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Challenge Atten-SHUN! -- Putting the "War" back in Star Wars -- Military-oriented fanfic challenge!

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction and Writing Resource' started by Goodwood, Oct 19, 2011.

Moderators: Briannakin, mavjade
  1. Goodwood Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    May 11, 2011
    star 4
    I?ve been where you are now and I know just how you feel. It?s entirely natural that there should beat in the breast of every one of you a hope and desire that some day you can use the skill you have acquired here. Suppress it! You don?t know the horrible aspects of war. I?ve been through two wars and I know. I?ve seen cities and homes in ashes. I?ve seen thousands of men lying on the ground, their dead faces looking up at the skies. I tell you, war is Hell!
    -- William Tecumseh Sherman to the graduating class of the Michigan Military Academy, 19 June 1879

    War is indeed hell, but it also shapes the destinies of countless beings. The Star Wars saga itself was forged in the fires of war and conflict, and though the Rebels' cause was just, with victory came the highest cost. Throughout the twenty-five millennia of its existence, the Republic fought wars against opponents from without and from within, and that doesn't count the untold conflicts waged before it came into being. Worlds have been destroyed or made barren, and even entire star systems and star clusters have been obliterated at the hands of sentient beings. And the carnage shows no signs of stopping.

    So, what's the point of all this rambling?

    Well, it's actually quite simple. You see, while the above paragraphs refer to the grand struggles of nations, worlds, and an entire galaxy, the latter overlooks the fact that whenever you see an Imperial Star Destroyer blow up, you are witnessing the lives of over 37,000 men and women being smothered. A quarter of a million died with the Executor at Endor, and countless more when each of the Death Stars were destroyed.

    As Josef Stalin once said: "The death of one man is a tragedy, the deaths of one million is a statistic."

    It can be immensely difficult to see past these statistics and get at the core truth. However, if you manage to succeed in doing so and come to grips with the reality that every war's participants have their own stories to tell, it can be an incredibly rewarding experience.

    The challenge that I put to you, the reader, is this: write for the "war" in Star Wars.



    The Challenge

    A war story is, at its heart, the descriptive narrative of a person or persons' recollection of their involvement in an armed conflict. This means that the primary focus of military fan fiction, especially in the context of Star Wars, is the war itself and how the protagonists manage to survive. It does not necessarily have to include scenes of battle, though that is highly-recommended, but it must take place in time of conflict, where the characters must deal with the consequences of having fought and possibly killed. War stories can take any narrative form, any point of view, and can extend beyond the main conflict.

    If you wish to enter this challenge, simply post your intent in this thread, linking to your stories and providing updates as they come. This will be open-ended and there will be no winner (there are never any winners in war either--only survivors), so feel free to take your time, do research, develop ideas, and discuss your take on conflict in the galaxy far, far away.

    Where to post

    Challenge entries may be placed in the appropriate forum, depending on when in the timeline they take place. Story threads should indicate in their titles that they are participating in the military fan fiction challenge. I will update this topic as required to post links to new entries (and their authors) as they are submitted, to ensure that everyone stopping by gets a chance to look at your stories. Also, feel free to use this thread to express your ideas about the various battles in Star Wars, either from the films, the TV shows, the novels or the comics -- all reasonable discussions are welcome here.



    What military fan fiction is not

    This may sound harsh, but war stories are not romances. They may include romantic elements, of course, but they should not be the driving force of the story and, ideally, only peripherally-related. They are also/>/>
  2. earlybird-obi-wan Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Aug 21, 2006
    star 6
    My Nano fic will be about 'war' and I like this idea
  3. TrakNar Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Apr 4, 2011
    star 5
    My NaNo fic, while you already know its military roots, will not suffice. And since I have proven incapable of writing several fics at one time, then I will not be doing this until my current fic project is done. However, that doesn't mean that we can't get some discussion going.

    Now, for a discussion question: How would you best handle the horrors of war? Through a massive conflict with a cast of thousands? Why that route? A small story set against the world backdrop? Why that route?

