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Hello, writers. Let’s continue our conversation about worldbuilding. Pico mentioned that last week’s challenge made worldbuilding easier because it required giving directions, which allows the writer to give details.

An outsider is an extremely useful character for worldbuilding. A traveler newly arrived to the scene can discover it along with the reader—can take the journey from Platform 9¾ as it were.

Two tried-and-true ways to deliver an outsider to the scene are time travel and world-transfer. (World-transfer being when you climb into a magic wardrobe and, bam! you’re in fantasyland.)

Once s/he’s comfortably transferred to another time or place, the protagonist can then express astonishment at aspects of your world that the regular world-dwellers take for granted.

The problem for many writers seems to be getting the protagonist to accept what’s happened. The reader suspends disbelief, but the protagonist often refuses to. Don’t get stuck on this. Handle it as neatly and cleanly as possible. Two of my favorite ways of handling the transfer:

1.    Connie Willis’s Oxford books. The protagonists expect to time travel; it’s their job. So they’re annoyed when it goes wrong (as it always does) instead of astonished that they’re in another time.

2.    The scene in “Buffy the Vampire-Slayer” when Oz has it explained to him that there really are vampires, magic is real, etc. He frowns and says something to the effect of “Actually, that explains a lot.” Done.

The Willis approach requires double worldbuilding, since the reader first has to accept a world in which time travel is possible. The characters, since they already live there, accept it automatically. But the characters still get to describe the new time-world as outsiders would. It's never what they expected.

One key to getting your characters into a new world or time successfully is choosing characters who can handle it. In their own way. They might only cynically be pretending to handle it till somebody owns up to the joke. What you don’t want to do (although some writers have) is have the character continue denying that the world-transfer or time-travel has occurred for pages and pages, until the poor reader has no choice but to fling the book across the room.

Tonight’s challenge is a tricky one.
 
Your protagonist is in Washington, D.C. The year is 2012. Get him to Washington, D.C. in 1864. It’s up to you to decide how he gets there and whether he knew he was going. Either way, show us his reaction when he gets there.
Here’s the first line:
With considerable trepidation, Michael opened the door.
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Comment Preferences

  •  So I'm looking for a place to get away (20+ / 0-)

    and finish the second book in this trilogy... have been checking out cabin rentals but there's so much info that's not included online, like whether the place is beset by pounding stereo wars every night.

    Anyone know of a quiet getaway place in the vaguely northeastern/mid-atlantic states/possibly southern ontario? Preferably forested? That takes dogs?

    Why aren't there more writers' b&bs? I can only find one, in Virginia. No dogs.

    Anyway if you've ever gone somewhere and thought it was a perfect place to write I'd love to hear about it.

    -9.0, -8.3 "Remember, a writer writes. Always." --Throw Momma from the Train

    by SensibleShoes on Thu Apr 12, 2012 at 08:05:11 AM PDT

  •  If 1864 isn't working for you (13+ / 0-)

    feel free to pick another time... the point is to pull off the transfer.

    -9.0, -8.3 "Remember, a writer writes. Always." --Throw Momma from the Train

    by SensibleShoes on Thu Apr 12, 2012 at 05:07:54 PM PDT

  •  Willis Domesday book (13+ / 0-)

    The time travel in that book was fantastic. I loved how the expert archaeologists and historians manufactured a wonderful cover story, and made authentic clothing, and language prep.... and got it all wrong.

    Somewhat related to the Domesday book: when people say a book is "intricately plotted", what do they usually mean?

    Is it like the Domesday book where Willis keeps you guessing through plot twists?

  •  I've been known to build words (11+ / 0-)

    I've been toying with idiotublican

    what's that? Huh? Worlds? Oh! Never mind.

  •  With a considerable amount of trepidation, (14+ / 0-)

    Michael opened the door. He already knew he was in trouble, he was late for work and was still wearing the clothes he had on yesterday. He expected he'd have some explaining to do, but it was worth it.

