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Herd of Bandits chapter 4 (1 Viewer)

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Senior Member
"Where the hell are we?" Deacon asked with a frustrated voice. They have only been riding for a few hours and they were already stranded in a desert.

"Lost?" Terry said, trying to figure out exactly how this happened.

"Weren't you a Buffalo soldier?" Deacon asked. "I thought you knew how to navigate the land."

"I was mostly in forests. I have no experience in a desert. What about you Mr. cowboy?"

"Same." Deacon said. They were lost and now their rations were running out fast.
"Let's just keep heading upwards." Terry said as he wiped sweat off his forehead. "Maybe we will find a city, or at least water."

Deacon agreed and they both kept heading the same direction.

"Ugh, we're going to die." Deacon complained.

"Stop, you're annoying me." Terry said, faintly.

"Shouldn't your kind know how to survive the heat?" Deacon asked.

"Dumbass. I wasn't born over there. How should I know how they lived?" Terry said, angrily.

"Isn't it instinct?"

"We are not animals!" Terry yelled. "Honestly you're either a huge bigot or an idiot, or both."

Terry looked up and saw some vultures circling around them.

"Those damn birds think we are an easy meal." Terry said.

Deacon looked up and then opened fire at them in a split second. The vulture corpses plopped down on the ground.

"There's dinner." Deacon said casually. He then went to pick up the corpses.

"You seriously expect me to eat that?" Terry said with a disgusted face.

Deacon just rolled his eyes. "Fine, I'll eat yours."

Terry swallowed hard. "Let's just get this over with."

They both made camp and a fire. Deacon slowly roasted the vultures until they were a good brown color. They actually looked edible. How they tasted, was a different story.

"This, this was a bad idea." Deacon said as he could barely keep the vulture down. It tasted very gamy but rotten as well. Probably due to their diet.

"oh-no." Terry ordered. "You made me eat this, so we are gonna finish all of it."

"I know." Deacon said. "This is probably the only food we are going to get til we finally reach civilization."

After forcing down their vulture meal, they got ready for a restless sleep.

They were awoken early the next morning by the sound of cannon fire.

"What the hell?" Terry said, rubbing his eyes. When he finally gained his vision, he noticed Deacon was putting on his coat and strapping his holsters in a hurry.

"Let's go Ruff-head." Deacon rushed. "We're heading toward that sound."

Terry looked confused. "Shouldn't we be heading away from cannon fire?"

"Where there's cannons, there's people." Deacon said as he saddled his horse. "We are getting out of this God-forsaken desert."

Before Terry even started getting ready, Deacon was already far gone.

"Gah! Wait for me Dumbass!" Deacon yelled. He threw his clothes on and raced to Deacon.

When Terry finally caught up, Deacon and his horse were kneeling over a river in a savannah and slurping up as much water as possible.

Terry tried his best to not look as pathetic, but the thirst was so strong that he ended up doing the same.


The sound of a cannon went off again. It was coming from behind the trees, into the forest.

Deacon and Terry raced through the trees. The sound of gunfire was now accompanying the cannons. After ten minutes, the firing ceased. The two saw something that stopped them dead in their tracks. A burnt corpse. Terry got off his horse to investigate. He turned it over and noticed some beaded jewelry that had not been burnt.

"What is it?" Deacon asked.

"This dead person was a Pedbony. A native tribe."

"Oh, so a Rosie." Deacon said.

Terry looked annoyed. "This was a human being, can you have a little respect for the dead?"

"But, what'd I say?"

Bang! Another gunshot rang.

"We better go see what's going on." Deacon said. "Just a little more Ginny." He told his horse before he spurred it, and then raced toward the sound.

When they finally reached a more open space, they saw something that horrified them. There were Pedbony corpses piled on top of each other and Union soldiers were setting them on fire. Huts were ablaze. Living tribesmen were being dragged out and shot.

"Don't leave any alive!" one of the soldier ordered. The General wants to make sure they don't get in the way of our expedition."

"Hey Lieutenant! Look what we done found." somebody off in the distance said.

The soldier in charge looked and saw two of his men dragging a female Pedbony by her braids.

"She's a pretty forest fruit ain't she?" one of the soldiers dragging her said with a vicious smile.

"Just put a bullet in her head." The Lieutenant said. "We are in a hurry."

"Aww come on. We been away from our wives for so long, can't we have a little fun with her?"

"Fine but hurry." The Lieutenant said.

The two soldiers laughed wickedly. That’s when the Pedbony woman scratched one of them.

"Ack! This dumb bitch! The soldier said. He then raised his hand to smack her. By the time his arm reached her face, he noticed his hand was gone.

The soldier fell backwards in shock. Not before his entire head jerked sideways, and he fell dead. The other soldier looked to his left and saw Terry aiming right at him.

