Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Mutiny in the Ranks!

Another quick post tonight.
I am still feverishly working on my WIP, doing a good couple of hours most work days. Words are flowing freely and I am enjoying it immensely.

But there is a problem. I have posted extracts featuring Valentina before, and she is meant to be a secondary character. But she is well and truly demanding to be heard. I have written nothing other than about her for the past two weeks. I don’t know if she will win in the end, but if she does it will be at the expense of some of my other characters and leave my outline in tatters.
I am planning to post more chapters of my completed novel Veiled in Shadows but I have to work out where. Blogger has a limit on the number of pages I can have up on Tabs.
Hmmm maybe a secondary blog just for posting sections of book? What do you think?

Now an extract of my WIP Veiled in Storms because Valentina won’t be quiet any longer.
This was typed today on my way home, so it is once again entirely unedited…

Last time Valentina was quivering under-fire. This time her problems are (at least partly) more personal.

Valentina Meshcova Berlin 1945
It was children who saved me. Children in the ruins.
We were near Hoppegarten outside Berlin when the surrender came. The jubilation in the army had to be felt to be understood. All the terror lifted, the lid taken off years of pent up emotion.
But for several days we were kept working nearly as hard. Though now the women medics like me had to have an escort. The rape and pillage that had been a feature of our advance into Germany exploded as soldiers consumed the city's stocks of alcohol. Being in a Red army uniform was usually enough, but a few of the girls in our regiment were raped. A drunken army with little discipline in place is a frightening thing.

For the next days we continued recovering the wounded from the stinking ruins of Berlin. The mix changed, fewer Russians, a lot of German civilians and even German soldiers came through our hospital. Only days before German wounded would have been shot out of hand, even civilians would more than likely have been turned away.

Then, suddenly, within twenty four hours, most of my work was gone. Yes the hospital continued working, but now the panic of battle was gone it was the sick we were treating.
Our commander organised some tour groups into the heart of the city. We had the privilege of entering as conquerors. After all we had been through it was delicious to stand in the ruins of the Chancellery and the Reichstag. Revenge was sweet.

But then anti-climax, the emptiness I had dreaded. Not enough hours filled with anything meaningful and an empty futile future stretching in front of me.
I sat one night cleaning and re-cleaning my carbine.

Luckily no one offered me vodka that night, If they had I would have found the courage to do what I wanted and put the barrel in my mouth and squeeze the trigger.
There were a surprising number of suicides in those first weeks after victory; I was not the only one who did not know how to go on.

Then one day I rode one of our big American trucks to take a number of wounded to the station. A little girl sitting on a pile of rubble alongside the road caught my eye. I don't know why I noticed her, perhaps her blond hair stood out against the mountains of debris. I didn't think much of it, but as we drove back she was still there. I wondered about her all the way back.

When I finished my duty I took my carbine and strolled back. It was already a lot safer for a Russian woman on her own. Discipline was being re-established, some of the worst offenders had been shot and the officers were bringing the army back in line.
But you never knew and the gun was just in case.

She was still there, a tiny thing maybe four years old, sitting almost motionless on a pile of broken bricks. Her eyes flicked up at me as I came closer and then fell again.
I stood for a long time and watched her, she was skin and bones, dressed in clothes that were warm enough but had obviously been cast-down innumerable times. A child of the war.

I slung my gun over my shoulder and held out my arms.
Her stick arms came up. I lifted her and held her to my chest. Her little arms wrapped themselves very tightly around my neck.


Vicki Rocho said...

That was lovely! Ironically, my 9 year old told me the other day she'd like to change her name to Valentina. For the rest of the night she wouldn't respond unless I used her *new* name.

Anne Gallagher said...

Al, that was beautiful. I knew she would go back, I jsut knew it. "She held up her stick arms"
Oh, move me to tears...
Really nice work.

Old Kitty said...

Awww nice way to end this extract as it was very depressing and sad and awful and then this little girl - like a ray of sunshine and hope - embraces Valentina!! Lovely!! Take care
p.s. - maybe put two/three chapters per page?

Jai Joshi said...

I'm always fascinated when certain characters push themselves to the front and demand to be noticed. I always take that as a sign.

Valentina sounds fascinating. If she's telling you to work on her then go for it.


Kathleen Jones said...

Al - always listen to your characters! this is Valentina's story and yes, you're going to have to rip up the synopsis and re-structure. AAAAgh But it's good because it's a living, breathing story trying to unfold. Great stuff!

Clarissa Draper said...

I would let her speak. Let her tell her story. You can always cut some of those words out in the end. Can't wait to read your novel in full.

Rebecca E. said...

as always I quite like your writing, keep it up! Buried in WIP as well.

L'Aussie said...

This is great Al and I love the name you've given this pushy character. I think another blog is a great option although more work.

Looking forward to reading more as you go.

Denise :)

Aubrie said...

I've had that happen before as well: where a secondary character takes over.

In my case, the secondary character had more flaws and so it made her more interesting and fun to write.

Good luck with the ongoing WIP!