War stories are multifaceted, emotional, and full of conflict. War is a popular and captivating genre. However, writing about war is challenging. Whether it’s contemplating if your descriptions are too graphic or not violent enough, not knowing how much detail to go into, or writing intense battle scenes, war stories are notoriously difficult to master. While there’s no specific formula to writing a good war story, there are tips that can make the topic less intimidating. This article outlines some of these tips to ensure your war story is a nuanced and well-written one.
1. Understand What a War Story Is
Many writers mistakenly believe that a war story takes place in a wartime setting. Unfortunately, this isn’t entirely the case. When writing a war story, it’s critical to understand the genre and what it entails. A war story isn’t a story with a war within it, nor is it a story explaining war or battles. It is much more and consists of a soldier or group of soldiers either engaging in, preparing for, or recovering from war and conflict. Instead of just being set during a war, a war story makes the war a primary focus of the novel.
2. Do Your Research and Get the Facts Straight
There’s nothing worse than an unrealistic war story. War is no cliché. If you’re writing a war story, you must fully embrace research and understand the genre before you begin work. This includes research on the landscape, period, the war you’re writing about, how soldiers interacted, training, weaponry, and more.
Avoid using artistic license when it comes to military ranks and protocols and gun safety. In this case, research is vital and is what distinguishes a good war story from a mediocre and poorly written one. Authenticity and details will make your war story worth reading and ensure your readers are transported to the time or setting you’re writing about.
3. Use All Types of Conflict
There’s an external conflict in every novel. It’s what keeps the story moving. However, a war story benefits from not only external conflict, but also internal and interpersonal conflict. The different types of conflict establish the stakes and bring out the characters and story arcs. External conflict is the typical conflict of staying alive, expectations in a war, the environment around the soldiers, and more.
Internal and interpersonal conflict is very different from external conflict. Internal conflict can also be classified as war. However, it’s the war within the protagonist. This could be the protagonist’s moral compass, worldview, or both. For example, your protagonist may have been drafted but may be morally opposed to taking a life. Perhaps they’re opposed to the war because of political or personal reasons. Exploring this conflict in depth helps flesh out your character while also propelling the story forward.
Interpersonal conflict is usually a conflict between the protagonist and the antagonist. In a war story, the antagonist is usually the opposing army. However, the enemy forces don’t have to be the only antagonist. Often, someone on the protagonist’s side can act as an antagonistic force. Whether this is a higher-ranking official or a fellow soldier the protagonist dislikes, this can be an excellent source of conflict and can help you create nuance within your characters.
4. Know When to Use and Avoid Tropes
Tropes exist for a reason. Every genre has tropes, and this is no different for war stories. If you’re writing a story about a battle, tropes like dying in a fellow soldier’s arms, dragging soldiers out of harm’s way, or going out in a blaze of glory are sure to creep in. What’s important is to avoid clichéd scenes and instead put your unique spin on events to make the war story your own.
5. Don’t Be Afraid of Using Emotions
War is full of emotion. Be it courage, fear, pity, satisfaction, excitement, contempt, or selflessness, there is plenty of emotion involved. Instead of shying away from emotion, embrace it. Perhaps soldiers are petrified because the enemy forces outnumber them. Alternatively, you could highlight courage in the face of certain defeat.
6. Write Realistic Battle Scenes
When writing a war story, you’re sure to write a battle scene or two. While gore isn’t necessary, it’s important to ensure your battle scenes are realistic. One way to do this is to focus on both the whole picture and zoom in on specifics. When focusing on specific soldiers and their role in the battle, you must write about what they’re experiencing, but don’t forget about their surroundings. The vastness of a battle must be shown – soldiers do not fight in isolation. Focus on both the details and the bigger picture to convey the true sense of combat.
Writing a war story isn’t a simple task with so much research and action involved. One way to ensure your book is ready to send to publishers is to take advantage of novel editing services. Edit911’s editors are PhDs and native English speakers. We proofread and edit your novel to make sure it’s free of errors. Get in touch with us here.