    He pushed the door open and instantly a hand grabbed him from the side, an explosion happened on the other side of the room, and what had to be the biggest bullet in the world whizzed passed his head. "What the hell?" had barely left his lips when his eyes began to take in the scene before him.

    First, the light was dim with most of it coming from the window and some kind of oil lamp. The furniture looked like it had come from an antique store, quaint but not his style. It smelled. The air itself smelled of heat and sweat and strong perfume and various organic wastes that he really didn't want to think about.

    "Get down you fool! They are on to you and if they catch you you'll be at the end of a rope by tomorrow night!" The voice sounded like his boss, but unless she was into role playing he really didn't believe that the woman in satin and petticoats with that ridiculous hairdo could be his boss. He stood there like a post as the man across the room, having finished reloading his equally ridiculous gun took aim. "I got ya Reb" he said and pulled the trigger.

    "But much to my surprise when I opened my eyes I was the victim of the great compromise." John Prine

    by high uintas on Thu Apr 12, 2012 at 05:35:56 PM PDT

  •  Couldn't resist (16+ / 0-)

    With considerable trepidation, Michael opened the door.

    The Senate chamber that greeted him was filled with uniformly white male faces.  They were all excitedly discussing their recent legislative triumphs:  reinstating poll taxes and extreme limits on voting to avoid fraud, elimination of all forms of entitlements, and making women's citizenship subject to the whims of any fetus they might be carrying.

    The chaplain began the approved prayer, the one that was mandatory at all government functions now.  Michael tried not be obvious about checking Twitter and answering texts while the Reverend droned on.  It had taken a lot of work, but the Tea Party had taken the country back to 1864.

    I shall die, but that is all that I shall do for Death; I am not on his payroll. - Edna St. Vincent Millay

    by Tara the Antisocial Social Worker on Thu Apr 12, 2012 at 05:38:39 PM PDT

  •  Quick post and run (11+ / 0-)

    Back later tonight!
    Sorry about the poor formatting.

    With considerable trepidation, Michael opened the door. It was not his imagination. Two am and two people fighting in the hall.
    With words, thankfully, but at a volume to wake the dead.
    “Fluorescent energy savers, Anna! Hardly late 18th century decor!”
    “Washington DC! We are in Washington DC! Enough!”
    Michael could not make out much more than the man was considerably taller. Tall enough to unscrew the light bulb. Why had he not picked up his phone before opening the door?
    “1864, Anna.”
    “Give or take a year, Ben!”
    “Give or take a century!”
    Light returned abruptly as the light was screwed back in. Ben was tall and thin, dressed in rustic leathers, a long sword at his hip. Anna, much shorter, but stout, looked uncomfortably stuffed in a long muslin dress and corset. Over her shoulder, a samuri sword was in easy reach, looking more appropriate than her clothes with her Asian features.
    “We have to get there before-!”
    Ben reached out, grabbing Anna roughly by the shoulders. Training kicked in for Michael. Too many domestic dispute witnessed, he recognized the motion and emotions. He charged, colliding with both as the hall blurred and wavered.
    His stomach caught up and passed him before the world settled. Instead of the low rent apartments, he tumbled across an open field under a field of summer stars. Laying quietly, his stomach still threatening further revolt, both Anna and Ben leaned over him.
    “Hello you idiot,” Anna stated, “Guess you’ll be helping us.”
    Michael gingerly sat up, looking around. Not far away was a very rustic barn with several haystacks.
    “Where-?”
    “When. 1864. Summer.”
    “He needs some cloths, Ben,” Anna pointed to the dark farmhouse.
    “Why- oh. Eyes.”
    “What?” Michael felt his stomach go cold. Whatever had happened, he wasn’t in DC anymore. It looked like 1864, of what he could remember.
    “Problem,” Ben stated looking at Michael with a frown.
    “What?” both chorused.
    “Black.”
    “Don’t start being a racist-“ Michael started heatedly.
    “Civil war, mate,” Ben said, “Bloody liability on this mission. Damn it.”
    “Send me back!” Michael pleaded.
    “Out of energy,” Anna shook her head, “Nothing to do but adapt.”
    Michael let his head sink between his knees. What the hell had his knight in shiny armor impulsiveness gotten him into this time? Or was it when?

