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For the Cleansing of Thy Soul (2 Viewers)

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Horsey

Senior Member
Word count: 1320

I


I’m no remarkable man, nor am I a saint. I’m writing this story down because I ain’t gonna be around forever, and I want my boy to know what kind of a man his pa was. Maybe this story will allow the American posterity to learn about the life of a frontiersman, because that’s what I am: a frontiersman. I hope this will teach him the proper way to be a man. This story I am about to tell you is one about the search for the cleansing of my soul. I hope that confessing my sins to my fellow man will allow God to absolve me of my sins.


I was born to a poor farmer and his seamstress wife in the year 1861. You may have heard of Hannibal before; it’s where Samuel Clemens was born, though you may know him better as Mark Twain. Everyone always says his writing was good, but I don’t know nothin’ ‘bout that; I got better things to do than read some silly book about a boy and some Injun. He used to go to the bar every night for hours, and the Mastersons always told me he was far from a saint; my ma would show up around town with bruises all over. The rumor around town was that my ma got right drunk and set the fire herself. I only learned about that rumor years after the fire happened. I remember very little of that day, in bits and pieces. I remember struggling to breathe. Running to the door. Being cold, standing out in the snow. Ezra riding up on Red Eye, his sorrel mare, in his hat and a sheepskin jacket. Him crying as he took his jacket off and wrapped it around me. Him telling me everything will be okay. Sarah hugging Ezra and I. Sarah kissing my head. Sarah putting me in their guest bed. That’s really all I remember about that night; Ezra and Sarah never spoke a word about it to me. I guess they wanted to believe I never remembered any of it.


Ezra was the sole-proprietor of the saloon and I spent a lot of time there. I spent most of my childhood sitting at the mahogany bar, drinking sarsaparilla out of a crystal glass and talking with Ezra. He was a good man, far better than my father could ever hope to be, and I always wanted to be just like him. A man of significant stature, he stood out among the normal crowd as a strong, well-fed man who does his fair share of work around the farm. He taught me everything I know about horses and cattle. Without him, I would have been nothing in life. Sarah was a strong woman, always taking care of Ezra and the household needs. There was obvious love between the two, and unlike many families, they did the household work together. I believe that the two were incapable of having children, and that’s why they were so eager to take me in as their own. I never asked as I never wanted to know whether I was just taken because they couldn’t have their own kids, though this is low-down dirty of me to think, as I should just be damn thankful they took me in and didn’t leave me turn into an ice cube. That’s all I really want to say about my childhood. I’m a man of few words, and the less you know about my younger years, the better. I’ve done things I’m not proud of; I’ve killed men and I’ve robbed, cheated and stole. I pray to God for forgiveness and the cleansing of my soul, but only time will tell if God is as merciful as everyone says.




II

In 1877, I had a run in with a group of low-down, ornery men. You would probably call them outlaws or rustlers, but I called them opportunity. I’m not proud of what I done, and I wish I could take it all back, but life don’t work that way and I have to live with what I done. Our main source of income was holding up stagecoaches headed west to California. We could make some pretty fine cash holding up one stagecoach a month. The poor sods knew what was coming, but could never do nothin’ about it; we had the plan all laid out.


Along the Missouri River, about 15 miles or so outside Columbia, there’s a fording spot to cross the river west heading towards Kansas City. As the coaches got staged to ford the river, we’d make our move. On the steep hills overlooking the fording spot, we’d have us a right comfy spot to shoot from with a Sharps; a crack shot could hit a man square between the eyes at 1000 yards, and we were crack shots alright. We’d start with the horses, a well placed shot on each of the draft horses left the stagecoach and its defenders stuck in a bad place and nervous enough to put an awful stink in the stagecoach. Then all we had to do was wait; those teamsters were armed to the teeth. Let me give you a piece of advice: if you ever run into a man with a Walker on his hip, have a piece of mind not to get shot by him. Those things will damn near blow your head off, I’ve seen it myself; I lost my supper when it happened. The teamsters could only last so long before they had to get out and, if they were brave, try in vain to fight. The yellow-bellied cowards would surrender, but we’d shoot ‘em all the same; can’t tell a sheriff to send a posse after us and hang us if you’re dead. The stubborn ones suffered a far worse fate; we’d set light up a fire under the wagon, and let ‘em burn. After we grabbed all the loot out of the wagon, we’d push it into the river and let it be pushed away by the current, that way no one knew where the coach got held up, or where it went. We’d always throw the bodies back in the carriage and give some injun down the river in the Montanas a nasty, rotted surprise.


