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Greenjackets (4th draft)

by Firestarter



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Sun Mar 11, 2007 10:07 pm
Firestarter says...



I agree with you. In fact, it's a terrible, terrible rip-off of Sharpe.




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Sat Mar 10, 2007 6:57 pm
Daoglas says...



It reminds me a lot of Sharpe...




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Tue Jan 16, 2007 5:28 pm
Firestarter says...



Yay thanks Snoinkus!

I deleted that bit you told me too, haha. Probably trying to force too much character development when it wasn't needed so much.




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Tue Jan 16, 2007 4:40 am
Snoink wrote a review...



I won't waste my time stating the obvious... that's you're an excellent writer with compelling fiction and the like. Instead, let's get picky.

Some of them had been left.


In the previous paragraph, it makes us wonder what exactly this "them" is. Better be specific instead.

Savage thought of their tall masts with hope tinged with a sense of disappointment. They had failed, and in that overall failure, Savage was despondent regarding his own future. He had thought the army would be an endless adventure, with victory after victory. Instead the harsh realism had hit home, and now his men plundered and looted as they worked their way back to the nearest port still in British hands. Without the opportunities in battle, Second Lieutenant Savage knew he would not be able to climb the ranks of the 95th, and his dreams of walking proudly back to his family's home in Hampshire in a senior officer's uniform were all but spent. He had always wanted to see the faces of his brothers as their old laughter was forgotten, their jeers about the experimental rifles forgotten, their smirks wiped away, as he rode home in glory.

Those dreams had been broken. Like the army, Savage left them reluctantly by the wayside.


If this part were deleted, not only would I be giddy with joy, but I also think your story would improve. I like the character interaction better than this monologue. And dude... there's action after this! Let's get to it!

Savage checked over his men to see who was missing. His heart sank. There was one missing.


Too many missings.

There was a sharp crack, and the General died.


Might be better as two fragments.

"There was a sharp crack. The General died."

Something like that...

On the whole, not too shabby! I hope it gets published somewhere big. :D




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Tue Jan 16, 2007 12:07 am
Firestarter says...



Thanks Wiggy! :)

Posted up the fourth draft now. I've sorted out description, trirted to develop Savage a bit more, sorted out dialogue, worked on a few awkward sentences, and hopefully ironed out most of the original problems.




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Mon Jan 15, 2007 6:12 am
Wiggy wrote a review...



Jacko, I read this a couple of days ago, and I don't have any time for a full-blown crit, but I couldn't help congratulating you on what a wonderful job you did on this story. Your prose is so clear, and you have fantastic story lines. Keep writing like this, and no magazine will be able to turn you down! :) Good luck, and since there was a bunch of crits already, I don't want to repeat what any one else has said. Amazing job.




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Sun Jan 14, 2007 10:55 pm
Firestarter says...



Thanks Adam. Didn't pick up on the tag thing -- usually I use "said" a lot myself, but I must have slipped out of the habit here. Well spotted.

Glad you liked it.




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Sun Jan 14, 2007 4:48 pm
Swires wrote a review...



If I was too write a critique I would be just reitterating Sams and CL's points in different words.

In terms of story:

1) Your style is dandy, I like it and its easy enough to read.

2) I read through your battle scene and didnt get bored like I usually do in battle scene, I thought that part was really well written.

One thing I did pick up on was the excessive use of tags.

"replied" was a common one. im a strong believer in "said" there is no need to complicate things with tags that cumber the story.

Apart from that this was a good read.




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Sun Jan 14, 2007 4:38 pm
Firestarter says...



Thanks Sam and, err ... Sam XD. Very helpful.

Some things to respond to:

You seem to have a 'if x is drunk, x is an Irishman' thing going on. This is all fine and dandy, but Plunkett needs a little more deepening in order to not fall into the category of cultural clichè. What does he have besides his good aim and his drawl that makes him unique? He kills off most of the French, so he's obviously a pretty important character.


Oo-er, I see your point, but I was working off historical sources here. Plunkett was well-known as a drunk, supposedly, so it wasn't an Irishman=Drunk thing, but I can see how it might look like that. Besides, not to emphasise the stereotype, but in the British Army at the time, where around a third could be Irish, a lot of them did get drunk very often. It's where the stereotype originated from, actually. So ... there's my qualififed support for the character. I do agree he needs fleshing out more and so I will work on that.

Otherwise, thanks, Sam-whose-username-is-Sam, I agree with what you said about suspense and appearence. Will try and work that into my next draft.

Sam-whose-username-is-not-Sam (Crysi, for the uninformed):

Okay, good. I like the reality of it, how the men are drunk and not really concerned about the French. What I don't really like is the Lieutenant's age. Now, I'm not a history expert, and I'm sure you would know if it was possible to reach that rank that young... He just seems a little too mature to me. Now, there's one spot later on (I'll point it out) where you seem to redeem that... But for the most part, he seems quite a bit older. Maybe it's just war... I don't know. 17? It doesn't sit right with me.


Okay, a quickfire explanation. He's actually a Second Lieutenant (did I not mention that? Perhaps I should make it more explicit, anyway) which was the 95th Rifles term for what the rest of the army called an Ensign. Now, I don't know how familiar you are with the military, but these days everone is called a Second Lieutenant, when the Ensign term became obsolete. But, basically, it's the lowest officer rank. Men were know to join as officers as young as 16, so Savage being 17 was not uncommon at all; in fact, most were promoted by the time they were around 18/19 to First Lieutenants, so it's the only real rank he can have, so to say. Sorry if that wasn't obvious!

Both you and other Sam had a problem with that blocky, boring paragraph (which I agree with the hatredness) so I will definitely make that a focus for change in the next draft of this.

Wow. Nice. If you hadn't given the note at the end about the shot being real, I wouldn't have believed it. I would have lectured you (most likely unnecessarily) on how inaccurate the rifles were, and how unlikely it would be for him to make the shot, even if he was an expert at aiming. Just because you aimed in a certain direction didn't necessarily mean you'd shoot in that direction.


