Friday, February 16, 2007

New Beginning 217

I hate cannonballs.

Muskets, I can handle. Bayonets, I can counter. But those damn, shrapnel-filled cannonballs scare the holy hell out of me.

I've seen whickering strips of metal tear a man's legs out from under him, rip out his intestines, peel his face down to the bone. I hate cannonballs.

They put nails in them. Nails and barbed wire and even forks when they run out of other sharp things. Who thinks of such tortures? What kind of mind comes up with something so insanely, effectively cruel?

Whoever he was, they probably made him a general.

I wish we were fighting foreigners. I don't have any kin up north, but it just doesn't seem right to slaughter people from my own . . . well, my own country, sort of. I don't guess I've killed anyone I know yet, but it's only a matter of time.

Especially now that we've got the bomb.

It's so much tidier than cannonballs. Somebody gives a command, a plane takes off, flies over enemy territory, releases a few hundred napalm bombs, and that's that. Everything burned to ash. None of that evil-smelling, up-close-and-personal, internal-organs-lying-everywhere kind of death.

Ain't modern warfare grand?

Opening: Gutterball.....Continuation: Anonymous


writtenwyrdd said...

This reads well enough, and I'd have kept going for a bit. One thing that I didn't care for was the way the piece talked only about the cannon balls. A bit too much about the damage to flesh for me, as I found myself actually thinking "Yeah? So what?" after you started your riff on what a "whickering strip of metal" could do.

The scene isn't set, exactly, but I am fairly sure we were talking Civil War era. I would recommend that you tuck in a bit of Civil War era references besides just the cannon balls, add a tiny bit of scene setting to assure the readers of where they are supposed to be. Not much, but a reference to Rebs or the North or something would do it.

The use of the word "whickering" bothered me, because the sound isn't the friendly, pleasant horsey noise you are trying to describe. Perhaps you could use a different sound word like "whine" or "snarl"?

shaded-lily said...

Good opening. The graphic description effectively conveys the horror of the battlefield. I'd keep reading.

I assumed from the "I don't have any kin up north..." line that the narrator is a Confederate soldier.

My only problem was where the voice of the narrator seems to switch from a plain, somewhat colloquial style, to a more writerly style, e.g., "What kind of mind comes up with something so insanely, effectively cruel?"

Bernita said...

I think this is good writing.
"Whickering" also gave me pause.
I suppose you wanted to avoid the usual "shrieking" type of description, but I don't think "whickering" provides an adequate alternative.
My only problem is that I have no sense of where the story might go beyond this.
So, he hates cannonballs and killing.

Robin S. said...

I think this reads very well. I'd read more.

"I've seen whickering strips of metal tear a man's legs out from under him, rip out his intestines, peel his face down to the bone. I hate cannonballs"--

I like the repetition of the sentence "I hate cannonballs".

When I write, I like to read what I wrote out loud when I think I'm finished, so I can hear the rhythm of the words. This "reads out loud" really well.

My only question has to do with a few of the phrases used - I have no idea if they were used in the 1860s. "Muskets, I can handle" sounded more modern era to me.

Anonymous said...

Earlier, I wrote an on-line contract to read anything gutterballian. So, I find my self reading romance and cannonball fiction. Couldn't it be bowling balls?

Curse the online contracts!

However, I must say this, Gutterball is NEVER boring.

Okay, back to my nutshell.

kiss-me-at-the-gate said...

If there's one thing I absolutely won't read no matter what, it's a novel featuring a soldier in the Civil War (or WWII)... but I'd read this. The voice didn't feel quite right for the time period, but I actually think it works to good effect here. They would have had different colloquialisms, of course, but this way we get the feeling of what he would have been thinking. I think using modern language can work in historicals as long as you're consistent.

Did I mention I loved the voice?

E.S. Tesla said...

Like it, but I'm not your target.

Won't touch anything civil warish, or historicals for that matter. or platoon stories.

Only thing that would worry me was the voice. I like it, but would your target reader buy it? Dunno. Seems pretty darn modern to me..

GutterBall said...

However, I must say this, Gutterball is NEVER boring.

Thanks, Nut. Um...I think.

If anyone's interested, the rest of this story was actually posted by a friend of mine a while back. It's old, but I always did like this opening.

Try here. And if that HTML didn't work, you can copy and paste this one:

I very much appreciate the comments on this one. I never really knew what to think of it myself, and some of the wording is definitely too modern for a historical. I dunno. It's probably not going anywhere, but I did feel the need to try it out before trying to find it a home.

Brenda said...

I had the same issues with the voice. I like the voice, a lot, but it doesn't fit the time frame. However, if your target audience is the teen crowd, I think this would work. You're giving a fresh spin to the Civil War in a way kids today can relate to it. If that's the goal, you did an excellent job of it.

McKoala said...

I agree that the tone seemed modern for the topic; also on the whickering. Nicely written, though, easy to read.

Wonderwood said...

Personally, I like the word "whickering". It sounds like a jagged piece of metal flying through the air, sort of like the sound a helicopter's blades make, and it has a country kind of flavor. I say keep it.

Robin S. said...

I also liked the word "whickering" - couldn't explain just why- until I read wonderwood's post and read "It sounds like a jagged piece of metal flying through the air" --

That's why I like it.

shaded-lily said...

Allow me to weigh in on the side that likes "whickering."

GutterBall said...

I picked "whickering" because it's almost onomatopoeia, as Wonderwood and Robin S. say. I don't remember when I first heard/read it used thus, but it always stuck with me as exactly what Wonderwood said -- metal flying through air. I rarely use it as a horse sound. Dunno why.

writtenwyrdd said...

The definition of whicker is "neigh or whinny" though. Most readers are probably going to pause and try to apply horse noises to flying metal and it won't work for them.

Or maybe it's just me.

shaded-lily said...

What do you call that sound a flying boomerang makes in a cartoon? Anybody?

Anonymous said...

What do you call that sound a flying boomerang makes in a cartoon?

Are you looking for whurrwhurrwhurrwhurr or fffpfffpfffp?

I've heard it both ways. ;)

shaded-lily said...

I've always heard it as whurrwhurrwhurrwhurr, but I don't watch a lot of cartoons. So is that called "whickering" or what?

shaded-lily said...

To continue my monologue on the topic of "whickering": I have found that word used in literature in a non-equine context. From Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons:

"The only sound (and it, with the accompanying smell, was quite enough) was the whickering hissing of the gas flares which lit the hall and cast sharp shadows from their noses across the faces of the Brethren."