SiC-Disaster

A writing project of mine (preliminary title: Echoes of the Great War)

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Hi all.

 

I recently decided, after the inspiration hit me, to try and write a novel while I'm traveling. It is my hope that at some point, when it is finished and it is any good, I could sell it as an ebook or something.

The novel takes place just after the first World War has ended and focuses on a soldier by the name of Peter who has returned home after four years of fighting in the most brutal conflict in the history of mankind. Naturally he has been traumatized and scarred by the war, and in an effort to deal with his experiences at the front and to give some insight to those closest to him that were not there (mainly his wife) he starts to write. Kind of like Erich Maria Remarque did when he wrote All Quiet On The Western Front, which is naturally a big influence on my project and a book I dearly love.

 

As you might expect the book deals with some very dark subject matter, specifically PTSD, and I would like to make an accurate portrayal of it. However I (thankfully) have never suffered from PTSD, nor do I know anyone who has or is close to somebody that is struggling with PTSD. I know there are quite a few people on here with military backgrounds who might have personally experienced or are still struggling with the effects of PTSD, or know people in their vicinity, and to those people I would like to put the question: what are some of the things that I absolutely shouldn't get wrong?

I naturally intend to do research into it and not just go for stereotypes, but medical articles etc. are not going to give me the entire story. I have read first-hand accounts of soldiers in WW1 however and I want to try and incorporate as much of the information I can gather. I hope that with the book I can bring back attention to WW1 and the effects war and traumatic experiences in general can have on a person.

 

Next off I would also like to set up a test-reading group. A few people who are preferably native English speakers and have an excellent grasp of the English written language who can provide feedback on my style of writing, use of words etc. If anybody has an interest in this please let me know.

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Where are you traveling right now? Seek out veteran groups there and ask them. Even if a novel, getting a story out about it with truthful facts could quite possibly shine some light on it.

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DetCord   

I've been diagnosed PTSD. Though mine is relegated to the occasional bad dream, and that's about it. Doctors have been quick to point out that having the MAOA code in my genes is a likely reason behind this. I've always been in my element as it were when deployed and engaged in combat. It's odd, but it is a comfort zone for me. That said, I have some very close friends that are deeply troubled and emotionally wrecked by some of the things they've witnessed and experienced.

 

This isn't something that can be summed up in a few paragraphs, and getting total strangers to open up to another total stranger that's attempting to sell a book isn't likely. You might be better off contacting a mental healthcare professional who deals with this very specific type of mental trauma.

 

http://www.bullyonline.org/stress/ww1.htm

 

http://www.ptsd.va.g...asics/index.asp

 

http://opensiuc.lib....0&context=gs_rp

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Colin   

Its a good plan, one that is also a very serious problem around the world affecting millions of people both military and civilian.

 

I would guess the best way to find out about this condition is to talk to people that have it. although you need to decide at what level you character has it, and back then the diagnosis of such things was very poor indeed.

 

I would get to know maybe someone who was there.

 

 

I would like to help with the transcripts stages too, I like to read.

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Where are you traveling right now? Seek out veteran groups there and ask them. Even if a novel, getting a story out about it with truthful facts could quite possibly shine some light on it.

 

I'm traveling in New Zealand, and am currently in the Bay of Plenty area, in a city called Napier. Gonna be doing some apple picking here soon to re-earn some of my lost funds.

The problem with finding veterans for WW1 is that there aren't any left alive, the last one died a while back. So every information has to come from old accounts and diaries and history books. I have recently decided that in the table of contents there will be put a sign if the book has additional background information about the things that happen in that chapter, and that additional information can then be found in the back of the book with an overview of what happened. For example, the second chapter deals with the First Battle of the Marne, and I could provide some statistics and describe the significance of this battle in the rear of the book so that it is informative and might provide people with bigger insights.

 

@Det, Yeah, you are right. I didn't expect major revelations to come through this medium, rather I was looking/hoping for something like "when movies/books etc. portray PTSD I hate it when they show it like this, or that" so that I won't have the same pitfall. I don't want to give the wrong impressions or write anything that is not correct.

 

Thanks Colin, I'll send you what I have by PM later on smile.png

The main character will have quite a heavy form of PTSD, since he has spent the entire four years of the war fighting at the front and will gradually get worse as the war progresses and becomes ever more desperate and cruel. He won't be diagnosed by anybody I think, but there will be something about another character who was put in the 'loony bin', which often happened to traumatized veterans: they were thought of to be simply insane, or were arrested as criminals when they struck out, etc. but help was mostly given only to those with physical problems in relation to their traumatization, ie spasms in the face, arms, legs etc. which were thought to be the result of being close to the shock of explosions which upset their nerves and led to the spasms. On closer inspection often they could not find any physical causes for the problem, and those were diagnosed as having mental problems. But many others were never diagnosed because not everybody had these spasms, and they were left to deal with it on their own.

