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Author Topic: Military in fiction writing advice
Zenner
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Hi everyone,

My name is Joe Zieja, a budding fantasy/science fiction author. More importantly, I'm someone who has 10 years experience in the armed forces.

I was asked to speak at WORLDCON this year on the topic of creating realistic military environments and have started a series of articles on my website talking about them. There are 7 up so far, each with an audio/podcast accompanying them, and I have about an equal amount of articles in draft ready to go.

One of the panels from WORLDCON is also up there with Myke Cole, Jack Campbell, Mike Roscoe and David Voderberg.

If you're interested, please head over to my website at http://www.josephzieja.com/military-in-fiction and check them out. I'd love to see comments, follows, etc. If you know anyone who would like to learn a bit more about the military from the perspective of someone who is also a writer, pass them the link.

I hope this is useful to you. If you have questions or want to request topics, feel free to comment on any one of the articles on the website.

Joe

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genevive42
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Thanks for this. Still reading...
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extrinsic
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Zenner, how do you reconcile the at odds needs of drama's credibility, accessibility, and appeal requirements and accurate military protocols and culture that may be foreign vernacular to an audience?

Choregraphing action scenes, for example, strains many writers who've not been in actual combat or received an approriate degree of combat and command and control training and have little understanding of force multiplication and dimensionally integrated operational theaters. Let's see, like the difference between a warrior and a soldier and the development and history of the philosophy of N-dimensional force deployment vectors.

[ September 18, 2012, 09:40 AM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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MartinV
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Very good choice of topic! I'm planning on doing some military fantasy, giving a Tolkien-esque setting a bit more realism and I was thinking of reading some military books. I already read a lot of history (and Steven Pressfield happens to be one of my favourite authors). I would be interested in showing you what I have in mind for my military fantasy.
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Zenner
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I'd be happy to take a look at it, Martin.

Extrinsic - that's a very delicate balance. I'll think on that and come back later. The military is actually summoning me as we speak [Smile]

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Robert Nowall
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I gave up writing about the military---correction: I gave up writing about people in the military, because I've never been in it, and it showed. Didn't meet my "smell test." (Not the only thing, either.)
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EVOC
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I'll have to check this out when I have a bit more time to give it my full attention. Thanks for sharing it with us.
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rcmann
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quote:
Originally posted by extrinsic:
the difference between a warrior and a soldier and the development

All I know about this is what I've been told by vets. But the difference between a warrior and a soldier seems obvious to me. A soldier is a professional.
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extrinsic
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quote:
Originally posted by rcmann:
quote:
Originally posted by extrinsic:
the difference between a warrior and a soldier and the development

All I know about this is what I've been told by vets. But the difference between a warrior and a soldier seems obvious to me. A soldier is a professional.
A warrior's combat tactics operate one-on-one. A soldier's operate at the unit level: squad, platoon, company, etc. A Spartan tactical military advantage was due to manuevering and functioning synergistically at the unit level.
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rcmann
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quote:
Originally posted by extrinsic:
quote:
Originally posted by rcmann:
quote:
Originally posted by extrinsic:
the difference between a warrior and a soldier and the development

All I know about this is what I've been told by vets. But the difference between a warrior and a soldier seems obvious to me. A soldier is a professional.
A warrior's combat tactics operate one-on-one. A soldier's operate at the unit level: squad, platoon, company, etc. A Spartan tactical military advantage was due to manuevering and functioning synergistically at the unit level.
Like I said.
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extrinsic
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A warrior is no less professional than a soldier, nor are warriors irrelevant in modern warfare. A warrior operating alone doesn't make one unprofessional. Snipers, saboteurs, spies, for example, operating in hostile territory, whether part of a duly constituted military command or an asymetrical warfare insurgency or a lone anarchist. The professional-unprofessional combatant spectrum is not specific to soldier or warrior.
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rcmann
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We are using different frames of reference, then. My family members who were in combat define it as, a soldier is a trained professional who has a job to do. He kills because it's part of his job, not because he wants to or likes it. His objective is to get the job done as efficiently as possible with minimum collateral damage and absolute minimum harm to his own people.

Whereas, a warrior is a self-aggrandizing barbarian who fights for glory and the love of it.

Plainly, you and I are using significantly different definitions for the words. My definitions were provided to me by my father (3rd infantry, Korea, 52-53, Chinese border), his cousin (ditto), several cousins of mine (Viet Nam), and an uncle (WWII paratrooper over Germany).