Before he could react, he was knocked backward by a horse. Deacon was on top of his horse, Ginny, and he had his pistol aimed right at him.


The Pedbony women looked up at Deacon in fear.

"Don't worry Rosy. We're here to help." He said, as Terry rode up next to him.

The woman just stared at the two for a good minute, and then she ran off. Terry rode after her.

Deacon was about to follow when about a dozen union soldiers surrounded him. All pointing their muskets at him.

Terry heard several gunshots behind him. He looked back at where he left Deacon and just shrugged.

"He's probably fine." Terry thought.

He finally caught up with the woman. When she saw Terry, she tried to run faster but ended up tripping. Terry stopped and tried to help her, but she started screaming and defending herself.

"Stop!" He said. "I'm here to- gah," She was scratching and kicking. "I'M HERE TO HELP!" He yelled in Pedbony.

When she heard him, she stopped struggling. She just stared at him for a good minute, and then burst into tears. She buried her face into his chest and wept.

"It's ok." Terry said in Pedbony. "We're here to help."

Deacon rode up right next to them. Terry looked up and saw that his pistols were smoking. He didn't even have a scratch on him.

"Is she ok?" Deacon asked.

"Her entire race was subsequently wiped out, what do you think?"

The woman looked at Deacon with fear. She tried hiding her face behind Terry.

"Why won't the Rosy talk to me?" Deacon asked.

"Maybe it's because you keep calling her 'Rosy'!" Terry yelled.

Deacon just got off his horse and looked at her. "Who did this?" he asked.

Terry started to translate, when the woman spoke up.

"I know what he said." She told Terry, in English. "My people call him, Stonewall."

Jay Greenstein

Senior Member
You're still doing a lot too much telling. But look at how a small change can have huge impact. You say:
"Where the hell are we?" Deacon asked with a frustrated voice. They have only been riding for a few hours and they were already stranded in a desert.
Here you have a character say five words. But you follow it with twenty three words from the author, explaining things, from the author's viewpoint. It is his story, after all, and fair is far. Shouldn't his role b e bigger then yours?

With a small change, keeping the situation the same, we have:

"Where the hell are we?" Deacon asked, unable to keep the frustration from his voice. "We've only been riding for a couple of hours and we're already lost...in a damn desert."

With some rephrasing, it's him, not you. We still know he's frustrated. We still know they're lost (not stranded, which you mention a few lines later). But it's his reaction, not you explaining things as an outside observer. i also added "Damn," to enhance his frustration. So in the end we know how he spoke, and how he feels. Same situation, but with a change from your viewpoint to his.
"They were lost and now their rations were running out fast.
One of the artifacts of telling, as against presenting his viewpoint is that you tend to say things without consulting the character. They've been riding for only a few hours. So how can they be running out of food? (rations are food). These are people who are familiar with the idea of riding through places where people and civilization is sparse, and should be prepared for it. So, if they're running out of water that quickly are they smart enough for us to want to know more about them, and care what happens to them? My point is that were you in his viewpoint, using his perceptions and needs, he would have reminded you of that.

The difference between telling and showing is viewpoint.

Hope this helps.


Senior Member
To be honest. I'm already on chapter 12, later on it gets better and my writing evolves with it. (Well that's what I heard when someone else critiqued it.)

Jay Greenstein

Senior Member
Does it matter if it gets better if they don't turn to page two because the writing doesn't make them want to? You're thinking in terms of action. But it's the writing—the sense if being in the story minute-by minute—that keeps the reader turning pages.

Two relevant quotes:

“A novel is like a car—it won’t go anywhere until you turn on the engine. The “engine” of both fiction and nonfiction is the point at which the reader makes the decision not to put the book down. The engine should start in the first three pages, the closer to the top of page one the better.”
~ Sol Stein

“Good writing is supposed to evoke sensation in the reader, not the fact that it’s raining, but the feeling of being rained upon.”
~ E. L. Doctorow

It's not a matter of good or bad writing, it's that Writing, like any other profession, has its set of tricks and specialized knowledge. Our medium is very different from scree, stage, and storytelling, and that both mandates and precludes certain techniques.

But that aside, our goal is to entertain. Telling the reader what's said without making them know how it was said, drains the emotional content. Having characters who never change expression, never hesitate, stop to think, have a thought, or behave as people do inform, but they don't entertain.

As I said before, it's not a matter of good or bad writing, it's craft. Unless we know a bit of what publishers view as necessary skills and knowledge we're trying to guess at how to write well. Given the number of years it took us to master the nonfiction writing skills we learn in school—with the guidance of our teachers, guessing isn't the best approach.

You can write as you please, of course. But if you hope to sell your work, be that to a publisher or directly to the customer, taking the time to acquire a solid understanding of the tricks of the trade might be a wise investment of time.
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