1. AnathemicOne
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    AnathemicOne Member

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    Writing War in Fantasy genre

    Discussion in 'Fantasy' started by AnathemicOne, Oct 3, 2010.

    Hello everyone, I'm working on a short story called "Fall of the Elves", the rough draft of the introduction can be found on the review forum, but that's not why I am here.

    I've read books about war, about combat, and whatnot but I come here to gain ideas and hopefully implement them into this story.

    War is fast-paced but I also want to incorporate tragedy and maybe a friendship/love plot in there, how would one spread out and divide evenly the different plot lines but still keep in place with the major plot (the war).

    What is more that I see in war-based stories is that character development is commonly minuscule, not saying that all war-based stories are like this but most of them are (*cough* Richard A. Knaak *cough*).

    How would one keep up/incorporate character development without getting too lost in the main plot, can it be possible? If so, what are your guys' suggestions/ideas?

    -AnathemicOne
     
  2. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    Mine is first person and in present tense so it is hard to lose my main character lol, I have had him observe the battle he wasn't supposed to be present so he is a falcon watching. I do achieve it with only one death (main battle was to take control of an army base they didn't want to lose the manpower). It allows him to feel fear when his brother is in danger, to watch how his brother's partner assists him. His mentor's strong ability and to pick out other people he knows.

    Have you read much Wilfred Owen poetry? I think that may help with showing how to keep humanity in a war situation. It is the little things like who screamed for mummy, who shined their buttons, who played with their crucifix or kirpan etc
     
  3. AnathemicOne
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    AnathemicOne Member

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    Never, I'll make sure to look him up.

    And as for your work being narrated first-person you are the lucky one. I want the story to encompass the culture and heritage of the elves (of my universe) and their tragic downfall, not the story of one particular elf.
     
  4. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    Mine is both however yes the character drives the story in my book. The principle is the same though it is keeping the humanity and little things like who they are what are they doing how do they approach the war, how do they feel about it etc
     
  5. AnathemicOne
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    AnathemicOne Member

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    You can achieve the same with third-person omniscient, which is what I plan to use.

    First-person is fine but I doubt I can ever do it, I like controlling multiple characters and letting the reader know the character(s) fully.
     
  6. art
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    art Contributing Member Contributor

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    War - even that waged by elves perhaps - is usually a whole lot of tedium punctuated by pacy/exciting moments.
    Your elves must eat, I guess. They must sleep. They must lay low. They must wait for the right time to strike. All of these present you with ample opportunity to develop characters/ meaningful relationships.
     
  7. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Character development and war. Some of the tightest character development pieces have been wartime stories, where the focus is on characters under conditions of extreme stress.

    It matters not whether the war is WWII, the Gulf War, a space battle, or a bronze age clash. Where lives of combatants, and of the populations they fight to protect, are at stake, hard choices must be made in an instant, and the characters must deal with the consequences.
     
  8. SashaMerideth
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    SashaMerideth Contributing Member

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    Cogito is right, war offers one of the greatest canvasses for painting a vivid story of interaction and decision, fear, regret, remorse and inhumanity. Elgaisma is also right, the most important part of the story is not what happened in history, but what happened to the people. How did the war change them? What did they cling to in their moments of desperation? How do they react to the death or maiming of a beloved friend? What do they do when they capture a woman or a child? These things make a story great, not the fact that some orc dropped an anvil on an elf's head.
     
  9. w176
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    w176 Contributing Member Contributor

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    I would read a lot of interviews in newspapers, biographies and see biographic films about people who have faced war. And talk with the people around you that have done it. We all know someone with a refugee or military background, young or old.

    Every where in war zone people grow up, comes to adulthood, finds love, loses friends and families, fears, makes a living, deals with it all and lives through to tell the tale.

    Hotel Rwanda, Anne Franks Diary, Schindlers list, The Pacific, Lust Caution...

    To write good fiction, superficially fantasy reality is your best friends in creating something people can believe in and feel for. If you been researching war and war stories a lot I would focus on civilian stories in your further research. Partly because its a vital component to understand too, but also because those stories tend to focus more on character and character development.

    Focus on the people, and you wont have any problem.
     
  10. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    You're writing about a war, one that takes place over a period of time. There is plenty of time between battles, travel, other struggles that take place in between skirmishes and major clashes.

    Pick up and read novels that inspire you, some where combat and war is a major component of the plot. Read and study and see how those authors 'incorporated' character growth and development into the story.