    Personally, I'd end up going the "small stories set against the world" route, as I feel that it helps to connect the reader to the story. The war would still be very much a part of the story, but the main focus would be to connect with the reader through the thoughts and feelings of one or two characters. For one, I just find it easier to deal with a smaller cast. That may simply be because I am a beginning writer, but that is what I'm comfortable with and I feel it works best for me. This goes for any story I work on; I feel that I can bring the story closer to the reader if they are able to actually connect with the characters. I feel this way about what I read, too. Large-scale epic conflicts with casts numbering higher than the population of North Nowhere, Kansas are simply exhausting to read after a while. I can't connect with all the characters and at some point, I begin to lose track of them. Bringing the war home to a select few helps to make it more real to me.
  4. Goodwood Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    May 11, 2011
    star 4
    Absolutely this.

    This may be due to my own limited reading, but I have yet to encounter a war story with a humongous cast which didn't end up getting all diluted and unfocused. To take this one step further, let's compare Band of Brothers with The Pacific; I don't know if the latter was based on a book, but the former was, a collection of accounts by Stephen Ambrose.

    While Band of Brothers had a larger "principle cast" of historically-based protagonists, I felt that though The Pacific only had four principle characters, it ended up meandering way too far out to sea (pun intended). In my opinion, BoB was the stronger miniseries despite the larger cast because it was self-contained -- it was about one line company in one regiment, following its trek through Europe. To be fair, though, BoB did kind of stretch things out near the end, almost to the point where you just wanted them to get it over with. TP, on the other hand, followed four guys who ended up serving in very different Marine units in very different operations. Watching that series became an exercise in futility when trying to remember who was who when all of them ended up caked in mud and in desperate need of a shave. The POV kept switching between them, and by the end I found myself utterly lost.

    The action in both miniseries was strong, as was the writing and acting. The set pieces and cinematography were also excellent across the board. Both had their little foibles insofar as historical accuracy, with BoB having some somewhat more glaring errors (for example, the series' treatment of David Kenyon Webster was abysmal, almost directly contradicting his own published memoirs).

    I only bring up these two miniseries as an example because they're culturally prominent, having been produced for and aired by HBO and admired by so many people. Each shows the pitfalls of trying to cram too much into so little time, but they also provide examples of when it's a good time to show restraint and not go into every detail (for example, while the drop over Normandy was portrayed in great detail, the drop into Holland later in the series was given little more than an afterthought).

    I'm comfortable telling war stories that center around one person or a small group of people, but I'm also comfortable with having those people part company through the course of the story. The key here is to know what your main focus is, and to not let diverging plot lines draw you into unnecessary exposition or detail; if you know that the divergent threads will rejoin eventually, then you can usually get away with just casual mentions (for example, by use of correspondence sent between parties).

    I honestly couldn't imagine writing a work about a humongous cast. Whoever wrote The Blue and the Gray could do it, but not me.
  5. TrakNar Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Apr 4, 2011
    star 5
    What about a moderately-large cast, say over ten dramatis personae characters? Having to keep track of all of them would be tiring, as well. The large-scale detatchment of an epic battle is one of the things that deter me from some books; while I enjoy a good war, there's nothing to connect to.

    This was touched upon in the book On Writing Horror, the effectiveness of keeping your main battles (apart from the war itself) small and personable; it helps to show and solidify the evil that the characters face. For example, the book used Roman Polanski's film, The Pianist. The full scope of Nazi atrocity is difficult for the average American audience to really understand and really feel. However, when a Nazi knocks down a frail old man, it evoked a reaction from the audience. What was done there was the story was brought to the audience in a way that they could connect with. They had received a small glimpse of the larger atrocity, and since they could relate to and understand one vile act, then they could better understand the full scope of what was being shown.

    When you have your ensemble cast spread out in a thin layer across the galaxy and you're dealing with conflict on a galactic scale, you lose the personable aspect of war; the part of war that effects us all. But when you show just one small horrible act?which could be anything from a stormtrooper clocking an elderly Duros, or even the destruction of Alderaan?you are able to bring it down to a level that the audience can relate to. While most of us prolly never had our homeworlds blown to pieces, some of us may have lost our homes, either through fire, bankruptcy, what have you. We are able to relate to a planet's destruction by equating it with similar home destruction.

