I am planning to write a book. It would be really really good if this book stood a chance at being published. My friends and family tell me I'm a good writer, but they are supposed to say things like that, so I want some unbiased opinions (Ts, I'm looking at you ). The only bit of writing I could find to get opinions on was a piece I did for a history project on WW1 when I was about 13, so hopefully I'm about 3 years better at writing now . Basically, I would be really grateful if you could tell me whether or not trying to write something that could be classed as vaguely enjoyable to read would be a waste of time for me. So, here's the writing, it's a supposed to be continuing on from the book 'Private Peaceful':
A Wall of Pictures
Boom boom, bang bang bang. Boom boom, bang bang bang. That's all it is, day in, day out. Boom boom, bang bang, crash. I sit in the trench, just staring at the wall. It's an interesting bit of wall. There are cracks and holes and little pieces falling out all the time. I know in most situations this would not be considered interesting, but this is not most situations. It's war. There's the bombardment going on above me, but I don't want to watch that. I want to watch the wall. If I turn my head slightly to one side, the holes and cracks look a bit like a face, it's a face I used to know that's now fading in my memory. That face refused a hood. That face is underground now, looking out over a water meadow down to where a brook runs softly under the trees. Bang, boom, another lump falls out of the wall and the face is gone, replaced by a disturbed family of rats squeaking their annoyance. There goes my bit of wall, but I mourn the face the most.
I'm starting to wonder, which will kill me first? The Germans or the trench collapsing? I guess I would like to be seen as a hero fighting bravely in my last moments, but will anyone see me? Will anyone care? Will anyone take the trouble to tell someone else I was brave? No, I think I’d much rather die sitting here, with my sudden lack of wall, quieting humming a tune. Maybe oranges and lemons.
I know I should try to stay positive, but there's not much to be positive about. Mud is my world right now. I sit in mud, I lie in mud, I stare at mud, I sleep in mud, I try to ignore the mud, and I devote all my concentration to the mud, mud, mud, and mud. The word mud plays over and over again in my head, punctuated by the constant booms and bangs. Mud mud mud boom mud bang mud mud bang mud mud mud crash. The music of the Somme. Another beat joins it; this time it is the sound of footsteps. I don’t bother to look up. "Are you alright down there?" asks a voice from above me. That voice still has a glimmer of hope resting in its friendly tones. It reminds me of the face that used to be in my wall. I don’t reply. "Say something, please, and watch out for those rats." I see a foot kick a rat off my shoe, but I still keep my eyes on my wall. "Well, what’s your name then?" asks the hopeful and persistent voice. "Tommo" I murmur.
"Ah, so you do speak then!" he chuckles. "Tommo, Tommo, I think I've heard that somewhere before…" there is an awkward silence because I have a nasty guess about what's coming and he's noticed that I'm not willing to say who I am. "You’re that Charlie Peaceful’s brother, aren’t you?" he asks, I sigh and nod. "Do you have anything left from him?" he says, and I realise that nearly everything he's said to me has been a question. I suppose I might as well answer him. "Some letters," I gesture towards my bag, as I always keep the letters close to me, "A watch," I pat my pocket "And a face in the wall." I mumble, and hope that he didn't hear the last part.
"A what?" he asks in a confused voice, but still that voice has a glimmer of hope. "A nothing." I reply, he'll think I’m crazy if I repeat what I said. I decide to change the subject. "So now you know all about me, but I don’t even know your name."
"My name's Poulter." He answers.
"Where are you from?"
"Cambridge." In that last word there was no hope. There was no friendliness. It was cold and filled with a quiet despair that only the other men fighting with their teeth clenched and pictures of home scribbled on their hearts could understand. I look up then, because I suddenly realise that I understand that quiet despair. I do have something to live for, and to fight for. I have home. Before talking to Poulter I was wondering if I had a home, because home is where the heart is but my heart has turned to stone. Something, somewhere deep inside me stirred while he was talking, and I remember what emotion feels like.
