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  1. #1
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    Sample of memoir

    This is an excerpt from my memoir on the Iraq war. It hasn't been edited or revised, and there are possibly some bad sentence structures and what not. This was from a day on my second combat tour when we endured one of the worst indirect fire attacks in recent history.

    We had been out of Sparrowhawk about a week. Although we were next to an Iraqi Army base, we were still out in the open. We were about as exposed as a battalion-sized Unit could get. It was basically a tent city that was in the process of becoming a Forward Operating Base. It was to be named “FOB Garry Owen”, after the moniker of our Battalion, the 7th Cavalry. At this point, though, there were none of the towering cement “T-walls” in place to cordon off the base, nor were there any bunkers or guard towers. Our protection from a country of people that wanted to kill us was a triple-strand of concertina wire, with a makeshift gate that could be dragged open and closed. Suffice to say, concertina wire is pretty effective at stopping personnel and vehicles, but not mortars, rockets, and bullets. I say vehicles because I have actually seen the stuff disable a tank when it gets wound up in the drive sprocket, so I’m sure a car or truck wouldn’t have much better luck.
    We slept in tents called “GP-Mediums” that were designed to house about 20 Soldiers with gear and cots. Losing any sense of dignity is something that happens early on in the life of a Soldier. Terms like “nuts to butts” and sharing porno magazines for “me time” becomes a normal thing. Spooning up on the back deck of a tank with the rest of the crew during a particularly cold night is quite acceptable. This is sometimes a paradox because of the rampant homophobia in combat arms, but men do what they have to when it comes to the basics of staying alive. Here we lived our lives, packed in this tent-our only shelter from the blazing sun. We slept here, bathed here, ate here, beat off here…all within an arm’s reach of the next guy.
    The first few weeks out here had been uneventful as far as enemy contact went. Uneventful doesn’t even describe it, really. It was outright boring, other than the events of reverse-evolution that had taken place at Sparrowhawk. We hadn’t been issued Company-level OPORDS (Operations Orders) yet, so there wasn’t much in the way of combat operations going on. Having nothing to do in the Army is just below outright combat in the level of hazard. Here you have a situation where there are men in their 20’s and 30’s, packed together in a place where the barrier between life and death appears paper thin. There are no women in sight, and they have been training for the last year in techniques on how to kill and survive. This is when we see such feats as Soldiers trying to create flying squirrel suits out of 550 cord and ponchos, and jumping off of fuel platforms during a sandstorm. This works just well enough for the Soldier in question to float past his intended landing area and slam his face into an aluminum landing pad, costing him three teeth and an Article 15. It seems that in this mindset, if we can’t cheat the death the enemy attempts to bring us, we will create our own situations in which to do so.
    The monotony also serves to intensify the homesickness. A laptop that’s almost dead and some DVD’s only goes so far before we retreat into the recesses of our mind. Even the old crusty First Sergeant visits home in the quiet moments. I had to find a way to break this up. My marriage was shaky when I left, and I had only spent about 8 months of my daughter’s 2 year life with her. I couldn’t dwell in my mind for too long. I always worked out, but at the time there was no facility in place, so I just started running. I would run around the perimeter of the base. I started doing just one lap, which was about a mile and a half. By the end of the tour I could run almost endlessly, and I had shed about 30 pounds. That’s quite a bit of distress dropped in the sound of my feet crunching through the gravel. At this time I was still just starting.
    Eventually, the enemy made himself known. We hadn’t ventured out of the base yet for patrols, but they knew we were there. A battalion-sized convoy rolling in to town isn’t exactly inconspicuous, plus I surmised that about 90% of the Iraqi Army would take off those chocolate chip uniforms at night and jihad against the American infidel. We would confirm that soon enough.
    It was about 5am in the morning. The tent was still a dark chorus of harsh snores, backed by soft wheezing. I was drifting between waking and sleep, living in some lucid representation of home. I heard a series of thumps in the distance that shook the tent walls. Seconds later I heard the signature growing shriek of rockets. I shot up, grabbing the sides of my sweat drenched cot. It might be a dream.
    Thump-Thump-thumpthumpthumpthump.
    wheeeeeEEEEEEEEEE
    “INCOMING!!”
    I wailed it out as loud as I could. In a second the tent was alive with bodies rolling to the floor and clamoring for gear. The first impacts were close enough for the shockwaves to ruffle out tent walls. They were most definitely landing inside the base.
    Thump-thump-thump-thump-thump
    Over and over again the cycle continued. We assessed around 40 rockets were launched at us. They were Chinese 107mm warheads, of which about a quarter ended up being “duds”, allowing us to easily identify what was being fired at us. We were getting pelted. This was a highly orchestrated indirect fire attack that probably began as soon as the locals found out we were coming.
    A series of them were being “walked in” to our location.
    boom boom Boom BOOM!
    The last impact was close enough to hear a spattering of gravel hit the roof of our tent. The next set of thumps were nothing less than terrifying. A 107mm rocket would tear through these tents like tissue paper, and a direct hit would generate a horrific mass casualty. I had spread my body armor over my body and already put my helmet on. I got as small as I could.
    Last edited by L.Benton; 11-19-2015 at 01:55 AM.



