Writing Battle Scenes: Example 2

This is the second example in Diana Gabaldon's explanation of how she writes battle scenes. This scene is from Claire's point of view, during the Battle of Monmouth in WRITTEN IN MY OWN HEART'S BLOOD. (The photo above, from Wikipedia, shows the Old Tennent Church and cemetery, in present-day Manalapan, NJ.)

    I was swaying with weariness and heat, and for my own part, was nearly indifferent to the battle. Until, that is, a young man in militia brown staggered in, blood streaming down his face from a deep cut in his forehead. I had stanched the bleeding and half-wiped his face before I recognized him.

    “Corporal…Greenhow?” I asked dubiously, and a small spurt of fear penetrated the fog of fatigue. Joshua Greenhow was in one of Jamie’s companies; I’d met him.

    “Yes, ma’am.”  He tried to bob his head, but I stopped him, pressing firmly on the wad of lint I’d slapped on his forehead.

    “Don’t move.  General Fraser--have you…”  My mouth dried, sticky, and I reached automatically for my cup, only to find it empty.

    “He’s all right, ma’am,” the corporal assured me, and reached out a long arm to the table, where my canteen lay.  “Or at least he was last time I saw him, and that was no more ’n ten minutes gone.” He poured water into my cup, tossed it into his own mouth, breathed heavily for an instant in relief, then poured more, which he handed to me.

    “Thank you.” I gulped it; it was so warm that it was barely discernible as wet, but it eased my tongue. “His nephew--Ian Murray?”

    Corporal Greenhow started to shake his head, but stopped.

    “Haven’t seen him since about noon, but I haven’t seen him dead, either, ma’am. Oh--sorry, ma’am. I meant--”

    “I know what you meant. Here, put your hand there and keep the pressure on.”  I placed his hand on the lint and fished a fresh suture needle threaded with silk out of its jar of alcohol. My hands, steady all day, trembled a little and I had to stop and breathe for a moment. Close. Jamie was so close. And somewhere in the midst of the fighting I could hear.

    Corporal Greenhow was telling me something about the fighting, but I was having trouble attending. Something about General Lee being relieved of his command and--

    “Relieved of command?” I blurted. “What the devil for?”

    He looked startled by my vehemence, but replied obligingly.

    “Why, I don’t quite know, ma’am.  Was something to do with a retreat and how he oughtn’t to have told them to do it, but then General Washington come up on his horse and cursed and swore like the dickens--saving your presence, ma’am,” he added politely.  “Anyway, I saw him!  General Washington. Oh, ma’am, it was so…”  Words failed him, and I handed him the canteen with my momentarily free hand.

    “Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ,” I murmured under my breath. Were the Americans winning? Holding their own?  Had bloody Charles Lee cocked things up, after all--or not?

(From WRITTEN IN MY OWN HEART'S BLOOD by Diana Gabaldon, Chapter 81, "Among the Tombstones". Copyright© 2014 by Diana Gabaldon.  All rights reserved.)

Click here to return to my interview with Diana Gabaldon.

1 comment

Shirley Wine said...

As an author, I love the technical aspects of Diana's writing, the gift she has of bringing immediacy and putting a reader in the thick of the action.

These interviews about how she achieves such mastery of the craft are nuggets of pure gold. I have read all these books several times and learn something new every single time.

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