    I am much too liberal to be a Democrat.

    by WiseFerret on Thu Apr 12, 2012 at 05:41:00 PM PDT

  •  Bummer. I didn't see the note that let us off (12+ / 0-)

    boring old 1864.  But Dr. Google told me there was a Battle of Fort Stevens in or near Washington that year.

    With considerable trepidation, Michael opened the door.

    Into a cloud of black which rushed at him, enveloping him and filling his nose and mouth with tiny moving things.  

    He choked and stumbled forward into a wall of stench.  Just as he realized that the cloud was stinging his face and hands, there was a BANG behind him.  He knew the door had slammed shut on any chance of retreat.  Wherever he was, he was there now, for the forseeable future.

    He slapped at his face and then waved his hands like helicopter blades to dispel the cloud, which had resolved itself into a battalion of famished mosquitoes.   With a distinctly disappointed hum, they seemed to retreat, and he opened his eyes.

    He took in the images of horses, carts, people – were they soldiers? – with clunky weapons, all jumbled together like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle.  He shut his eyes, but the sounds were just as bad; shouting in words that almost sounded English, rumbling, squeaking, barking, braying, and at a distance, more bangs -- not of doors though.  Enormous smells, all aggressively organic, seemed to come at him like cyclones.

    “You!”

    The recognizable word, and the shove on his shoulder that came with it, were almost a relief.  He did exist here, he was visible to the inhabitants, at least one of them, wherever here was.  He opened his eyes again.

  •  mine (12+ / 0-)
    Dark.  The smell of burnt cork.  Dizzy.  

    Oscar grabbed onto the edge of the door for balance.

    The whole machine tipped.  He stepped back and regained balance, then stretched his arm carefully forward and tugged open the door.  

    He reached for his rod light and swirled it around outside
    the pod.  

    Not a garden.  Damn Herbert!  

    He could hear waves somewhere below.  Was he on the edge of a cliff?

    He took one careful step forward and shone the light around the bottom of the door.  Stone floor near stone steps going down the inside of a stone wall.  He stepped out and moved to the right of the small pod and turned the light upward.

    He was inside a tower.  From the window he could see down to the sea at least a hundred feet below him.

    Someone came pounding up the steps.  His light had been noticed.  He sat down on a bench.  The panting man carried a lantern in his hand.

    "My Lord," he said and then collapsed on the top step.  "I saw your light.  We have been waiting for you.  Thank goodness you are here."

    Oscar smiled.  The man spoke English and of the right period, but why had they been expecting him?  He was supposed to be here in secret.

    "I expected to land in the King's garden," he said.  

    The man reached out a hand to the machine.  "Our wizard reset your machine, my Lord.  He wanted you here in the tower with us instead of in the King's power."

    "But, I am here to stop a war and time is wasting.  Take me to the King at once, " Oscar said.

    "But didn't Herbert tell you?" the man asked.

    "Tell me what?"

    "Herbert read the book wrong.  He came himself to set things up so all would go smoothly when you came.  He was supposed to tell you all about it before you left.  He was supposed to give you the revised book and a new map."

    "Herbert told me nothing and gave me nothing.  He just told me to have a good trip and waved at me.  Where am I?  When am I? Who are you and who is the Wizard?  How could he change my machine in flight?"

    The man told him.  It was a good thing Oscar was already sitting down.

    Join us at Bookflurries-Bookchat on Wednesday nights 8:00 PM EST

    by cfk on Thu Apr 12, 2012 at 05:58:27 PM PDT

  •  Semi-Formatted Movie Script (10+ / 0-)
    INT TV STATION

    A jowly upper middle-aged man, MR MORRIS, chomps on an unlighted cigar. He is standing over the shoulder of MISS DEAN, a not-quite-as-young-as-she-used-to-be intern who is editing physical media. CAPTAIN CATHODE, dressed as a vacuum tube, stands off to the side.