Well, here's where I'm going to disagree (lol). While the shot was extraordinary, there are other circumstances of riflemen shooting just as well throughout the war. Baker rifles, were, in fact, quite accurate, since they had two sights to line up, and the whole idea of "rifling" is to make the ball spin more and thus fire in the right direction better. Muskets in that time were horrible inaccurate, which is why they used the word "Present!" instead of "Aim!" because the general idea of the musket was to fire it into a body of men and hit something. Baker rifles, on the other hand, were used by individuals for skirmishing and sniping enemy officers. So ... they were quite accurate. They just took a long time to load compared to muskets, but Plunkett is well-trained with his and doesn't use the greased paper (like he should).

Another problem I had: the General was killed, and suddenly the French were confused? Okay, so maybe this happened - I've already stated I'm not an expert on historical battles - but the way I understand it, war is generally a confusing place and the death of a general isn't always noticed by everyone. It's not like ants, where the queen controls the colony absolutely. The soldiers follow orders and fight, and while they might be stunned for a brief moment by the death of their leader, I believe they'd continue fighting, simply to save their lives.


Indeed, that might've happened, but historical sources suggest (I say suggest, because most of it is hear'say) that when the General was killed, it halted the French advance. At this point, the cavalry was no longer engaged, and the General was reforming his lines to attack again. This isn't implied very well in the narrative, so maybe I should. The historian Oman says that the General was worried about the artillery placed on the ridge (as mentioned in the story) and so stopped to reform his wild cavalry charge. At this point, he was some way ahead of the troops, getting ready to sound the attack. This is the point Plunkett killed him. The French were probably stunned by his death (because of the distance of the British forces, and the fact the Rifles were fleeing) and so were momentarily checked by it. I'm not trying to say the French suddenly ran away, but as I see it, the French were looking at the General for orders, and then he died in front of them.

Hope that helps. I'll try and clarify that paragraph to make it more obvious, yeah?

[quoteNow, this makes it sound more like what I said - that the French were only momentarily stunned. Maybe it was just the way you wrote it above that made it sound like they lost their minds for five minutes. [/quote]

Oops, missed this before I started rambling on, lol. Good (I think).

*grins* I love how, at the end of all this, Savage takes back the punishment. It seems so trivial after a battle like that, you know? But again, this makes him sound more mature than I think he should. He reminds me more of "Lucky" Jack in Master and Commander. Who, by the way, isn't 17.


Indeed. You actually hit something that was irritating me. I was trying to make Savage sound not confident, but I think it was the Sharpe-reader in me that kept making him assured and better than he should be. I want to keep that scene at the end in though, where he takes back the punishment, because I like it. But I will try and reinforce that Savage doesn't really know what he's doing more into the story.

Sorry I got so hung up on the age - it just seemed a little off in places. Overall, I'm really impressed with this. I'm always impressed with your work, Jack, and how you manage to write battle scenes and make it sound realistic. You got into your character's head a little less this time, and maybe that's why I didn't feel a real connection with Savage, but maybe we're not supposed to? I don't know.

I really have mixed feelings about this. It's a good piece, very well-written, but maybe it just isn't as powerful as some of your other work? I'm not sure. I really do like it. I'll have to think about it a little more, though. I don't think it impacted me the way, say, Port did.


Yeah, the character is so developed yet. I worked less on the character and more on the authenticity and the description of the event rather than the characters, which I shouldn't have done, so in my next draft I'll definitely work on improving Savage and Plunkett.

Thanks a lot for that, Sam-who-is-Crysi, that really helped.

I've been lucky in critiques! Got lots of work to be doing now.




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Sun Jan 14, 2007 5:35 am
Crysi wrote a review...



Greenjackets

“Dieu ne pas pour le gros battalions, mais pour sequi teront le meilleur.”
– Voltaire

(God is not on the side of the big battalions, but of the best shots.)


I like the title. At first, it was sort of bland, but after reading the piece I realized it holds a sense of pride. Very cool. I also like the French, mainly because it's French, but also because it's terribly ironic. It's in French, and the French fell victim to that best shot... Very clever. ;)

Northern Spain, 1809

Lieutenant Savage was aware of two things as he stumbled on the icy road.

One, the men were drunk.

Two, the French were coming.


I like this beginning. It gives a bit of humor with a bit of urgency.

Surprisingly, Savage regarded the first with more concern. The French had been chasing at their heels for days, and although he was not keen to meet the fierce blades of the famed French cavalry, the Lieutenant still feared the intoxication of his men more. It was not their fault, he thought. The forced marching with heavy packs in the freezing Spanish winter, with the French shadow perpetually over their shoulder, picking and skirmishing at their rearguard, was enough to drive a man insane. Or at least to alcohol.

And it had. Yesterday they had ignored orders and broke free of their customary restraints, smashing and looting the local wine stores. Half of them, blindingly drunk by evening, had later collapsed by the sides of roads or on walls of taverns. Savage remembered Captain Prior harrying him to round up the men, but a seventeen-year-old Second Lieutenant, fresh out of England, could do little to halt the inebriated vivacity of the men. Cold weather, heavy packs, and the French had all forced them to seek an escape, and the escape had come in the form of the bottle.


Okay, good. I like the reality of it, how the men are drunk and not really concerned about the French. What I don't really like is the Lieutenant's age. Now, I'm not a history expert, and I'm sure you would know if it was possible to reach that rank that young... He just seems a little too mature to me. Now, there's one spot later on (I'll point it out) where you seem to redeem that... But for the most part, he seems quite a bit older. Maybe it's just war... I don't know. 17? It doesn't sit right with me.

Some of them had been left.

Savage felt sorry for them; left in a wet alley in Northern Spain, witless and forgotten. But it had been necessary. It was impossible to collect them up, and it was suicide to wait. The ignominious others that had managed to catch up with the retreating column of British soldiers were condemned to punishment. Just this morning the divisional commander, Sir Edward Paget, had ordered the flogging of two Riflemen for intoxication.

The Lieutenant managed to regain his balance on the slippery floor, and with one arm holding on to his bicorne he walked toward the square littered with unconscious redcoats and greenjackets. Broken bottles and abandoned possessions were covered with fallen snow. It painted a forlorn scene of despair.


Good job balancing background with current action.

There were some that were awake.

Savage sighed in relief at this. Captain Prior had ordered him to collect up the men to watch the punishment. It had fallen on Savage to find his half-platoon.