Other's say differently. I feel impelled to take their word for it and agree to disagree.

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Grumpy old guy
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G'day Zenner,

Read the post on 'the vibe', interesting. I was a rural firefighter for 15 years and have been associated with mebers of the police force for twice that long. It's the humour and the 'attitude' that stands out.

What most writers don't seem to get, and it's true for screenwriters as well, is that the humour is designed to make the unthinkable bearable. An audience at a movie would not 'get' the humour, and would think jokes about a corpse were totally out of place.

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enigmaticuser
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Speaking as a Marine, a warrior is not necessarily unprofessional. A warrior is an individual or even member of a group who has a natural or individual pursuit of the art of war. A soldier is a trained part of a machine. A soldier is produced by someone or something else.

Basically a warrior is someone who is good at war because of environment and nature. A soldier is someone manufactured. Neither is better or worse, its just the route by which they came about. A soldier then can be a warrior, and vice-a-versa.

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Zenner
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Just to chime in about the difference between a warrior and a soldier, I wouldn't worry yourself with the semantics. The warrior ethos is highly prized even in the modern day military - generals will refer to us as "warriors" even though there are some negative connotations with that. The idea that warriors are barbarians is a little harsh.

If you like the site, tweet it [Smile]

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rcmann
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I meant no offense. Certainly not to any vet. All I know, or care to repeat, is what I have been told. In this matter, I decline to offer opinions that I have not earned.
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Zenner
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None taken!
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ForlornShadow
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quote:
Originally posted by rcmann:

Whereas, a warrior is a self-aggrandizing barbarian who fights for glory and the love of it.

I see where you're coming from and I respect your family who served but I think this definition of a warrior is a little too....harsh. I wouldn't call a warrior a barbarian. Warriors are warriors and barbarians are barbarians. To me the difference should be context. I wouldn't call someone fighting in a recent war a warrior, by technicality I could but I wouldn't. On the other hand I wouldn't call a samurai a soldier.
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extrinsic
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Though not yet touched upon, a main reason why I suggested the difference between a warrior and a soldier as an example of the challenge of reconciling prose's demands and the demands of combat accuracy, is because a warrior protagonist can more artfully do so.

The solitary warrior aesthetic is potentially more personal a viewpoint than that of a soldier operating as part of a dimensionally integrated command and control machine. Not to belittle a soldier's noble and heroic place in the scheme of warfare, but much of the battle action is remote to the individual.

Thus war dramas tend to have ensemble casts and war dramas that have a single, personal viewpoint have soldiers operating more as warriors than as units. Narrative distance is of necessity to facilitate psychic motility more open in the former, and thus often tending closer in the latter.

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Grumpy old guy
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quote:
extrinsic wrote:

Narrative distance is of necessity to facilitate psychic motility more open in the former, and thus often tending closer in the latter.


Huh, wha?
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Robert Nowall
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He means so the characters and / or plot can jump up and move around in the story...
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Grumpy old guy
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I do know what motility means, but psychic motility? One is inhenently physical, the other is a philosophical construct that begins with he letter 'P' and ends with 's' and can be followed up with any number of derogitory appelations.
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extrinsic
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Psychic access, psychic distance, and psychic motility, are concerned with degree, depth, mobility, and texture of thoughts portrayed in a narrative text. First person, third person, second person, (fourth person); narrator's selective omniscience, omnipresence, and omnipotence and degree of narrative distance between narrator and character voices.

"Derogitory"? Whether "psychic" is used to mean "philosphical" or a useful creative writing principle related to portraying thoughts in writing is neither dubious nor open to "[derogatory] appelations." Portraying thoughts is simply an artful aesthetic of writing.

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Zenner
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Boy did this thread get away from me...Neat discussion though.
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Grumpy old guy
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I didn't mean to offend, well, pehaps a little with my tounge firmly planted in my cheek. I don't disagree with the concept as stated, simply the method of stating it.

The expression of ideas fails if no one can clearly understand the argument. The same goes for writing stories.

No, I'll climb aboard my perambulating domesticated quadraped and head for the hills. I still prefer to call my steed a horse, though

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Robert Nowall
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I take "psychic access" to mean that the reader identifies with the plot and character, "psychic distance" that there's some barrier between them, and I already explained "psychic motility." So long as you don't use these words when you're writing a story.
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