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When Johnny Comes Marching Home [Readers Needed]

10 months ago

I'm a newbie completing an entry for The Jungle contest. I've taken my time getting it done, and hope that doesn't end up biting me in the butt. I've gotten most of it finished, just need to get several endings done and then proofread the story. I'd appreciate any feedback, though note that I'll get around to editing and fixing grammar and misspellings eventually. 

In the story, you take the perspective of a hardened Vietnam War sergeant. After the opening days of the Tet Offensive, you are back at the front commanding a new platoon against the Viet Cong. However, the jungle may hold more secrets and dangers than you'd expect...

I hope you enjoy!

Link: http://chooseyourstory.com/story/when-johnny-comes-marching-home

PS. Don't mind the comment in the storygame. My sister was messing with my computer and used my account to comment on my own story Lol. 

When Johnny Comes Marching Home [Readers Needed]

10 months ago
I can't read through it right now but congrats on getting this far! I was wondering if we'd get a Vietnam story.

Someone remind me to never bet money in a race based on Enterpride's guesses.

When Johnny Comes Marching Home [Readers Needed]

10 months ago
Commended by mizal on 7/3/2020 10:18:23 AM
Well done on proving me wrong.

So I looked at your story, there's some good and some bad. Below are my thoughts for improvements:

Overall, the whole story could use another proofread. There are some typos ('howizters' and 'his one of friends' on the first page) and weirdly placed commas that threw me off. Luckily, that's quickly helped if you put your attention to it.

Alright, with that out of the way, let's talk about plot and pacing. I found the first page to have a bit too much dry background. You could reintegrate the info more naturally into the story, either by dialogue between the young lads and the old veteran or just altogether more remarks on happenings in the story sprinkled over multiple pages. I'd personally go for the first option based on my next point. Also, this is what you did in the poker scene, so you're telling the same things twice.

The next helicopter ride highlighted what irked me. Aside from the ambush, which I enjoyed, most of the action lacked impact.

"The helicopter ride was smooth until the end, where you had to brave light anti-aircraft fire on landing. Small explosions of black smoke dot the sky as the helicopter descends. Your squad is unscathed, but another helicopter's rotor is hit by the flak. It trails black smoke as it swirls out of control, going down in a great fireball in the jungle."

Within a paragraph, you are transported from your base to the jungle. The imagery is good, but the writing goes so fast that it doesn't give me a chance to let the imagery set in. When I was reading, I felt myself skimming the text much like I would a history book. I think that could be helped by adding the human element to the carnage of facts. This is especially true if I went to see the lieutenant, I know nothing about my squad, let alone care about them. The story is so plot-heavy that it doesn't make the characters and world breathe.

But I enjoyed the ambush with all its anxiety and waiting. That was a scene that added that human element and wasn't afraid to drop the pace a little. I'd like to see more of that.

Then the green beret comes, almost a supernatural entity that was very well described. But in the following pages, you focus more on the mist, something that was overshadowed in its introductory scene. I'd suggest shifting the highlight back to the green beret as he was much more terrifying, maybe because the mist was a bit too supernatural for my tastes.

One last remark is the usurpation of power, where suddenly our sergeant orders his lieutenant about. This could be a good turning point of drama within the story, where the green officer is forced to relinquish his station. But instead, it's glossed over, and the lieutenant just resigned without any conflict.

There are only a few days left before the deadline, so I don't know how much that'll help you. In any case, I wish you good luck in finishing this story.

When Johnny Comes Marching Home [Readers Needed]

10 months ago

Thank you so much for taking the time to read through my story. I must admit, I was a bit too ambitious about the branching and really glossed over many of the things that give a story substance. Your feedback brought my attention to the characters, where I'm having a bit of difficulty characterizing an entire squad of men. Do you have any advice on how this may done? Also, what are your thoughts on Corporal Bronski, the MC's best friend? 

Thank you again for helping me out. This is my first real writing project, and you showed me how friendly the community here is. I've learned a lot from entering this contest, and I hope to do a lot more writing in the future!

When Johnny Comes Marching Home [Readers Needed]

10 months ago
Many writers on the site are much, much better at writing characters, but I'll try my best at giving a few (hypocritical) pointers. Really, this is the hard part and I could improve here myself.

- First is dialogue, conscripted privates at Vietnam would probably be bitching and boasting a lot. There are vast stretches in your story where nothing's said. Instead of telling the public about the green hell, you can have them bitch about mosquito's, water that gets into their boots, and vines slashing across their arms. As a bonus, you can also use this to further distance and distinguish the veterans: the Sergeant and the Corporal, who'll probably be a lot quieter after having been through hell.

- Make them different from each other. You're already doing some of these things in the skinny radio guy, and the doc. You can even have the stereotypes come into play, pick and mix characters from Full Metal Jacket, for example. But don't sweat it as much. These guys are the background characters, and there's just too little words for all of them to shine, especially as in a CYOA, each path is different. However, together they form the unit, and that's both more important and easier to manage. For example, in grasping the leadership from the lieutenant, you'd probably need the group behind you. In fighting, you need to lead your unit, and your unit will react

- Make them act. You already mentioned the radio guy being skinny, but you can say in other scenes something about him having difficulty and him trying to pass it off to another private. Have them form smaller groups of two, do something that's not necessarily main-plot related, or depending on the protagonist to do something.

Bronski had a good introduction, but he fell off if that makes any sense. After the introduction I felt the narrative focussed more on the plot and jungle, overshadowing his spotlight.