 

I have done some writing and so far came up with a prologue, a short first chapter that might be expanded upon later, and a growing second chapter which will also have to undergo some changes to add more specifics like a more correct description of the battlefield (this part is the one about the First Battle of the Marne, before trench warfare had begun). I'll post the prologue below. I'm curious what you guys think. I have had some positive feedback from people I know and also from an indie writer that I corresponded with after reading his book, but I would appreciate any and all honest feedback from you guys too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

“And even if these scenes from our youth were given back to us we would hardly know what to do.

The tender, secret influence that passed from them into us could not rise again. We might be amongst them and move in them;

we might remember and love them and be stirred by the sight of them. But it would be like gazing at the photograph of a dead comrade;

those are his features, it is his face, and the days we spent together take on a mournful life in the memory; but the man himself it is not.”

- Erich Maria Remarque, All Quiet On The Western Front

 

 

 

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

 

 

PROLOGUE

 

 

 

Peter awoke with a scream that rang out loudly through the little farmhouse.

Immediately his arms started groping around him in a panic, as if searching for something. In a few moments he regained consciousness. He sat up and dropped his legs down next to the bed and rested his head in his hands. His wife sat up behind him and tried to comfort him as he softly wept in the darkness of their bedroom. She knew what he had been looking for. He had been looking for his rifle.

 

These nightmares occurred regularly, almost nightly in fact. Peter often woke up screaming. Sometimes he would look for his rifle or some other piece of gear that he might have needed at the front. Sometimes he looked at his wife, Brunhilde, with wild open eyes, as if he looked at a ghost from the past. One time he was so shocked by the thing he imagined her to be that he fell out of the bed in a mad scramble to get away from her. It took minutes before his vision faded and he realized he was back home with his wife, in his own bed.

Brunhilde could hardly remember the last time she had seen his smile. He had smiled shortly after he finally returned from the war, but that smile soon vanished too as he had broken down and cried, years of stress finally lifting from his shoulders a little bit. He had become a reclusive, silent man. She did not recognize him anymore. There was a time where he had been a young man, quick to smile and laugh, a hint of mischief in his eyes. He had been a tease, but also kind.

She had fallen in love with that man, and the happiest moment of her life was the day they married. Peter had been 23 years old then, and she had been 21. They had known a year of bliss, until the war broke out and Peter volunteered for the army. An old man had returned, though he was just 28 when the war finally ended. He was 29 now.

He hardly laughed or smiled, and any hint of mischief was seemingly burned out of him. To look at him from a distance would show a young man, but to look in his eyes was to see a man many times his age. They were often red from sleep deprivation, and deep lines of sorrow had been etched around them. He looked like a haunted man, and he was.

Often she despaired of the emotional gap between them. It didn't used to be there before the war, back when they shared everything together. But now she could feel him drifting away from her. He suffered from nightmares almost every day, but worse than that was the silence after, when she would try to get him to open up to her. He would just sit there and cry softly, but he would never speak about what happened in his nightmares. She would often try to talk about it the next day, but he shut her out. Sometimes she would come home and she would find him standing somewhere, seemingly in the middle of something, staring off in the distance. She knew the war had scarred him. She tried to be understanding, but as time passed it became harder and harder to accept this strange unknown man. Despite herself she started to grow frustrated with him.

 

The next morning Peter Hoffmann sat outside in the garden of the local pub located on the edge of the village, which overlooked the farm-fields. To his side sat his friend Karl Waldbrenner, who sat there slowly smoking his pipe.

It was a pleasant spring morning in 1919. The birds were singing their songs from the trees and clouds slowly drifted across the sky.