    MR MORRIS:

    I need a more futuristic look for CAPTAIN CATHODE. He's going to Washington DC in 2012!

    CAPTAIN CATHODE:

    That's (counts silently) uh 56 years into the future. Why 56 MORRIS?

    MR MORRIS:

    That's still Mister MORRIS. The network hasn't called you back yet.

    CAPTAIN CATHODE:

    OK. Why 56 MR MORRIS?

    MR MORRIS:

    I wrote the script on my birthday.

    MISS DEAN:

    And you were wondering what it would be like to be a hundred and...I mean to be 86 or so.

    MR MORRIS:

    You can be 86'd too you know.

    MISS DEAN:

    Once the network coax gets here we'll all be 86'd. In the meantime, I'm better than kinescope, cheaper than film.

    CAPTAIN CATHODE:

    Oh I like that look. The network wants me to have a young companion, Transistor Boy. And that means we both would have to wear more generic outfits.

    MR MORRIS:

    We do give you a broad range of costumes. I'll say that much.

    MISS DEAN:

    Too bad the signal coverage isn't such a broad range.

    MR MORRIS:

    How about you narrowing down your range and design CAPTAIN CATHODE something suitable - get it, suitable - to wear to Linoln's second inaugural. Remember, the time machine bounces around in this episode.

    CAPTAIN CATHODE:

    And no steam valves or pistons this time. Please.

    Strange that a harp of (a) thousand strings should keep in tune so long

    by jabney on Thu Apr 12, 2012 at 06:03:20 PM PDT

  •  I thought this one was going to be all about (7+ / 0-)

    titles.

    With considerable trepidation, Michael opened the door.
        The good news what that it looked like Washington, DC in 18-whatever. At least, there weren't cars or streetlights or asphalt. And it smelled like a farm.
        On the other hand, green flames flickered in the ozone layer, and a lizard-beast was stalking a carthorse across the street.
        The Vordians had gotten here first.

    "Gussie, a glutton for punishment, stared at himself in the mirror."

    by GussieFN on Thu Apr 12, 2012 at 07:00:23 PM PDT

  •  Here's mine: (9+ / 0-)

    Look at me undoing all your instructions, too.

        The elevator came to a stop at the 18th floor, and Agent Harking stepped out to flick on the lightswitch.  The floor was covered with a fine dust of neglect.   "It's just down this way."
         Michael squinted in the halogen haze.  "Any idea why they've sent me?" he asked.
         "Beats me," she said.  "You're the first recruit they've assigned to us in ten years.  We were starting to think they forgot we existed."
         He re-read the order he'd received that morning.  "Strange," he mumbled.  "So what's in the room, exactly?"
         "No idea.  I've never been below the 12th floor, myself.  Whatever's in there," she said, "was buried for a reason."
         Agent Harking had stopped in front of an unmarked steel door near the end of the hall.  The wall sign read "B-1864", a room that didn't exist, in a hall that didn't exist, in a subbasement that didn't exist, nestled under the comfortable hum of the Washtington metro.  
         Michael suppressed a gulp and, with considerable trepidation, opened the door.
    There's currently a debate over backstory in sci-fi/fantasy over at the AV Club, focusing on disagreement about Susanne Collins' worldbuilding in The Hunger Games.   I left a comment there with my own two cents; my basic problem is...
    the way she divvies out the information suggests that she hasn't thought it through very deeply until the moment she needs to insert a certain plot point or twist.  There are moments in the books where it seems she invents a new fact about her world out of immediate narrative necessity.
    I've read the first two books now, and while there are things I like, it's really annoying to have her change the rules when she writes herself into narrative corners.  I feel like I don't know her world at all.

    Saint, n. A dead sinner revised and edited. - Ambrose Bierce

    by pico on Thu Apr 12, 2012 at 07:02:25 PM PDT

    •  Pico! You're reading the Hunger Games? (6+ / 0-)

      Now I'm not going to, just so I can feel superior.

      (Actually I've been wanting to for a year, but my wife gave her copy away.)