    And when we are able to relate to the story, then the story is more effective. We then care deeply about the characters and what happens to them. And we'll stay with them throughout their strife, living it alongside them, and the payoff when they overcome their struggles will be worth it much more in the end.
  6. Goodwood Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    May 11, 2011
    star 4
    You seem to have answered your own questions here, Trak... ;)

    Insofar as having large casts, I'd say that it might be a good idea to take a look at how some of the Star Wars novels did it. The Thrawn Trilogy is very much a war story, but it's got a large cast, is spread across half the galaxy, and doesn't have all that many battles where the narrative goes into detail. Say what you will about Zahn and his Thrawn fetish, he knows a thing or two about how to write military fiction. Also, though I am loath to cite this as an example, certain books within the New Jedi Order series do a credible job of making war big, yet personal, and they use large casts as well.

    However, many of these examples have a built-in crutch: they're working with pre-established characters. Ideally, a good novel should take the time to characterize the entire cast, but most published, canonical EU doesn't really do that for the Big Three and Their Friends, etc.. So I suppose this isn't really a problem for us, unless we're using original characters -- something which I strongly encourage participants in this challenge to strive for.
  7. slow_dawn Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Apr 18, 2006
    star 2
    This sounds like a great idea for a challenge and I like the discussion so far :)

    I also think the idea of focusing on a smaller group is a good one. It seems as though it would be much easier for a reader to connect. I like the idea mentioned earlier about picking some sort of unit and looking at that. I haven't watched the shows Goodwood mentioned, but I have been watching Battlestar Galactica and I like how they approach things. A lot of the action/drama centers around a couple of characters from the main ship, but I think they do a good job of showing you the scope of things (even say, how big and complex life on that one ship is) by having the occasional scene be in a location you haven't yet seen, or by having a minor character pop in and out of the main plot, etc.

    A squadron might be a good unit to focus on like in the Rogue Squadron books.
  8. Etain Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    May 11, 2008
    star 3
    I am not much a fan of big war stories. Probably because of the scale problem mentioned above. It is difficult to relate to thousands dying (take clones), but if you give a few a face, a name and a terrible fate, you get the picture. And somehow that seems to be forgotten more often than not.

    When I try to write war (clone wrs) I alwasys end up with the perspective of one individualand the very limited experience of him/her. Somehow that's the only way it is 'ral' to me. But then, ther overall conflict tends to be left out of my story which is also not the right way to tackle war. I think the personal battles have to be embedded in a bigger picture.
  9. TrakNar Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Apr 4, 2011
    star 5
    Another series to watch for a more recent insight on war would be Generation Kill. Even if you don't have HBO (which I don't have), there's plenty of clips on YouTube.

    FOLLOW MY TRACERS!
  10. Goodwood Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    May 11, 2011
    star 4
    The sad part is that Generation Kill, which was originally a book by the embeded reporter from Rolling Stone, is based on true-life events. In any other universe, that would've been a comedy.
  11. TrakNar Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Apr 4, 2011
    star 5
    Then, to drive home the horrors of war, have the character find out that tracers work both ways.
  12. tjace Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Feb 11, 2008
    star 4
    The best example of a large-scale war story that I've read is The Killer Angels. However, even that takes a personal approach, it just focuses on generals, so you get a relatable character while still having a good idea of how the overall battle's going.
  13. Goodwood Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    May 11, 2011
    star 4
    I realize that this novel is the basis for the film Gettysburg, which was a particularly well-made example of a Civil War film even if it wasn't successful at the box office (the attention spans of modern America ? ha!). That said, I should probably give The Killer Angels a read. Possibly the whole trilogy, though the film treatment of Gods and Generals doesn't offer much in the way of incentive to read the book. :p
  14. TrakNar Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Apr 4, 2011
    star 5
    Note to self: Send Goodwood the novels straight from the source. And Gettysburg is, naturally, a bestseller in Gettysburg.
  15. TheAdmiral Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Mar 28, 2004
    star 4
    This thread looks interesting. Unfortunately, I won't be able to participate. My fic is also military-oriented, though I started it more like techno-thriller as back then was influenced by some of Tom Clancy's works. And due to DRL unable to update the fic regularly.