Most of them were awake, he realised. Sergeant Campbell, the Methodist who was always watching, who never touched a drop of alcohol, had congregated the motley bunch of Riflemen into a half-respectable group. They had been hidden as Savage entered the square. Now he had seen them he turned and walked toward the stiff figure of Campbell, who saluted smartly.


I like the little magnifying glass look at a few of the soldiers. They're no longer just a blurry blob of fighters - now there are specifics.

“Are they ready, Sergeant?” Savage asked. He knew it was grim, a few of them were not in possession of their rifles anymore, and at least half were swaying as they stood. Savage did a quick headcount and knew that at least four of them were missing.

Campbell hesitated. “Aye, almost there, sir.”

Savage frowned. “Almost there, Sergeant?”

“Aye, sir. Just need a little a cleaning up and there’ll be right as rain in a few minutes, sir.”


Hah. Nice dialogue here.

But the Lieutenant wasn’t satisfied. “Where’s Plunkett? And the others?” Savage had easily noticed the missing of the tall Irishman. Tom Plunkett was known as one of the best shots in the Regiment, but infamous for his liking of drink. Savage knew he was one of the usual troublemakers.


Even a closer look at another soldier. Very good. Plus, he's Irish, which always earns bonus points with me. ;)

“Here, sir,” mumbled a voice behind the Lieutenant, and Savage spun quickly, locating Plunkett. He was sitting up against the wall, surrounded by the shattered remains of empty bottles and dark liquid that formed pools in the grooves of the cobbles. His shako was almost falling off his head and his dark green jacket was hopelessly dishevelled: open and marked by numerous new stains.

Savage hesitated. He knew he should command the man to be on his feet, and make an example of him. He knew he must look strong and confident in front of the eyes of his men, but in truth he did not know how to act or what to say.

Sergeant Campbell saved him the trouble. In his loud Scottish brogue he boomed, “On your feet, Private!”

Plunkett muttered something in response, but it was barely audible. The rifleman flailed at the wall, scratching with his arms, hoping to use it to help himself up. But it was in vain, and his hands uselessly fell back down to his side. Next he tried to stand up without help, but this was similarly disastrous, his shako sliding into the mix of glass and alcohol on the stone cobbles, and he fell back as he stood. Luckily, he leant on the wall at his back and managed to just about stand, using the butt of his rifle to steady himself. He swayed as some of the others did. His right arm came up, slowly, and he formed a half-decent salute. “Reporting.” Plunkett paused, his face convoluting with strenuous thought. “Reporting for duty, sir.”


I loved this whole section. It's like a scene within a scene. It's not the main conflict, but it's just one of the many complications Savage is facing. Besides, it does add a bit of comic relief.

Savage thought he still should condemn the man, but Campbell was quicker.

“Fall in, Plunkett,” he said, quieter this time, but still forcefully. Plunkett staggered his way to the end of the line, and then buttoned up his green jacket.

Lieutenant Savage saw his opportunity in the forgotten shako carelessly deserted on the ground. “Forgotten something, Private?” he asked, stooping to grasp the black hat, and then shoving it in front of Plunkett’s glazed eyes. “This tends to stay on your head, Plunkett. You’re a disgrace.”

“Yes, sir,” Plunkett drawled in return, in his heavy Irish accent.

“A damned disgrace,” Savage said, eyeing the drunken Irishman with distaste. He knew the man was popular in the Company, one of the best-liked, but he was also a constant troublemaker and alcoholic. In battle he could shave the moustache off a French Colonel from two hundred yards away, but out of battle he was just a headache. “Sergeant Campbell, this man is on a charge.” Savage would have liked to give him more, report him to the Captain for drunken behaviour, but that would have just meant another Rifleman flogged, and the Lieutenant knew the arduous retreat was enough to break their spirits already, without adding the whip to their mutinous feelings. He thrust the shako into Plunkett’s stomach and the man accepted it.

“Thank you, sir.”


Okay, this was one of my favorite portrayals of Savage. Here we see how eager the Lieutenant is to exercise his powers and prove to the others he's fit for the rank. It's the kind of thing a 17-year-old would do - he sort of overreacts and jumps at the chance, yet he also sort of panics when the spotlight should be on him. It's the perfect balance, and I'd like to see more hints of that throughout the text if you keep him 17.

“Sergeant, search this square and pick up any man in a greenjacket that can walk,” Savage said breathlessly.


Does "breathlessly" really work here? I mean, I don't see any reason why he should be breathless.

As they made ready to march out of the square, two more riflemen with unsteady heads added to their ragbag bunch. The clip-clap of horse’s hooves on cobbles reached Savage’s ears. Captain Prior rode into the square. His horse was large and black, and matched by the dark green of his uniform with its silver lace and black collar, he looked the very embodiment of a fighting soldier. A glimmering sabre hung menacingly at his side. He reined in the beast as he saw Lieutenant Savage.


Okay, blatant descriptions here. ;) Luckily, they're very good descriptions, and I don't think readers will be TOO put-off by it... It's quite an impressive image, anyway.

“Will! I was looking for you, old boy. Wondering where you got yourself to,” Captain Prior said.

“Why, is something to happen?” Savage asked. “What about the punishments?”

“By God, haven’t you heard? We’re to help Paget to form the rearguard. It’s the French, Will! They’re attacking. Group of light cavalry over the hill, don’t you know!” Prior was imbued with a sense of kinetic energy; he beamed at Savage from his saddle, his excitement evident. “Paget cancelled the punishments.”


Haha. Prior sounds so hyper! It's really amusing.

Savage was struck silent for a few moments, before recovering himself. The first concern he was originally aware had faded into the back of his mind, and the sharp sabres of French cavalry, in their elaborate uniforms, flashed back to the forefront of his thoughts. “The French?” he stammered. “Hell. Rifles!” he called, “Follow the Captain!”


Very nice. Another little show of his youth, although it's not as apparent this time.