I don’t know what the devil possessed me to turn bad; the Mastersons gave me everything I could ever need, and treated me like any boy would only wish to be treated. Lord knows I broke their heart, and probably sent Sarah to an early grave. Ezra buried her out by the barn 2 years after I left. She collapsed dead while cookin’ supper; the doctor said she died of a broken heart. Ezra followed not long after; he got the cancer and died in agony, addicted to laudenum 2 years later. I wasn’t there for Sarah when she died, and Ezra told me she cried and prayed for the repose of my soul before she went to heaven; I know she went to heaven, she was a saint if I’ve ever saw one. I never forgave myself for abandoning them, and was there when Ezra died. In a brief moment of clarity and sobriety, He thanked me for coming back, and told me he always loved me like the son he never had. I told him that him rescuing me that night was the best thing that ever happened to me, and that I was downright blessed to have him as a father; that was the only time in my life that I ever called him pa. He said the Lord’s Prayer with me and went to sleep. I heard him take his last breath on this earth a few minutes later. I didn’t cry, I just went straight to his old saloon and drank until I was as stewed as a 6 month old lamb.
 
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MrTickle

Senior Member
I'm intrigued by the beginning of your story. I like that you have used the voice of the character in the story as it grounds the story more. Nice opening look forward to reading more.
 

Horsey

Senior Member
I'm intrigued by the beginning of your story. I like that you have used the voice of the character in the story as it grounds the story more. Nice opening look forward to reading more.
Thank you so much for the kind words! I find writing in the first person, as opposed to the third person, makes it far easier for me. Would you say this might be a good ending point for the introduction?

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MrTickle

Senior Member
Yes you you can certainly have a lot of fun writing in first person. It's more 'loose', you can get lost in a characters head and fully go for it. And yes I do believe this is a good end point for the introduction :)
 

Horsey

Senior Member
Yes you you can certainly have a lot of fun writing in first person. It's more 'loose', you can get lost in a characters head and fully go for it. And yes I do believe this is a good end point for the introduction :)
Is there anything I could do to improve? Would it be better in more period self talk?

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MrTickle

Senior Member
I think cutting down on a bit of the exposition at the start would help as the story hasn’t got going yet so it’s not that important to know about others characters yet. But the voice is fine nothing to change there
 

Horsey

Senior Member
I think cutting down on a bit of the exposition at the start would help as the story hasn’t got going yet so it’s not that important to know about others characters yet. But the voice is fine nothing to change there
I introduced everyone from the childhood so early because they will be talked about maybe 3 times in the rest of the story...they are not too important. Would you say your advice still stands!

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Horsey

Senior Member
Yes I think layering out the exposition as the reader meets them may make the story flow better but that’s just my opinion.
They're really just there for backstory, and to lend some insight to the character of the protagonist :)

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Reynard

Senior Member
Not bad, I do love a good period piece and haven't read a western in a while. I would love to see more of this as I think it might be working into a good story. But I did see a couple things I might point out...


Back to the topic at hand;

For whatever reason, and this is a personal opinion, whenever I run into these in a book or story they seem to break the pacing or flow. It's as though you put a record scratch in the middle of a train of thought.


He used to go to the bar every night…
Proper terminology should be Saloon, the name “bar” didn’t come into popular use until the 20[SUP]th[/SUP] century. I see you fixed it later though. :)


I don’t mean to be nit-picky, and I do tend to sound that way when I review stuff. Probably why I don’t do it all that much anymore…
 

Horsey

Senior Member
Not bad, I do love a good period piece and haven't read a western in a while. I would love to see more of this as I think it might be working into a good story. But I did see a couple things I might point out...




For whatever reason, and this is a personal opinion, whenever I run into these in a book or story they seem to break the pacing or flow. It's as though you put a record scratch in the middle of a train of thought.



Proper terminology should be Saloon, the name “bar” didn’t come into popular use until the 20[SUP]th[/SUP] century. I see you fixed it later though. :)


I don’t mean to be nit-picky, and I do tend to sound that way when I review stuff. Probably why I don’t do it all that much anymore…
This is not nitpicky at all, and is all completely valid! I will find a better way to change that "record scratch" and smoothen it out.

