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Old October 15th, 2017, 08:11 AM   #21

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Caulincourt's With Napoeon in Russia is an extremely well-written book by one of Napoleon's most trusted advisers during one of the most important and stressful periods in Bonaparte's career. This isn't a book well-known to the public, and so it is a fertile source for development into something the mass audience would probably like.

Act 1, Scene 1. Moscow burning. Napoleon's delight in the victory stumbles as his prize goes up in ashes, while Alexander stubbornly refuses to surrender when his Capital is captured. Napoleon enters Moscow "on top of the World", but refuses to see that in the wake of Borodino, his Army has been severely shaken. Confusion and lack of discipline are shown, but Napoleon doesn't "see" the negatives. Napoleon hangs as criminals any Russian still resisting the French. Victorious at the Battle of Borodino, the Grande Army enjoys the technical victory, but they are tired and in need of resupply and reinforcements. Napoleon's capacity to continue pressing Alexander by following him to St. Petersburg is limited, so Bonaparte waits and fumes. His advisers talk about withdrawing back into Central Europe, but Napoleon won't hear them. His pride and belief that Alexander will "come to his senses" and surrender over-rides his better judgement.

Scene 2. We are introduced to a regiment with a glorious past, a regiment that has been with Bonaparte since his early victories in Italy. Attached to the regiment is a platoon of colorfully clad Egyptians who accompanied Napoleon when he left the troops behind to return to Europe. As the story continues, we will follow this regiment as it is slowly transformed from haughty victors who truly believe in their generals, to doubt and curses for them. In Scene 2, the regiment will be reduced in size and capability but the prevailing mood will be, "Napoleon will fix this. Just have faith, and once again we will triumph and be richly rewarded." The point of scene 2 is to compare and contrast the differences between the common soldier living in rags on stale bread when it could be found, and the comforts of Napoleon and his inner circle. It is important in this scene to show that both Napoleon and his lowest ranks are caught up in preferring a dream in the face of incipient disaster. At this point, few in the Grande Armee wants to remember that Napoleon was not "unbeatable", and that when faced with disaster he will abandon even his most fervent followers, even though he will be intolerant of any lapse in discipline. In this scene, a doubter is revealed, and hung.

Scene 3. Snow begins to fall, Napoleon still resists accepting that his invasion of Russia had failed. He sits in his palace before a fire reading dispatches and letters from Paris, Warsaw, etc. Outside the soldiers worn clothing is barely adequate for the weather, and horses are being butchered to feed the troops. Napoleon opens a packet of letters, and finds evidence that his hold on Paris is slipping, and apparently his Chief of Secret Police appears to be involved. He opens letter after letter from France and his allies, only to have the precariousness of his position repeatedly underlined. Napoleon still hopes to perform another miracle, and decides to wait another week before withdrawing back into Poland.

Act 2, Scene 1. Snow storms are shown increasing in strength, with some lasting almost a week. The Grande Armee is on the move, but now are shown as ragged units beginning to understand that their victory was hollow. The morale and temper of the troops remained high mostly because of their faith in Napoleon and his image as "unbeatable". In this scene, we are are witness to the difficulties of withdrawing from Moscow where the lack of food and clothing has made the City untenable during the Winter. Winter is fast, and preparation for withdrawal has not been as planned as it should have been. Napoleon and Caulincourt ride out with the generals, a proud well-dressed group in glittering uniforms. Our example Regiment files by in rags, but with their heads held high, their shoulders back and with a spring in their marching steps. As Moscow recedes in the background, so the retreating Army and Bonaparte fall out of step. Those without shoes have difficulty keeping up, and Bonaparte's staff turn their eyes away. Unspoken doubts may be shown.

Scene 2. The retreating Army is attacked by Russian "irregulars", or criminals as far as Napoleon was concerned. The attacks are beaten off, and some prisoners must be shot because they can't be easily hung on the almost treeless Steppes. As the prisoners are executed the sun fades behind the clouds, the wind rises, and Napoleon shivers beneath his heavy great coat.

... and so it goes...

As the story proceeds, Napoleon and Caulincourt retreat to a heavily guarded sled. The gaurd is picked for their appearance as much as their effectiveness as a fighting unit. Buttons are missing, or undone. A shoe is bound together with twine, and bits of uniforms and weapons are missing.

Napoleon and Caulincourt will increasingly have, and share flashbacks as their journey continues. Some may be very brief, while others in more extended narrative/pictures. Some will evoke laughter between the two men, while others will be quietly kept secret. The relationship between Bonaparte and Caulincourt who has observed and been a part of the history, will ripen. Caulincourt was a diplomat, and can be depicted as one who carefully maintains his position. He is an honest man, but Napoleon hears what Napoleon wants to hear. Caulincourt sees more clearly that the retreat is falling apart under the stresses. Napoleon has more faith in his "destiny" and puts the blame for problems on others with less faith.

