Thursday, December 9, 2010

Words but NOT on Wednesday: WIP and a Chapter.

Obviously it isn't Wedneday, this post was meant for last night but I ran out of steam.

I’ve posted a chapter of Veiled in Shadows again tonight. In Chapter Six Peter is having some terrible problems with fog. While Ebi is trying to cope with some strange behaviour from Katharina and then her mysterious disappearance. If you want to have a look click on the tab above.

Writing on the train is still progressing well. I am knocking of 500 to 800 words most days. It’s all very rough and at best a first draft. But I am happy it is progressing faster than it has for sooo long.

Veiled in Shadows is written with multiple narrators and I am using the same approach with my WIP. Usually I find myself writing one section featuring one character in a session and then jumping somewhere else on the next.

This morning though I continued with a section I started last night, I worked on it again this morning and finished on my way home. It features two characters I have not mentioned before. Stepan who was a medical student before the war, but who now finds himself in the NKVD and Ksenia a young nurse and a deserter.
It is as before a first draft (although I have read through it and fixed the most glaring errors) but I have a feeling this one will make it into my final work, albeit probably reworked. It is quite long and makes up most of a chapter in the first half of the book.

Stepan narrates, although he talks about himself in the third person.
Warning: it’s not cheery.

Ksenia: Russia - September 1942
Stepan Avelin
Stepan groans and rolls over, 'What do you want?'
'This one is different. I don't know what to do.'
The speaker is Ilyin one of Stepan's Corporals. His mind is still thick with sleep as he struggles to pull on his boots. Lieutenant, how strange that sounds.
The Red Army is again in retreat, falling back in the face of the second German summer offensive. Stepan has done nothing to earn promotion. Nothing that is but what he has done since the previous autumn, organising checkpoint after checkpoint. Yet the NKVD are often the last to leave a battlefield, so his regiment has taken casualties. Significant casualties, hence his promotion to take the place of a lieutenant trapped and killed by German tanks in the last retreat.
The benefits of rank: a warm bed, if there is one to be had; someone to clean his boots; and more pay, useless unless he ever gets leave. The negatives: a feeling of responsibility when one of his men is killed; and rather than simply following orders he is the one who decides who will live, or more realistically who will die. Such choices deepen the darkness of his soul.

Following Ilyin, Stepan enters the kitchen of the little house he has made his headquarters. Two uniformed figures stand with their faces against the wall. Another of Stepan's men, Gavrilivich, stands by the back door covering them with a submachine-gun.
Faceless though the prisoners are, Stepan can see instantly what has disconcerted his men. The baggy uniforms do not conceal that the shorter of the two has the slight, but curved figure of a woman.

A woman! Stepan is momentarily alarmed, what should he do? A woman, but she stands before him in a Red Army uniform, should he not treat her in the same manner as any other? Should it not simply be a bullet after a cursory inspection of papers? It perhaps should be, but it is not so simple, some taboo rears its head. Instinct perhaps? Or is it rather a learned response, nice boys don't hurt girls.
Stepan is both surprised and a little pleased at his response. Perhaps if he can recognise a taboo there is still a trace of human dignity to be found somewhere within himself. Still though there is the fiction to be maintained for his men, he is a cold heartless officer. 'What orders do the prisoners have?'
'None, however they are from a field hospital.'
'Do they have papers?'
The man half turned, 'We have...'
'Quiet unless the Lieutenant addresses you!' Shouts Gavrilivich.
Ilyin hands over the pay books taken from the prisoners. Stepan no more than glances at the man's, not looking at his name, it is better if they remain nameless, instead he looks at the rank and for any reason to not simply dispose of the problem.
Stepan can see no reason, other than common humanity, to spare the him and common humanity is a scarce commodity in 1942.

Stepan throws the first pay book on the table and looks at that of the girl. He reads aloud 'Ksenia Kitzova'. She turns around: she is young, no more than maybe nineteen or twenty; Stepan can see she is pretty even though she is dirty and dishevelled,
more than that though she has a presence. It is as if somehow she is more alive than the others in the room. Stepan hides it as best he can, but he is dismayed, how can he possibly rob such a person of life.
Her pay book is no different from her comrade's, she is like him an army private. Stepan can see no reason to exempt her from the fate of so many others.
'What is your role in your regiment?'
'I am a surgical theatre assistant, Comrade Lieutenant.'
A more rear echelon role there cannot be, is it enough to let her live? But Stepan must be careful, being too lenient is dangerous. Too big a mistake on his part could lead to his own death.