      Interesting, what you say about her worldbuilding. The whole idea of having kids fight to the death seems a bit sketchy to me--I mean, we have physical combat for entertainment, and the fun is seeing highly-trained adults beat the crap out of each other. But my wife tells me a) it's friggin YA, so shut up and b) I can drain the fun out of anything.

      On the other hand, I haven't read it, so I have very firm opinions.

      I like yours. I want to keep reading.

      "Gussie, a glutton for punishment, stared at himself in the mirror."

      by GussieFN on Thu Apr 12, 2012 at 07:06:29 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  which changes are you thinking of? (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      pico, Aunt Pat, cfk, jabney, SensibleShoes

      restricted to the first book (because sequels often have semi-bogus retconning.)

      I'm funny about worldbuilding details, because it depends on the book. If the details don't actually matter to the plot or characters, I can let quite a lot go (double for comedies.) But if the author takes an attitude with their worldbuilder, it throws me when they don't follow through on the promise.

      I'm having trouble reading Mieville's Embassytown because his major plot point is complete nonsense in the world that he's constructed, but I didn't have any trouble with the Hunger Games, even though the world doesn't actually make sense (e.g. population numbers and coal mining technology vs the high tech capitol.)

    •  I noticed that too (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      SensibleShoes, pico

      I've actually finished the series, and the last book really didn't work for me.

      It disappointed me because the first book was just so very good.

      I'm struck by how the meanest, cruelest, nastiest people brag about how they live in a Christian nation. It's rather telling.

      by terrypinder on Fri Apr 13, 2012 at 04:56:49 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Nice. I don't know how the DC Metro looks now (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      pico

      but 25 years ago, it definitely looked like it was 18 stories above a story.

      You've definitely got my attention; I'd read further.

      Re: Collins, yes, I also had very much the impression that her backstory isn't there. Dividing the US into 12 sectors, each responsible for supplying one type of product, makes no sense at all. And that's just one symptom.

      I think ideally you want to have so much backstory that your world is fully realized, but reveal only a smidgen of it to the reader.

      And I could go on and on about The Hunger Games... honey, if you're annoyed now, wait till you get to book three.

      (One quibble I must mention: Nobody ever resisted? Nobody? Nobody ever refused?)

      I do think she didn't intend to write a second book in the first place, but I don't know.

      The series is a textbook in raising the stakes, though. Every writer should study it for that.

      -9.0, -8.3 "Remember, a writer writes. Always." --Throw Momma from the Train

      by SensibleShoes on Fri Apr 13, 2012 at 09:33:42 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I wonder about that.... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        pico

        Human beings, even in a dystopia, just aren't that wimpy.  Someone would have tried to resist before Katniss.

        Seriously...this is one of the reasons I haven't yet succumbed and read this book.  It sounds like the basic premise is way too allegorical to make sense, plus I DESPISE present tense narration.  Maybe if Collins had set it on a planet settled by humans who'd suffered some sort of catastrophe and had to rebuild a society from bits and pieces....?

        •  resistance is useless (0+ / 0-)

          Actually, though, it's implied that resistance is fairly common, and getting less manageable, already reaching toward a tipping point before the book begins. There's no point in employing lots of peacekeepers in a police state if no one is resisting.

          She's more like Bouazizi in Tunisia. It's not like he was an amazing leader either, but he was the crystallization seed in a super-saturated situation.

          The districts were ready to revolt, but rebels always have the problem of coordination. Katniss was just a convenient signal that now was the time to try. She's never presented as the actual leader of the resistance, except as propaganda that is described explicitly and in detail as propaganda.

        •  She doesn't resist. Ever. (0+ / 0-)

          In book 3 she may be the most passive character ever to hit a bestseller list.

          But what I really meant was: say you put 24 people each year into an arena and tell them to kill each other until only one is left alive. Exactly how long would it take before one year the 24 people looked at each other, looked at you, and said, "Nope"?

