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Truthweaver

04/16/18 - The Agency Chapter 1 - 4200 words - Truthweaver

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Hi all,
 
Here's the first chapter of my (hopefully) full-length story about a time-travel organization. I won't be able to write anything else until I get time-travel out of my system, it seems.
 
Any comments at all are welcome. I'm looking mainly for thoughts on the opening, the character's voice and what age you think she'd be, and whether this first chapter does a good job of setting up the basics.
 
Thanks for reading!
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I enjoyed this, but then I'm a sucker for time-travel...

In general, I like the idea. Time travel in a period piece is interesting, as is the method for traveling. On the main character, she seems late teens/early twenties? New at a job, but without a lot of experience.

There was a little infodumping here and there, but not bad. The main thing that pulled me out was wondering what gets priority for changes, and why children are highest on the list. I mean, yes, it's terrible if someone gets killed, but does the agency know what they're destined for? Would it be better to alter small matters to guide the overall improvement of history?

It sounds like your setting up T's request to be the one that should have been granted rather than rescuing the child, and I'm curious as what she wanted. Definitely willing to read some more!

 

Notes while reading:

pg 3: "probably wouldn’t approve of her going back in time and giving the girl candy to appease her"
--that seems like just about the least useful application for time travel ever.

pg 5: "A dead child will always get priority, remember?"
--this seems like it could have repercussions...

pg 6: So I'm getting a Victorian vibe from this, even though there's apparently time travel. I'm wondering what sort of provisions are in place to determine what gets reversed?

pg 7: K's backstory isn't really needed at this point.

pg 9: the time travel method is pretty cool, though.

pg 14: I can't help but think T's request is the higher priority one that interfered with the child.

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@Mandamon Thanks for your comments!

29 minutes ago, Mandamon said:

The main thing that pulled me out was wondering what gets priority for changes, and why children are highest on the list.

So, the agency is mostly concerned with random accidents that are easy to prevent, due to the 12 hour limit. Accidents resulting in death get higher priority than those that don't, followed by accidents that involve children. They aren't really worried about improving history and only focus on the here-and-now, and what they can immediately affect. I could explain this better in the beginning.

37 minutes ago, Mandamon said:

pg 7: K's backstory isn't really needed at this point.

Noted. I'll save that for chapter two, when he and A actually interact in person.

38 minutes ago, Mandamon said:

pg 14: I can't help but think T's request is the higher priority one that interfered with the child.

You might be on to something there...

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A time-travel story, color me intrigued, but also a little concerned since the mechanics of time travel are hard to get right.

 

Anachronistic setting: Maybe it’s just me, but I have a hard time getting a read on the setting. Is it a version of Earth? Is it a secondary world? At the start I can’t really tell. It’s not until later that you introduce terms that settle it as a secondary world setting.

The setting also feels a little anachronistic because on the one hand you have horses and carriages, but then you also have the telephone (as something that is widely used), the word Agency, and a rather modern sounding spiel about submitting time reversal requests. It’s leaving me a little confused.

 

Fieldworkers waiting on a street corner: Why is your main character waiting on a street corner for things to happen so she can submit a request for turning back time? Are there fieldworkers on every street corner, in every city, in every country? That seems like a lot. Seems to me that the ability to travel back in time should be sufficiently rare otherwise everyone would do it (or is everyone doing it?). And if there aren’t fieldworkers on every street corner, why is A. (or any other fieldworker for that matter) on this particular one? What’s the point?

 

Aerith and Bob: While I was reading I immediately got stuck on this trope. You have normal, modern, sounding names like A. and C., right besides fantastical sounding names like K. and D.

 

Limit to one: I don’t understand, based on what we’ve been told so far in this chapter, why the Agency will only allow one time reversal per day (or per twelve hour interval since that seems to be the upper limit for any one person). The ability to travel back in time is inherent to the one going back, which doesn’t cost the Agency anything. And the one going back has to feel pain in order to go back, which also doesn’t cost the Agency anything.

 

And is this limit truly once per day for the whole planet, or once per day for a country, a region, or city, or city block? Without knowing more about the mechanics of time travel this seems like a weird arbitrary limitation (for instance, does going back in time damage the time stream in any way, and is that why they are limiting how many times people can go back in time?).

 

Upper limit: The upper limit of twelve hours also comes across as a little arbitrary, since it’s such a neat, round, number. More pain equals further back in time, so the furthest one can travel back is determined by their bodily pain threshold. But if I may venture a guess, at some point A. will probably break this limit to save the day right? If I look at the scene were A. reverses time, her past Self doesn’t feel the pain of the slap her future Self received from T. (of if she does still feel that pain, it doesn’t come across well). So in theory someone could inflict maximum pain on themselves to go back twelve hours, then inflict more pain and go back further. Rinse and repeat.

