A Train Station Story

Here’s a little story about something that happened ten years ago. It happened in the first week of August 2005, just days after I climbed Mt. Fuji. Let’s just say that my inspiration to write this post has to do with some videos I watched on YouTube involving train station incidents.

I was sitting in the station after work. It was around 10:30 pm, and I was taking the train from Konandai Station to Shin-Sugita Station, which is near where I lived at the time. I guess it would be helpful to mention that this happened in Yokohama.

As I was saying, I was sitting in the station waiting for my train, and I was looking at my cell phone. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed a businessman, around thirty-five years old, pacing back and forth. There was nothing unusual about him. He had a black suit, was carrying a briefcase, and just looked normal. I had no idea what this guy was going to do, but I wish I’d paid more attention. I went back to my phone, sending an email to my mom.

The train arrival was announced, and I continued sitting, intending on getting in the car directly in front of the bench I was on. The front of the train was approaching, when I looked up and noticed the businessman. He ran to the edge of the platform and jumped.

Everything was in slow motion. I saw him, black suit, black shoes, black hair, and black briefcase, all flying in the air with a train coming toward him at about seventy or eighty kilometres per hour. I saw the impact briefly, but what I really noticed was the shattered glass scattering through the air. I could see every little piece with my heightened senses due to the adrenaline coursing through my body. I looked around, and one guy turned to me and gave me a look that said, “Did you see that?” His eyes were wide and they probably mirrored my expression of shock.

There were other sounds in the station, the screams of high school girls and the nervous laughter of the boys. They undoubtedly had a more gruesome view of the suicide. But I saw the guy alive the very moment before he was hit. I saw him alive for about five minutes before the train, and I had no clue what he was about to do.

I didn’t know what to do. I walked out of the station and got into a taxi to go home. I sat in the taxi without saying a thing, almost motionless while I stared out the window and the scene replayed in my mind over and over again.

I got home, went inside, and broke down. I wasn’t hungry. I didn’t want to do anything. I just saw a man die in one of the worst ways.

The memory hasn’t faded. It’s as clear as if it happened today. I don’t think about it often, but news of yet another suicide brings back that memory. They call them “human accident” in train stations in Japan. Sometimes, I want to tell someone the story I told you. I did when I went to work the next day, and I got to hear another suicide story from my school’s manager when she was in high school. In her case, she saw blood and a possibly severed arm. She couldn’t tell. But that’s another story, and I don’t have the details.

Why did I tell you this? Sometimes these things need to be told, instead of being held inside. It doesn’t affect me much these days, but it’s probably therapeutic to talk about it. Thanks for reading.

Authors Answer 39 – Critique and Writing Groups

We’ve talked about beta readers before. But how about other forms of help? There are groups that writers can join to get help in many ways. Critique groups are good for help in whatever way the writer requests, whether it’s grammar, style, whether it’s likeable, and so on. Writing groups vary, as well. Some are online, some are in person.

320px-Modern-ftn-pen-cursiveQuestion 39: Do you use critique groups or writer’s groups? Are they helpful?

Allen Tiffany

Yes, and absolutely. Writing is as lonely a task as there is. And the product we create comes out of that isolation, so it is imperative that we get feedback. As I highlighted in an earlier post here reference beta readers, I greatly value the nuanced feedback a critique group can provide. Unlike betas who tend to give you feedback on an entire story, a writers group is much more focused at a more tactical level – word choice, sentence structure, echoes, etc.

Of course, I don’t respond to all the feedback I get…far from it. But I am very attentive to any consensus that develops. I generally get about 10 readers through the workshop of which I’m a member. If more than 3 or 4 are tripping over the same thing and calling it out in their feedback it is indisputable that there is something I must address.

In short, a very powerful way to help you improve your work, and there are a number of such groups online that are free. I’m a big fan of CritiqueCircle.COM, but there are others.

Caren Rich

I have used a few critique groups online.  It can be helpful, if you’re able to find another writer who will be helpful and honest.  Sometimes you don’t know anything about who is critiquing your writing. They may not even write in your genre and that can cause issues as well.

D. T. Nova

Maybe I should, but I haven’t so far.