Prior grinned and trotted ahead of the Rifles, who jogged double-time out of the square, after the two officers. The small outcrop of buildings was surrounded by wintry ragged countryside – rocky hills a fierce river that penetrated through, across the battered tracks that the last of the British retreat used to ferry troops further toward Corunna, and the waiting ships to take them home. A single bridge breached the cold rushing water, and beyond, the trail opened out, where the last remnants of the British forces remained, deployed to observe and stop the French advance. Most of the division, mainly straggling infantry coupled with a few artillery, waited before the bridge in a defensive position at the top of the ridge. They hid behind low stonewalls that bordered the edge of the vineyard. It was a strong defensive position. Prior trotted ahead, down the trail that led to the bridge. Savage, distracted by the deployed redcoats, hurried to catch up, followed by Campbell and Plunkett and the other rifles.


Okay, to be honest, I couldn't read through this entire paragraph. I sort of scanned through it, finding the positions of the soldiers, but the scenery completely passed me by. I would suggest breaking this into two paragraphs to make it less... bland. You can have one paragraph that's mainly scenery, with a little positioning, and the second paragraph could contain mainly the positioning of the soldiers and a little more scenery. Just a suggestion.

They crossed the bridge. It was a simple stone structure, and if the British army wasn’t under such constant pressure to keep moving, the Engineers might have been able to destroy it to protect their retreat. It was only this morning that the British had arrived near Cacabelos, however, not nearly enough time to find an Engineer and proceed with the destruction. The French were too close.

“Why are we going across, sir?” Savage asked, momentarily confused by the Captain’s decision to cross the river when most of the British troops hadn’t.

“Us rifles are to observe the advance, along with the 15th Hussars,” Prior shouted back.


Okay, so now we're getting into the transition to the main battle. The last line by Prior seemed a little odd, and for a moment I had to wonder if "Us" was really "U.S." lol. Maybe it's more Brit slang? :P

Savage nodded. Then he looked past the Captain, and saw death.


YES. This is one of my favorite lines in the whole piece. As cliche as it possibly is, it becomes even better with the next line - you explain that he really is seeing death. The men are dying. Excellent.

The Hussars were no longer observing, they were dying. In the distance, Savage could see the dark blue of the British Hussars mixed with the dark green of the French Chasseurs, who had charged unexpectedly into the British cavalry. It had caused a rout. All Savage could see was a bloody medley of horses and men, some crumpled on ground. All he heard was screams, the odd discharge of a pistol or carbine and the clatter of sabre upon sabre.

“Good God,” Prior whispered.


Good transition from "hyper Prior" to "dampened-hopes Prior." I think he voices what they're all thinking.

The Hussars had been caught by the sudden French assault and were running away. The constant thuds of hunted and hunting cavalry galloping toward them made bother the officers freeze in sudden fear.

Sergeant Campbell appeared next to Savage. “We should move, sir, those Crapauds will be on us in a minute,” he said.


And now we're really into the action. I'm liking it.

It brought Savage back his senses.

“Retreat,” Prior murmured. “Get back over the bridge!” he shouted as he galloped away on his black horse, leaving Savage and his riflemen temporarily naked in the open ground, with the impending charge of two lots of horsemen coming toward them.


Okay, what I didn't understand was why Savage was brought back to his senses, yet it was Prior who spoke next. I had to read it a few times, because I expected Savage to be the one speaking. That's usually what one does when one is brought back to one's senses, I think.

Savage didn’t even have to order them. Campbell led the retreat, the Riflemen gladly jogging back across the bridge toward the waiting lines of British troops and the artillery. Other Rifles from other companies joined them; some, Savage realised, hadn’t crossed yet, and others were the ones who were helping protect the Hussars. They fired a volley towards the Chasseurs, but it was at extreme range and few men fell. Now they had retreated back toward the bridge, and Savage breathed relief as his own boots clattered against the stone structure and he made it back to the safer side.


Maybe this is a little hint again to Savage's age - he lets everyone else take over, and rarely gives orders himself. Maybe I missed all that in the first read-through... It still isn't as apparent, though.

It was just in time.

The fleeing Hussars rushed past, most not bothering to use the bridge and simply traversing the water, the smashing legs and hooves throwing water here and there. They interspersed with the retreating Riflemen, some who waded the cold stream and others who had made it across but were hit by the speed of the horses and knocked over. It was chaos. Savage was pulled to one side by the strong arm of Sergeant Campbell as one Hussar bolted past. Some shots were fired loosely.

He was running now, along with the rest of his beleaguered squad, toward the safety of the vineyard’s walls and the waiting muskets of the other battalions. He turned his head for the swiftest moment to watch in horror as some of the unfortunate Rifles were caught by the advancing French, who were even closer than he expected, right on the literal heels of the British retreat. The Chasseurs sliced left and right, bringing down greenjacketed men around the bridge. At the front was a tall man on a handsome grey horse, who brought down a Hussar officer expertly with his sabre.

Savage knew he was lucky. They had ran just in time, and now it seemed the French wouldn’t carry on their advance for fear of the guns up above them on the slope. They would cause terrible damage to the horses, and for a moment, a brief, lucky moment, the French didn’t pursue.


Good show of action. It's a lot, but because it's action, it works.

“Sergeant, get the men up that slope,” Savage said, knowing he was simply stating the obvious.

“Aye, sir,” came the indomitable voice of Campbell, who grabbed the collar of one Rifle who was stumbling up the incline of the ridge.

Savage checked over his men to see who was missing. His heart sank. There was one missing. Plunkett, by the looks of it. His head flicked round and he sighed in relief, seeing the Rifleman behind him.


Plunkett always just kinda "pops up out of nowhere," doesn't he?

“Hurry up, Plunkett!” Savage called.

“Coming, sir,” the Irishman replied, but he turned, scanning the French cavalry. Savage followed his eyes and saw the tall man on the grey horse, with the uniform and dressage of a General. He was someway ahead of his men, his sabre still in his hand. Savage was about to shout at the Rifleman, but he bit back his words as he watched what the Irishman did.

Plunkett lay down, but then sat up, balancing his rifle on his feet to steady and aim it, one of the many drilled in firing positions for a solitary Rifleman. The distance was extreme, even for the more accurate rifle. Savage watched as the Rifleman slid the butt under his shoulder.

There was a sharp crack, and the General died.


Wow. Nice. If you hadn't given the note at the end about the shot being real, I wouldn't have believed it. I would have lectured you (most likely unnecessarily) on how inaccurate the rifles were, and how unlikely it would be for him to make the shot, even if he was an expert at aiming. Just because you aimed in a certain direction didn't necessarily mean you'd shoot in that direction.