  2. #2
    Rogue Mutt
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    Quote Originally Posted by L.Benton View Post
    This is an excerpt from my memoir on the Iraq war. It hasn't been edited or revised, and there are possibly some bad sentence structures and what not. This was from a day on my second combat tour when we endured one of the worst indirect fire attacks in recent history.

    We had been out of Sparrowhawk about a week. Although we were next to an Iraqi Army base, we were still out in the open. We were about as exposed as a battalion-sized Unit could get. It was basically a tent city that was in the process of becoming a Forward Operating Base. It was to be named “FOB Garry Owen”, after the moniker of our Battalion, the 7th Cavalry. At this point, though, there were none of the towering cement “T-walls” in place to cordon off the base, nor were there any bunkers or guard towers. Our protection from a country of people that wanted to kill us was a triple-strand of concertina wire, with a makeshift gate that could be dragged open and closed. Suffice to say, concertina wire is pretty effective at stopping personnel and vehicles, but not mortars, rockets, and bullets. I say vehicles because I have actually seen the stuff disable a tank when it gets wound up in the drive sprocket, so I’m sure a car or truck wouldn’t have much better luck.
    We slept in tents called “GP-Mediums” that were designed to house about 20 Soldiers with gear and cots. Losing any sense of dignity is something that happens early on in the life of a Soldier. Terms like “nuts to butts” and sharing porno magazines for “me time” becomes a normal thing. Spooning up on the back deck of a tank with the rest of the crew during a particularly cold night is quite acceptable. This is sometimes a paradox because of the rampant homophobia in combat arms, but men do what they have to when it comes to the basics of staying alive. Here we lived our lives, packed in this tent-our only shelter from the blazing sun. We slept here, bathed here, ate here, beat off here…all within an arm’s reach of the next guy.
    The first few weeks out here had been uneventful as far as enemy contact went. Uneventful doesn’t even describe it, really. It was outright boring, other than the events of reverse-evolution that had taken place at Sparrowhawk. We hadn’t been issued Company-level OPORDS (Operations Orders) yet, so there wasn’t much in the way of combat operations going on. Having nothing to do in the Army is just below outright combat in the level of hazard. Here you have a situation where there are men in their 20’s and 30’s, packed together in a place where the barrier between life and death appears paper thin. There are no women in sight, and they have been training for the last year in techniques on how to kill and survive. This is when we see such feats as Soldiers trying to create flying squirrel suits out of 550 cord and ponchos, and jumping off of fuel platforms during a sandstorm. This works just well enough for the Soldier in question to float past his intended landing area and slam his face into an aluminum landing pad, costing him three teeth and an Article 15. It seems that in this mindset, if we can’t cheat the death the enemy attempts to bring us, we will create our own situations in which to do so.
    The monotony also serves to intensify the homesickness. A laptop that’s almost dead and some DVD’s only goes so far before we retreat into the recesses of our mind. Even the old crusty First Sergeant visits home in the quiet moments. I had to find a way to break this up. My marriage was shaky when I left, and I had only spent about 8 months of my daughter’s 2 year life with her. I couldn’t dwell in my mind for too long. I always worked out, but at the time there was no facility in place, so I just started running. I would run around the perimeter of the base. I started doing just one lap, which was about a mile and a half. By the end of the tour I could run almost endlessly, and I had shed about 30 pounds. That’s quite a bit of distress dropped in the sound of my feet crunching through the gravel. At this time I was still just starting.
    Eventually, the enemy made himself known. We hadn’t ventured out of the base yet for patrols, but they knew we were there. A battalion-sized convoy rolling in to town isn’t exactly inconspicuous, plus I surmised that about 90% of the Iraqi Army would take off those chocolate chip uniforms at night and jihad against the American infidel. We would confirm that soon enough.
    It was about 5am in the morning. The tent was still a dark chorus of harsh snores, backed by soft wheezing. I was drifting between waking and sleep, living in some lucid representation of home. I heard a series of thumps in the distance that shook the tent walls. Seconds later I heard the signature growing shriek of rockets. I shot up, grabbing the sides of my sweat drenched cot. It might be a dream.
    Thump-Thump-thumpthumpthumpthump.
    wheeeeeEEEEEEEEEE
    “INCOMING!!”
    I wailed it out as loud as I could. In a second the tent was alive with bodies rolling to the floor and clamoring for gear. The first impacts were close enough for the shockwaves to ruffle out tent walls. They were most definitely landing inside the base.
    Thump-thump-thump-thump-thump
    Over and over again the cycle continued. We assessed around 40 rockets were launched at us. They were Chinese 107mm warheads, of which about a quarter ended up being “duds”, allowing us to easily identify what was being fired at us. We were getting pelted. This was a highly orchestrated indirect fire attack that probably began as soon as the locals found out we were coming.
    A series of them were being “walked in” to our location.
    boom boom Boom BOOM!
    The last impact was close enough to hear a spattering of gravel hit the roof of our tent. The next set of thumps were nothing less than terrifying. A 107mm rocket would tear through these tents like tissue paper, and a direct hit would generate a horrific mass casualty. I had spread my body armor over my body and already put my helmet on. I got as small as I could.
    First tip is that when you post, put an extra space between paragraphs so it doesn't run together. It's harder to read. Second, you can lose the sound effects; you're not writing a comic book. In sentences like this "house about 20 Soldiers" soldiers is not capitalized. You obviously have a lot to learn about writing, so a ghostwriter might be the better way to go if you have some money. You can try hiring one from freelance sites (freelancer.com, freelanced.com might be a couple but I'm sure there are more) just don't ask them to work for free or for a percentage of non-existent profits because that is a huge turn off.