Karl looked at his friend with concern. Peter was a blond man with a clean-shaven face, unkempt hair and eyes the color of the North Sea, now 29 years old, though he looked much older. He had big rings under his eyes and a tired look on his face. Without a doubt he had had another sleepless night. Both of them regularly suffered from nightmares about the war. Karl was the same age as Peter, though he too felt his age belied his experience. He brought up his pipe to a face that was scarred on the lower side of his left cheek thanks to a hand grenade that had exploded some distance away but had peppered him with shrapnel. The shrapnel had cut into his face and had to be removed by a surgeon. It was nothing as bad as he had seen other men survive, but he hid his disfigurement beneath a short trimmed beard, above which blue eyes looked out into the world with a bitter look. People walked passed on their daily business, looking at the two men who were already sipping a beer this early in the morning. Karl and Peter did not care. They had earned this, and cared little for the opinions of others. It was just over half a year since the war had ended, but both men were still fighting the war every night in their dreams. And so early in the morning they would come here to the edge of town, and sit in the garden of the pub and watch the farm-fields, enjoying the peace and quiet they had been denied for so long. For four years they had hardly ever been able to escape the front for long enough to not hear the shells fall, with the exception of the extremely rare leave for home which never lasted long enough, but still managed to fill them with fear for the lives of their fellow soldiers. Who knew what happened to their friends while they were away? And so they had never managed to relax in those years. Even now finding true peace of heart was seemingly impossible. The quiet helped, but their hearts were still too troubled by their experiences. Thoughts and emotions long suppressed broke the surface constantly, and their minds were almost constantly in turmoil.

 

"I had another nightmare last night." said Peter. "I was back at the moment when we heard rumors about the armistice for the first time. I was feeling that hope flare up again. And then the artillery barrage began, and I saw the French charging over. I woke up right after one of them tried to hit me with his spade, but he was shot in the head instead and he died on top of me."

Karl nodded, remembering that day vividly. "I have never known as much despair as at the time after those rumors surfaced for the first time." he said. "The time before, when we were without hope, that came easy. We had accepted the reality of our existence, that we wouldn't survive the war. And then we heard of peace, and everything changed. I have never known such fear, that I might die just before the end."

"And now here we are. We made it, and yet I still fear every day that this is the dream. I still fear that at any moment I will wake up and we are back in the trenches again."

"I can pinch you if you like." Karl said. Peter shook his head. "No, if this truly was a dream I would want it to last forever. I would rather die in my sleep in those trenches than wake up. I never want to go back, and yet I am still there all the time, every night, in my dreams."

Peter sighed. "I feel sorry for Brunhilde. I know she does not understand, though the Lord knows she tries. But I can never tell her what I've seen, what I've done. I don't think she should ever know."

"No, my friend, that is where you are wrong. She should know. All those years all you ever wanted was to get back to her. Now you are, but there is still a distance between the two of you, and that distance is there because she doesn't know what you've been through. She doesn't understand nor could she possible know why you have changed. If you want to keep her, you need to let her in."

"I tried to tell her, but I don't know where to begin! I can't bring it into words. I don't want to go back to that time, and talking of it brings me back. All I want is to forget." Peter cried out.

"I know, my friend. So do I. But I already am alone, and I don't want you to be too. She can help you through this if you let her." Karl said softly. "What about writing your experiences down? You can take all the time you need, think about what you want to say and how best to tell her... It gives you some distance too, but you can explain everything you need or want to explain." Karl offered. Peter looked thoughtful for a moment. "I want to explain to her what we've been through, but I don't think I can be very explicit... We have seen horrible things Karl. Done horrible things. Things that are almost beyond describing. I don't want her to think me a monster."

"How can you expect her to understand without the specifics? You can describe feelings or factually describe a battle, but without knowing what caused the feelings, or what the realities of those facts actually mean... Do you really get any closer to understanding?"

Peter sighed. "I guess you are right."

 

The sound of the door opening woke Brunhilde up from her thoughts. Peter had come home from his almost daily visits to the pub with Karl. She moved to greet him, but he was already walking up the stairs. She heard him pull down the door in the ceiling and step onto the ladder that came down. He was rummaging through the attic for a while before he came back down, holding a small journal in his hands.

"Brunhilde," Peter began. "I know that I have not been forthcoming with you about my time in the war. I find it nearly impossible to talk about with others who weren't there, even to you, my love. Karl knows. Karl understands, because he was there with me. But you and I, we belong together too. I want you to understand. I know you are struggling with me, but I don't want to lose you. I love you with all my heart, you know." She did, though he didn't remind her as frequently as he once did.

"Karl suggested that I write about my experiences, and let you read whatever I write. I am afraid that it will shock you, but I need you to know and understand. This is the only way I can conceive of to make you understand. I only hope that you will not think me a monster when you are through." With that, he walked back out the door.

 

That afternoon, Peter sat down against a big oak tree overlooking the fields of his farm. With a heavy heart he opened the empty journal, and started to write.

Edited by SiC-Disaster

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