The bullet must have caught him on the head, for he toppled from the horse dramatically as he flew backwards, and there was no movement afterwards. It was an extraordinary shot, a wonderful shot, and for a moment Savage was filled with such a respect for Plunkett’s marksmanship that he forgot what danger they were under, this far ahead of the British defence.

But it didn’t matter. The French, stunned by the death of their General, had lost all cohesion and some of the Chasseurs and the Dragoons dropped back beyond the stream. There was such a confusion that all thought of a French advance was forgotten.


Another problem I had: the General was killed, and suddenly the French were confused? Okay, so maybe this happened - I've already stated I'm not an expert on historical battles - but the way I understand it, war is generally a confusing place and the death of a general isn't always noticed by everyone. It's not like ants, where the queen controls the colony absolutely. The soldiers follow orders and fight, and while they might be stunned for a brief moment by the death of their leader, I believe they'd continue fighting, simply to save their lives.

Plunkett wasn’t finished though. A man had run out to the General, stooped down and paused by his lifeless body. The Irishman had already quickly bit his cartridge and poured gunpowder into the pan, closing the frizzen, and had proceeded to spit the ball down the barrel. He did it without grease powder, which protected the rifle and made it more accurate, but slowed down the reloading process, and then rammed the ball down, before slipping the rifle expertly back into position and cocking it.

There was a sharp crack, and the second man died.

His body fell next to the General’s.

The Rifles cheered. They had just witnessed some of the finest shooting any of them had ever seen, and it had checked the French advance just enough for the greenjackets to escape to the ridge. They did so eagerly, clapping Plunkett on the back as he caught up. As they passed by the waiting redcoats, who had the yellow facings of the 28th, Savage went over to the Plunkett.


Now, this makes it sound more like what I said - that the French were only momentarily stunned. Maybe it was just the way you wrote it above that made it sound like they lost their minds for five minutes.

“That was fine shooting, Private,” Savage said in awe.

The Irishman grinned. “Why, thank you, sir.”

“Damn fine shooting,” Savage repeated. “Sergeant Campbell?”

“Aye, sir?” Campbell replied.

“This man is no longer on a charge,” Savage said. He reached into his jacket pocket, into a jangling moneybag, and brought out a silver shilling. He flicked it toward Plunkett and the Irishman caught it with a bigger grin. “Well done, Plunkett.”

“My pleasure, sir,” Plunkett replied. Somehow the effects of the drink had dissipated. Savage wondered what the thrill of battle did to the man, who could be murdered by drink off it, but an expert murderer on it.


*grins* I love how, at the end of all this, Savage takes back the punishment. It seems so trivial after a battle like that, you know? But again, this makes him sound more mature than I think he should. He reminds me more of "Lucky" Jack in Master and Commander. Who, by the way, isn't 17. :P

The artillery was firing, which meant the French were advancing.

Savage no longer cared; the sharp blades of the French no longer frightened him. He had seen them humbled by one of his own, one of his greenjackets.


Hmm... seems to have a little bit of premature courage, but then, feelings of invincibility are common among teenagers. Otherwise, it's an inspiring ending, again reminding me of Master and Commander - the battle isn't over, but the British hold the advantage. Very cool.

Sorry I got so hung up on the age - it just seemed a little off in places. Overall, I'm really impressed with this. I'm always impressed with your work, Jack, and how you manage to write battle scenes and make it sound realistic. You got into your character's head a little less this time, and maybe that's why I didn't feel a real connection with Savage, but maybe we're not supposed to? I don't know.

I really have mixed feelings about this. It's a good piece, very well-written, but maybe it just isn't as powerful as some of your other work? I'm not sure. I really do like it. I'll have to think about it a little more, though. I don't think it impacted me the way, say, Port did.




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Sat Jan 13, 2007 8:43 pm
Sam wrote a review...



I've heard through a lot of posts that you think your writing is boring- with lots of description, and very little action. I read this with absolutely no tolerance at all for boring and...I found pretty much nothing, and what I did find I'll pick on shortly. :wink: Your syntax is much improved, I've gotta say. It's not quite as heavy, and the lengths of the sentences are varied for emphasis (in all the right places! *squees with CL*).

FUN WITH GENERALIZATIONS: We talked in math the other day about universal quantifiers. Sounds complicated, but it pretty much means "for all x". You can then go on to say, " if x fulfills a condition, then it is a [blank]." So, there is a dog walking down the street- if you fit it into that formula, it would say "If x walks across your yard, it is a dog." [This is false- what about people and chipmunks?]

You seem to have a 'if x is drunk, x is an Irishman' thing going on. This is all fine and dandy, but Plunkett needs a little more deepening in order to not fall into the category of cultural clichè. What does he have besides his good aim and his drawl that makes him unique? He kills off most of the French, so he's obviously a pretty important character.

I'd most recommend doing something about appearance- it's not something you do a whole lot of, and it'd give a little more balance to Plunkett's character (and the piece in general).

I WAS WALKING DOWN THE STREET WITH AFOREMENTIONED DOG AND-

Prior grinned and trotted ahead of the Rifles, who jogged double-time out of the square, after the two officers. The small outcrop of buildings was surrounded by wintry ragged countryside – rocky hills a fierce river that penetrated through, across the battered tracks that the last of the British retreat used to ferry troops further toward Corunna, and the waiting ships to take them home. A single bridge breached the cold rushing water, and beyond, the trail opened out, where the last remnants of the British forces remained, deployed to observe and stop the French advance. Most of the division, mainly straggling infantry coupled with a few artillery, waited before the bridge in a defensive position at the top of the ridge. They hid behind low stonewalls that bordered the edge of the vineyard. It was a strong defensive position. Prior trotted ahead, down the trail that led to the bridge. Savage, distracted by the deployed redcoats, hurried to catch up, followed by Campbell and Plunkett and the other rifles.


This is a boring paragraph. It's good, yes, but it's something that you put maybe on a journey to somewhere pleasant, not LEADING YOUR MEN INTO A BLOODY TRAP OF ATTACKING FRENCH.

...do I make my point? Hmm, yes, I think I do.

