I broke it down into sections so if you feel like you don't really need to know a certain section you can look for the one you do. All section headers are in bold.
I want to take a moment to thank and for the input they gave throughout the making of this tutorial. They're good friends to have.
I also want to thank for helping edit the first draft.
I am not a soldier myself so I don't have first hand knowledge of combat. But I do have first hand knowledge of soldiers. If it is anything in the way of credentials, I was partially raised on a US Navy base and am from a military family, with members who served in every American war since WWI. I have other much more personal reasons for writing this, that might go into if asked.
I also know literature. I'm an English teacher, so I damn well better.
I also welcome discussion. If you think something has been misrepresented, comment or note me and I'll definitely hear your point of view.
Likewise if you have any questions, I'm always up for answering those, too.
EDIT: March 30, 2013
I made a lot of improvements, cleaned it up, expanded some sections (and marked them), and added a new one.
If you allow me I would like to share some thoughts regarding point IV.
I really think that any extensive detailing on weapons is both unnecessary and boring. If one feels that it would really be necessary to do so, the annexes are exactly for that. Most of the times giving a cue for what the weapon does is much better and more effective, as it spares words and gives the audience what it needs to understand. CS Forrester's The Gun does this very effectivelly and I regard it as a great example of how to make a simplistic but at the same time moving war tale.
I think point 2 is a no-brainer, and it makes the situation much more relatable when you manage to pass out exaclty how ordinary these people are. With that said, though, I think that some exaggeration might still work under certain conditions. After all there are plenty of stories about soldiers who faced impossible odds and made it through. It is mostly a matter of presentation, i would guess. Know the limitis of both factions, what the weapons do (implied, that is, no need to go into detail on that one), and what your character is about. I would also make what I know to be a controversial argument, and say that the objective of the story is very important on this regard. I mean, you could have an instant of a uber-soldier exactly to employ rule of cool and make things exciting. But this is my opinion, and I know many would disagree with it. On a final note in this regard I would also say that all of the elements above can be meld together in a very effective fashion, if the author knows what he/she is doing. Again, these are my opinion and I mean not to be disrespectful.
And to point 3. I've read somewhere a sentence from an author (can't recall who it was now, I'l ltry to get it for later) which is something along the lines of "if you write about war and don't show a battle you're betraying your reader's expectations". I cannot recall the exact wording, but the underlying idea is that combat is exciting, and most readers will be expecting it once they start reading a story about war. I am a big culprit of this, let me say, and I probably enjoy writing combat scenes a little too much. I do not agree with the idea that one can get repetive with combat scenes within a single story. There are always different things to do that require different tactics. Tank combat in broad daylight in a plains, urban combat, commando raids, combat air patrols, etc... It might be a questionable approach, but when I write, historical fiction or not, I do like to pepper my stories with abundant combat scenes.
But with that said, I will say that you are completly on the point concerning the importance of these scenes. They must have a purpsoe and they mustn't be the single thing you'll have to offer your reader. A story is a voyage, you are following a set of characters as they develop as people and learn something. Battles are a part of the journey, not the journey itself. I would also like to add that I do not have illusions about what combat does to a person. I know some examples of this personally. My point is usually to make the story interesting for the reader.
Anyhow, I think I'll leave it at this for now, I'm running long as it is and I don't know if I'm making any sense at this point. I would add, though, that my opinions should be taken with a grain of salt. I do openly admit that I somewhat juvenile in some of my approaches to writing (I think fiction literature should be entertainement first and everything else afterwards) and I do know that some won't agree with me. I also know to admit when I'm wrong.
Moral of the story, thank you for sharing this insightful text, and for making us think harder about this craft we do love so much. Thank you.
However, with regards to the subject of trauma and PTSD, might those primarily be modern issues? Cultural attitudes towards death and war have undergone a lot of evolution over the last couple of centuries. I can't see too many Vikings, Assyrians, or Zulus having the same compunctions over killing their enemies as an educated soldier from a modern civilization.
To answer your question;
Please understand, I know you didn’t comment out of any malintent. My answer is going to be long, but please don’t take it as an attack. I think that war stress is something that most people are under informed on, and that our media has done us exactly zero favors in that regard, so I’m going to try to answer your question as thoroughly as I can.
