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Submitted on
December 1, 2012
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12 (who?)
I don't know words very well, but I think they call the thing "Tank." It is a big fat thing with a long nose and it smells of metal and diesel. Though I don't know words very well, I have come to understand that I must go to Tank and bite the cord on my chest. I must worry it until heavy thing that is mine falls beneath me because this makes Man-With-Hat happy and when Man-With-Hat is happy he feeds me. This is good because I am hungry all the time. If I do not worry the cord and instead come back with the thing that is mine then Man-With-Hat is not happy and he strikes me instead of feeds. This is how I learn to worry the cord and drop the thing that is mine even though I don't know words.

I learn slowly without knowing words, but this is not bad because eventually there is a time when I can find Tank every time. I can worry the cord every time and let thing that is mine fall every time and this makes Man-With-Hat very happy. But then there is a time when I go to Tank and it is making a terrifying growling and smells very much of diesel so that I cannot smell the metal. This confuses me so that I go back to Man-With-Hat still with thing that is mine and he strikes and doesn't feed. Later I can find Tank without being scared or confused even when it growls and stinks of diesel, but then it starts to bark very very loud and this makes me scared and confused again. And it makes me sad, because by now I want Man-With-Hat to be happy even if he doesn't feed every time.

But there are other dogs who can do this thing that Man-With-Hat asks. One does it very well and I see it from the cage. Other dog does this thing very well indeed, and so Man-With-Hat brings his friend Man-With-Beard and shows him how well other dog drops mine-thing next to Tank. Man-With-Beard is even more happy than Man-With-Hat and brings very many friends to see other dog drop mine-thing like I see.

Man-With-Beard and friends stand in ditch with just heads poking up while Man-With-Hat sends out other dog to drop mine-thing beside Tank and then go back for feeding. But this time, when other dog goes back for feeding, mine-thing goes woof—much much louder than I could do—and digs up soil fast and throws it far and when soil is gone, Tank is gone too. Man-With-Beard is even more happy and stands above the ditch and waves his arms and speaks loudly.

Man-With-Beard is so happy that he wants to show friends again, and Man-With-Hat sends out other dog again once Tank is there again. But this time when other dog goes Tank begins to crawl, and other dog is scared and stands and woofs and then goes back to Man-With-Hat. Man-With-Beard and all his friends wave their arms and fall down in the ditch as mine-thing on other dog does its loud woof again, and soil thrown again, but this time Tank still there. Dog gone, though, and even Man-With-Hat gone, and this confuses me. But Man-With-Beard must understand because he is angry, and after that I have no cord to worry.

Other dog never comes back. Man-With-Hat comes back, but he smells different and looks different and his words don't sound the same. He is not the same Man-With-Hat, but he strikes the same and so for me is not different. What is different is mine-thing. I carry still but do not drop. This is not confusing very long. New way is simple because in cage there is no food now and I am very hungry. But when I wear mine-thing and Man-With-Hat sends me out, I find food under Tank. It is good food, and is what I eat, but still hungry because food under Tank is not much food. Man-With-Hat is happy though, and I am glad because I want him to be happy, even if he does not feed. Soon I can find Tank even when it growls and barks and even when it crawls. I do this better than other dog ever could have. Man-With-Beard and friends come back, and they are happy when new dog runs under Tank and mine-thing clicks then goes woof like before, and Tank is gone like before. I do not see where dog has gone, but men are happy so all must be good.

I carry mine-thing so well that soon my cage is taken to a different place. Man-With-Hat is taken with me, and I smell much diesel and hear much growling. I do not fear it any more. I am very hungry. We are in a ditch like Man-With-Beard's. There is very much growling and I hear Tank bark like before. Man-With-Hat takes me from the cage and ties mine-thing to me once again. When he lifts me up to the ground, I see Tank on horizon, and know I have done well. Though I have not been fed for days, I know that under Tank there is food. I run across the field, not feeling mine-thing because I am used to its weight. Tank barks and spits, but I have learned not to fear it. I am grateful for what Man-With-Hat has taught me. As I dive beneath Tank, mine-thing clicks.


General Orders, 29 September 1941:

Reports from the Karachev area indicate that the 18th Panzer Division has suffered casualties due to attacks by dogs strapped with explosives. Henceforth, soldiers on the Eastern Front are ordered to shoot all dogs on sight. To avoid unnecessary concern, officers are instructed to inform those in their command of possible cases of rabies in the area.

By command of General Nehring
Historical background: [link] . I should warn you, though, it's pretty sad.

This is for the "Revise" portion of =DailyLitDeviations' Write and Revise Contest and I'm afraid to say that I haven't made nearly as many changes as I expected. You can see the first version here: [link] .

I got some really helpful advice on this--from ~Roskvape especially--and fully intended to rewrite it from the ground up. The problem was that whenever I tried to make big, sweeping changes (this is actually the fifth Hundeminen), it came out missing something. In trying to make it easier to read, I completely lost whatever element of the narrator's voice made it work. I've put the worst example in scraps for comparison: [link] .