Eric Wood

I use the kids I teach as my critique group. No one is as honest as a kid. They are usually helpful when prompted with questions. They are also fountains of ideas for new stories.

Gregory S. Close

No.  I’ve tried a couple of on-line critique groups, like Writer’s Café, but left mostly disappointed.  I did find my editor on that site, but since then I think we both left in frustration.  Not many people provided actionable feedback.

A lot of people seem to confuse “critique group” with “mutual ego-stroking group,” or the inverse “mutual condescension group,” neither of which are helpful for honing craft.  I’m not opposed to the idea, but I’ve yet to find a group that was just honest, practical and professional.

H. Anthe Davis

The only writer’s groups I’ve ever been in were my Creative Writing classes.  I figure those count.  They were nice people, and they wrote some interesting stories, but it wasn’t for me, really.  I feel that when you’re trying to turn out a book that will inevitably have a large word count, you need more specialized attention, which is why I have my betas.  Also, I don’t know that I could have done a group’s worth of reading others’ work while still keeping up with my own; I remember that reading and critiquing our smallish class’s batch of short stories was a lot of work, and most of them were only about 15 pages.  Also, in my area, there don’t seem to be a lot of SF/F writers’ groups, and I’m not inclined toward online ones because I know I’ll just get distracted by cat videos.  My Creative Writing group did teach me how to give and take criticism though, which is an essential skill for any writer — so I guess I would recommend that everyone try some kind of writer’s group at least once, just to figure that bit out.

Jean Davis

A good critique group is gold. Finding people you can trust to tell you how it is and having skin thick enough to take what have to say and do something about it is invaluable. I prefer online groups to in person as I think it’s easier to be honest and impartial when not having to deliver the critique face to face. It’s also easier to read the feedback, fume about it, and then take a deep breath and absorb what they had to say over a few hours or days, than smiling and politely thanking someone for shredding your scene moments after the fact.

Linda G. Hill

I did have a writer’s group in which we critiqued each other’s work. There were only three of us. It kind of fizzled out. I should probably join another, and I likely will when I’m finished my edit. Right now, realistically, I’m too busy to read anyone else’s work.

Paul B. Spence

I don’t anymore. I used to. I feel that, to some degree, they are useful when starting out. They are good for meeting other writers and also for getting motivation. The groups I started in were good at telling me how great I was, but not much useful feedback otherwise.

On the other hand, I met some great authors through critique groups, such as Greg S. Close, who still beta reads my work. I’d be happy to read his if he’d write more. ( hint, hint)

So, I guess my answer is yes and no. I think if you find the right group, like the Scribblies, they can be great. Without the right group, you’re probably better off with just a couple of honest friends.

S. R. Carrillo

I used to have a pretty reliable writer’s group I went to every week. They were super helpful in broadening my worldview and offering outsider perspectives because all the help I had at that point were very familiar with the story and just as used to the world as I was. I wish I could go back to them. I haven’t really found anything close or as helpful since then.

Tracey Lynn Tobin

I don’t currently use any groups, but I have in the past and I definitely suggest them. They can be a great way to get your work read, get help and suggestions on works-in-progress, and meet beta-readers and other helpful people who can assist in making your book better. The only reason that I don’t currently use any groups is that the good ones usually require a time sacrifice. You can’t be the person who just throws down their work and expects everyone else to spend their time and energy reading and critiquing. You have to spend some of your own time to take part in the group, to contribute to other peoples’ works. At this point in my life I just don’t have the time for that kind of commitment if I actually want to, you know…write…so it’s just not in the works right now.

Jay Dee Archer

I’ve mentioned several times before that I use Critique Circle. I find it very useful to get different opinions about my writing. While I’m not concerned about my grammar, I do miss some things, and in particular, they have alerted me to my tendency to use certain words or to use passive too much. That has helped me refine my writing quite a bit. It’s also helped me a lot with flow, dialogue, and narration. You don’t always get great help from everyone, but you’re bound to get some. To get critiques, you must give critiques, as well. I enjoy it.

How about you?

If you write, do you use any critique or writing groups? Let us know if you do and if they help.