Sadly, it is exactly this kind of idea I am trying to combat. The idea that PTSD is somehow ‘new’ or that other cultures (ancient or otherwise) were/are less humanly concerned with violence can be a very damaging opinion. Whether intentional or not, it marginalizes the people now that have the disorder, and makes it seem as though this evolved due to culture, which is an idea that can change, not a biological reaction, which is what it actually is.
I will refer you to another article I wrote which deals exclusively with combat related mental illness.
There are a few things that I think need to be cleared up.
1. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is not limited to people who have seen combat, and it is not necessarily linked to someone’s mindset, ideas, or preparedness for war. What factors contribute to someone having PTSD have nothing to do with culture, race, age, sex, or ability, or their compunction for killing or not. It has only to do with how much stress that person has been under, and the degree to which that trauma threatened their life or someone they watch get victimized. PTSD appears in combat veterans, victims of natural disasters, victims of domestic and non-domestic criminal violence, child abuse, rape, and small scale accidents like car accidents as well.
(more info: old.impact-kenniscentrum.nl/do… or it is compiled in the other guide I already linked you to)
2. PTSD, which was not originally called that, showed up in the first edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, which was published in 1952. This was the first time that many mental disorders were mentioned and defined. These disorders clearly existed before the printing of the manual, they simply hadn’t been defined and explored. Psychology as a field wasn’t even entertained until around the late 1800s when it began to enter academia and become standardized. Therefore, it was not the disorders that were non-existent, it was the field of study and criteria to evaluate the disorders that were.
3. Not all combat veterans get PTSD. Most come back with some form of mental fatigue or what is called ‘combat stress’, but again, PTSD itself depends on a lot of factors.
As for when and how PTSD showed up in history? Literarily, it is all over both the Iliad and the Odyssey, as well as being explored in the Epic of Gilgamesh, and several Indian literary texts, so it isn’t limited to a single cultural sphere. When I said it shows up in these things, I don’t mean ‘that person went to war then he was sad’ comes up in the text. Actual descriptions of the same exact symptoms, after what are clinically considered ‘traumatic’ events, come up all over the characters in these texts. And PTSD has a very specific set of parameters to even be defined as such, so these are not vague generalizations. Even the more vague examples definitely point to combat fatigue and combat stress, even if the most extreme form of PTSD isn’t realized.
Historically, the same type of situation was noted by a plethora of greek historians, e.g. in Xenophon’s Hellenica (and lots of others), and several Roman writings that related to both soldiers and also non-combat related civilian cases. It has also been studied in 17th century China, and there are several notable examples from Alexander the Great’s army <-- this link may not work, I think you need a login, but if you’re interested I’ve got the article.
The point is, tl;dr, no, it is not modern, and no, it has little to do with anyone’s cultural mindset. Violence and violent death takes its toll, and so does living in a combat condition even if nothing has actually happened to a soldier. Now, is it possible that PTSD was less frequent in some wars than in others? Yes, there is evidence that points to that; it does seem at the moment that soldiers who have more time out of high pressure situations to bury their dead and grieve for them, more time in a zone that is ‘behind the lines’ so to speak, they are less likely to develop PTSD, but no less likely to have some form of lower grade combat stress. And that comes directly from the historical evidence I linked you.
There are cultures, such as the Vikings, that we have much less actual evidence on, save a few writings, and some later third or fourth hand accounts of things, so that is really not enough to go on. But it does seem that human beings are human beings, and while they may not have had cultural compunctions about killing, they had the same psychological sensitivities and stress reactions as anyone else. We have no idea the ratios to which this happened, or how pervasive it was in which settings, but to say it is a modern invention is surely misinformation.
as all the others hre, this is exactly what I needed.
say, I'm writing a fantasy/supernatural story, it's like supernatural meets jarhead, and right now it focus more in the characters after the war, 12 years to be exactly and one of the main things I focus, one of his main traits is his PTSD which I want to make sound realistic.
what would could byou suggest me for that?
FYI he is a werewolf and his squad was tasked with... doing pretty much what buffy and the winchester do but in... different settings. I actually published a short story introducing him here
there I tell a brief story of how he would often wke up with nightmares about his worst mission the one where everything went... SNAFU (I wanted to use that word), and even though he forgets what happened that night something that troubles him even more that remembering-, all nights prior to that one and the ones after that, he still suffers nightmares from the rest of his service, and from another event in his life which I'm working currently namely seeing his wife getting shoot in the face when they walk out of the movies...
any idea how to make this work, 'cuz Im a jam of sorts teying to puzzle it in, all the feelings and that kind of ... thingies
Also, I would mention that the fact your MC is a werewolf might have some extra effect on him, but I don't know how you are imagining the werewolf part (ie do they change voluntarily, is it only at the full moon, are they in control of themselves when they change?).