    Harry Turtledove's alternate history novels offer a great variety of examples. His World War series (aliens strike in the middle of WW II), The Darkness series parallels WW II, but in a fantasy setting. His Guns of the South novel may also be handy, but the first two suggestions have have many viewpoint characters (from both/all sides) of the conflict, many which grow and develop and more than a couple perish during the course of the conflicts--and they're written in third person, which is what you're focusing on.

    In my experience, it's what happens in between the battles that offers the greatest opportunity for what you seek.
     
  11. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Or Flank Hawk, by Terry W. Ervin II, for an example of character development in war in a fantasy setting.
     
  12. Daisy215
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    Daisy215 Member

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    This example is actually what happened to my English teacher.

    Late at night in the middle of the jungle, Jeremiah and his unit were lying fast asleep. They have two guards positioned at two different areas, guarding the soliders as they sleep. All it takes is one guard to lose focus for a second, and they get ambushed. They fight them off and survive, but in the end there are injuries and causalities. Jeremiah is shot eight times, in the stomach and both legs. He can't feel anything under his right knee and walks with a limp from there on.

    Now that opens up a world of possibilities. The guard who got distracted is perfectly fine, but probably feels guilty. Jeremiah may be angry or depressed now ghat he limps. The grief may bring them together or apart. From this further developments can be made.
     
  13. jwatson
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    jwatson Active Member

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    To be honest, I don't understand the question.

    You want character development to happen DURING the war?

    I've been working on a novel for a while now, and there are battle scenes in it. I don't know if this question has ever come up while writing, because my character development, like Terry suggested, happens in between these battles, and all throughout my novel. But, you're writing a short story, right? Which means you don't have as much time to spread things out. I know I haven't really offered any help, but the way I do it is spread it out throughout the story.
     
  14. AnathemicOne
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    AnathemicOne Member

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    Yes it is a short story, right now it is, but maybe it will evolve into a novel. This short story will be finished and I will expand on it, refine it, and make it into a novel.

    And yes character development happens in war, and I would argue is where the best character development happens.

    In my view, war is not all about killing and violence, it's an opportunity to really shine out different culture and heritages of many people with the adrenaline caused that all that might permanently end on the outcome of the war.
     
  15. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    If it's a short story, the character development should come down to a single epiphanal crisis, one event that results in a profound change for a character.
     
  16. AnathemicOne
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    AnathemicOne Member

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    True but how will that work out, in war a single epiphanal moment could be anything.

    Basically the short story (or Rough Draft of Novel, as it's turning out to be) is to cover the whole war on the perspective of an individual with a group of characters alongside.

    In this setting I would think ephiphinal moments would be many (Be it on how to save a close companion or saving a town, etc.).
     
  17. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    AnathemicOne,
    Reviewing this thread, I am not sure you can include all you describe within the scope of a short story (5000 or so words).

    A single battle, with several characters, maybe 2 POVs, one major ephiphinal moment...that's about it.

    I don't see how an entire war, multiple POV characters, development of those characters and more can be incorporated in anything other than a novella length work or more.

    The reason why I state this is that the structure of a novel, compared to a short story is different (a novel isn't exactly a longer version of a short story--there are threads on writingforums.org that discuss this in some detail). As you're planning, you should decide early on the content and scope you're comfortable with/interested in and proceed from there. It may save a lot of time in planning, writing, frustration, scrapping and rewriting.

    Good luck moving forward.

    Terry
     
  18. AnathemicOne
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    AnathemicOne Member

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    Yeah I feel like it's a novella, which isn't a bad thing; I love writing it.

    After researching the differences between short stories and novellas, I think I'm better suited out for novellas, it gives me more room to maneuver in and I love fleshing out my own fantasy universe with different characters, concepts, etc.

    Most likely from now on I will post excerpts from current novella projects and go from the critiques on there.
     
  19. Melzaar the Almighty
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    Melzaar the Almighty Contributing Member Contributor

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    I guess character development comes down to how much war you're writing... You're going pretty broad, it sounds like, which are the times when you won't have half as much character development, unless the battles are all just, like, symbolic for how one or more of the characters are feeling and interacting. (Maybe not meant to be, but if the guy who sent them out to fight is watching it and the battle is told from his perspective, then you could work in a lot more than if you were just going with a POV one the field who only wants to get to the other side of the battle alive).