I get up, my feet are unsteady but my revived heart is strong. I turn and face Poulter and for the first time I look at him properly. He is quite tall, his uniform is muddy, like his smiling face, and he has a little gleam in his mud brown eyes. "Well now, look at this!" he says, a big grin on his face "Talking and standing up!" he seems to have forgotten about how much he misses home. I won't remind him.
"Ah! Harry!" shouts Poulter suddenly, as he starts walking towards a little pipsqueak, about my age, who looks like he is trying desperately to not get noticed. "Come meet Tommo!" he grabs my arm and drags me with him. I shake hands with Harry as he tries to make himself as small as possible, to stop anyone else noticing him. Poulter turns and looks at me. "Don’t look so gloomy! It's not all that bad!" I didn't realise I wasn't smiling. I tried to grin, but my mouth was sorely out of practice. Harry gives me a look that tells me that he understands, and that he knows about Charlie, but he's not going to say anything. A lot can be said in a look. I smile, not just because I want to appear cheerful, but also because I really mean it.
We spend the afternoon getting ready for the big push tomorrow. Everyone is scared, maybe even Poulter, but he keeps us all smiling with little jokes and keeps telling us that everything will be ok. Harry seems to have disappeared somewhere, or maybe I'm just not seeing him. I think he's lucky. His little talent of staying out the way and out of sight means that the Huns will probably not target him. I'm not so lucky. The sun sets and all our lights go out. The darkness is deafening.
By some miracle I manage to fall asleep. In my world of dreams I'm running from an unseen monster through dark woods. With every one of my hastened footsteps trees around me fall, until suddenly I'm out in no-mans-land with barbed wire around my legs. Then I see Charlie running towards me. He sets me free from the wire and I keep on running as fast as I can. I look behind me and I see the monster, a giant shadow, suffocating Charlie like the gas we were so afraid of. In his last breath Charlie tells me to run, and I wake up screaming.
I watch the blood red clouds appear in the sky as the sun comes up. The clouds have nothing to fear, they won't be shot, so they are there in all their brilliance. Gradually the people around me open their eyes, but I'm not sure they were really asleep. Today is the day. The big push. We are told it might just be one of the greatest days in the British army's history. We are told that all the things protecting the Huns in their trenches have been blown away by the bombardment, so we can just march right up to them. I would rather been marching the other way. I wonder what it's like for the Germans, knowing that we are coming. I wonder if they are as scared as me.
Someone starts shouting "Quick! Run!" I spin around and see that it is Harry, possibly doing the bravest thing he has ever done, with Germans coming up behind him. Somehow they have got through our defences. Harry keeps shouting and shouting, but then he falls forwards, blood coming from his back. I tear my eyes away and start to run.
I see Poulter ahead of me, gun in his hand. "Go, Tommo! Go!" he shouts, desperation in his voice. I do run. I'm not brave enough to stay back and fight. I'll probably go the same way as Charlie for this. I don't care. I’m looking forward to seeing him again, not just in my dreams. Poulter is standing there, he looks like Little Les facing a group rats, with a mad and hungry look on his face. That is, until he is shot too. Charlie was the bravest person I ever knew, but Poulter was a close second. Now three good people have died for me. What makes me special enough for that?
I find myself back in Blighty, in some kind of hospital. I try to tell them how brave Poulter was, but the words can't form in my mouth. No words can. They all give me sympathetic smiles, and I hate that the most. I pick up the letters from Charlie and try to tell them that they need to be passed on, but they just take them from me with another one of those smiles and throw the letters in the bin. I start stamping my feet then; it's the only way I can think of to tell them I'm angry. They look worried then as if I will attack them and there’s no one to tell them that I wouldn't do that. I spend most of my time just staring at walls. They all think I'm mad. It doesn't make sense. Nothing makes sense anymore.