All Stories, Literally Reruns

Literally Reruns – Soldier of Fortune by Sharon Frame Gay

We have provided coffee and cakes on a tray as Leila continues her treasure hunting in the dungeons of LS towers. She left this piece outside the door:

Sharon Frame Gay’s Soldier of Fortune may seem to be a fragile, pretty little thing on the surface, but that appearance is deceptive, for I say it’s made of sturdy stuff. Now, there are the persnickety types out there who refuse to acknowledge the merits of a piece simply because it doesn’t obey the rules. Personally, I see rules as aging good ideas that have become complacent and set in their ways.

Soldier of Fortune disregards the rules and yet it is good writing. From first to last it is beautiful descriptive prose, which tells mood, mind, place and action. Yes tell, not show. Noisier types (aka, persnickety) don’t understand the unique opportunities afforded by the short form. Although I think it would be impossible to pull off a novel only using the technique in this story, it is absolutely perfect to get across a long night on a bus trip.

Q: There’s no dialogue in this piece. Yet it says plenty. Did (Do) you work from an outline?

Q: The MC is described as frightened by hair stroking. Since it’s her eyes we see through, might she even be angry with the soldier for interfering with her poetic, private visions?

Leila Allison


Soldier of Fortune

Q: There’s no dialogue in this piece. Yet it says plenty. Did (Do) you work from an outline?

I do not work from an outline. I am a “pantster.”  All my stories come from a thought, a phrase or a sentence. I sit down, begin to write, and don’t stop until I am finished.  The characters tell me when to stop.  I have no idea how my stories will end, until they do. Then, of course, I spend hours, days, or weeks, editing it!
This story was a little different, though.  It was loosely based on my own experience, traveling across country on a Greyhound bus during the Viet Nam War years. I had just turned eighteen. A young soldier got on the bus that night, and sat next to me. I drifted off to sleep, then was startled awake in the night, as his hand stroked my hair.  I froze, then moved closer to the window, heart pounding, and he stopped. I often think about him and hope that he survived the war. I pray I wasn’t the last girl whose hair he touched.

Q: The MC is described as frightened by hair stroking. Since it’s her eyes we see through, might she even be angry with the soldier for interfering with her poetic, private visions? 

If I see the main character through my own eyes, the answer is no, she was not angry. She was far from home, on a bus with strangers, and frightened. If I could re-write this story, I might have her speak to the soldier rather than feign sleep. It would be nice if my MC were braver and engaging, while I was not. Perhaps I WILL re-write this story some day, with a happier ending than watching him step off the bus and into his destiny. The beauty of fiction, is that even though it may be based on a real event, we writers can change the outcome with the stroke of a pen. Having said that, I have decided to believe that this particular “soldier of fortune” survived the war and came home to the girl he met on the bus.

n.b Since the first publication on Literally Stories this story has now been included in a book published by Clarendon House Publishing.

4 thoughts on “Literally Reruns – Soldier of Fortune by Sharon Frame Gay”

  1. I’d like to thank Sharon for taking the time to provide such well thought out answers, as well as the fine story that is highlighted today.

    And I see there’s a book called Song of the Highway by Sharon Gay Frame. And I see that it is an actual object in the Universe, and that it occupies three dimensions plus that of spacetime. I see that it isn’t the type of book that can also be described as an amorphous pile of paper loosely stacked in an office carton, which
    is often slept upon by any one of two small domestic animals who observe no difference
    between that sort of “book” and a window sill.

    I close my eyes and open them real fast. Nope, it’s not a hallucination. It’s still going on five on a Sunday morning in the dead heart of winter, and reality is the same as it ever was: I see yet another published book by an LS author as well as the carton of bedding I have confused with a book. Nothing untoward or in the least bit catty is intended here. Just doing my best to appreciate things as they are.
    Congratulations to Sharon. Yeah, that’s what I should have said, yet my cursor is heading to the post comment box nonetheless.


    1. Thank you so much, and for helping me, and Literally Stories, to “catch” that bus one more time! And yep, there’s a real live book out there, with over 35 of my short stories in this collection, by Clarendon House!


  2. Hi ladies,
    Leila – Brilliant as usual and your questions have given the story another level.

    Sharon – I really did enjoy revisiting this but I was more fascinated in what the soldiers response would have been if you had spoken to him. Was it him reaching out for some sort of contact, was he being intrusive, was he remembering somebody or was he wondering as you have considered that he may not touch someone ever again?
    That consideration depending on his reason could be worrying or sad in so many ways.

    All the very best to both of you for the New Year!!


    1. Thank you for your comments, Hugh! As a young girl, I was frozen in fear. Traveling across country at only 18, all alone, he scared the liver outta me. Now, in my gray hairs, I wonder what would have happened if I spoke to him, and I always hope he survived the war. All the best to you in the New Year, too, dear Hugh!


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