This kinda devil-may-care attitude is what somehow lead the army to him and gave him to choices, rotting in a jail none knows or working for uncle sam...
But no, he didn't have nightmares for the killings he did during fullmoon and/or losing control cause learned how to control it since he was 7, he does regret what he did though, reason why afterwards he became a preist, he wanted--nedeed to help people and redeem for all that and... ayda,yada, yada.
now, you mention here that the life like before the army is an important aspect, well the father was in the army as well, being in the army runs in the family like the werewolf curse, and his father raised him on the road for almost 10 year, raised him like a soldier and a hunter, he wanted him to be like him but, he didn't want that life... sucker for him 'cuz he ran away from it so much it was his only way.
its set in modern times(they have modern weapons like the ak-74, g36c, tanks like the T90 and leopard2) the war lasted five years ,my story is set at the lasts months of that war ,in the capital of the allegory of nazi germany. they are stationed in a sector that is controlled by them ( their general wants them to stay there to protect all flanks while the main army continues their advance,which makes he and his men angry) and while they secure all buildings around them they encountered civilians hiding in a basement and that's where the story starts
As for the 'trope' of love solves all PTSD (GOOD on you that you want to avoid that) ... I actually wrote another guide that could answer your question doughboycafe.deviantart.com/ar…
PTSD is only a part of it, but the other sections rather relate to it. If you're still unsure how to do it, or just want to toss around an idea, please feel free to note me or leave a comment.
I have another question, not all soldiers suffer from all these mental illness,right? it all depends on their experience during the conflict?
sorry for the broken English btw heh.
And no, not all soldiers suffer from these things. Some don't suffer mental breaks at all. Some have different problems than what I've listed- though I think those are the big issues. 'Combat stress' is a very big term for many small problems, and any returning soldier may have any of these problems in degrees, some worst, some not so bad.
It depends on their experience meaning, how much time they've been under combat stress, factors from before combat, what they have had happened to them during the combat, and then... you can have two identical people go through the same experience and not suffer the same outcome whatsoever, for reasons we cannot even begin to understand. I know this doesn't really answer your question thoroughly, but the mind is a deep and mysterious place, you know?
Pues, te pido perdón ahora porque aunque vivo en España, de hecho estoy de los eeuu. He estado expatriada por cuatro años y pico (y yo creo que hablo bastante bien pero la realidad es otra cosa, no?). Así, te entiendo perfectamente pero es cierto que hago errores. (o hablo con un sintaxis un poco hablante de ingles).
Sobre tu historia: esto me parece bueno y interesante que tengas la guerra, o el conflicto, como el fondo y no el argumento. Siempre es mejor, y creo que siempre es lo mejor hablar de las consecuencias de los conflictos y no los conflictos ellos mismos. Ademas, tienes otros elementos ocurriendo allí; el primero siendo que hay cosas sobrenaturales en el mundo. Apostaría yo que si no es normal encontrar este tipo de cosa (digo que si existen eventos sobrenaturales pero la gente en general no lo sabe), eso añadiría otra capa a la trauma psicológico de las personajes. Cuando el cerebro tiene que justificar algo que no puede ser (o no debería ser), hay mas probabilidad que va a aparecer una consecuencia o síntoma de un problema mental. Solo es un cuestión del grado.
Pero bueno, te entiendo perfectamente, porque también siempre cuando leo algo que escribí hace dos años o algo así, quiero llorar por los errores. Y todos estos temas son complicados! Pueden ser buenos también porque a mi prefiero que la literatura habla mas de cosas como racismo o homosexualidad. En el mundo normal es difícil sobrellevar si eres un "otro" en una comunidad de "normales", pero en una situación de combate, eso aumenta la presión del problema de manera exponencial. Creo que no hay una manera de escribir ni uno de estos temas sin ofender a alguien. A veces PTSD si es grave y las síntomas se lo muestran esto. Si lo has investigado bien y hablado con gente que lo tiene este discapacidad, no creo que tengas que tener miedo de ponerlo en la historia en cualquier manera que manifiesta.
