1. Phaiyle
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    Phaiyle Member

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    How to write a war scene.

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Phaiyle, Nov 24, 2007.

    Seriously. I decided to have a war right in the beginning of this one story. Big bad idea. I cant write the darn thing. I have re-written it at least seven times and am finally giving in and asking for suggestions. Hell examples are even welcome at this point. I'm desperate.

    I have a real problem about skipping over scenes. So... please don't suggest it. I wont do it. No offense.
     
  2. Banzai
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    Banzai One-time Mod, but on the road to recovery Contributor

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    By a war scene, do you mean a battle scene?

    If so, I find the best way to write it is from the perspective of one character (if you're writing in third person, then just follow that character). It doesn't really matter who that character is, from a technical standpoint- it could be someone on the front line, or a general watching over the battle. However, it probably follows best that it's one of your principle characters. Unless you simply mean it as a prologue, in which case by all means follow a grunt who gets killed in the course of the fighting.

    I would advise you to plan out the battle beforehand in its entirity, though. Decide how many are on each side, what they are armed with, how they are positioned, and how the battle develops. Watch films with the kinds of battles you are going for (but be wary of Lord of the Rings- you don't want a carbon copy), and read up on the details of warfare in the timeframe.

    But mostly, just imagine yourself to be the character you're following, and what you would do in that situation. I hope this has helped :)
     
  3. Domoviye
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    Domoviye Contributing Member

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    Here are some questions that will let us help you more.
    What period is it set in?
    What types of weapons are they using?
    Who is the view point character?
    What type of battle is it. Ship to ship? Infantry vs. infantry? Storming a city or other fortified position?

    The most important thing in any battle scene is plan, plan, plan. Battles are suppose to be chaotic most of the time, but your writing can't be.

    I'd recommend reading some books by John Ringo if its a sci-fi story dealing with the army.
    David Weber if its space combat.
    And Bernard Cornwell if its set at any point in the late 1700's or 1800's.
     
  4. RomanticRose
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    RomanticRose Active Member

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    In my novel there was a battle in a city with a lot of street to street and house to house fighting. I watched Blackhawk Down 20 or more times to get it right.
     
  5. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I would also recommend talking with people who have been to war, try to get their perspective on it. There are a number of people on the forums who have been in combat, and they could probably tell you a lot about how it differs from the popular stereotypes.
     
  6. CalypsoRising
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    CalypsoRising Member

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    I'd focus on what you want the reader to take from the scene. Do you want them to leave the scene sad? If so, focus on the sense of loss and death. Do you want them hyped? Pinpoint the adrenaline rush of the characters and try to keep it fast-paced.

    It all depends on what you, the author, are trying to convey with it.
     
  7. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Phaiyle,

    As has been suggested, more detail on the intended battle/combat (in most instances a war could not be conveyed in one scene) as that makes a lot of difference in recommendations or input, as well as the POV and what you're trying to accomplish with having it in the first scene that introduces your story.

    Terry
     
  8. Phaiyle
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    Phaiyle Member

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    The general idea is the city being sieged. The characters inside. Which in my opinion makes it more difficult. its like waiting around.... eventually the invading army overtakes the wall and gets into the city. were it is pretty much destroyed after the army get inside the wall. Them actually in the city is easy. Thats already planned. BUt oh GOD getting it from, HEy there they are marching up to, oh crap there in the city, is driving me bonkers.
     