          -9.0, -8.3 "Remember, a writer writes. Always." --Throw Momma from the Train

          by SensibleShoes on Fri Apr 13, 2012 at 03:31:37 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  "What did he say?" the surgeon asked. (9+ / 0-)

    "He said that the President was a black man..."

    The surgeon wiped his bloody knife on his sleeve, stained already with the blood of untold amputations during the day. "He must be a Democrat then..." the surgeon sighed.    The surgeon, having been raised in Massachusetts in a family of staunch abolitionists was decidedly not a Democrat.

    "He said he was."

    "Of course he is.   It's one of the more scandalous opinions that Democrats hold, that Mr. Lincoln is himself a mulatto."

    "Not Mr. Lincoln, but the President he said existed in 2012, he was a black man and President was a Democrat.   The man claims to love Mr. Lincoln as much as you and I ourselves."

    "Really?"

    "I have examined the man, I find not a scratch on him though they say he was found unconcious on the field near Petersburg.   I may have thought him a shirker, but I pricked him severely during one of these dreaming blackouts that he seems to suffer.    Prehaps some internal injury to the brain...I cannot say.   What else did he say?"

    "He said that the President, and many other people besides the black Democratic President drive around in infernal machines that belch a kind of poisonous gas behind them, and that people love these machines, and ride them everywhere and that they travel five even ten times as fast as the fastest horse."

    "Odd.   I have seen so much injury in this war, but never in a man who seemed uninjured in the head and elsewhere..."

    "He also said that the successor to Mr. Seward was...unbelievable...was...was...well a woman."

    "A woman?"

    "It's a scandalous dream.   Come, let us go see this man, for surely the injury is real if the dreams attached are not...let us see him.   His rank is what?"

    "Major."

    "His name?"

    "Major."

    "You've already told me his rank."

    "No, it's his name also, Major Major."

    "His commanding officer?"

    "I have his papers.   One Brigadier General Joesph Heller, in Hancock's command, an officer of impeccable insight and wisdom from what I've heard..."

    •  Oh, that is brilliant! (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      cfk, jabney, NNadir, Aunt Pat, SensibleShoes
    •  lololol...Joseph Heller (6+ / 0-)

      My great grandfather's commander was Hancock.  

      He was a private under Hancock at Gettysburg where he was captured on the 2nd.  Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, 145th Regiment, Company D.

      II Corps: Hancock
      1rst Division: Caldwell
      4th Brigade

      Paroled 9-23-1863 possibly in MD

      Furlough 2-13-1864 returned to service 3-5-64

      Wounded at Petersburg, VA 6-22-64 (bullet near spine)
      Promoted to Corporal on 1-1-65
      Mustered out as a Corporal 5-1-65 (Enlisted 8-13-62 so he was at all the big battles in the East.)

      Join us at Bookflurries-Bookchat on Wednesday nights 8:00 PM EST

      by cfk on Thu Apr 12, 2012 at 07:31:35 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Well we have much of your family history... (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        cfk, Aunt Pat, jabney, SensibleShoes

        ...in this little ditty of mine.

        That, of course, is very interesting family history you have.

        It is too bad that I wrote this ditty on the fly, since I wished to say more about Civil War medical practice as well as describe the putative General Heller as "an expert on the nature of war..."

        I have heard, through family lore though I never actually followed the details, that one of my great great Grandfathers was a Captain in a New York Regiment.

        My Grandmother was in the DAR I have also heard, but I never met her.    She died when my mother was an adolescent.   With many children, family information became somewhat diffuse and may have suffered via word of mouth.

        Knowing my mother's family, I have sometimes suspected that my Grandmother's membership in the DAR, along with the New York Captain was really just an attempt to justify a certain kind of snobbery that arm of my family had, but of course, I don't know."

        I have a Grandfather who was shot in the head in the First World War, but he was serving in the British/Scots Black Watch.    He turned into a horrible man, but as I age and reflect on him I think it possible - if not forgivable - that he suffered from post traumatic stress disorder.

        Do you know what kind of man your great great grandfather was?   Any family lore about him?