    Unfortunately I haven't read much military novels (mostly historical accounts) as my preferences in literature are a bit different. I prefer visual representation of the conflict in movies or video games. Though few develop the characters psychologically. One of my favorite war movies is The Thin Red Line by Terrence Malick as in my opinion it showed truly the nature of war. The Russians also make some very good films about war, but you have to understand the language or find subtitles.

    I would like to participate in such a challenge a bit later when I manage to update my fic a bit more regularly. [face_peace]
  16. Goodwood Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    May 11, 2011
    star 4
    Hey bud, always like seeing input here in this thread!

    Don't worry about being able to participate right now, as there is no time limit. It's more of a challenge for the sake of challenge, to get like-minded folks who are into writing war in the GFFA together in one place (you know, since various other "fan fic factions" have their own club threads), as well as for sharing ideas, tips, even experiences.
  17. Goodwood Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    May 11, 2011
    star 4
    Time for new discussion questions!


    What clichés in war fiction bug you the most?

    This is mostly limited to older flicks, made before the late sixties and early seventies when movies actually started to mature a bit (at least insofar as war films), but what really gets me riled up is how oftentimes you get a plot that revolves around a small unit on the line and they invariably devolve into a "band of bros" with The Clown, The Womanizer, The Foreigner, The Old Vet, and The Leader as well as various other tropes. Though it was based on a true story and starring the original character as himself, To Hell and Back was possibly the most egregious offender when it comes to this cliché. At least IMHO.


    What is your preferred theatre of war to read/write about?

    I personally like air/space combat, particularly of WWII vintage where you could still tell a personal tale set against the backdrop of a large conflict, but without having to get overly technical and retaining the ability to shove a character into the stark reality by having them face their enemy (for example, watching your bullets as they pierce the canopy of an enemy plane and rip the pilot to shreds). Star Wars just takes this and sets it in space, allowing plenty of carryover and use of the same elements that make for an engaging tale?of course, there is also the potential to succumb to the infodump.

    However, my writings from the past year and a half have opened me up to other areas. Particularly my writings about the Republic Marines (my own fanon branch of the Republic Military?details can be found here). These guys do it all: planetary assaults, garrisoning frontier outposts, shipboard combat in attack or defense; they've even got their own starfighter squadrons and Jedi Knights have been known to work alongside them (in my headcanon, naturally). So there's plenty of opportunity to explore other theatres, all involving a small- to medium-sized cast of characters that can be developed over multiple stories.
  18. TrakNar Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Apr 4, 2011
    star 5
    What clichés in war fiction bug you the most?

    Not quite sure. Though, as much as I like R. Lee Ermey to base a character off of him, the characterization itself is getting a bit clichéd. Same with the gung ho types who are all "Marines rule, Navy void-brains drool, OO-RAH!" Granted, there are people who act like that, but the characterization in fiction isn't pretty.

    What is your preferred theatre of war to read/write about?

    Trench warfare. The down-and-dirty nitty gritty stuff with nerve gas and other nasty stuff. If it reminds me of Conker's Bad Fur Day multiplayer, then I find it to be very intriguing to write. Even though I can't necessarily use multiplayer gaming as a basis for the story, I can at least draw upon it for description.
  19. Goodwood Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    May 11, 2011
    star 4
    Regrettably, I've never played Conker's Bad Fur Day, never mind the multiplayer, so you'll have to explain to me what all is involved.
  20. TrakNar Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Apr 4, 2011
    star 5
    Let's see... You got Squirrels versus Teddies, artillery fire all around you, nerve gas, trench sniping... If you wanna capture the enemy's base, you need to haul your butt across a field of death and hope that when the gas strikes, you're near a mask. Or that you don't get shot or blown up, or set on fire by some nut with a flamethrower.

    Loads of fun, that game.
  21. Goodwood Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    May 11, 2011
    star 4
    Bump for great justice...and to remind folks about this for the March Calender Challenge.
  22. Darth McClain Arena Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Feb 5, 2000
    star 6
    I really like the idea, but it's almost too open ended for me. I've got a few sort of developed ideas rolling along, though no promises for when/if they'll get written.
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