The word of the day for you should be 'suspense'. It's something that's quite hard to do, but when done correctly it's superb.

1) Note small details. Your little quips- the short sentences spaced in between paragraphs- were hilarious. Use that sort of style, and mix them in with the things about the landscape.

2) Foreshadowing is key. Those small details could be about telltale signs of trouble- a bloodstained rock, for example.

3) Avoid describing the people in this segment. It's hard to do a good description of human trepidation, and it's much better when the suspense is vague. Think 'lurking'.

This was a very good piece overall, though- I loved the beginning. That's an interesting bit of solider life that's not often explored. Sure, they drink, but why?

There was also the very strong feeling of being 'there'- the style was very easy and nice, and gave a feeling of involvement with everyone. Your commentary on things was very quirky and funny, something that a lot of historical writers think they can't do for fear of giving up authenticity.

This is about as authentic as you can get, my friend. :wink:




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Sat Jan 13, 2007 1:37 pm
Firestarter says...



What a critique, Cal. I probably now half owe you my soul or something. Utterly great. :) I'll get editing this some time soon, because pretty much everything you brought up needs looking at.

EDIT: Just put up a quick revised version, ironing out all the things you noticed. I'll go over it myself some time this weekend.




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Sat Jan 13, 2007 5:28 am
Caligula's Launderette wrote a review...



Cause I can't pass up your historical fiction...

Greenjackets [Sharpe! Yay, squee moment.]

“Dieu ne pas pour le gros battalions, mais pour sequi teront le meilleur.”
– Voltaire

(God is not on the side of the big battalions, but of the best shots.)

[Yay, more squee, quotage!]

Northern Spain, 1809

Lieutenant Savage was aware of two things as he stumbled on the icy road.

One, the men were drunk.

Two, the French were coming.

[I am not sure I like how the first three sentences are structured. At first, I was thinking you should compound them, but now I am not so sure.]

Surprisingly, Savage regarded the first with more concern. [Why is this surprising?] The French had been chasing at their heels for days, and although he was not keen to meet the fierce cavalry blades of the famed Hussars, the Lieutenant still feared the intoxication of his men more. [So about the French Hussars, you mention them her but later on you talk about English Hussars and French Chasseurs, I think it might be confusing for someone not particularly versed.] It was not their fault, he thought. The forced marching with heavy packs in the freezing Spanish winter, with the French shadow perpetually over their shoulder, picking and skirmishing at their rearguard. [I would recast the previous sentence, the elongated fragment makes it weird to read, and very abrupt.] It was enough to drive a man insane, or at least to alcohol.

And it had. Yesterday they had ignored orders and broke free of their customary restraints, smashing and looting the local wine stores. Half of them were blindingly [Don't particularly like blindingly.] drunk by the evening, later collapsed by the sides of roads or walls of taverns. [Recast: Half of them, blindingly drunk by evening, had later collapsed by the sides of roads or on walls of taverns.] Savage remembered Captain Prior harrying him to round up the men, but a seventeen-year-old Second Lieutenant, fresh out of England, could do little to halt the inebriated vivacity of the men. [*snicker snicker*] Cold weather, heavy packs [comma here] and the French had all forced them to seek an escape, and the escape had come in the form of the bottle. So they had drunk it. [I would strike this last sentence or rephrase the sentiments.]

Some of them had been left. [Ooops.]

Savage felt sorry for them; left in a wet alley in Northern Spain, witless and forgotten. But it had been necessary. It was impossible to collect them up, and it was suicide to wait. The ignominious others that had managed to catch up with the retreating column of British soldiers were condemned to punishment. Just this morning the divisional commander, Sir Edward Paget, had ordered the flogging of two Riflemen for being drunk. [Hmm, perhaps: ordered the flogging of two Riflemen for intoxication.]

The Lieutenant managed to regain his balance on the slippery floor, [and] with one arm holding on to his bicorne and [strike this and and replace with he] walk[ed] toward the square littered with unconscious redcoats and greenjackets, [replace comma with full-stop] [B]roken bottles and abandoned possessions [were] covered with fallen snow. It painted a forlorn scene of despair. Savage managed to dodge vomit on the cobbled stones as he entered past brick walls. [weird image]

There were some awake.

Savage sighed in relief [at this]. Captain Prior had ordered him to collect up the men to watch as the punishment, as it was customary for the whole battalion to watch. [Fragment.] It had fallen on Savage to find his half-platoon.

Most of them were awake, he realised. Sergeant Campbell, the Calvinist who was always watching, and [strike and] wouldn’t touch [hmm, perhaps: who never touched] a drop of alcohol, had congregated the motley bunch of Riflemen into a half-respectable group, which had been hidden as Savage entered the square. [Either strike the last phrase, after group, or recast that as a new sentence.] Now he had seen them he turned and walked toward the stiff figure of Campbell, who saluted smartly.

“Are they ready, Sergeant?” Savage asked, but knew they weren’t: a few of them didn’t even have possession of their rifles anymore, and at least half were swaying as they stood. [Yick, recast: Savage asked. He knew it was grim, a few of them were not in possession of their rifles anymore, and at least half were swaying as they stood.] Savage did a quick headcount and thought [He thought? He doesn't know?] at least four of them were missing.

Campbell paused. To say no would be to admit he had no idea where the lost ones were, and to say yes would be to lie. [Erm, superfluous sentence.] “Aye, almost there, sir.”

Savage frowned. “Almost there, Sergeant?”

“Aye, sir. Just need a little a cleaning up and there’ll be right as rain in a few minutes, sir.”

But the Lieutenant wasn’t satisfied. “Where’s Plunkett? And the others?” Savage had easily spotted the missing figure [That is weird wording, can one easily spot something that is not there? Perhaps: had easily noticed the missing figure] of tall Irishman, [full-stop instead of comma] Tom Plunkett, [was] known as one of the best shots in the Regiment, but also [strike also] infamous for his liking of drink. Savage knew he was one of the usual suspects. [I don't quite get why this last sentence is here. Usual suspect of drink, debauchery, what?]

