Writing War

american flag veteran's day
So, today is Veterans’ Day, which brings thoughts of the military, which brings thoughts of war. Both have been around forever, it seems, and have touched virtually everyone’s life either directly or indirectly—which means one or both are likely to have touched the lives of your characters.


Should you find yourself writing a scene dealing with the military, war, and/or their direct or indirect effects on characters and plot, get it right! So many of your potential readers know the details that if you get it wrong, you will immediately lose all credibility.


civil war life civil war america love and lust
Fortunately there are a number of resources available to assist you. My personal bookshelves are not comprehensive, but here are a few examples of what’s out there. Note the broad range of detail and focus, from the battlefield to the home front.


americans remember home front 1001 things world war ii
You can find resources for any war of interest, as well as any branch of any military, worldwide. My own interests tend toward the effects of war on individuals.


You can also focus on a subset of action and response.


women that wrote war in harms way

they fought like demons women soldiers civil war
[Source: Amazon]
 Regardless of any other choices you make, you will surely need authentic language, whether for dialogue or narrative. And therefore, I highly recommend a good dictionary.


war slang paul dickson
Takeaway for Writers: Yes, you must have engaging characters, tension, lots at stake, and action moving forward, but if you get the factual details wrong, you’ll lose your reader! Get it right with war and the military.


american flag veteran's day

From Marines to Character Insights

Happy birthday, Marine Corps! On this date in 1775, the Marine Corps was established. Originally a division of the Navy, it became a separate branch of the military on July 11, 1789. One image imprinted on the national consciousness is the photo of five U.S. Marines and one U.S. Navy hospital corpsman raising the Stars and Stripes on Iwo Jima during WWII.
USMC War Memorial Night

Not a national holiday, but coming the day before Veterans Day, flags are often flying for the Marines as well.
Character considerations: does your character fly a flag year-round, on holidays, or not at all? Why?

Speaking of Veterans Day, this one’s enjoyed a twisted history. The fighting of WWI—known at the time as “The Great War”—ceased when an armistice took effect between the Allied nations and Germany. It went into effect on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month—the end of the war to end all wars—in 1918. In November 1919, President Wilson proclaimed November the first commemoration of Armistice Day. In 1926, the U.S. Congress officially recognized November 11, 1918, as the end of WWI and urged people to observe the day in schools and churches, or other suitable places, with appropriate ceremonies. In 1938, it became a legal holiday—dedicated to the cause of world peace.

As we all know, WWI did not end all wars. Following WWII, in 1954, President Eisenhower signed the bill changing the name of Armistice Day to Veterans Day.


And then there was the issue of dates. In 1968, the Uniform Holiday Bill was signed into law, intended to ensure three-day weekends for Federal employees. The holidays affected were Washington’s Birthday, Memorial Day, Veterans Day, and Columbus Day. Confusion ran rampant when Veterans Day was celebrated on October 25, 1971, and many states and organizations observed the original date. The disaffection was so strong that President Ford signed a law returning the annual observance to November 11.

Character considerations: is your character patriotic? By whose definition? How would your character have responded to the renaming of the day, the changing dates, and the changing nature of the celebrations?

When you think about it, writing fodder is everywhere. Think about it!


American flag, November 11, 2015, Veterans Day