I'm currently writing more on my lunch break at work; I'm thinking 1000 words a day is a pretty good goal to shoot for?

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Reynard

Senior Member
A 1000 words a day is really good if you keep that pace up, it will slowly advance on its own as the story begins to form itself around you. I write a bit at work myself and am happy with 500-1000 words a day, I can occasionally get more done things work out.

I think the "back to the topic at hand" would work if it was phrased similar to how someone from that time period might say it, now that I think about it. I feel I may have been too hypercritical... as I use a similar thing in mine.

Perhaps; "Now I don’ wan’ta spin ya long yarn ‘bout what don’ really matter,” or something. I would have to research the proper vernacular of the period to phrase it just right. I think it might help to even solidify an aspect about the character early on.
 

Horsey

Senior Member
A 1000 words a day is really good if you keep that pace up, it will slowly advance on its own as the story begins to form itself around you. I write a bit at work myself and am happy with 500-1000 words a day, I can occasionally get more done things work out.

I think the "back to the topic at hand" would work if it was phrased similar to how someone from that time period might say it, now that I think about it. I feel I may have been too hypercritical... as I use a similar thing in mine.

Perhaps; "Now I don’ wan’ta spin ya long yarn ‘bout what don’ really matter,” or something. I would have to research the proper vernacular of the period to phrase it just right. I think it might help to even solidify an aspect about the character early on.
You dang near 'bout made me lose my chuck with that there last line. I'd love to write in period writing, as Mark Twain did with Huckleberry Finn, but I don't even know where I'd start.

I just wrote 600 words or so over my lunch break, and I plan on writing just as much if not more tonight. I laid out his story of his time with a band of outlaws and how they would hold up coaches. I can send you a link to the Google doc if you'd like to read it!

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Reynard

Senior Member
I'd love to write in period writing, as Mark Twain did with Huckleberry Finn, but I don't even know where I'd start.

I think a good place to start would be reading period works by Clemens and others from that period, as well as looking at what writings or speeches that can be found from the "locals" of the time and are you’re looking for. Of course, you could always do what most authors do, fake as best you can… Give people your own spin on the dialect, perhaps there is even a reason they speak the way they do that can play into the larger world narrative.

Also, sometimes less is more, give them just enough dialectic inflection to make them distinct from our time or place. That way the reader isn’t lost trying to make sense of what is being said. I have fallen into this before myself, made a conversation ridiculous by trying to have the speakers sound too distinct.


I can send you a link to the Google doc if you'd like to read it!

If you would like, i will definitely find the time to read it. I think there are far more qualified people than me here who could assist you, but I will offer what feedback I can. :)

Either way, it's up to you, I think getting as many eyes on it would offer the best chance of getting nice, rounded feedback.



Edit: I thought you said you wrote 6000 over your lunch brake at first... almost did a spit take.
 

Horsey

Senior Member
I think a good place to start would be reading period works by Clemens and others from that period, as well as looking at what writings or speeches that can be found from the "locals" of the time and are you’re looking for. Of course, you could always do what most authors do, fake as best you can… Give people your own spin on the dialect, perhaps there is even a reason they speak the way they do that can play into the larger world narrative.

Also, sometimes less is more, give them just enough dialectic inflection to make them distinct from our time or place. That way the reader isn’t lost trying to make sense of what is being said. I have fallen into this before myself, made a conversation ridiculous by trying to have the speakers sound too distinct.




If you would like, i will definitely find the time to read it. I think there are far more qualified people than me here who could assist you, but I will offer what feedback I can. :)

Either way, it's up to you, I think getting as many eyes on it would offer the best chance of getting nice, rounded feedback.



Edit: I thought you said you wrote 6000 over your lunch brake at first... almost did a spit take.
I just updated the main post with the full work up to this point.

I'm at work so I'll respond to the rest of your response after.

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Horsey

Senior Member
Messaged the Farmer's and Merchants Bank in Hannibal, MO to ask where their original location was, as they were the first Bank in Hannibal, founded in 1870. Some of the founders were friends and family of Mark Twain himself.

The original location was on he northwest corner of Main and Center streets.
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