HH Com 208 (203)

Amsterdam, Centraal Station
It wasn't until after James Shannahan arrived at the station platform that he decided to throw himself onto the tracks. It was a logical decision and the optimum solution to the doubts that had plagued him for months. Besides, what could be easier?
Yes, he mused, it would be easy... and quick.
He stood rooted to the far eastern end of the platform looking down at the cinder-strewn rail bed. His bloodshot eyes traced the path onto the tracks.
Easy and quick.
Shannahan's gaze traveled the course of the tracks to where they intersected a complex array of switches and turnouts. There, the rails branched, and branched again, allowing trains to service the many platforms of the Amsterdam depot.
The signal lights flared come-hither green against the chill-blue backdrop of the dawn.
In the air he felt a hesitation in the train's approach as it slowed at the switches. Another minute?
He felt the rumble, the whoosh of air and the crescendo of the diesel locomotive as it approached. The steel-on-steel hum of the wheels on the tracks intensified –– he could feel the vibration through the soles of his shoes. The public address system blared the announcement that the train was arriving.
Shannahan took a step forward and stood at the very precipice of the platform.

This isn't a hook, it's a first page. It fails as a hook because we have no stake in whether this guy lives or dies and there's no compelling reason for either. It would work IF you had someone come up behind him and say "jump" or ""I'll give you a hundred bucks to jump" or "I'm going to kill your wife once you're dead" because then there's an element of surprise and suspense.


Inkwolf said...

I understand that train/bus drivers get put through hell when someone uses their vehicle to commit suicide. Guilt, accusations, drug testing...at this point I'm more concerned for your subway driver than your protagonist. :p

Has anyone written a novel about that yet? A novel about a train engineer becoming terribly paranoid from the number of people who've hurled themselves onto his cow-catcher?

Anonymous said...

Yeah, if this is a male Anna Karennina, then you're going to have to make him a hell of a lot more likeable in the hook before he's on the platform.

MichaelPH said...

It's interesting, but my question would be: what led him to the precipice? Why is he going to commit the Ultimate? Besides the obvious roadkillness of it all, what are the stakes?

Elfje said...

The machinists do get traumas out of this. I wouldn't know about any novels on this subject, but there's been lots of publicity on this point.

On a morbid sidenote: large stations like Amsterdam CS are generally not used by those wanting to commit suicide because all the trains stop at the station, so they would already be driving slowly when they're approaching the station. Your MC would only get a lot of broken bones and five minutes in the six o'clock news out of this. More likely than that: in a busy station the personel present on every platform keep a close eye on all the passengers, watching for a sign that one of them has a desire to blow themselves up. This also means that they would spot anyone wandering too close to the tracks or staring at the tracks like that. They'd take him to a place with mroe walls around and have a chat with him. Generally, suicidal people choose one of the myriad of smaller stations that the Netherlands have, where only stoptreinen stop and the intercities pass at 100+ km/h. They make for a much more efficient death than a train that's about to stop ambling down the tracks. And most of the time there's no other people, passengers or otherwise, present to stop them from throwing themselves in front of the train.

And Dutch trains have no cow catcher, as far as I know. The cows are not very likely to cross the water usually between the field and the tracks.

word ver: anuvo = a new (one)?

HawkOwl said...

I'm with Inkwolf. I knew a truck driver that this happened to. He had nightmares about it for at least fifteen years afterwards.

I'm also with Miss Snark: so what?

And also, why is this American (or American-named dude) in Amsterdam committing suicide? Why can't he just do it in New York?

angie said...

LOL, inkwolf! That could be a great story - kinda reminds me of the lady in "The Straight Story" that keeps hitting deer with her car and is crying because she really loves deer.

Have to agree that I don't know enough from the first page to decide what to think about James & his plan to jump. You haven't told us much about who he is or why this idea has gripped him.

Leggs said...

Orson Scott Card wrote a short story about a group of futuristic kids who had the ability to fling themselves in front of cars, splatter all over the windshield, and then travel back five minutes to when they were alive and do it all over again and again and again. They kept targeting the same driver who, of course, doesn't remember but slowly begins to emotionally dissintegrate as we see him approach that stretch of road over and over again.

It was troubling and brilliant. Similar to what you've mentioned.

Anonymous said...

No not a hook, but really really beautiful writing.

Anonymous said...

If I were going to commit suicide by being run over by a train, the last train I would choose is one that is slowing down to enter a station. Why not a Thalys train out in the middle of the countryside going at top speed?

Anonymous said...

From the author:
Thanks for the comments.
1) After I submitted this I saw the first dozen or so postings. Uh oh... NOT what Miss S. was looking for. My bad. The proper hook will appear before long (about another 100 to go!)
2) Another 250 words and you would have a much better appreciation for our hero.
3) Another 500 words and you would like him A LOT. You will like him BECAUSE of what happens on that platform.
4) As far as Centraal Station and death by "slow moving train" -- I think you would be just as dead to be run over at 10 mph. As the first line mentions, he hasn't planned to do this -- it's a leap of opportunity!
5) He lives in Amsterdam.
6) He doesn't jump :-)

BUT, it's true, this is NOT a hook, it IS a first page & it desperately needs its second page to work. (HINT: something quite unexpected happens)

Thanks for all your comments.