        •  Just one great...I am so old... :) (5+ / 0-)

          No, not much.  He married after the war in PA, had three children, moved to MI where he applied for a pension later due to the bullet injury and was a farmer.

          His son, my grandfather was also a farmer and he died when I was three.  I remember him just a bit because he had asthma and my grandma made smoke in a pan for him.

          My father would have been put in charge of a farm, but he preferred to be a teacher.  

          I have another great grandfather who was with Sherman.  He joined in 64 when he was only 17.

          He married my great grandma as a second wife and she was 20 years younger than he was.  I knew her very well, but I was too shy as a teenager to ask her questions.  Big mistake.

          She was one of the last CW widows to get a pension in MI and used to be taken by the VFW to ride in parades with a sign on the car.

          Join us at Bookflurries-Bookchat on Wednesday nights 8:00 PM EST

          by cfk on Thu Apr 12, 2012 at 07:50:58 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  How very interesting. I have always loved... (6+ / 0-)

            ...this beautiful quotation from Oliver Wendell Holmes which is somewhat prolix for modern styles, but still beautiful nonetheless:

            But, nevertheless, the generation that carried on the war has been set apart by its experience. Through our great good fortune, in our youth our hearts were touched with fire. It was given to us to learn at the outset that life is a profound and passionate thing. While we are permitted to scorn nothing but indifference, and do not pretend to undervalue the worldly rewards of ambition, we have seen with our own eyes, beyond and above the gold fields, the snowy heights of honor, and it is for us to bear the report to those who come after us. But, above all, we have learned that whether a man accepts from Fortune her spade, and will look downward and dig, or from Aspiration her axe and cord, and will scale the ice, the one and only success which it is his to command is to bring to his work a mighty heart.
            One might quibble with "good fortune" since I cannot believe that any war has anything good about it.

            Holmes was badly wounded, nearly killed in the Civil War, but unlike modern Republicans, was no coward.   I think of him everytime I hear a Republican coward scream about taxes since Holmes - in his capacity as Supreme Court Justice also wrote, unrelated to the war, "Taxes are the price one pays for living in a civilized country."

            Probably a better quote on the war comes from Sherman himself, often thought to be a brutal man possibly because he was no coward about doing what he had to do.   Wrote he:

            I am tired and sick of war. Its glory is all moonshine. It is only those who have neither fired a shot nor heard the shrieks and groans of the wounded who cry aloud for blood, for vengeance, for desolation. War is hell.
            Reading this quotation one is inclined to think of "cry aloud for blood" and think of the likes of Cheney, Bush, Limbaugh and the rest of the insufferable cowards on the extreme right.
            •  Wonderful quotations...thanks (4+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              NNadir, jabney, Youffraita, SensibleShoes

              My uncle was a co-pilot of bombers in WW II and he would certainly not ever wish for a war.

              One of his planes was destroyed and he was picked up from the Adriatic and dumped on land in Italy and had to make his own way back to his unit.

              We couldn't talk with him because he suffered too much from the effects of the war.

              But once he mentioned how terribly hungry the Italian people were.

              Join us at Bookflurries-Bookchat on Wednesday nights 8:00 PM EST

              by cfk on Thu Apr 12, 2012 at 08:33:34 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

          •  As recently as twenty years ago (5+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            NNadir, Aunt Pat, cfk, jabney, SensibleShoes

            my father knew a guy whose father fought in the Civil War.

            Do the math on that.

            "A cynical, mercenary, demagogic press will produce in time a people as base as itself." - Joseph Pulitzer

            by CFAmick on Thu Apr 12, 2012 at 08:07:55 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

        •  I should add (5+ / 0-)

          that the big PA memorial has his name on one of the big brass plates that go around it.

          My cousin ordered papers from the gov. so that is how we know so much about it.

          My MI great grandfather was in the Michigan Volunteer Infantry (they had just had their horses taken away so they were not happy)  

          14th Regiment
          Company K
          enrolled 3-30-1864
          discharged 7-18-65

          We have a weird family story that doesn't work out that the MI great grandfather was with Custer and left him to help a miner who was sick, got trapped for the winter and was presumed dead.  The dates don't seem to work, though.

