Partridge India Writing Tips| Military Fiction Pt 2

Mar 30

Partridge India returns with part 2 of Military Fiction.



Writing Military Fiction
The cavalry charges.

Perspective is important to consider when writing military fiction. From whose perspective are you writing from? The viewpoint and experiences of soldiers on the ground can be very different from those of a general in headquarters, or from a pilot high up in the air. One’s rank can determine what factors and responsibilities they have to keep in mind. What an admiral has to worry about can be far from the mind of a ship captain or her crew members. A soldier’s background and upbringing can greatly affect how they view their military experiences and responsibilities, such as the difference between a volunteer and a conscript. All these factors and more you should think about when writing military fiction.


It is also important to remember that there always at least two sides to a conflict. It is a rarity in history for wars to be cut-and-dry cases of good versus evil. Most often the soldiers on one side of a war have similar worries, fears, and passions as the other. Rarely is one side any more or less monstrous than the other. There are cases where one side has performed far more atrocities and terrible acts than the other, but there are also cases where the acts of cruelty carried out by one side are returned by the other side in equal or greater fashion at a later date. None of which changes the fact the enemy are people too, and thus are just as nuanced, flawed, noble, or evil as anyone else. When writing military fiction, consider the motivations that might drive soldiers and warriors from all sides of a conflict. Also remember that one side’s heroes might be the other side’s villains.


War is Hell

When writing military fiction you should always be mindful of the realistic costs of war, economically, and especially personally felt by the characters that you are writing about. The American general William Sherman once said, “War is hell.” And he was right. While thankfully not as prevalent now, in the past war and battle has been glorified to varying degrees across the world. Different cultures have had different views and approaches to depicting war, but the ultimate truth is that war is not glorious. It is a storm of death and suffering no matter the intentions, good or bad. Whether or not war is fought in aggression, in self-defense, or the defense of others, war always exacts a terrible price. Veterans of combat will almost universally admit to the terrible physical, mental, and emotional strain they endured in battle- grotesque (sometimes crippling) wounds, post-traumatic stress disorder, and the sudden deaths of comrades, to name a few. Loved ones left at home, away from the battlefronts may live in constant fear of receiving that one message telling them that a son, daughter, husband, wife, or sibling is not coming home.


Writing Military Fiction
Trench warfare of World War I.

Historical accounts tell of whole regions ruined for generations by war, such as when mercenary armies rampaged across Germany during the 1600s, looting, pillaging, and committing all manner of atrocities. When doing your research, look for photos of towns and cities that had been bombed and bombarded, to better understand the sort of devastation modern warfare can inflict. Even something as simple as an army’s marching can destroy cropland, making the ground useless for farming for years, during which people will starve. Treating war and its effects lightly can be incredibly jarring to readers, or worse, misinformative.


Partridge India will return to conclude Military Fiction.

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By Ian Smith

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