective waiters, their faces’ glows became less and less. The passengers kept on coming, but none of them put an end to their expecting, an assurance to their uncertainty. He knew that it took at least ten minutes for all of the passengers to exit the platform, but he also knew that those ten minutes were the fastest in the day to come and go.

    All his thoughts stopped when he saw her, in her Pokémon Center outfit and carrying a duffel bag he assumed was new. In that moment, the strain from the four and a half hours of waiting ceased to exist, and it was replaced by thoughts of a pleasant weekend four weeks in the making. His seatmate’s plight he obsessed over in the past few minutes didn’t cross his mind anymore, as all his thoughts shifted to welcoming her back and giving her the best weekend possible.

    Then he saw her lift her face up, and all the strain came back upon realizing he didn’t know who the passenger was.

    He watched the nurse exit the platform and walk hurriedly to a man a few rows behind him, the two hugging almost immediately. They shared a small kiss he knew would be longer in the night that followed, and he watched them exit the station, his right arm draped around her shoulders to proclaim to all of Goldenrod that she was here, that she was with him.

    The last of the passengers exited the platform, and the first set of the station’s lights were turned off. Both he and his seatmate looked intently at the platform’s exit up to the last passenger, and even after that. They both waited for any more passengers to show up, but the platform’s lights closing put the final nail in the coffin.

    He then heard his seatmate cry, her sobs quiet and loud at the same time. He saw that her hands were over her face, her tears seeping through the gaps between her fingers. She grabbed her headpiece and squeezed it as hard as possible, almost tearing it in half from all the pressure applied to it. She then withdrew a handkerchief from her pocket and wiped her face, although they were replaced by new tears immediately after.

    He thought about consoling her, about asking her if he could do anything to make her feel better, but he knew that it wouldn’t help at all. He knew that their pain, though shared, wasn’t mutually understood, and he didn’t know how much comfort he could offer if he himself needed it.

    As a second set of lights in the station closed, she stood up and walked away slowly. He still heard her sobs as she neared the exit, each step away somehow making them louder. And as she left him all alone in the station, the realization of his own exit being similar had fully hit him.

    He checked the time: 9:45 p.m.

    He put his bag in the now empty seat next to him and crossed his legs. His fingers were now interlocked, and his face stared lifelessly at the dark platform. As the last set of lights of the station were turned off, he remained in his seat and continued waiting.
     
    Last edited: Aug 22, 2015
  2. Takatheeducatedkid

    Takatheeducatedkid Eevee Devotee

    This was beautiful! Although the ending is very sad, I'm impressed with the fact that you managed to refrain from using a word of dialogue! There was a lot of emotion and atmosphere; I could feel the tension described throughout the story as though I was waiting on someone myself--very well done!
     
  3. Starlight Aurate

    Starlight Aurate Just a fallen star

    I really liked this! When I read the author's notes at the beginning and saw it was about a train station, Waiting for Godot immediately came to mind--and they both had the same ending! I like how you would have a few paragraphs of his actions or the past events between the times, and I thought the pacing for this small piece was very good. The part where the other woman came in and didn't meet the one she expected to really hit me; it felt like she (and maybe the protagonist) were being cheated on :(

    I had some other thoughts, but I can't remember them at the moment XD Not much else to say on this; the ending was sad, but it was still a calming piece to read. Good job, and good luck!
     
  4. bobandbill

    bobandbill Winning Smile Staff Member Super Mod

    Dropping the mod review reward here!

    With regards to the challenge, I feel it does, given it was stated in the thread that 1st person POV was acceptable, and I didn't see any thoughts that acted as dialogue there.

    I quite enjoyed this read! You did well to catch the mood of waiting for someone beyond the expected arrival time and keep it up throughout without it becoming tedious to read - I experience the same sort of thing there and imagine others do as well, so this was pretty darn relate-able in that sense. I especially liked the moment he saw his date, only to realise that no, it was someone else instead. False relief can be painful, haha.

    A lot of the details included also felt realistic, and it was good to add in him checking his watch every so often as well like that. The other person who was also stood up was a nice addition too. Part of me hoped he would have said something to her despite the fact this was for the no-dialogue challenge.
    Repeated words, such as He to start a sentence, was a problem here and there. Another example was passenger/passengers - in the middle that cropped up nearly every sentence, when a replacement for a few would have help alleviate the repetition.
    over-optimistic. (or overly optimistic).
    This bit sounded odd to me with the latter half. I guess it sounds weird for a glow to be less - dimmer, maybe, but not 'less'.