I think part of the problem is that the story relies entirely on the narrator being a dog. Not a dog like Goofy (or even Pluto), but a dog that can't understand that he's being used as ammunition. To show this, the voice has to be abnormal and it has to be consistently abnormal. When I tried to use short sentences instead of long ones, I found there wasn't enough room to tell the story without slipping back into longer ones. Also, it somehow didn't seem to suit the character.

Without being able to swap all the long unwieldy sentences out for short punchy ones, I was pretty much stuck. In the end, the only way I could think of to make this more readable was to go through and shift words and punctuation around "by hand." In many respects, this is the exact same story it was before, but I feel that these small changes will (hopefully) make a big difference.

The contest deadline isn't until December 7th, though, so if you've got any advice at this point it would be most welcome indeed! :-) The contest is over now, but I'm still interested in improving this if I can.

EDIT: Added a short final section from outside the dog's POV. Hopefully this will put some of the historical context into the story itself, and give it a clearer ending overall.

This story is 990 words long.

Daily Literature Deviation: February 7th, 2013
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Ooh this is a tough one. Cause I got a clear idea of what's happening easily enough and I could tell it was a dog before you mentioned the 'other dogs,' so the voice is successful. But as you've noticed, the voice is very, very limited. (For the record, I imagined the voice to be something like Dug from 'Up' and that worked out super-well despite the ending.)

I think it's a good idea to really, really figure out what you want this voice to do. Are you trying to have readers outraged by the conditions these animals were kept in? Do you want the heartbreak of the dogs kamikazeing some tanks, or the one where they were shot on sight even without having bombs strapped to them?

Right now it seems like you just want to convey what the experience is like for a dog and I think that was important for nailing the voice, but when you have an unreliable narrator (note: that was a #Writers-Workshop thing, may be worth a look) with a limited vocabulary I think you end up having to write a very tight, flash-fiction length piece. Depends on how much you want the reader to empathize with the dog outside of this particular situation, too.

And once you know where you want the dog's story to go, it should make that extra end vignette unnecessary. (I wasn't a fan, that could've been like he finds a girl doggie and is all SNIFF BUTT when she falls over from a gunshot wound.)
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DanielleIvanova Featured By Owner Mar 13, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
This was a very fresh and fascinating read. You really delved into the character. Great job!
DamonWakes Featured By Owner Mar 24, 2014   Writer
Thanks! This is one I really feel I should work on more, but don't quite know where to take it just now. I'm glad you like it as-is, though. :-)
DanielleIvanova Featured By Owner Apr 6, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Just let it rest then, a fresher look might give you some new ideas. Just keep working on improving your writing and with time you will know what to do with it. It does feel finished to me, but if you think it needs more work it's a great base as well.
DamonWakes Featured By Owner Apr 8, 2014   Writer
It actually feels "finished" to me too, in the sense that there's nothing I'd really want to add to it. Just that what's there could be done better. But I think you're right: sometimes it's best just to leave things alone for a while. I have the feeling that if I waited long enough, I'd want to change a little bit of everything I've written (which seems like a pretty good reason to get stuck into something new!).
DanielleIvanova Featured By Owner Apr 9, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
True that! Personally I find that practice quite ineffective - I mean, why edit old stuff when there's so much new to be written. But some stories stick with you long enough to be edited and there's nothing wrong with that.
DamonWakes Featured By Owner Apr 10, 2014   Writer
Agreed. Typically I only go back and edit old things if I'm suddenly interested in the story again, or if I've got a particular use for it (writing competitions, magazine submissions, that sort of thing).
leyghan Featured By Owner Jun 15, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
I agree that the narrative pov is limiting but for the most part you succeed. i.e. I understand what's happening and it is sad and cruel what was done to these animals. So although not as evocative as it could be, the crux of the story comes across just fine.
leyghan Featured By Owner Jun 15, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
I agree with wintyrsnow re: the suggestion of changing Man-With-Hat comes back to new Man-With-Hat.
GDeyke Featured By Owner Jun 15, 2013   Writer
Well, this is pretty much the saddest and most disturbing short story I've ever read, all the more so for its historical background, and probably the first time I've literally been moved to tears by a short story. (Admittedly, I tend to be much more sensitive to suffering dogs than to almost anything else.)

The one thing that struck me as off was this bit: Man-With-Hat comes back, but he smells different and looks different and his words don't sound the same. He is not the same Man-With-Hat, but he strikes the same and so for me is not different. The smell/look/sound of a person is a much more important part of their identity to a dog than the hat or even the behavior, so especially the Man-With-Hat comes back bit seems awkward to be. Maybe something along the lines of A new Man-With-Hat would work better?
GDeyke Featured By Owner Jun 15, 2013   Writer
* awkward to me, what was I thinking
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