|Hey Dave –
I got around to reading your story and here are some thoughts…
Passive language – for instance, in the second paragraph, you wrote, “It was the shriek of the brakes that woke me.” Try, “The shriek of the brakes woke [or awakened] me.” The next sentence you penned, “There were alarm bells ringing, men shouting, babies crying.” I would suggest rephrasing that to read, “Alarm bells rang, men shouted, and babies cried.” Don’t worry, I’m not going to give you a blow-by-blow for the entire story; I’m noting these as I read through it in the hopes you realize where changes can be made to the rest of the story.
Tense shifts – be mindful of them. Your story starts out in present, then switches to past, then back to present – it’s confusing to this reader. You must decide how to relate your story. It’s okay to switch tenses at various parts of your story – obviously some will be your character telling things as they happen, and later the character will reflect what has occurred – but both tenses cannot be used in the same paragraph, though.
Long sentences and punctuation – the comma can be your friend. For instance, this sentence, “Across the way from her on the opposite table another lies its right hand trailing as if pointing me forward.” I had to read it several times to get the gist of it. Suggest: “Across the way from her, on the opposite table, another lies, its right hand trailing as if pointing me forward.” That might seem like many commas, but I think it reads easier with them inserted.
Sentence fragments – be careful of incomplete sentences; “Blood stains on both windows.” That technique works if the entire paragraph is composed of fragments; i.e., a list of observations in this case. But to plop one into the middle of the paragraph makes for a bumpy read. If you want to keep it there, suggest writing, “Blood stains both windows.” Although in your story, I get the sense the “blood stains” are integral. In that case, suggest, “The windows display bloody scrawls” or something like that.
Numbers – as a rule, numbers from zero to nine are spelled out; anything above nine uses numerals. An exception is if a paragraph starts out with a number; i.e., “Forty-seven year old Matilda…” is proper, not “47 year-old Matilda….” You reference carriages by numbers: 1, 2, 3; it might be better to refer to “first carriage” or “second carriage” etc. unless that is how the carriages are known, in which case I would suggest using quotation marks – “Carriage 2” Not sure how important the carriage numbers are to your story, so it’s up to you how to portray them.
Foreshadowing – you write, “Believe me I wasn’t particularly happy the moment it happened but afterwards when he explained to me the state of the creature further up the train I understood. Well I understood then, now is a different matter but we’ll come to that.” It’s confusing to the reader what is really going on – up to this point it’s unknown there’s a creature; by mentioning it here, the element of surprise or tension is eradicated. Your character is telling the reader information that happens later in your story. Your character, in this instance using present tense, does not know anything more than what is happening at this instant. Suggest: “Believe me, I wasn’t particularly happy at the moment,” and leave it at that. You have the rest of the story to explain what’s ahead.
Titles – I presume you are from UK so this probably won’t make sense to you. You refer to the policeman as “Mr Sills”…is that how you refer to police officers? Would it make for better reading if he was referred to as “Officer Sills” instead of the (what I think is) generic Mr? It might a be a culture thing; I notice you use single quotation marks to denote dialogue; here in US we use double quotes. I also noted that Mr does not have a period following it – Mr. If it’s a culture thing, forget I mentioned it; I’m easily adaptable once I know what’s going on.
Consistency – You write, “Carriage 10 is full of dead. The monster, if that is what it is, has devoured these people. They are everywhere.” How can there be bodies if they’ve been devoured? Doesn’t devour mean eaten? Perhaps if you wrote, “The monster, if that’s what it is, has fatally injured/attacked these people.” Or use a word other than “devoured.”
POV – be mindful of narrator’s role in telling the story. This is written from Tom’s POV. You write, “Mr Sills can see it also though he sees it from a different angle. It hits him just above the nose taking the top of his head clean off. He looks at me surprised for a second then drops.” How could Tom know what Mr Sills can see? The order of your sentences in this passage seems a little out of whack. Suggest exchanging the second and third sentences…if the bullet has taken the top of his head off, how can he look surprised? That’s probably nit-picking…but picture in your mind what is occurring as though you’re watching a movie of the action.
You write, “It takes one hard kick and I am through. The man behind the door is not expecting this and it knocks him to the ground.” Tom cannot know what the man behind the door is expecting…suggest, “It takes one hard kick and I am through, knocking the man behind the door to the ground.”
Presentation – there are irregular paragraph breaks in your story that make reading tedious. When posting something on WDC, I suggest using the “preview” feature to see what it looks like; WDC has implemented check boxes on the create-an-item page that automatically format a story for easier reading.
I would strongly suggest you change your ending so that the final two sentences form the final paragraph…or even make the last two sentences two paragraphs to read:
“My name is Tom.
“This is the last carriage.”
The effect of having those separate brings a finality to your story that is lost if they’re tacked onto the current last paragraph.
General Thoughts – I’m not a fan of sci-fi or fantasy, so I tried to read this with an open mind. I’m pleased that your twist at the end surprised me: it was neither…kudos to you for leading me down one path and ending me on another one. That’s talent as a writer.
You definitely possess great story-telling capabilities – that’s the most important part of being a writer. If you notice, nearly all my comments had to do with mechanics: formatting, grammar, etc. Little about the story itself. And that’s a good thing – I doubt most writers have perfect grammar skills – that’s what editors do. But if you want to submit something to be considered for publication, it would be best to have someone edit it first; publishing houses won’t read something if it’s presented badly. In a sense, all I did was provide you with some editing suggestions. Your story is solid and with a little cosmetic work it could be five-star material…but that being said, I must rate this as a four-star effort. The sloppiness hindered my enjoyment of the story, and as writer, you must be conscious of your readers’ experiences.
You mentioned a review you received for this story and suggested I read it. I don’t have access to reviews given to you. I hope I wasn’t completely out of line here with my words/suggestions/thoughts.
I wouldn’t mind if you took a poke around my port here on WDC. I don’t possess the story-telling skills you do, but I’d be interested to know what you think of my efforts.
In any case, I strongly encourage you to keep writing. I admire your talent and wish I possessed a thimbleful of it.
All the best