The example regiment falls apart progressively and the action will be in tune with the observations in With Napoleon in Russia. As conditions worsen for the troops, so does discipline. Small groups desert their units in search of a bite of food, or a moment's warmth. Some lie down and pull a blanket of snow over themselves to die dreaming of warmth. Stragglers are murdered by men, women and children. When caught the Russians are "executed", but as conditions worsen the "execution" become vengeful demonstrations that only serve to increase the attacks on the column. The column itself lengthens as condition open up between units. The tail end just peters out to individuals who die of exposure, leaving their corpses to be robbed by children.

This should all lead to the climax, when Napoleon finally makes the decision to abandon the Grande Armee as, 1) a lost cause, and 2) the need to quickly reassert himself with Allies (Poland has already abandoned him) and with his government in Paris. If the Grande Armee is finished, then no time can be wasted in raising another invincible army. Napoleon and Caulincourt leave the retreat, and when the retreat reaches the bridge over the River Neva thousands of the best French soldiers drown trying to cross over from Russia.

Act 3, Scene 1. Napoleon is rebuffed by his "in-laws", but is able to resume control of the government in Paris. Seeing his weakness many of those defeated and forced into support of Bonaparte's dreams begin to drift away into confederations of resistance. Napoleon musters a new Army, but the magic of his reputation is beginning to fray with the the French nation. He fights at Liepzig, renounces his throne in favor of his son (a toddler King of Naples), and is sent into exile. The story ends with Napoleon looking out over the waters toward France, and his past. This is just a taste of St. Helena, and Napoleon can not sit idly by. His closest and most trusted generals have abandoned him it seems, and the French Revolution/Empire has fallen back into the hands of the "legitimate" royal family.

The story arch goes from supposed triumph to disappointment. Clear rational decisions are postponed in hope that things will somehow save the day. As the retreat from Moscow deteriorates, so does the faith of the Army in Napoleon's destiny. The army is really lost fairly early, but Napoleon does not, can not see and believe in defeat. The shining star of his personal destiny keeps him from fully recognizing that his powers have reached their zenith, and will forever after be in decline. Bonaparte is blind, and continues to act as if the Russian campaign was some sort of victory rather than the beginning of the end.
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Old October 15th, 2017, 11:10 AM   #22

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I’d have Wellington as some kind of bogeyman. Napoleon hears of him, each marshal he sends to Spain gets beat, but Napoleon never takes the threat seriously. Until fate lets them meet. Trying to explore Wellington in detail is going add another level of detail to a busy plot. While Spain is inportant as a drain on Napoleons troops and resources. It’s quite seperate to his own campaigns. Little that happened there would affect his campaigns directly.
I don't mind deviating from the main Napoleon plot in order to incorporate Wellington's arc. The way I see it Wellington is somewhat of a mirror opposite to Napoleon. Both of them were born in the same year on an island colony, where as Napoleon was recognized early on as a prodigy ol' Wellesley had trouble getting up, Napoleon used his vast family connections and friends to get by where as Arthur used his brother's connections, neither Arthur nor Napoleon really got on with their wives, at a time when Napoleon was in Egypt Arthur was over in India, when Napoleon left Spain Arthur had really only started (it seems as if they were destined to meet), both like to carry out maneuvers but Arthur is the more passive and defensive of the two, Napoleon built himself up like a mafiosi into an Emperor but Arthur is very much the British aristocrat who is in the grand scheme of things another chess piece, Napoleon is very energetic and almost manic where as Arthur is very steady and cool and struggles with his sensitivity, both of them would have been aristocrats had there never been a revolution etc. One of the major challenges for a lot of these generals will be contending with Wellington, you can't really talk about Marmont, Jourdan, Soult, Junot or Massena without going into their campaigns against Wellington.

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Personally I would choose to focus either on the the personalities OR on the battles/campaigns. There is so much in Napoleon's life that trying to include both in one novel means that either it's going to be over a thousand pages long or that you will have to skip significant chunks.

Writing resource sites are a great help and there's plenty of free, friendly advice out there. Good luck whatever you decide to do.
Who said there was only going to be one book.
That is why I want to focus on as much as possible while still having it be contained to a specific types of politics and war type of formula. If you ask me you can't have a proper Napoleonic epic without focusing on all of these aspects. The campaigns will not be so much about soldiers fighting as it is about the personalities going up against each other. So going into some information about who a certain general is would also give hints as to how they tick and why they make certain decisions (whether their personalities complement their style or contrasts it altogether).