          Join us at Bookflurries-Bookchat on Wednesday nights 8:00 PM EST

          by cfk on Thu Apr 12, 2012 at 07:56:39 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  Great opening! n/t (0+ / 0-)

      -9.0, -8.3 "Remember, a writer writes. Always." --Throw Momma from the Train

      by SensibleShoes on Fri Apr 13, 2012 at 09:40:14 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  With considerable trepidation... (9+ / 0-)

    With considerable trepidation, Michael opened the door.  The morning paper should be here by now with the first review of his performance in the revival of August Wilson's Jitney.  The other cast members had partied after the opening and would have read it as soon as it hit the street, but he had been too nervous. He had left early, claiming a slight headache - but it was really butterflies in his stomach.

    Jitney was an early play in Wilson's Pittsburgh cycle, the ambitious snapshots  of the black experience in twentieth-century America , one exposure each decade.  Michael was an actor - today in the nation's capital, but with a little more luck on Broadway tomorrow. He hoped it was luck when he landed the part, but if the revival closed early it might be another wasted season.

    He grabbed the paper from the floor and quickly closed the door.

    It felt odd in his hand - the texture, even the size. He unfolded it and it seemed odder still. This was not the Washington Post, it was the Star. There had been a Washington Star, he thought - was that where Mary McGrory had started? But it was long gone. Perhaps it was part of some historical street fair - do they have those in Washington? The headlines on the paper made it seem so: "Union Troops Defeated at Brice's Crossing".  He had never heard of the place. That's a nice touch, he thought.  Using the famous events would be too obvious
    .
    There was a knock at the door. A voice called out to him, "Mister Booth?" just as he caught his reflection in the room's mirror.

    •  There's something wrong here, he thought. (5+ / 0-)

      Maybe the vocabulary? he thought.  No, something simpler, he thought. Perhaps a deaf ear to repeated phrases, he thought.

      •  lololol (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        jabney, Youffraita, SensibleShoes

        I think it is well done.

        I was trying to think of something like this at first before I threw it all over, but you did it just right.  :)

        Join us at Bookflurries-Bookchat on Wednesday nights 8:00 PM EST

        by cfk on Thu Apr 12, 2012 at 08:40:18 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  After Reading, "Something wrong here" (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        SensibleShoes, Elwood Dowd

        I re-read your story. It's paragraph two that bothers you, I think.

        If you were to do a re-write, you might be able to get rid of paragraph two and sprinkle its exposition throughout the story. Or re-do paragraph two with Michael imagining the paragraph's contents as part of a feature story about him, before he picks up the paper.

        In re-reading my own effort tonight, I regret leaving out a parenthetical (sighs) as an in-dialogue direction after the first sentence in CAPTAIN CATHODE's longest hunk of dialogue. The short time-frame available for writing here in Write On (and having it actually read) is both a blessing and a curse.

        best,

        john

        Strange that a harp of (a) thousand strings should keep in tune so long

        by jabney on Thu Apr 12, 2012 at 11:07:19 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  I'm inclined to agree with jabney. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Elwood Dowd

      Paragraph 2 is back story-- stuff we'd find out later in the story if we needed to know it, but right now it doesn't move the story forward.

      Nice details here, though. I like the texture of the newspaper, and the last sentence is chilling.

      -9.0, -8.3 "Remember, a writer writes. Always." --Throw Momma from the Train

      by SensibleShoes on Fri Apr 13, 2012 at 09:46:41 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  What I was going for (0+ / 0-)

        was an echo of time traveling. The Pittsburgh Cycle hops across the twentieth century; something has bounced Michael back further, into unscripted territory.

        I'd call it "foreshadowing" but this damn time paradox...

  •  There are "secret" staircases in the Capitol Bldg. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    SensibleShoes

    Rep. Charlie Bass showed us one with a spiral staircase, underneath pipes and other necessary structural things...that's a possibility for transport. In fact the history of that building could be an interesting background for a story.

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