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June 16th, 2013

Originally published at Ramblings from the Flip Side (Site under construction). You can comment here or there.

Writing the good fight. Sounds easy, yes?

As I wade through submissions for What Honor Requires, I find that there is a huge disparity between authors who understand the military and authors who can write about it. It’s easy, it seems, to write about chains of command and get the ranks right, but not so easy to express the military mindset via fiction. And even harder to express believable conflict within the story. There are the military people who do everything a good protagonist should do (fight the system) in such a way that no RL military would allow without a court martial or an execution squad. There are protagonists written in such a proper RL military way (by the book types) who don’t act upon anything and appear to be passive participants in events instead of driving the story. And then there’s the authors who use the wrong terminology for certain types of maneuvers and weapons and … well, the list goes on.

Actual physical conflict becomes a saga of Too Many Things Happening At Once, or a telling of the battle that sounds more like something coming out of a history book than something actually happening right there on the page in front of the reader. And that was a huge problem with many of the books received in this call. Lots of telling, hardly any showing, and premises that could have been great if they weren’t left lying in the dust because someone went off in three other directions after whetting my interest with the first idea.

Military fiction is hard to write. It doesn’t just have to be realistic, it has to be readable. Sometimes real life military things need to be ignored or stretched around the fiction. Sometimes the fiction needs to be pulled in tighter. It’s a delicate balancing act that few authors actually manage, and I’ve gained a new appreciation for those who have accomplished the task.

This writing thing, it’s HARD. Who’da thunk it?

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