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Tuesday, 20 November 2012

It'll be over by Christmas

That's what they said at the time, but they were wrong. I'm beginning to feel the same at this project too. I've read too much about experiences of men during that time, too much raw emotion and carefully hidden experience. I can't just write a few anecdotes and finish. I find I have to draw the characters realistically, have each man in the tale take his own full role and situation. I now know that they all have to die, or at least never see the MC again, and I even know how that has to happen. But I must also make sure that the reader knows these men, trusts these men, so that they can share and understand the grief and shock and sorrow of the MC when it happens.

So the war drags on. Two battles to go before the last one and another scene in reserve before we have the dalliance with Aixlenean girls. Tonight brought an unofficial truce and the handing out of helmets and a rat killing session. I just hope I've not made it so long and boring that people stop reading when the character of the novel changes.

Also, I'm not sure whether I sympathise more with William or Badger in the argument I just transcribed them having. Given where William is heading and Badger's role as mentor I'm hoping that means I have more realistic characters.

Extract follows:

In amongst shared meals and baths the two groups of soldiers became firm friends, parting with the agreement that they would continue the unofficial truce wherever they were stationed next. The Aixlenean unit, from the centre of Aixlene with its guttural accent and rolling farmland, were the first to leave, giving way to a unit from the more mountainous north of the country. They took a while to convince of the intentions of the invaders but, by the fifth and final day, they too had been won over.

“Looks like its Shiremen from the Home Counties coming in here next,” said Badger gruffly to one of the Aixleneans as they shared some salted beef in a shell crater left over from the beginning of the war. “I don’t care about you making a truce with them. Give ‘em Hell, the pompous bastards.”

The tallest Aixlenean, they’d nicknamed him ‘The Bear’, laughed with genuine mirth. “If you meet any of us from the coast, return the favour. I think our men of artillery need some practice here. Give us starlight to signal and we wait an hour.”

“Oh, you are terrific gents.” For the first time William looked on Badger differently, “I shall see to it!”

Despite his confusion, William said nothing. Salted beef was eaten; Aixlenean wine was quaffed and songs were sung before both groups retired, warm and tipsy, to their respective trenches and the evening roll-call. “Enjoy your jaunt, chaps?” asked Sergeant Batemann by way of greeting, “Hope you brought back some of that-”

Redbar cut him off by handing over two full bottles of red wine. “Like we’d forget you, Sarge,” he grinned and then tottered off in the direction of the rest of his section who had pulled sentry duty for the evening. They had all agreed that it simply wouldn’t do to have a surprise inspection find out just how peaceful this sector was.

“Aren’t we all brothers?” asked William of Badger when he was sure he wouldn’t be overheard.

“Us and the Aixleneans?” a hiccough, “Only so far as this bastard war I think. And not everywhere. Anything else would be Socialism.”

“No, I mean Merkavians.” Frowning was beginning to hurt his forehead. “You told them to give our brothers Hell.”

Badger looked at him for a long moment. “Think of it as a way of keeping this sector from getting too much attention. Burst of activity from the Aixlenean side’ll do it all the world of good.” Lighting a cigarette he took a quick drag.

And, in that moment, William hated smoking.