He will take the risk. If the worst happens he will tell his captain he was simply waiting for instruction. Stepan points, 'Kitzova sit on that chair. Do not move.'
He spins on heel to face the other, he jerks his thumb towards the door, 'This one outside, shoot him.'
Stepan hears a desperate, breathless, 'No!' from the girl behind him. He ignores her, focusing on his victim. The man slumps submitting quietly as so many do. A minority cry or beg, a tiny number resist violently but most go quietly like this one. Stepan has often wondered if it is a Russian stoicism, or if all people would behave so.

Stepan turns back to the girl, he bites back a startled exclamation. She is livid with rage, her eyes bore into his with an unconcealed malevolence. She sits at the kitchen table her fingers interlaced, one hand gripping the other so hard the knuckles are going white. Stepan feels empty he sits slowly down on the Chair opposite the girl. He should bury his head in shame but somehow he meets her eyes.
They are beautiful eyes he thinks, dark, almost as dark as Svetlana's. But filled with such hate, Stepan is sure he has never felt anything with the intensity with which this girl hates him.
His eyes were still held by hers when the sound of a single rifle shot ripped through the room. The girl jumped, her eyes involuntarily snapped to the direction of the sound.

When her eyes returned to Stepan's they were spilling with grief. For an instant she shared her agony, but her hate flared up anew, she spat her words at him, 'You monster.'
Stepan held the word up and examined it, as a connoisseur might hold a glass of wine before the light, 'Monster? Monster? I don't know. Immoral weakling probably, coward yes definitely. But I am no monster.'
'You bastard you killed him.'
'I have no power in this. I am ordered to execute all traitors who have deserted their posts. I may have killed myself by sparing you this long.'


Joanna St. James said...

I am intrigued by the names - how did you come up with the names Ebi and Ksenia?

Talei said...

Wow! I enjoyed this chapter, a gut wrenching decision in an awful situation. War can turn the brightest soul dark, but I sense Stepan is one of the good guys? I will have to go back and read your other chapters.

Thank you for popping over to my blog too, and for the follow. Lovely to meet you and good luck with your WIP and writing on the train. I hope its a long train ride.

Old Kitty said...

Wow!!!!! Wow again!!! Oh this is GOOD!!!! Wow!! I was rivetted - I couldn't stop reading - you build up the tension, you make me like this Stepan man and I grieved for the shot prisoner and felt Ksenia's rage. What a story!!! My goodness. This is powerful emotive stuff.

Wow. Where on god's green earth are you taking these characters!??!?! Well done you!

Take care

Rayna M. Iyer said...

I have to tell you that I am reading Veiled in Shadows right now, and have to take it slow because it is so emotionally draining. Thank you for a great read.

Al said...

Hi Joanna,
I posted about where I get names a while ago. Mostly I get them from places like international baby name sites. But I also do other research on what where popular names at the time. Ebi is an abbreviation of the name Ebert which is used as both a first name and family name in Germany. Ksenia, is one of perhaps the most common 15 or 20 Russian women’s names both now and in the 1940s.

Hi Talei,
Pleased you enjoyed it! I think you have hit it on the head Stepan is an average guy who is being dragged down by the circumstances he is in. As to whether he is one of the good guys… well I am going to be mean and not answer that question now.
Thank you!

Hi Jennifer,
What can I say? I am pleased as punch that you enjoyed it.
It is hard work to make you like someone as they are following inhuman instructions.
I guess they are travelling through one of the worst ordeals in history those few years in the middle of the 20th Century.

Hi Rayna,
I hope that you are not finding it too much of an ordeal. I hope you find something that counteracts that stress. Thank you for reading my work!

N. R. Williams said...

I was drawn in, that is saying a lot Al. I read many chapters from new authors and have learned to look for mistakes immediately. Great job. The few a found will no doubt hit the dirt on revision.
N. R. Williams, fantasy author

Al said...

Thank you N.R!
As I said this is very much a first draft, composed on the train over the past couple of days.