    Nice story overall. =) Well, nice for a depressing tale. =p
     
  5. aloejazz

    aloejazz Member

    I really liked this! You have to be very skilled to get this level of emotion without dialogue.

    My only critique: sentence variation. At the beginning, it works well, showing repetition and boredom. But once the woman sits, down, maybe sentence structures could be a bit more varied. It would supplement the change that her presence brings on another level.
     
  6. Thanks Takatheeducatedkid! It was pretty challenging working without any dialogue, to say the least. I found myself wanting to expand on what the protagonist thought of his seatmate when he saw her and what he wanted to say to her, but that would've gone against the nature of the prompt. And I'm glad that it conveyed that tension in you since it's one of the main things I wanted to get across. Thanks so much!


    Thanks starliteevee! I ashamedly have to admit that I haven't read (or watched) Waiting for Godot yet, although I'm familiar with it because we discussed it in a theater class (although in terms of its stage elements and not literary elements), but I do see how you could make the connection. And glad that you thought the pacing was good! I was worried that it would get a bit dragging in the middle, which is why I introduced another character since the story would be really boring if it was just one guy waiting. And well, I don't really wanna comment on why their respective visitors didn't come since I'd rather leave it open to interpretation, but yours is a good one, that's for sure.

    Haha, that's all right. Thanks so much for the kind words! And good luck with your writing endeavors too!


    Hey bnb! Really glad that it succeeded in that regard! It was a challenge, but a fun one at that.


    Thank you! Yeah, I definitely know the feeling of waiting for something that ends up not happening, especially with regards to transportation, so getting that feeling down in words was both challenging and therapeutic. Hah. Glad you liked it.

    If you don't mind me rambling about this, the watch checking was inspired by a theater workshop I attended where one of the exercises was to convey traveling in public transport without using any words (which, now that I think about it, is pretty fitting for this prompt :p). One of the attendants did so by checking on her phone once every four or five seconds, and it was really effective in making it look like she was in a taxi. So yeah, decided to use that here, and it was a good way of sectioning the mini-scenes too. And yeah, I also wish I could put in some dialogue there to elaborate on his pity, but I hope the mutedness of the whole thing said enough.


    Ah, damn. I always have this problem, and I apologize for making you have to point it out all the time :p Duly noted on this, and the other comments as well. Thanks for the review, bnb!


    Thanks! It was challenging, yes, so I'm glad you liked how the emotion was conveyed. And very much noted on the repetitive sentence structure--as I say in my reply to bnb above, it's something of a recurring fault in my writing that I have a hard time working on. I do agree that varying the sentence structure would have made the addition of the seatmate more effective. Thanks for that, aloejazz!
     
  7. [Imaginative]:[Clockwork]

    [Imaginative]:[Clockwork] X-treme trainer

    I'm really impressed with the fact that you have a piece of writing set in each region now, haha. As for this one, I really liked it! Like takatheeducatedkid and starliteevee said, it blended tension and calmness really well, basically giving me the impression of low-level anxiety.

    I think I mostly liked the details. For whatever reason, the Magnet Train is something that's really nostalgic for me (I always liked imagining what was in the woods when GSC showed you riding it), so seeing it incorporated here with actual passengers and stories was cool. The seating and reunions all provided glimpses of little mundane stories that helped emphasize that the stories of the main character and his benchmate were the ones worthy of a one-shot only because they were having an extra bad time. I also thought it was interesting that business in Saffron is apparently suffering while Goldenrod flourishes, haha.

    I'm a little divided on the ending. On the one hand, I wish we got something in terms of explanation. Right now, the reasons for her absence could range from minor to dire (although I do think we're meant to assume it's pretty bad), so my personal reaction was more "I hope this isn't too bad" than "Oh god, poor guy." It might just be some weird optimism that makes me avoid coming to the worst conclusion, though, so this might be a personal thing. On the other hand, the ambiguity makes me feel more or less like I imagine he does, wondering if this is it or something bad happened or if there was just some kind of bad luck on her side. If that was your intent, then I think you nailed it, but if you were going for straight-up tragedy, I'm not sure if I got that full effect.