    Or, because there's no real time for talking and thinking in a battle, if losing that is somehow important to the character, then focus on that aspect of it as he fights. I don't think anyone who wants to live would be thinking about much else than fighting when they are doing so, so obviously he'd analyse it in the lulls between battles... But it would give a particular edge to the battle scenes because there's still a character's emotional side to focus on, even if it's deliberately because you have to write in a much more distanced, broader sense when writing a battle field.
     
  20. SashaMerideth
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    SashaMerideth Contributing Member

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    "long periods of boredom punctuated by moments of sheer terror", that's a very common quote that has been around for ages. Use what it has to teach and you will have your character development.
     
  21. Lothgar
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    Lothgar Contributing Member

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    I'm sure we can help with that. :)

    Actually, war is slow, drawn out, stretching into years as all of the large scale and long term plans unfold. Combat itself if fast paced, chaotic, violent, explosive (often literally) and engaged in, while on a full blown adrenaline rush.

    As for the story elements you listed, tragedy would probably be the easiest to incorporate. War, by its nature, breeds tragedy:

    * Lost friends and team mates
    * Wives and girlfriends that can't keep on waiting and move on while Johnny is knee deep in blood and mud in the trenches
    * Good men that die while rotten bastards survive
    * The most able, professional and competent officers being sent home with missing limbs, while incompetent fools get promoted to replace them and lead their men into disaster
    * Political and religious zealots who not only kill their enemy but torture their prisoners and decorate their forts with severed heads and burned bodies

    ...the list goes on and on.

    As for friendship plots, there is a certain, special kind of bond that forms between soldiers under combat conditions. They take care of their own because the learn all too quickly that nobody else will (and you may find yourself depending on the team mate you saved yesterday to save you today). In a nutshell, they DON'T leave their own behind.

    Any good story features characters with different personalities. While I can't speak for your elves, real world armies feature some basic types of people.

    You have the nationalists, who loves his country, gets all misty eyed at the sight of the flag and longs for glory in service for his empire. These guys are dangerous, after all, they spawned the Third Reich.

    You have the religious zealots, who see themselves as righteous, pious, blessed by the divine with a sacred quest. These guys are dangerous because they can't wait to get back to their god and take a dozen or more people with them.

    You have professional soldiers, who don't get moved to tears by the thought of the flag, hot dogs or mom's apple pie, nor do they get worked up into a suicidal zealous fervor before entering battle. They are career soldiers, war is their chosen profession, their actions are logical, well thought out and tactically sound. There is no hatred or passionate cause in what they do, its just a job that the career soldier has spent most of his professional life training for...so he's damn good at what he does. These guys are dangerous because they do it for a living and you don't get to grow old by screwing up.

    Oddly enough, the most common and least dangerous, personality type is the unwilling conscript that didn't want to fight, but got drafted anyway. They are not there by choice, they don't want to fight but have no real choice in the matter. Their training is basic, they know how to use their weapons and follow orders of professional soldiers (who tend to end up being their sergeants). These, being the most common, are the ones who end up being the bulk of your war stories. The old trope of "having to reach deep inside yourself, to find inner courage to face your fears and overcome outrageous odds, just to survive the horrors of war" typically is applied to them (As opposed to special forces professional soldiers, who don't bicker about who's in charge, know their jobs and kill most of their enemies before anyone even knows they are there).

    Using that mix of wartime personalities, you shouldn't have much trouble hammering out a good story of character personality conflicts and development.
     
  22. jwatson
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    jwatson Active Member

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    I'm not saying you're wrong, but I don't think war is necessary for the "best" character development. How do you know it is the best? There's a lot of different ways to write something. I wasn't frowning on the method you've chosen, I was just saying you could do it around the war than in the war itself.

    If you're planning on expanding it into a novel, there are going to be some drastic changes between the short story form and the novel form. Like I said in my original post, you will not have as much room and time to do what you're trying to in a short story.

    P.s, I'm not trying to be rude and annoying, but helpful.
     
  23. AnathemicOne
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    AnathemicOne Member

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    To Lothgar, thank you for the input, I think I miswrote what I said about encompassing the entirety of the whole war. Basically the story will encompass the final push into the homeland thus the "Fall of the Elves."

    To jwatson, I'm not offended at all, I take information wherever it might come from. I didn't necessarily say that war is the best concept for character development, it's just my personal belief it is (which is subject to change).

    As for transitioning to short story into novel, I don't see the problem here. When I decided to do "Fall of the Elves" as a short story I went right into the introduction segment and haven't expanded since then (because I'm revising it currently). So from there I still have room to decided whether it will evolve into a short story or novel (I'm thinking novel because the introduction segment is long by itself).
     

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