Es estoy de acuerdo. Si no voy a hacer algo bien, no lo hago, especialmente con temas tan delicados como estos.
Hablas bastante bien el español sinceramente, aunque he de adimitir que tuve que leer un par de veces las oraciones por un par de cositas nada más. (solo los pronombres, pero entiendo porque los pronombres del español es muy complicado)
Exactamente ese es el planteo del conflicto principal de los personajes, a medida que la guerra avanza y se presentan estos acontecimientos su forma de pensar y de ser cambian rotundamente. Me alegra saber que eso lo tengo en claro y que minimamente lo podré hacer ver de la forma más humana posible, por más que se trate de una fantasía con mundos y personas inventadas.
Justamente eso me había dado cuenta, encuentro muy poca información del racismo en las guerras(que NO tenga que ver con los nazis, de eso hay un montón seguramente) y mucho menos puedo encontrar algo sobre la homosexualidad, y hablo de historias o relatos, el como habrá vivido un soldado homosexual, no documentos sobre torturas o campos de concentración. (again, nazis, como se nota que la gente no sabe de qué hablar cuando se vienen esos temas a la cabeza), asi que lo único que tengo que pensar como homosexual que soy es imaginarme que pasaría si estuviera yo en esa situación, como dijiste antes sobre la presión en el campo de batalla que sería mucho mayor.
Justamente este personaje es muy nervioso, sufre de insomnio, tiene ataques de ira y se pone violenta incluso hacia su novia, hasta se muerde la piel de los nudillos de sus dedos, hasta intenta asesinar a su hermano luego de que este desertara. La pobre chica es un desastre XD; y lo peor de todo es que no se recupera al final del todo, y creo que es lo más lógico para ella, especialmente porque al entrar al campo de batalla ella es muy joven.
No conozco gente que haya sufrido este tipo de cosas, así que me puse a ver documentales de gente, veteranos hablando al respecto. Eso si que ayuda mucho, al igual que esta guía.
Indeed, medicine evolves and ironically enough it evolves many times due to war.
American Civil War, Union side, 173rd New York XIX Corps Army of the Gulf. And I do have a few stories
Phew ok - that's quite a question. Here are my opening words of caution about that specific choice of countries: highly political. highly polemic. and the history of relations with the middle east and the west is a tangled, horrible web of lies.
Now this could be good or bad for your story - tangled web of lies just means there's a lot of material. But it also means a lot of research to do it right. And the highly political statement refers to the fact that your audience already has set opinions about the players on the board (whether those opinions are right or valid is not the question, there is a preconception, and you have to keep that in mind), and because it is a contemporary issues and setting, realize that it could strike a variety of chords in people, offend, hurt, anger, whatever. So it's a good idea to figure out precisely why you want to set it in the modern day and what statement you are or are not trying to make with it, but also who you want to read this.
About the scenario itself, with this particular war, I would start doing this:
1. some history research from 'clean' sources (meaning unbiased), and figure out just where the knots in the tangled web of lies are. Figure out who supports who, who at this point has military assurance pacts, which countries have under the radar military assurance pacts (because believe me, China is going to be involved in there somewhere). Remember that not only the military, but some black ops special forces will be in the area, then also various national intelligence agencies, and just to make your life harder, tons of private intelligence and military agencies as well. You should be aware of these only so you don't have military personnel doing things that are not publicly acceptable for them to do. I really don't suggest adding spies unless you're a total masochist. too much research, most sources unvalidated, too much drama. I only bring this up to point out the chess board is more like a chinese checkers board, and there's about a million different people and sides.
2. go and find some clearly biased sources, because each country or 'side' is going to have different information, spun in different ways, that will influence how they react to each other.
3. research the religions. thoroughly. You picked a very religious area and the religion definitely plays into how people live day to day as well as the law code of each country, how their military operates, etc.
4. Figure out whether or not an actual open war has been declared. For instance, the Second Gulf war wasn't actually a war between Iraq and the US because it was never declared so by congress, but it sure was a war. However, things like single invasions or quiet funneling of small handfuls of troops and weapons to aid in border skirmishes is not a full out war. Does it become one? If so, when? Or does someone openly declare war? If that happens, that massive chain of military assurance agreements is going to come into play and all hell is going to break loose. Determining the escalation will help you determine how much of a commitment your main players are getting from other countries, and whether or not that commitment is public or undercover. It will also help you figure out if there is a global reaction to this or not, what is on the news, and how the home fronts feel towards it.