 

Priority: I’m surprised that A. feels that children dying will always get priority over other cases of time reversal. Apparently that’s how things usually go in this world? It sounds like a fairytale ideal and not cold hard reality. I can easily think up scenarios that would get priority over saving a child, including paid requests over pro-bono child savings. The Agency is a corporation, with employees, that need to be paid. The money needs to come from somewhere, and it won’t be from saving one child a day.

 

K. on the train: A. had to call HQ for permission and so she talked to K. on the phone. Then she goes to the station to board a train, and K. is waiting for her there so they travel together…for five ‘blasted’ hours to get to HQ. Which means that for K. to have been waiting at the station and for A. to get to the station, at least five hours had to have passed since the phone call. That doesn’t sound quite right.

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@Asmodemon You make good points. Now I know why there aren't more fantasy time-travel stories...because they're so complicated to get right! I do have some answers to the questions you raised, but I didn't want to get too bogged down in explanation at the beginning of the story. I'm hoping if I give the whole concept more thought I'll be able to make it work, since it's something I've been thinking of doing for a while now.

1 hour ago, Asmodemon said:

Which means that for K. to have been waiting at the station and for A. to get to the station, at least five hours had to have passed since the phone call.

Sorry, I didn't make that clear--K is actually working from an agency branch nearby, not HQ.

I will definitely trying working through the other rules some more...thanks for pointing out the potential problems. 

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Oooh, time travel! Fun!

Overall

Generally, I liked it a lot! I think some worldbuilding elements should come sooner rather than later, but as a start it's pretty solid and engaging! Nice work!

 

As I go

- really strong start. Generally starting off with a character being bored is a horrible start, but time travel is interesting, so I'm still engaged

- page four: great tension but I'm wondering now...is the whole purpose of these time travelers to prevent untimely death? Does that not affect the greater world population somehow? I think a bit more worldbuilding might be in order.

- page seven: ahhh, there's the limit to the magic! This might need to be mentioned earlier. Not in full, but some mention on the limits of the magic would be useful

- page eight: I've lost a bit of respect for our lead, because I don't know what the consequences are for doing more than one reversal a day. That makes me think there are bad consequences, and she is screwing up someone else's life just to feel better about herself, which makes me not like her. Again, a little bit more worldbuilding might be needed here. Maybe just an indication that it's bureaucracy, or money, that keeps them from doing more than one reversal. Something that won't hurt anyone else.

- the ending wasn't as sharp as it could be, I think. You might want to end the chapter a bit earlier, on a moment of higher tension

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@kais Thanks for your comments! I was considering giving up on the whole time-travel organization idea altogether, but now I'll dig into the world-building more and see if I can't make it work. I feel like I'm so close...

4 hours ago, kais said:

page eight: I've lost a bit of respect for our lead, because I don't know what the consequences are for doing more than one reversal a day.

It has to do with these time-travel "laws" that were proposed and led to the founding of the Agency. However, I'll probably rework this reasoning along with the rest of the world-building later.

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I really enjoyed this, I got really caught up with A and T (in fact I really want to know what T needed from A). I really liked the voice, it stayed the same throughout the chapter, I got the impression she was a younger person, likely over the age of 18, maybe somewhere in her early twenties. I didn't feel lost while reading your opening chapter, I felt it dropped a reader off at an important moment that made me want to continue reading. 
 

Thoughts while reading:

I thought you had a good use of foreshadowing in the third paragraph on the first page
I am confused as to why the time traveling agency would have her sit in this one particular spot? Do they know something might happen there, do they randomly send agents to random locations in case something happens?
Why do the general populace know about the agency? Usually that's something that is kept secret. I like this twist but I think an eventual expelenation of why its not a secret might be necessary (I'm not sure if that's something to be explained in a first chapter or in later)
How could the agency help with blackmail?
A does seem a bit rude the way that she ignores T when T asks for help.
What about the father and daughter makes them more interesting to A then the woman before her asking for help?
I am interested to learn about what agency prioitizes and what or whom decides priorities.
Pain needed to time travel is an interesting concept- I'm intrigued

I really enjoyed this. I'm excited to see where it goes and what happens to A.



 

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3 hours ago, Rogueshar said:

I am confused as to why the time traveling agency would have her sit in this one particular spot? Do they know something might happen there, do they randomly send agents to random locations in case something happens?

In my original idea I had agents being at stationed or patrolling the most populated areas, and there was at least one agent for each city. This will probably change though, if I continue with the idea.

3 hours ago, Rogueshar said:

Why do the general populace know about the agency? Usually that's something that is kept secret

I was going back and forth between making the agency public or not. For reasons to the current plot it needed to be, and it allowed the public to submit their own requests when agents weren't available. In this world the ability to time-travel is a generally accepted profession.

3 hours ago, Rogueshar said:

Pain needed to time travel is an interesting concept- I'm intrigued

Thank you :) I thought it would be an interesting twist, glad you liked it!

3 hours ago, Rogueshar said:

I really enjoyed this. I'm excited to see where it goes and what happens to A.

Awesome! Thanks for reading!

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