    Still, I enjoyed the whole thing. I countdown is something that'll never fail to make me anxious, which was perfect for a quietly anxious one-shot like this. Reflecting his emotions on the more animated nurse was also a really clever way to build him as a character without using an dialogue. You took a challenge that I was too chicken to try and did great! Better yet, I wouldn't have even noticed the lack of dialogue if you hadn't pointed it out, which I think is a testament to how well written this was!
     
  8. Hah, it's a real achievement more than two years in the making! Although if we're being technical, "Berries" is set in the Sevii Islands and not Kanto, and I haven't gotten to the regions of the side-games yet, so...

    And thanks! That's pretty much what I wanted to evoke out of the piece, so I'm glad it does so!


    I can see why it can be nostalgic! It's the first instance where we can "travel" to far places through a vehicle (because, you know, S.S. Anne) so it's fun to imagine what things go on in them. Trains in general are really interesting - it's one of the best places to people watch after all! I didn't really wanna expound on it, but yeah, And I imagine both of their economies are prone to its ups and downs anyway. I'd like to say Team Rocket has a hand in it, but that's outside the story. But yeah, thanks for those observations!


    Ah, duly noted. I'm afraid that I did intend for it to end ambiguously and for the same reason you point out - it ends ambiguously for the protagonist as well. While his seatmate seems to already be certain of the outcome of her passenger given her reaction, I wanted to make the protagonist's musings in the end less sure - seeing as this was the first time this ever happened. Of course, I leaned it toward something more negative given the mood of the story, but I won't be surprised if interpretations put a more positive spin on it (i.e., maybe she's just busy and would come the next day?) Duly noted on how it isn't "tragic", though - while I didn't intend it to be that way fully, it does lean more on that side than its opposite, so thanks.

    "24 Months" really made me appreciate how pointing out the passage of time could be really effective in terms of storytelling, so I used the same here, which really helped considering the prompt, so I'm glad you liked it. Really glad that you liked his characterization as well - I was worried that he would feel to static, which would just compound with how the whole one-shot literally revolves around the idea of being stationary. And huge thanks for saying that, [Imaginative]:[Clockwork]!

    (And it's not too late to try the challenge out! :p)
     
  9. AmericanPi

    AmericanPi Write on

    AAAAAAAAA!!!

    (That was me screaming.)

    Seriously though, this story hit me right in the feels. This was a very, very good read. I expected something good because you're a really experienced writer, but this story far exceeded my expectations. It felt very artsy and for some reason reminded me somewhat of "Paperman", the (also dialogue-less and artsy) Disney short that was played before Wreck-It-Ralph. (I absolutely love that short, by the way, and I highly recommend watching it.) Your experience in writing is very evident here - the words of the story paint a picture that evoked many strong, varying emotions in me. I feel that writing that manages to evoke strong emotions in me is interesting, effective writing. So great job. :)

    I liked how the characters were all nameless, like the characters in "Paperman". For some reason it added some... er... artsy-ness to the story. I don't know how to explain it, but I liked it... xP

    Unlike some previous commenters, I thought your use of repetition was great. It all felt like part of the work of art that was the story. I felt that the repetition added to the anxious, nervous atmosphere the story created. As someone who suffers from anxiety, I know what anxiety feels like, and it often manifests itself in unrelenting repeated patterns of worry thoughts, such as "I'll fail. I'll fail. I'll fail." I'm not sure if you intended this repetition to create this anxious effect, but if you did, that was very clever of you. If you didn't, I still found the repetition to be a very effective part of your story.

    I'm not sure how I feel about the ambiguous ending. While the woman's story ended on a definitively heartbreaking note, the man's story is left unfinished, and since one-shots are supposed to be self-contained, the fact that the man's story is left unfinished doesn't sit that well with me. The unease that I felt while reading the story does not go away. I believe this was intentional, though, and if you intended that your readers feel that the story is incomplete after reading your one-shot, then you succeeded.

    All in all, I am so glad I read this. You are a great writer, and not only did you follow the prompt - you followed the prompt and did an amazing job. My interest in fanfiction comes and goes, but chances are I'll check out some of your other works.

