1. Charles Neal

    Charles Neal Banned

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    Politics and War

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Charles Neal, Jan 12, 2022.

    Thinking about writing a war story (not the one I shared in a different post) with the emphasis on the political decision making and power struggles fueling the war rather than the battles. A lot of wrangling, debates, espionage and propaganda as each side attempts to justify their actions (and the actual people who are impacted by the decisions.) Has this done before and could it be interesting?

    (Edit: I think I accidentally wrote The West Wing in space.)
     
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  2. GeoffFromBykerGrove

    GeoffFromBykerGrove Active Member

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    It’s the way of the sequel. Original, Part 2, Part 3D, part 4: ….in space.

    I think Succession does this well, even if it isn’t about war. I’m sure Game of Thrones worked well too, though avid readers of the books would be able to tell you how it played out there.
     
  3. Lazaares

    Lazaares Contributor Contributor

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    War is the last step in political escalation, so that kinda limits your room there. What era do you want to set this in?

    The story around the politics behind the late Napoleonic wars might be worthwhile to explore. There were a myriad of "sub-plots" with people knee deep in politics.

    - The allied attempt to make peace with Napoleon in 1813 that was sabotaged to never reach him.
    - The undermining of French politics by Talleyrand who moved pieces behind curtians.
    - Napoleon's desire to march on Paris in 1824 and the marshals that bound together to oppose him.
    - The scapegoating and execution of Ney and the votes his former marshal-companions cast on it.
    - The switching sides of Bernadotte and Murat with hopes of preserving their gained kingdoms - Bernadotte succeeding.
    - The inability of the allies to maintain the peace and Napoleon's return.
    - The suspected involvement of Talleyrand in Napoleon's return and his potential poisoning after.
    - The assassination of Tsar Paul ordered by the British Government; part-executed by the British Ambassador and a Baltic German general that rose to be the main military leader of Russia afterwards (Bennigsen).
    - Talleyrand's ordering of the Bourbon arrests and its provoking of the 3rd coalition.
    - The Queen's hand in driving Prussia into the war of the 4th coalition by riling up nobility
    - The potential involvement of France in provoking/sparking the War of 1812 to open a front in America & cover their invasion of Russia from British intervention.
    - The uprisings all across spanish colonies and their wars of independence.
    - The loyal uprising of Poles and their joining of France after the three partitions of Poland the decades before.
    - Wellington's propaganda and the sheer amount of interventions he made against the diorama. His efforts to paint Napoleon weak, short and megalomaniac, and his legal battle to prevent the recognition of Prussians and Germans at Waterloo.
    - Cochraine's ... like, whole life.
    - The suspected assassination of Berthier on Napoleon's return that robbed im of his chief of staff for the Waterloo campaign (man fell out of a window!).

    And many more.
     
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  4. Bruce Johnson

    Bruce Johnson Contributor Contributor

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    Isn't this a big part of The Expanse?
     
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  5. Stephen1974

    Stephen1974 Active Member

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    There is a series of books under the heading of Future History which did this. Book 1 was called Dragon Strike and was a British - Chinese conflict over the Spratly Islands, Book 3 was The Third World War. (No idea what book 2 was or if there were more books after 3). The main author was Humphrey Hawksley though I believe he collaberated on them as well.

    The books were very much about the political decision making that lead up to war.

    You could also look at Tom Clancys Red Storm Rising and SSN (WW3 and US vs China) though the political side, whilst covered, is done considerably less than in the Future History books and being a US author vs a British author, are considerably more hollywood style politics than a real political view point.
     
  6. MartinM

    MartinM Active Member

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    @Charles Neal

    Sorry for the length

    It’s a great question and I’ve thought about it many times focusing on the politics rather than the war. Using different times Roman, Napoleonic or Sci-Fi I stumbled with planning a story arc. Something that grips the reader’s attention without necessarily having action sequences. The Roman Empire described in I, Claudius either book or BBC series was perfect.

    @Lazaares mentions the Napoleonic era with many political stories to explore. Also, What if moments as well. This area or period a personal favourite. Sci-Fi I’d love to do something like this. Asimov’s FOUNDATION series uses small tales with a big backdrop of a collapsed Galactic Empire. Clever politics play a major part against situations with odds heavily stacked against.

    The issues I find is info dumping or telling not showing in many cases. I wrote a chapter of a late-night meeting between Napoleon and Talleyrand. The premise was Napoleon having an idea, and him trying to convince Talleyrand it was a good one. I enjoyed writing it, but on review the piece had turned into a history lesson and the story so far…

    I could not assume the reader as a full working knowledge of ‘The Continental System’ and it needs explaining to understand the French problem and how that plan solves this. However, Talleyrand knows this system inside and out. I thought of using a late-night setting and Talleyrand saying what’s our current situation to allow Napoleon to give the base outline. But it just wouldn’t happen that way, it coming out as a lecture… The other idea was to use short story side bars showing the system in action. This became a minefield as you could imagine.

