Memorial Day: Writing About War

A fitting subject for today’s post might be how writers write about war.
Writing Tip for Today: Occasionally a writing student will write about war in a novel or short story. The gravity of the subject is often difficult reading, but I offer some pointers that I think might help:

  • Decide How Much Your Readers Can Take. If you’re writing about war as a backdrop for a romance novel, you may need to take into account the delicate nature of your reader. Is she willing to endure a lot of violence or gore? If not, focus on bravery, morality, patriotism and sacrifice in the scenes you write. If your audience is predominantly male, you may be able to include more of the nitty-gritty, but use caution: as with sex, scenes before or after are probably more powerful than a bunch of bullets whizzing past.
  • Be Accurate. Readers of military fiction are often veterans themselves and you can be sure they’re going to spot any breach of etiquette, uniform, tactics or ordnance. Do enough research to get it right or else you’ll hear from dissatisfied readers.
  • Limit the Situation Room Scenes. Many times, I’ve read drafts of scenes where some military guy explains the mission to a bunch of his men. While this might seem better on the surface than the bullets whizzing, consider that most of these “situation room” scenes are as static as kitchen table scenes. Mouths move, and maybe those little battleships are shifted around, but other than that, very little action occurs. The reader may feels as though he/she is getting second-hand information.


About Linda S. Clare

I'm an author, speaker, writing coach and mentor. I teach both fiction and nonfiction writing at Lane Community College and in the doctoral program as expert writing advisor for George Fox University. I love helping writers improve their craft and I'm both an avid reader and writer of stories about those with wounded hearts.

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