“Here, sir,” mumbled a voice behind the Lieutenant, and Savage spun quickly, locating Plunkett, who was sitting up against the wall, surrounded by the shattered remains of empty bottles and dark liquid that formed pools in the grooves of the cobbles. [Holy cow, that is a long sentence, try to break it up if that is possible.] His shako was almost falling off his head and his dark green jacket was hopelessly dishevelled: open and marked by numerous new stains.

Savage hesitated. He knew he should command the men [man?] to be on his feet, make an example of him, look strong and confident in front of the watchful eyes of his men, but in truth he didn’t know how to act or what to say. [Also, another elongated sentence with many fragments. Perhaps: He knew he should command the man to be on his feet, and make an example of him. He knew he must look strong and confident in front of the watchful -(wait, are not most of them drunk? Drunk and watchful, that's an interesting way of things)- eyes of his men, but in truth he did not know how to act or what to say.]

Sergeant Campbell saved him the trouble. His loud Scottish voice boomed out. [Weird, perhaps: In his loud Scottish voice (brogue) he boomed,] “On your feet, Private!”

Plunkett muttered something in response, but it was under his breath and [strike: under his breath and] barely audible. The rifleman flailed at the wall, scratching with his arms, hoping to use it to help himself up. But it was in vain, and his hands uselessly fell back down to his side. Instead [maybe, next instead of instead?] he tried to stand up without help, but this was similarly disastrous, his shako sliding into the mix of glass and alcohol on the stone cobbles, and he fell back as he stood. Luckily, he leant on the wall at his back and managed to just about stand, using the butt of his rifle to steady himself. He swayed as some of the others did. His right arm came up, slowly, and he formed a half-decent salute. “Reporting.” Plunkett paused, his face convoluting with strenuous thought. “Reporting for duty, sir.”

Savage thought he still should condemn the man, but Campbell was quicker.

“Fall in, Plunkett,” he said, quieter this time, but still forcefully. Plunkett staggered his way to the end of the line, then buttoned up his green jacket.

Lieutenant Savage saw his opportunity in the forgotten Shako, [Does there need to be a comma here, just wondering.] carelessly deserted on the ground. “Forgotten something, Private?” he asked, stooping to grasp the black hat, and then showing it to Plunkett’s glazed eyes. [I don't think the 'showing' is the right action here, it's a little passive, methinks.] “This tends to stay on your head, Plunkett. You’re a disgrace.”

“Yes, sir,” Plunkett drawled in return, in his heavy Irish accent.

“A damned disgrace,” Savage said, eyeing the drunken Irishman with distaste. He knew the man was popular in the Company, one of the best-liked figures [figures is superfluous], but he was also a constant troublemaker and alcoholic. In battle he could shave the moustache off a French Colonel from two hundred yards away with his Baker Rifle it he would like to, [I am not sure you need: with his Baker Rifle it he would like to] but out of battle he was just a headache. “Sergeant Campbell, this man is on a charge.” Savage would have liked to give him more, report him to the Captain for drunken behaviour, but that would have just meant another Rifleman flogged, and the Lieutenant knew the arduous retreat was enough to break their spirits already, without adding the whip to their mutinous feelings. He thrust the shako into Plunkett’s stomach and the man accepted it.

“Thank you, sir.”

“Sergeant, search this square and pick up any man in a greenjacket that can walk,” Savage said breathlessly.

As they made ready to march out of the square, two more rifleman with unsteady heads added to their ragbag bunch, the clip-clap of horse’s hooves on cobbles reached Savage’s ears, and it was followed by the tall, smart figure of Captain Prior riding. [Another elongated sentence.] His horse was large and black, and matched by the dark green of his uniform with its silver lace and black collar, he looked the very embodiment of a fighting soldier. A glimmering sabre hung menacingly at his side. He reined in the beast as he saw Lieutenant Savage, ahead of the group that lagged behind. [This last phrase: ahead of the... is superfluous.]

“Will! I was looking for you, old boy. Wondering where you got yourself to,” Captain Prior said.

“Why, is something to happen?” Savage asked. “What about the punishments?”

“By God, haven’t you heard? We’re to help Paget to form the rearguard. It’s the French, Will! They’re attacking. Group of light cavalry over the hill, don’t you know.” Prior was imbued with a sense of kinetic energy; he beamed at Savage from his saddle, his excitement evident. “Paget cancelled the punishments.”

Savage was struck silent for a few moments, before recovering himself. The first concern he was originally aware had faded into the back of his mind, and the sharp sabres of French cavalry, in their elaborate uniforms, flashed back to the forefront of his thoughts. “The French?” he stammered. “Hell. Rifles!” he called, “Follow the Captain!”

Prior grinned and trotted ahead of the Rifles, who jogged double-time out of the square, after the two officers. The small outcrop of buildings was surrounded by wintry ragged countryside – rocky hills a fierce river that penetrated through, across the battered tracks that the last of the British retreat used to ferry troops further toward Corunna, and the waiting ships to take them home. A single bridge breached the cold rushing water, and beyond, the trail opened out, where the last remnants of the British forces remained, deployed to observe and stop the French advance. Most of the division, mainly straggling infantry coupled with a few artillery, waited before the bridge in a defensive position at the top of the ridge. They hid behind low stonewalls that bordered the edge of the vineyard. It was a strong defensive position. Prior trotted ahead, down the trail that led to the bridge. Savage, distracted by the deployed redcoats, hurried to catch up, followed by Campbell and Plunkett and the other rifles.

They crossed the bridge. It was a simple stone structure, and if the British army wasn’t under such constant pressure to keep moving, the Engineers might have been able to destroy it to protect their retreat. It was only this morning that the British had arrived near Cacabelos, however, not nearly enough time to find an Engineer and proceed with the destruction. The French were too close.

“Why are we going across, sir?” Savage asked, momentarily confused by the Captain’s decision to cross the river when most of the British troops hadn’t.

“Us rifles are to observe the advance, along with the 15th Hussars,” Prior shouted back.

Savage nodded. Then he looked past the Captain, and saw death.

The Hussars were no longer observing, they were dying. In the distance, Savage could see the dark blue of the British Hussars mixed with the dark green of the French Chasseurs, who had charged unexpectedly into the British cavalry. It had caused a rout. All Savage could see was a bloody medley of horses and men, some crumpled on the floor [Floor, don't you mean ground?], and the clatter of sabre upon sabre. There were screams too, and the odd discharge of a pistol or carbine.