    - Pi
     
  10. BBBBBBBBB!!!

    (No reason. I just like the letter B. :p )

    Thanks so much! I really appreciate what you say about the story evoking emotions, because all of my recent work seems to always end up aiming to do just that in the most understated and subtle ways possible. I don't know what's brought on this streak of generally emotional stories in me (I have a hunch it's Steven Universe's fault but shh) but they're a ton of fun to write, so I'm glad that you enjoy that sort of emotional tugging I'm playing with right now through this story.

    Grateful for the artsiness comment, too, especially since you said so in a piece where I didn't play around with the form that much (apart from the limitations of the prompt). I usually receive criticism about how I focus too much on form and sacrifice content because of it, so I'm glad that my liking of form still shines through with this.

    And Paperman is so awesome! Definitely one of the most memorable shorts I've watched in recent times. I mean sure, the paper threw me off in the end, but hey, that's some Disney magic for ya. I didn't really make the connection while I was writing it since it's been a while since I've watched it, but I definitely see why you'd connect those two dots.

    Thanks for this! I admittedly didn't mean it to be that way, although I did make sure that the nervousness of the protagonist was conveyed through the entire thing. I'm glad to see that the repetition actually achieves this more than I thought it would.

    Thanks for your comments on this. You and [Imaginative]:[Clockwork] bringing up the ending really made me think about it more and how I could make it have less of an unsettling effect. Like I told [Imaginative]:[Clockwork] in my reply above, the ending is meant to be ambiguous and I did mean for the unease to carry over seeing as it never leaves the protagonist as well. And I've also said in a previous reply that I don't want to comment on any specifics about it because I want to leave it open to interpretation. But that doesn't mean it should feel unfinished and, more importantly, I didn't want for the story to come across as incomplete because of it. I'll definitely look into how I could make it end in a more definitive note without taking away the uncertainty that I want it to sustain, so thanks a lot for this.

    And thank you so much for the review and the kind words, American--Pi! All the fics I've written prior to this that I'm still somewhat confident enough to share are in my signature, so feel free to browse through it. ;) Thanks again!
     
  11. PhalanxSigil

    PhalanxSigil BONK!

    Okay, right off the bat, HOW DID YOU DO THIS WITH ZERO DIALOGUE?! That's perhaps one of the most impressive things about this fic, and you even go through a couple of hoops to explain why the characters never speak. From the MC's focus on finding the woman he's looking for, to his hesitance to talk with the woman sitting next to him, as she's a stranger, it all just...works. And honestly, it kind of makes sense why the characters aren't being very talkative. On train rides, in stations, or really anywhere else in public, people tend to restrain themselves from speaking very much, as they don't want to put themselves out there. You captured that feeling expertly without having the characters uttering a single syllable. However, I know they're not mute, as the MC was clearly debating on whether to say something to the woman or not.

    Now, about the ending...I liked it. A lot. While the woman's reaction towards not finding her person on the train was heartbreaking for her, the fact that we don't get a lot for the main character may actually speak volumes about him. Or rather, it brings up so much ambiguity about his situation, and I find that delicious. Why's he waiting for this woman? What does he hope to accomplish by meeting her? Does he even expect to run into her? How long has he been doing this? It asks so many more questions than it answers, and even though this was a one-shot, I love the sense that this is just a snapshot of a person's life. Like in Baccano!, a person's tale doesn't begin or end when the reader or viewer begins to take a look, and you captured that so well.

    I loved this story. Straight up, this was amazing. There's a part of me that hope you'll do more like this, because this was gripping from beginning to end. Freaking loved it.

    -Phalanx, out.
     
  12. Heh, thank you so much! It was a real challenge, I can tell you that, but it was also a really good exercise on sustaining a story in the prose and descriptions rather than in the dialogue. I'm glad it worked out for you!

    And hah, I admit I didn't even think of it as fully as you detail it, but the situation does lend to the dialogue-less nature of the story. I appreciate how thorough you examined it!

    Thank you! As you may have seen in the other comments, I was trying to figure out how to make the ending better without actually changing what it was trying to do - that is, leave what happens ambiguous to the reader to mirror how ambiguous it was for the protagonist. So I'm glad to hear that it does work in that level for you! (I had to google what Baccano! is, and it sounds like an intriguing plot!)

    That's such an honor coming for you! I'm not sure when I'll write a story similar to this in structure, but I think a lot of my other one-shots recently are pretty similar in tone, so feel free to check those out if you want to.

    Again, thank you so much, Phalanx! I really appreciate the review. :)
     

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