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Before I actually start, I ask that you actually read through this whole thing and give me feedback. This is about a novel I'm going to try to legitimately publish.
Back in late 2008, I wrote a short story entitled "Judgement Day". It scored a 6 in all sections of the Engligh grading rhetoric (that's extremely good in case you don't know).
Judgement Day (about 11 pages long then) was about Private Charles Bailey, a freshman at Yale who was drafted during World War II in time to land on Omaha Beach. Early on in the story, Charlie's best friend, Private Tommy Peterson, had an artillery shell land close to him. Charlie, who thrown by the explosion without any wounds, did not see Tommy or where he went, so Charlie started to freak out in searching for him because he was nearly completely sure that Tommy would have a nervous breakdown if Charlie wasn't there to help him.
His platoon leader, Lieutenant Walker (yes, I named him after Chuck Walker), saw that Charlie was losing perception of the danger he was in, ran to him, screamed at him to get it together, and ran up the beach.
Throughout the rest of the short story, Charlie made his way up the beach, shot at some Germans once he was on top off the beach, and ended the story with something like "Walker saved my life. If I had kept looking for Tommy, I probably would have ended up dead. But because it was his fault I stopped looking for Tommy, I never found him. I will never forgive him.", unaware that Tommy had actually been killed.
Other characters in the story included Sergeant Campbell, Corporal Kramer, First Sergeant MacCaffie, Private Frank Thompson, Private Louis, Captain Johnson and Private First Class Scott O'Biren.
I just liked the characters too much to have it end there, so I decided to have it continue with Charlie throughout what he went through during the rest of the war.
The first thing that came into my mind as wanting to happen was for Walker to break the news to Bailey that Tommy had actually been killed on the beach, since Charlie was so distraught by it in the original story. I ended up working it out that on June 8th, during a combat patrol that turned into a skirmish between Charlie's platoon and Germans in the hedgerow-infested area, Bailey and Walker were alone at one point where Charlie pulled out a gun on him and demanded answers as to what really happened. After Walker repeatedly pleaded that he had seen Tommy "get his limb blown off", Charlie screams an obscenity that I'd prefer not to restate here and shoots him in the arm after missing his heart.
And that is how far I am right now.
With the "false purpose" in the novel done, I'm at ends with where I want to take it. I have two choices, both well thought out in how they would run their course:
- Charlie fights in other battles, such as Saint-Lô, possibly Chambois, Market Garden, Battle of the Bulge, and other German skirmishes in 1945
- Charlie ends up being SWA (severely wounded in action) in late June and that month in particular is focused on much more.
After I decided to turn the story into a novel I started thinking about all the situations he would get into, and I pretty much wrote out all the basics of what would happen up to 1946 when he would be discharged.
After thinking about everything I planned out, one thing struck me: "Okay, I have a series of events planned out, but what's the point to it all?" I'll be honest: war stories about boys being thrust into combat is not anything original; it's a cliché. A big one, might I say. But after reading about the My Lai Massacre, I had another idea: Lieutenant Cooper (he's another character who doesn't appear important early on) rounds up a small team in the middle of the night one night around June 12th, goes to a manor in nearly the middle of nowhere where he knows some French farmers have been housing wounded German soldiers, and ends up ordering the farmers and all the Germans inside to be shot.
This is really what sets the stage for the rest of the novel. Charlie, Frank Thompson (mentioned above; Charlie's squadmate), Cooper and four others participated in an illegal killing of a whole French family, which would become a capital punishment if anyone found out. Charlie and Frank have to figure out who else was part of that team while there's still a war going on and it turns into a pychological thriller.
For this reason, having it take place only during the month of June would make more sense if they take the whole novel to unravel the mystery of what really happened that night. If by 1945 they still hadn't figured out who took part, don't you think that would mean it wasn't a big priority for them? Since we're talking about the murder of a French family and possible execution for them, it's a big deal, so if their mystery solving efforts unraveled most of it within the rest of the month that would seem much more realistic.
Any questions, comments or input is greatly appreciated!
Again, this is a legitimate book we're talking about. Sorry for taking so long to explain things, but I'd want the plot as well-pressed as possible.