“Good God,” Prior whispered, Savage beside him. [I don't think the last – Savage beside him – is needed.]

The Hussars had been caught by the sudden French assault and were running away. The constant thuds of hunted and hunting cavalry galloping toward them made bother the officers freeze in sudden fear.

Sergeant Campbell appeared next to Savage. “We should move, sir, those Crapauds will be on us in a minute,” he said. [*snicker snicker*]

It brought Savage back his senses.

“Retreat,” Prior murmured. “Get back over the bridge!” he shouted as he galloped away on his black horse, leaving Savage and his riflemen temporarily naked in the open ground, with the impending charge of two lots of horsemen coming toward them.

Savage didn’t even have to order them. Campbell led the retreat, the Riflemen gladly jogging back across the bridge toward the waiting lines of British troops and the artillery. Other Rifles from other companies joined them; some, Savage realised, hadn’t crossed yet, and others were the ones who were helping protect the Hussars. They fired a volley towards the Chasseurs, but it was at extreme range and few men fell. Now they had retreated back toward the bridge, and Savage breathed relief as his own boots clattered against the stone structure and he made it back to the safer side.

It was just in time.

The fleeing Hussars rushed past, most not bothering to use the bridge and simply traversing the water, the smashing legs and hooves throwing water here and there. They interspersed with the retreating Riflemen, some who waded the cold stream and others who had made it across but were hit by the speed of the horses and knocked over. It was chaos. Savage was pulled to one side by the strong arm of Sergeant Campbell as one Hussar bolted past. Some shots were fired loosely.

He was running now, along with the rest of his beleaguered squad, toward the safety of the vineyard’s walls and the waiting muskets of the other battalions. He turned his head for the swiftest moment to watch in horror as some of the unfortunate Rifles were caught by the advancing French, who were even closer than he expected, right on the literal heels of the British retreat. The Chasseurs sliced left and right, bringing down greenjacketed men around the bridge. At the front was a tall man on a handsome grey horse, who brought down a Hussar officer expertly with his sabre.

Savage knew he was lucky. They had ran just in time, and now it seemed the French wouldn’t carry on their advance for fear of the guns up above them on the slope. They would cause terrible damage to the horses, and for a moment, a brief, lucky moment, the French didn’t pursue.

“Sergeant, get the men up that slope,” Savage said, knowing he was simply stating the obvious.

“Aye, sir,” came the indomitable voice of Campbell, who grabbed the collar of one Rifle who was stumbling up the incline of the ridge.

Savage checked over his men to see who was missing. His heart sank. There was one missing. Plunkett, by the looks of it. His head flicked round and he sighed in relief, seeing the Rifleman behind him.

“Hurry up, Plunkett!” Savage called.

“Coming, sir,” the Irishman replied, but he turned, scanning the French cavalry. Savage followed his eyes and saw the tall man on the grey horse, with the uniform and dressage of a General. He was someway ahead of his men, his sabre still in his hand. Savage was about to shout at the Rifleman, but he bit back his words as he watched what the Irishman did.

Plunkett lay down, but then sat up, balancing his rifle on his feet to steady and aim it, one of the many drilled in firing positions for a solitary Rifleman. The distance was extreme, even for the more accurate rifle. Savage watched as the Rifleman slid the butt under his shoulder.

There was a sharp crack, and the General died.

The bullet must have caught him on the head, for he toppled from the horse dramatically, [as he was] flung backwards, and there was no movement. It was an extraordinary shot, a wonderful shot, and for a moment Savage was filled with such a respect for Plunkett’s marksmanship that he forgot what danger they were under, this far ahead of the British defence.

But it didn’t matter. The French, stunned by the death of their General, had lost all cohesion and some of the Chasseurs and the Dragoons dropped back beyond the stream. There was such a confusion that all thought of a French advance was forgotten.

Plunkett wasn’t finished though. A man had ran out to the General, stooped down and paused by his lifeless body. The Irishman had already quickly bit his cartridge and poured into the pan, closing the frizzen, and had proceeded to spit the ball down the barrel. He did it without grease powder, which protected the rifle and made it more accurate, but slowed down the reloading process, and then rammed it down, before slipping it expertly back into position and cocking it.

There was a sharp crack, and the second man died.

His body fell next to the General’s.

The Rifles cheered. They had just witnessed some of the finest shooting any of them had ever seen, and it had checked the French advance just enough for the greenjackets to escape to the ridge. They did so eagerly, clapping Plunkett on the back as he caught up. As they passed by the waiting redcoats, who had the yellow facings of the 28th, Savage went over to the Plunkett.

“That was fine shooting, Private,” Savage said in awe.

The Irishman grinned. “Why, thank you, sir.”

“Damn fine shooting,” Savage repeated. “Sergeant Campbell?”

“Aye, sir?” Campbell replied.

“This man is no longer on a charge,” Savage said. He reached into his jacket pocket, into a jangling moneybag, and brought out a silver shilling. He flicked it toward Plunkett and the Irishman caught it with a bigger grin. “Well done, Plunkett.”

“My pleasure, sir,” Plunkett replied. Somehow the effects of the drink had dissipated. Savage wondered what the thrill of battle did to the man, who could be murdered by drink off it, but an expert murderer on it.

The artillery was firing, which meant the French were advancing.

Savage no longer cared; the sharp blades of the French no longer frightened him. He had seen them humbled by one of his own, one of his greenjackets.

1. You have some really heavy, elongated sentences that needs some clarity.

2.I really liked the way you portrayed the relationships between Savage and the other men under him. Nicely done!

3.My favorite part was when Savage was chastising Plunkett, it made me laugh.

4. Oh, anything that makes me think of Sharpe's deserves my adoring attention.

5.I really liked your ending, you closed it up nicely.

6.There is probably something else I could say, but nothing comes to mind that I haven't already touched on.

Hope this helps,
Cal.





This planet has - or rather had - a problem, which was this: most of the people living on it were unhappy for pretty much all of the time. Many solutions were suggested for this problem, but most of these were largely concerned with the movement of small green pieces of paper, which was odd because on the whole it wasn't the small green pieces of paper that were unhappy.
— Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy