Afghanistan, British army, writing, sample, bravery of the soldier, NaNoWriMo

Writing Sample from The Bravery of the Soldier

This is a writing sample taken from my NaNoWriMo 2013 project The Bravery of the Soldier. It’s a scene from Chapter Two, entitled “The Mysterious Video”.

The scene deals with war-related violence and injuries.

I’d appreciate your feedback!

 

The story so far:

A news story broke about a cover up in Afghanistan. In 2009, a British unit was held hostage, but due to the government’s stance on negotiations with terrorists, the ransom demands were not met. Another unit, which also included a doctor, was sent in to retrieve the hostages, but they were overpowered and also taken away.

When one of the Captains was killed (for not meeting the ransom demands), the team managed to smuggle a S.O.S. note out. After this proof of life was received with vital info regarding the way they were overpowered, a tactical team is sent in. This team carries Audio/Visual equipment.

The media had got hold of a still from the AV equipment and ran the article, telling the story of a Captain who ensured that all his colleagues got out alive, but also accusing the British government of abandoning troops in need.

This scene takes place during a meeting at the Ministry of Defence, during which the Audio/Visual evidence is examined to determine the next course of action with regards to the news story.

The Bravery of the Soldier

Chapter 2: The Mysterious Video

Three days after the Captain died as an apparent suicide bomber, the Ministry of Defence orchestrated a rescue mission. One of the team members had been instructed to wear a helmet camera to gain an insight into the compound. Far off, explosions could be heard. They were deliberate missile hits just outside the far end of the complex, in order to provide a distraction so the rescue team could get in unnoticed.

They had approached via the tunnels which led straight into the complex and had quietly subdued and disposed of the sentries that guarded the tunnel entrance. The tip-off about the tunnels’ existence proved to be invaluable. As the rescue team descended into the compound, mission control was set up at the entrance, just outside the line of sight of the enemy.

Upon storming the compound, the rescue team found that the two army units had joined forces under the command of the remaining Captain, who had taken charge of the situation. Over the course of their captivity, all of them had been able to sneak weapons away and conceal them on their persons. They had quietly studied their captors’ movements, knew the guard changes, knew some of their weaknesses and knew where the ammunition was kept. They’d been playing the waiting game. They were ready.

“You here for us? About bloody time!” a hoarse voice hissed close to the camera.

The tunnel ended in a basement room of the building next to the temporary prison the soldiers had been kept in. The video showed several soldiers, who, although they looked a bit haggard, dehydrated and some of them bruised, all seemed to be in good spirits.

“Got any flash bangs by any chance? We want to get them all in the yard. Surprise them with these fresh ‘reinforcements’. They won’t know what hit them! Thirteen are in the building opposite, two guards somewhere on their rounds between us and the tunnels, five on the floor above us and two across the yard in the tower.” A young man, Lance Corporal judging by the uniform, brought the newcomers up to speed.

“We took care of the two guards. The rest is fair game as far as we’re concerned,” a member of the rescue team answered. A Lieutenant cut in.

“The doc is keeping the medical kit, anyone gets hurt, holler for the doc. He’s kept an extra kit by the door. If you brought a med-kit with you, leave it with the rest, he’ll be grateful.” The response team nodded their understanding.

They handed out all the flash bangs and extra weaponry they brought with them. The camera trained on a figure crouching by the doorway. The uniform said Captain and all eyes were trained on him. He held up his hand to signal for quiet, glanced left and right around the door again, nodded and gave the signal to attack.

And then all hell broke loose.

For a minute, the video only showed grey smoke and red sand. Voices that were distorted by white noise, were shouting, gunshots rang out. The two army snipers had spent their time watching the insurgents and knew exactly where the Taliban sniper nest was. They trained their sights on the tower that looked a lot like a minaret and squeezed off four rounds. There was no return fire from the nest. Once the smoke cleared, the insurgents stormed.

Their attack was uncoordinated at best, and they were blindly shooting into the prison building. The insurgents were caught by surprise when they encountered the extra manpower and the ground was stained with blood soon after.

The Lieutenant was the first of the British soldiers to go down. His scream pierced the air as he took a bullet to the leg. The doctor immediately turned his head around to pinpoint the source of the scream. Gripping his own gun and squeezing off two shots which killed two insurgents, he crouched down and made his way to the soldier on the ground. Completely trusting his comrades to have his back, he went to work dragging the Lieutenant towards the entrance of the tunnels and then wrapping his wounds.

Two rescue team members had been instructed to stay there, assist with field triage and get the wounded to safety. Within moments, the doctor emerged again to join the fight, but a grenade thrown by one of the insurgents on the upper floor sent the military men flying.

The medic was the first one back on his feet and once again didn’t waste time to get straight to work.

“Med-kit!! Someone get me more kit!” the doctor yelled over the gunfight. There really was a lot of blood but too many people still lay bleeding and dazed on the floor, too close together to clearly determine where one blood pool started and another stopped.

Unfazed, the doc worked tirelessly while bullets kept flying by. Pressing down on wounds and bandaging them as well as possible, dragging his colleagues to safety. More shots rang out and instead of stopping, the doc just crouched down further, kept steady pressure on the wound he was trying to staunch and shielded the soldier he was working on with his own body.

Another grenade was thrown and one of the Lance Corporals collapsed, bleeding profusely from his leg. The doc was instantly at his side. “Secure the yard! Get my men out!! Where the hell is the chopper? Please tell me there’s a medevac on its way!! We need to get everyone to the closest field hospital. NOW!!!”

“Chopper ETA five minutes, sir!”

“Corporal Adams, secure the upstairs. Make sure we got them all, no more nasty surprises!” The Corporal nodded and could be seen hurrying away.

“Someone, get one of the spare medical kits. Start applying pressure to the wounds. Mercer, Eatons, move it!!”

The screen was a flurry of activity, the tone of voice the doctor had used brook no arguments and was instantly obeyed.

The soldier with the helmet camera was kneeling in the yard, clearly helping an injured colleague. At the edges of the picture, which was focused on a rather nasty wound to the right side of a chest, the doctor could be seen dashing from casualty to casualty, quickly assessing, helping, moving on. Despite the clipped tone he’d used and the threat they were still under, the doctor examined his fellow brothers in arms with practiced calm and efficiency. While working as fast as he could, he still took time to assess each wound properly, speaking soothingly to the wounded and his steady hands ghosting over flesh and blood.

From far off, the chop of an approaching helicopter could be heard, and there was a sigh of relief from the cameraman once it came into view. It was touching down just outside the yard when Corporal Adams called out “All clear!”

Those who could still move of their own accord started dragging and carrying their friends towards the gates to get to the chopper and continued to provide first aid. The medic knelt next to a still body. The soldier was barely breathing.

“This one needs to get to the chopper, stat!”

He got up and clutched his gun as he looked around the yard, tense and on full alert.

Dismissing the feeling of unease because they’d been declared all clear, he started to walk over to the young officer lying near one of the buildings.

Time seemed to stand still as a single shot rang out across the yard.

Instead of diving for cover, the medic instinctively lunged himself forwards and threw himself across the young soldier to protect him from further harm. One of the insurgent snipers in the minaret must have survived. Ten army guns immediately trained on him and returned fire. The doctor gave one blood-curling scream of pain – and didn’t get back up.

“Shit!! Doc!! Captain!! Talk, damn it! Come on, sir!”

The cries of his men were frantic. Someone rolled the doc over and checked for a pulse.

“He’s alive! Move, move, move!!”

Only now did the unit realize that their doctor was bleeding profusely from his shoulder and chest. His trouser legs were smeared with blood. His arm was almost definitely broken, sticking out at a weird angle from when he had thrown himself over his colleagues over and over again to protect them. The man with the camera took a closer look, the picture still grainy and blurry thanks to sand and dust, but for the first time the face of the man in charge was revealed.

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6 thoughts on “Writing Sample from The Bravery of the Soldier”

  1. This definitely has a lot of promise. There are parts where your writing gets a really solid flow, and even your dialogue gets pretty darn awesome(makes me jealous!), but you have to be really careful with the other parts that break it. You seem to have this habit of adding extra things to scenes that are unnecessary or just awkward in the way you input them. A few examples:

    Far off, explosions could be heard. They were deliberate missile hits just outside the far end of the complex, in order to provide a distraction so the rescue team could get in unnoticed. [Most of this feels unnecessary or awkward as if you’re trying to forcefully explain to your reader something in a way that is dumbed down for them. It could be more simple as “Far off, explosions could be; deliberate missile hits providing a distraction just outside the complex.” It’s still more a tell than a show, but it’s not told in a way that dumbs it down to the reader and makes it break flow.]

    “Got any flash bangs by any chance? We want to get them all in the yard. Surprise them with these fresh ‘reinforcements’. They won’t know what hit them! Thirteen are in the building opposite, two guards somewhere on their rounds between us and the tunnels, five on the floor above us and two across the yard in the tower.” [As I said, a lot of your dialogue is really solid especially with the action of the scene. Then you have bits like the portion I quoted here that doesn’t fit cause it has too much in it. Keep it more succinct given the action and pace of the scene. Long discussion implies they have more time than considered. Here’s how I’d do it: “Flash bangs. Want to get them in the yard. Surprise ’em. Got thirteen in the building opposite, two between us and the tunnels, five on the floor above, and two in the tower across the yard.” It’s not a huge change, but it still manages to tighten up the dialogue more to fit the pace of your scene. Though this whole thing coming from the soldiers trapped inside might seem odd so you may want to consider having this be the idea presented by the rescue team. If they’ve been stuck inside to the point of dehydration and severe injury I doubt they’d know as much as this seem suggests since it implies they’re in far better condition than you state.]

    “The doc is keeping the medical kit, anyone gets hurt, holler for the doc. He’s kept an extra kit by the door. If you brought a med-kit with you, leave it with the rest, he’ll be grateful.” [Just an example of too much dialogue. Cut it down. Something like “Doc’s keepin’ the med-kit. Anyone gets hurt? Holler. If you brought a med-kit, leave it with the rest.” The grateful is unnecessary; it’s implied given they are there to rescue them and the bit about by the door also seems just. . . not needed and possibly unwise. Given their situation I think it’d have been better kept somewhere else? This is assuming the doc has been there the entire time with them? If not, still not wise to keep it so close to a spot that could become not secure easily. Either way I wouldn’t add that bit. This way your dialogue is much more tight to fit the scene.]

    Gripping his own gun and squeezing off two shots which killed two insurgents, he crouched down and made his way to the soldier on the ground. [Here you do the added explanation that is unnecessary. Whether or not his shots actually hit anyone doesn’t have an impact on the scene overall and what he is doing. There’s no consequences from it or responses to it. I think it’d be better left for the reader to wonder if it hit at all instead of distracting from the scene with the odd way it detracts from the flow. I’d cut it down to “Gripping his own gun and squeezing off two shots, he crouched down and made his way to the soldier on the ground.” as it sounds better.]

    “Secure the yard! Get my men out!! Where the hell is the chopper? Please tell me there’s a medevac on its way!! We need to get everyone to the closest field hospital. NOW!!!” [Again, it’s just a case of too much. Cut it down. Something like “Secure the yard! Where the hell is the chopper? Need to get everyone to a hospital NOW!” Since you don’t need to say nearest hospital as it’s already in the reader’s mind that they probably have a temp med camp set up somewhere if they know they’re going in to rescue possibly hurt/dehydrated/starved soldiers, and that after moving them to that they’ll get the more serious one to an actual hospital since that tends to be common knowledge for anyone watching/reading stuff about wars and soldiers. Also you don’t need the medevac thing since it’s redundant after the ‘Where the hell is the chopper?’ portion. And given what you reveal later about the condition of the medic you want to watch how much you have him talk and or move later on so it seems to make some sense with him being that severely injured.]

    So yeah, those are just some examples of things to tighten up and watch out for as you write. As I said, the scene has some really awesome portions where your writing(dialogue and action) just flow really well, but you just have to keep an eye out for the other stuff. Hope that’s not too harsh. I just tried to give examples cause I didn’t want to be too vague in explaining what I meant. I really do think it’s pretty awesome though. You write action really well.

    Liked by 1 person

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