Being a Better Writer: Writing Warfare

Welcome back, readers (and by extension, writers). It’s time for another Being a Better Writer post. The topic for this week? It’s another request, and an interesting, if complex, one. Today, we’re going to discuss how to write a scene of warfare. Not a shoot-out, or a simple fight, but a full-on war.

Alright, let me clarify. This isn’t going to be a simple “here’s what you write.” At least, not the way most people (including the commentator who asked this question) think. Most people, upon reading the topic, likely promptly thought of one of their favorite battle scenes from a book, movie, game, or other form of entertainment. Scenes of fantasy armies clashing, magic flying around, spaceships shooting one another, muskets being primed …

Uh-oh.

Yeah, see, here’s the thing. All of those different things described up above? They’re all different battles … and they’re all going to be different types of warfare. Which means that each one could be written differently, or focus on different aspects of war. The magical warfare, for example, could be a type of war in which anyone not under a magic shield becomes a bloody mess of human remains, leading to armies only moving around under special shields, or possibly being reduced to just some elite cleaning crews and a bunch of magic users flinging destruction back and forth trying to catch a shield off-guard. Meanwhile, a scene of musket warfare would be bloody, gritty, and close, with clouds of smoke covering the viewpoint and obscuring the battlefield, cannons firing volleys, lines of men frantically reloading as balls whiz past them, and lines of cavalry sweeping in from the flanks.

All of these different kinds of war are going to lead to—you guessed it—different scenes of war, and therefore different things to write about. And that’s not even mentioning our viewpoint, be they front-line infantry, commander, narration, or some other perspective that could be bearing witness to the whole thing.

If you’re getting the idea that writing about a scene of warfare may be a complicated, messy business, then good. I’m doing my job. I’m not trying to discourage you, but rather point out that there are a lot of things you’re going to need to take into consideration before you start having two factions throw down.

What are those things? Well, now we’re getting somewhere.

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