  3. #3
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    We had been out of Sparrowhawk (most readers won’t know what this is so you may want to elaborate what a Sparrowhawk is) about a week. Although we were next to an Iraqi Army

    base (Help me to visualize what an Iraqi Army base looks – so that I can get immersed into your world - if you described it more: brown, deserted, fence, wall, etc.) , we were still

    out in the open (Like I said, if you described the base more, I would have a better understanding of what this means). We were about as exposed as a battalion-sized Unit (If

    your target or only audience/reader is military, then this is acceptable, however, if you want your readership to include everyone then you may want to tell

    what a ‘battalion-sized unit’ is or consist of: A group consisting of ## soldiers of a typical battalion-sized unit ….)
    could get. It was basically a tent city (You, having been there,

    this is vivid in your mind; however, it is not in mine. The hardest part of writing is you helping me to see what you see. I cannot hear your voice, or enter your head –

    YOU have to make me.)
    that was in the process of becoming a Forward Operating Base.
    Last edited by Writers Choice; 11-19-2015 at 08:55 AM.

  4. #4
    Rogue Mutt
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    Quote Originally Posted by Writers Choice View Post
    WIt was basically a tent city (You, having been there,

    this is vivid in your mind; however, it is not in mine. The hardest part of writing is you helping me to see what you see. I cannot hear your voice, or enter your head –
    .
    Golly gee, a tent city might just be a whole mess of tents.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rogue Mutt View Post
    Golly gee, a tent city might just be a whole mess of tents.
    Yup! I see a whole mess of tents - too. Green, small, neatly lined up in a row of a dozen or so.

  6. #6
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    Thanks! A lot of that, including Sparrowhawk, is explained in earlier chapters. It's just an excerpt of something bigger.

  7. #7
    Senior Member John Oberon's Avatar
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    You use empty verbs and too much unneeded commentary. See "About Hammer and Tongs" on my website for a list of empty verbs to avoid. Get to the point as quickly as you can, as if you can't wait to tell the story. That kind of passion infuses readers with a feeling that they can't wait to read it. Compare your first paragraph:

    We had been out of Sparrowhawk about a week. Although we were next to an Iraqi Army base, we were still out in the open. We were about as exposed as a battalion-sized Unit could get. It was basically a tent city that was in the process of becoming a Forward Operating Base. It was to be named “FOB Garry Owen”, after the moniker of our Battalion, the 7th Cavalry. At this point, though, there were none of the towering cement “T-walls” in place to cordon off the base, nor were there any bunkers or guard towers. Our protection from a country of people that wanted to kill us was a triple-strand of concertina wire, with a makeshift gate that could be dragged open and closed. Suffice to say, concertina wire is pretty effective at stopping personnel and vehicles, but not mortars, rockets, and bullets. I say vehicles because I have actually seen the stuff disable a tank when it gets wound up in the drive sprocket, so I’m sure a car or truck wouldn’t have much better luck.

    We were about a week out of Sparrowhawk. encamped next to an Iraqi Army base in a tent city slowly becoming a Forward Operating Base to be christened “FOB Garry Owen”, after the moniker of our Battalion, the 7th Cavalry. No cement “T-walls” cordoned off the base yet, nor were there any bunkers or guard towers. We were about as exposed as we could be. Our “protection” in a country full of hostiles was a triple-strand of concertina wire with a makeshift gate. Though concertina wire effectively stopped personnel and vehicles, it didn't do **** for mortars, rockets, and bullets.

    You use 179 words; I use 100. That's nearly a 45% reduction in words. Which do you think puts the reader into the scene more effectively?
    Last edited by John Oberon; 11-20-2015 at 11:48 PM.

  8. #8
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    This is sometimes a paradox because of the rampant homophobia in combat arms
    I hate when the term homophobia is thrown out there... Military males aren't afraid of homosexuality; they dislike having it thrown in their faces because someone feels compelled to announce their orientation,or make everything about their homosexual orientation. Got it, certain usual behaviors become routine on deployment, but that doesn't specifically make someone homophobic.

  9. #9
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    I hope you keep up the work. This has the potential to give some really great insight into what life is like in the camp. In memoir its about the relationship between you and the reader and less of what is on the page meaning help us to see it through your eyes and help us to relate in some way. A new book on memoir by Mary Karr has been recently released that gives you some specific sort of meditative exercises to help you do just that. They help you remember the sights, sounds etc and show that on the page.

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