Those are my starting suggestions. If you aren't a Marine yourself, I would also look up, if you aren't from the US (or hell even if you are), basic protocols of the USMC. Watch a few movies. Take them with a grain of salt. Then go talk to some Americans, preferably some with military service or family members in the Corps.
Long response is long.
But yeah, basically, that is my advice to begin with. After that you can start looking up tech or whatever else, though your research will probably lead you to some other avenues you want to explore.
If you want to talk about anything else, please feel free to note me! This may have just created more questions than you had to begin with But anyway, I'm always up for a chat about it.
The first point, I hear what you´re saying but my initial comment about biases wasn´t regarding the characters in the story. I was warning that the people reading your story out here IRL are going to have preconceived notions about this conflict, and it´s especially touchy for Israelis, Americans, and Arabs. Which is fine, you can still write a story about it, just realize that you might in fact piss off a lot of readers, which may or may not be the goal. It shouldn´t deter you from writing. It´s just something to take into consideration. So my question was, is there a specific reason you chose this region? Does the story have something specific to say about what´s going on over there? Because it will be a really good thing to know solidly why you want a story in the Middle East when you´re going into writing it.
Story related- The last thing you said about the relationship between the RM and the USMC sounds like a solid option with lots of potential. I´d like to see what you do with it.
As for the other stuff... I´d be careful with painting Israel as cocky. Again, this is something I´d have to research a helluva lot, but from what I currently know, they can´t be cocky, mostly because they´re surrounded by enemies and also, Palestine is within their own borders, so they are ever vigilant. It´s also one of the few nations that has universal conscription, meaning they even conscript women. Everyone there knows how to fight and they are all prepared for it. Now, it´s definitely possible to make a few mistakes if the tactics just don´t go as planned (war is like travel. something always goes wrong), but I would caution what you attribute that to.
Also you might want to look up who would be the first to respond. My immediate instinct would have been to say the USA, just because of the history and relationship, and I´m fairly sure they have a TON of military bases in the area. Also, remember that Americans are constantly staffing the NATO bases in Rota, Sigonella, and Kuwait, and the American navy still has Men Afloat down here in the Med patrolling for God knows what. This is where the military assurance pacts come into play - probably you want to see who is actually militarily allied with who, and what aid they´ve promised to provide in the event of X, Y, or Z. Something like an Israel/Iran war would likely pull in a good 15-20 other countries and wind up as WWIII if actually official war was declared.
If it´s sticking to smaller skirmishes and then bigger attacks that Israel seems to be capable of repelling mostly on its own, then the other countries wouldn´t necessarily have to declare open war. Here´s something to look up that I vaguely remember causing a stir a few years back when I was still stateside - Good old GW Bush never actually declared war on Iraq but did something that basically extended the stay of soldiers sent overseas to combat zones. If I remember properly, without Congress declaring war, the Prez could only send troops for 90 days unless Congress backed the move, then they could stay longer. But that was gotten around, probably by the Patriot Act, which is still hanging around like a bad smell. I do remember the loophole having something to do with it being a state of national emergency, but this was years ago and I´d have to look it up. I could dig around if you´re interested. It would probably be a good idea to see how the US, France, and UK are able to comit troops to hotzones and what that means for them. Since you mentioned letters home, that means we´re going to be seeing homefront reactions, and depending on what the government does, that will definitely influence the reactions fo the people waiting at home, and the flow of information.
they’re generally not insane, trench-knife wielding psychopaths, either
I could kiss you for that line alone
Wonderfully in-depth and very useful. I'll file this away for use with a fantasy idea I had that involved a war. That is if I ever find the scrap of paper I jotted the idea on.
I'm very glad this will help. And yeah, you know, I think it's easily relevant for fantasy and sci-fi. I get really irritated with sci-fi sometimes because it doesn't add any sense of human realism to it, and an author thinks they can literally do whatever they want because it's not 'real earth' or something. And that's not always true.
As for the second part, of course I will. I can't say I'm the kindest critiquer our there, but I am honest, and I very much want all my fellow mil-fic writers to improve and make great stories. (hell, I'm certainly not beyond the point of critique myself, so I get as good as I give ) If your story is on dA, link me, if not, I can give you my email and you can send it to me.