Thursday, May 25, 2006

Incoming! More blazin' battle action

After two scintillating days of preparing my accounts for the last tax year [that sign I'm holding up? It's my Irony sign], I spent yesterday watching archive footage from the early months of World War II in the Pacific. That's prep for a proposal I've promised to deliver tomorrow, a putative franchise extension for Fiends of the Eastern Front. I always find it strange trying to mix and match historical fact with pure fiction. Yes, you want to get all the little details accurate - what unit fought in which battles, what sort of weapons they used, what they wore, ate, drank, did. But then you're injecting a supernatural element into that setting and the line between realism and the fantastic gets well and truly smudged. Ultimately, it's all too easy to get bogged down with research, blindng yourself with facts and military trivia.

I figure readers want a gripping story with a driving narrative. They want viewpoint characters with whom they can empathise and, ideally, care about. If readers start caring about your characters, they want to know what happens to those characters next. In a war story, that's all about who lives and who dies, the price of victory and the cost of failure. But you've got to keep it personal, keep it tight and taut. Hell, the first Star Wars film [the first released, that is - let's not talk about the prequels, okay?] is the story of a galactic rebellion, but essentially it's the story of a farmboy trying to figure out what to do with his life. All of us have wondered sometimes what we're doing with our lives, what is our purpose, right?

So that's the question I'm trying to keep at the front of my mind today. What are my characters trying to achieve, what are their goals and what are the obstacles to those goals? Two quotes stayed with me from all the material I watched and read yesterday. The first was a four word credo about fighting in the Pacific: "Survive. Win. Get home." The second was a short poem by an unknown US Marine:
When he gets to Heaven
To Saint Peter he'll tell
Another Marine reporting, sir,
I've served my time in Hell.

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