  9. Domoviye
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    Domoviye Contributing Member

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    Ok I'm assuming this is medieval ages type warfare. I'm also assuming they don't really besiege the city. If they only wait a day or two before attacking that's not a siege.
    If the attackers aren't waiting around to besiege the city, they have balls of steel.
    Unless the defenders are horribly outnumbered or surprised, the first several ranks of attackers will be cut down due to arrows, rocks thrown from the walls, and the difficulty of climbing a wall while people are trying to stab you.
    The defenders will be doing everything they can to keep the enemy from gaining a foothold. Its a good time for suicidal heroics on both sides. The enemy can't win if they don't get over the wall, and the defenders are dead if the enemy gets over the wall.
    There will be some order, especially with the defenders as men are sent to cover breaches, and rallying the troops. Focus on the movement of the messengers running around trying to get troops to move from one besieged section to another that is about to fall. Officers will be rallying the troops trying to keep their spirits up, and keeping them from running away to save their family and their hides.
    As the wall starts to fall, the Defenders orders will become chaotic. Messengers won't get through, orders will come too late, situations will change in a split second. As defenders are cut off they'll do what they can to stay alive. At this point defenders will likely break.
    With the attackers, the guys actually attacking the wall will at best be working in small units that keep some cohesion, but the basic order will be "Get to the wall and climb". For the attackers not in the initial rush, it will basically be a case of 'hurry up and wait' to see if and where a wall is breached. The moment they have a way to get into the city the main force will advance. If the army is a well run unit it will be in an orderly and quick fashion. If its more along the lines of barbarians or undisciplined soldiers it will be a shout of commands to attack by the leaders and then a run to the wall in an effort to swamp the resistance.
    With the attackers it's a case of desperation initially. They're probably going to die but if they succeed at breaching the wall they will gain recognition, and have a chance at getting to the loot first.
    For the guys waiting depending on how they feel they're either relieved they're not on the suicide mission, even if it means they might not get the best loot. Or they're upset because they wanted to make a name for themselves. Once they actually start to attack again it depends on how they're disciplined. Its either a mad rush everyone for themselves, or attempts at orders that are swiftly ignored in the mad rush to get inside the walls. Or a strict march that is very demoralizing for the defenders, as the well ordered unit marches in step, and proceeds to hack apart the already demoralized outnumbered defenders.
    From their everything goes downhill.
    City fighting especially before they came up with the idea of avoiding collateral damage was nasty. A lot of the defenders would try to flee while they could or surrendering hoping for mercy. Groups would probably still be fighting trying to save the city. Citizens will be fleeing for their lives, and probably looting, and settling old scores.
    The attackers will be running wild. Virtually no leaders until the 1800's (and even then it required brutal military justice, or 'friendly' civil wars) could control their soldiers once they actually got into a city.
    So emphasize the confusion. Tens of thousands of people running around in panic, packs of soldiers fighting a desperate battle to stay alive, invaders running rampant looting, raping, killing, and burning. Any attempts at bringing order will likely end with threats of death, and actual murder of commanding officers. The city will be burning around them as people try to get rich, have fun, run away, and survive. People will be taking refuge in churches, which is always a bad idea, because most churches have a lot of money, so enemy soldiers usually head there first to loot.
    If its a capital city the palace, or governments offices will be prime targets. Loyal, disciplined soldiers will likely be ordered to attack them, hoping to get hostages, and important symbols. This is also the area where the last of the resistance will probably hold out. Loyal soldiers wouldn't want to see the heart of the city burned, so they'll fight to the death to protect it. Really important religious buildings will likely get the same treatment.
    But other than possible important buildings and areas being protected to the last man, it will be absolute chaos. With streets being blocked by fire, refugees, fighting and who knows what else, actually moving through the city will be slow, difficult and result in a lot of back tracking. So anyone trying to flee has to be lucky, able to fight, and lucky. Trying to find anyone who isn't staying in a specific building, will be virtually impossible once the fighting enters the city.
    So again, things start out nice and orderly unless its a surprise. Then chaos slowly builds up, until no one knows whats going on and the only thing left to do is run away trying to keep yourself and a few others alive, or stand your ground and die as the city burns around you.
     
  10. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Phaiyle,

    An option would be for the enemy to mine under the wall, set fire to the supports, causing a breech in the devenses. Still that would take time and often defenders would listen and counter mine to foil any attempts to undermine the defenses.

    Walls, moats, with defenders, siege engines (catapults, trebuchet, etc) for the attackers.

    Check your library for books or search the internet for starters to get some ideas. Here is a site to start with, but there are many more: Sieges

    Terry
     
  11. Phaiyle
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    Phaiyle Member

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    Thanks you guys, thats a big help. I think I'm putting a little to much pressure on myself, I'm trying to destroy the capital city of a country here... So I want it to have a worthy destruction. I just cant seem to right anything I think is worthy enough of it. On the other hand I cant simply change it to another city. It HAS to be the castle so the king can die. XD When I finish the scene I'll post it. maybe get some critiques?
     
  12. potters_pimp
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    potters_pimp Member

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    I'd take banzai's suggestion. Because it's battle scene you only see it form your main character's perspective. Something I feel was useful was:
    Warning Harry Potter Spoilers:
    The battle of Hogwarts. You see it all from Harry's POV, and you still see the sheer size of it.
     

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