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Just to explain and elaborate on what I meant above: I was talking about POV characters (and I hope I'm using the correct term here), i.e., characters whose thoughts and motives are laid open to the reader.
If you focus mostly on the battlefield action you most likely will not have the time to explore the relations between the characters outside of war. Using Murat as an example: There are plenty of reasons why Murat "commited treason" and left Napoleon, but that gradual souring of relations would, I assume, happen "off-screen" in your case (as it does even in many history books). All of a sudden (not really, but in that narrative), Murat turns coat, and to explain that, we need an explanation (Caroline). Now, that's all good and well - as long as we do not get to see things from Caroline's point of view. Because that would most likely make her come across as a very two-dimensional character. That was my fear, after having read a (german) book about the Bonaparte family that I wanted to kick around the room every ten pages .

Regarding Wellington: It's a nice idea but I guess that depends a bit on your intended audience. I assume most Brits and possibly also US Americans would love it. But I guess his fame is limited. Just saying: while I knew quite a bit about Napoleon even before I actually started reading up on him, I don't think I had ever come across the name of Wellington before (or Blücher, for that matter). Probably been mentioned once in 8th grade, and immediately forgotten.
The more important women such as Caroline, Elisa, Josephine etc will be more important than some others but more relevant to specific arcs. The souring of relations would not occur off screen as it is part of the story and part of the characters. This isn't really just about battles since it also has political intrigue as a major component. Battles and politics go hand in hand and the sort of family intrigue is an element of that equation, as it is essentially politics but carried out in private. My aim is to not make any character two-dimensional, really the goal is to break them down as real people instead of plot points, of course some will get more development than others.

I hope to use as many generals as possible. Kutuzov, Blucher, Bagration, Charles, Talleyrand, Fouche, they will all get some time under the sun. Some more than others of course and some will be relegated to arcs.

If I could describe this I would say think of it as Fall of the Eagles but with the Legend of the Galactic Heroes epic battles, maybe a comparison to Three Kingdoms is apt or perhaps Game of Thrones but toned down. Not quite the same formula or idea but it is similar. I do hope to delve more into the characters themselves and not leave any stones unturned in regards to that as this is necessarily a character driven story instead of one with sudden dramatic twists that only serve to increase suspense but make no sense for the story itself.
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Old October 15th, 2017, 11:15 AM   #23

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That was some excellent stuff you put on there. I really like the ideas but instead I would have that be one of various arcs. Also I couldn't help but notice that through the concept you inherently did a couple of things. For starters you created a Napoleon that was less energetic (older I should say) as much the story takes place in the sled. The second is that by making Caulaincourt one of the main focuses you essentially shoved the other characters aside, this would serve to establish the growing rift between Napoleon and everyone else as well as showing Napoleon as someone who is trying to craft a state and holding it together rather than someone who is focused on the intricate details of fighting battles.
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Old October 15th, 2017, 12:23 PM   #24

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Napoleon was older and much that made him famous was already in the distant past. Almost from nothing, a no-body almost, he had handed the Revolution a series of military victories while other failed. He had demonstrated the importance of artillery on the modern battlefield. Given a rad-tag bunch that no one else wanted, he executed a swift sureness of maneuver that left older contemporaries scratching their white hairs. He married an aristocrat who managed to escape the Guillotine, and in so doing gained a wide network of support in policy circles. Josephine was a key to his early political success, but she wasn't idealistic as the young Napoleon. The Egyptian Campaign may have been suggested by Alexander's romp, and Caesar's reach. It was an expensive expedition, and its value to the Republic over-sold. Napoleon was still a popular hero among the young and idealistic. Egypt was romantic, and the Ottoman hold there was seen as weak.

A quick Hail Mary, and Bonaparte would be catupulted onto the same lofty peak as Al & Julius with a wife waiting back home. Back home the Party Girl. That damned Nelson and his infamous "luck" dogged Napoleon across the Mediterranean, and against all odds destroyed Napoleons vital fleet. In spite of some successes that played well in the media of the day, the Egyptian Campaign had outlived its usefulness to Bonaparte. He abandoned the troops, leaving them on their own to live or die.

Back home the French were finally sick of the Terror their revolution had become. They wanted security, a sound economy, and the institution of a legal system that would bring order out of chaos. Napoleon was the man of the hour, and graciously (ha) accepted the job of saving the Revolution by restoring order and law. No matter what terrible things Napoleon was, or was to become, he had an administrative genius and energy to surmount most problems. He created a legal system that still is used by many countries. He enacted a series of policies that steadied the economy so that growth could begin again. Violence was reduced, food was more plentiful, and order was again seen everywhere. The young, romantic, progressive artists were especially captivated. Music and paintings were devoted to his praises. Married to a major celebrity, the Bonaparte's set the styles for the whole country, and Europe beyond.