    My problems mounted with the next chapter telling the story of a British Navy Admiral discussing intelligence gathered with his agent. The reverse angle if you like. This I thought would give real context to both sides want and needs. Again, unfortunately I feel became an info dump. The blame is all me as a poor amateur writer. Somehow the information needs to be shown but more thinly spread.

    I need to read more political thrillers, maybe Smiley’s People and the like. How to build tension just through conversations. A thought occurred to me and am not sure here, but if the reader is shown the out come or possible end result early would this help steer the story along? A Roman story involving Caesar you know as a brutal ending in March….

    Am sorry for the ramble and no real answer. The feedback on the forum is brilliant and for me usually starts with ‘your story actually starts here…’ meaning I’d front loaded it with stuff. Political writing stories must be complex, deep and entertaining. This I find beyond my pay grade…

    MartinM.
     
  7. GeoffFromBykerGrove

    GeoffFromBykerGrove Active Member

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    I think you’ve hit the nail on the head for me. I guess the usual way of avoiding an info dump is to place a character into the situation who is a novice. You find this a lot in TV series about the world of business, the police and so on. You drop a rookie in to act as the audience in some respect. The rules need explaining, so you have an excuse to tell rather than just show. Of course that can be amazingly clunky. A lot of the time it is an info dump in the form of a conversation, but it does point to a solution- characters only need telling as much as they need to do their job, and readers only need telling as much as the story demands.

    This is why The Wire is refreshing. There are no rookies or newbies. The world is already up and running and we need to discover the language and rules from context clues. Sometimes a character gives an info dump, but only when necessary. The audience is way more immersed in the world in that sense, like being flung into a swimming pool and having to work out which way up you are, rather than being given a clear list of things they need to know.
     
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  8. Lazaares

    Lazaares Contributor Contributor

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    It's 100% what I use in my current project, which is largely a political fantasy (it includes all the parts before war/breakdown too). All my POV characters are new to politics, new to the world at large or have been detached from events / politics for the past good while:
    - The primary MC / Protagonist is a talented student from a low noble background scooped up by a major noble to become her courtier / agent / aide. Most "learning" is done through practical schemes and political moves in which she participates.
    - The antagonist is the heir of a major house who's been handling colonial wars and affairs, but is re-called ahead of his father's departure from politics to take over court.
    - The deuteragonist is a prolific / respected military leader who is forced to quench fires in place of her comatose brother, taking over reins and picking up trails.
     
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  9. MartinM

    MartinM Active Member

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    @GeoffFromBykerGrove

    Yes, your right I forgot to mention using a novice. The problem (like you stated) just becomes moving the info dump to another conversation. That’s where the idea of using short stories to help, but it became far too messy.

    On the English side the conversation between the Admiral and his agent I stole from Ian Fleming. Here the Admiral is giving the briefing to the agent. The agent is new to the situation, but is intelligent (like Bond, a bit of a know-it-all). I use the agent as my novice, but can still ask thought provoking questions. Well, that’s the idea...

    ‘characters only need telling as much as they need to do their job, and readers only need telling as much as the story demands.’ This is absolutely spot on, and major flaw in my writing. In relation to the OP question becomes one of world building or too much building. How quickly and painlessly can this be achieved before the complex plot rolls out?

    The Wire was brutal story telling. The complex story changing with each season and yet just added depth and colour to this whole world. The street dealers saw some massive character development arcs. However, the police not so much if at all. I might be wrong here… and probably reflects real-life more.

    MartinM
     
  10. Xoic

    Xoic Prognosticator of Arcana Ridiculosum Contributor

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    I just want to point out that it doesn't need to all be done through telling, A rookie can experience things by making mistakes, and also of course witness more experienced people, both corrupt ones and good guys. But yeah, you can get a lot of it done rapidly through telling.
     
  11. Alcove Audio

    Alcove Audio Senior Member

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    Clancey is one of my many favorites.

    It is said that "War is ideology enforced by violence." The war begins when the diplomacy fails. Then you have all of the internal politicking on both sides as the war continues.

    Of course, there are more than just a few historical figures whose ideology was "I want to rule the world" and talked their adherents into following him. Alexander the Great, the Khans, several of the Roman Caesars, Napolean, Hitler and Mao, as just a few examples.
     
  12. GeoffFromBykerGrove

    GeoffFromBykerGrove Active Member

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    I read an article about The Wire back when it was still on TV (as I’m still having new series made) where they interviewed Baltimore folk. One interviewee said the only unrealistic thing about The Wire was that none of the characters watched The Wire.

    Speaks volumes.
     
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