It seems that during this period, Napoleons self-image got out of hand. His marriage wasn't as beautiful as paparazzi painted it, and he longed for a son, to found a Dynasty. His experience with the famous, wealthy and powerful demonstrated that he was personally "better" than any of them. So he was torn between an intense desire to be accepted by Europe's monarchs as an equal on one hand, while his contempt for them only grew over time.

It should be noted that as Napoleon got older, and had access to greater resourcs, so his management of Armies and campaigns also changed. During the Italian Campaign he amazed the world with his swift and decisive attacks on the weak points of armies many sizes larger than his own. By the time we arrive in 1812, Napoleon has replaced maneuver with a doctrine that relied more on the weight of the attack. Shock and Awe that demoralized his opponent into making major errors, remained his primary approach right up to Waterloo. Napoleon's bag of tricks became less successful as the world became familiar with them. The one essential thing that Napoleon never lost was his charisma, and power to instill devotion in lesser men. His Image never failed him, even when his generals did.

The Man was complex, and flawed. As his natural talents and luck propelled his rise to demi-godhood, he lost sight of his own limitations. He could move mountains with a gesture, so long as the People, the Army believed in him and his legend. The Army, and France paid in blood for the legend. Those who believed in him most, ended up as the most deceived.
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Old October 15th, 2017, 01:40 PM   #25

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.
the best bits about Napoleon are the early parts

the struggle for power during a fanatical revolution ,
everything was turned upside down
everyone could become anything
death was the price of a wrong move

the sexually frustrated wannabe fall for a well worn courtesan who blow him with practiced skill and see him as a alternate future to her fading asset , his frequent absence letting her her free to carouse with more satisfying lovers

the discovery of his talent for commanding , certainly the greatest validation any man can have
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Old October 15th, 2017, 01:49 PM   #26
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It be best to cut up his life into many pieces. He would not make a good movie - no his life would make a series of movies.
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Old October 15th, 2017, 01:58 PM   #27

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It be best to cut up his life into many pieces. He would not make a good movie - no his life would make a series of movies.
Well it isn't a movie.
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Old October 15th, 2017, 05:38 PM   #28

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the sexually frustrated wannabe fall for a well worn courtesan who blow him with practiced skill and see him as a alternate future to her fading asset , his frequent absence letting her her free to carouse with more satisfying lovers
Yes, thank you for that example. That's precisely the stuff that, personally, I am sick and tired of reading. Apart from it being historically inaccurate: Why is it impossible to allow the female characters to keep a shred of dignity?

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Well it isn't a movie.
But even a book, while less limited than a movie, will still have limits. How many pages do you plan to write? If you want to cover the whole of Napoleon's military life I assume you would have to start at Toulon at the latest. Or even with the Corsican revolutionary struggles. (Which would allow you to introduce the "clan" - and I really don't think one can "get" Napoleon without that clan. But I digress.)
John Gill needed ~1500 pages for the Austrian campaign of 1809 alone - appparently the least impressive of them all. Granted, you would be able to leave out all the stuff in Italy, Hungary and Poland and to focus on certain events and on Napoleon's personal experience, but I guess if you want to show events in some detail you will still need to cover several hundreds of pages.

So, I think those who suggest you should focus on a certain period are giving you good advice.
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Old October 15th, 2017, 05:57 PM   #29

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As many as I want/need, I don't have any scruples in that regard. Multiple books or volumes is fine by me.

I figure it would start either in Corsica or with the Revolution. Whether I want to start it with Napoleon's childhood and training or at the start of the Revolution is what I have yet to decide on.
I do intend to introduce the mafiosi Buonaparte.
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Old October 15th, 2017, 06:36 PM   #30

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As many as I want/need, I don't have any scruples in that regard. Multiple books or volumes is fine by me.

I figure it would start either in Corsica or with the Revolution. Whether I want to start it with Napoleon's childhood and training or at the start of the Revolution is what I have yet to decide on.
I do intend to introduce the mafiosi Buonaparte.
Well, the expedition to Sardinia is something that is rarely mentioned, I believe. Would that be an option to introduce some characters? (Joseph intriguing with Paoli to get a command for his brother or something like that? Paoli could then mention the immense greed of that family, and their too close connections to the jacobins...)

On a sidenote: if you plan to include Napoleon's childhood - did you know that the chevalier Keralio, who recommended Napoleon for the Academy of Brienne, had been the teacher of Bavarian elector Max Joseph? In November 1805, when Napoleon and the elector first met, apparently the first thing that Napoleon said was "Did you know that you and I had the same teacher?", immediately winning over a rather nervous and reluctant Max Joseph with that simple remark - a good example of how well Naopleon at that time could judge and read others.
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