Military In Fiction

For more details, as well as a list of resources on military history and culture, check out my resources page.

If you use these articles and enjoy them, consider pre-ordering my new novel MECHANICAL FAILURE to support the creation of more!line

Welcome to my series on military in fiction!  As a member of the military and a writer, I aim to help you create realistic military environments (regardless of time period or world) in your fiction by giving you some insight into the world I’ve lived in for most of my adult life.  When I was asked to speak at WORLDCON about this very topic, I wanted to create a series of articles as a repository of the information.  If you want to know more, check out the introduction below.

Below you’ll find each article as well as a link to a podcast that you are free to download and listen to at your leisure.  Enjoy!

Military in Fiction #1:  An Introduction  Get the Podcast
MIF #2 – The Vibe Get the Podcast
MIF #3 – The Lingo Get the Podcast
MIF #4 – The Technology Get the Podcast
MIF #5 – Human Elements Get the Podcast
MIF #6 – Rank and Organization   Get the Podcast
MIF #7 – Logistics Get the Podcast
MIF BONUS:  WORLDCON 2012 Panel Get the Podcast
MIF #8 – Training  Get the Podcast
MIF #9 – Tactics Get the Podcast
MIF #10-  The Profession of Arms Get the Podcast

MIF #? – Help me decide!  If you want to know about something specific, leave a comment on one of the articles.

26 Comments

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  1. I think you should address professionalism; too many writers and readers have a stereotypical view of members of the Armed Forces because their only exposure has been movies and tv.

    • Interesting idea. The next article is on rank and organization and there is a bit of a talk about professionalism in there. Perhaps you could be a bit more specific? Professionalism varies greatly from force to force or even unit to unit. What questions do you have, or more specifically what do you see writers do wrong?

      • I served in the USAF from 90-94, and I saw a great variety of professionalism in my Security Police (now Security Forces) units. some people were very professional, while others were complete slackers.

        While there is a great deal of diversity in the armed forces, it always irritates me to see films where career military people act like slackers, are rumpled, etc. all to develop their character.

        I guess that’s my point- don’t make cookie-cutter characters, but don’t have an over abundance of uniformed slackers just to provide character.

  2. As former military (Army, 12 years, Desert Storm), I see a couple of things people don’t really get when talking about military. 1) They don’t understand the officer/enlisted structure, of what types of jobs each does. I watched a movie where they gave an officer an enlisted job. 2) They have a military person yell “Sir!” after each sentence, like he was in Basic Training talking to a drill sergeant. 3) A lot of people also forget that women are in the military.

    • Star Trek drives me crazy with calling women “Sir”. I only spent 4 years in the USAF, but we NEVER called female officers “Sir”.

      My other big gripe is the femme fatales in uniform. We had pretty women in the USAF, but we also had butt-kicking gals that weren’t ugly, but they anorexic fashion models either. Just once I’d like to see a movie portray a more realistic female soldier.

    • The “Sir” conundrum is driving my crazy in my book. I’m struggling to find a balance … my character doesn’t yell it but he is addressing every member of higher rank with it and it seems like it’s being used too much. I’m just not sure though.
      To the OP: I’ve bookmarked this page and look forward to listening to all of your podcast, starting in the morning. Thank you very much!

    • Glad you like them, Stewart! I actually have MIF 7 – Training ready, I just need to record the podcast and I’ll be putting it up soon. Feel free to pass the word 🙂

  3. Thank you for this! I write military suspense and these posts will be extremely helpful. I’m also a photographer and musician so I appreciate (and dare say understand) the Renaissance aspect of a creative life. Keep up the good work 🙂

  4. Man I am SO enjoying this series. You’re a talented and engaging writer, and as an ex-Navy logistics specialist myself I’m enjoying your memory rewinds of your time in service. My novel involves our current world being completely transformed by magic and the end of all common forms of energy use, so rethinking a new military in this world with your help is going to be interesting. I think one topic to cover should be the Top Secret aspects of military life. What is considered valuable enough to be hidden and why or how.

    • Hey, thanks Michael! Sorry it took me so long to approve this – it’s been a crazy couple of LIFE. Thanks for the suggestion as well, though I’m a bit wary of going in that direction. Good luck with your novel!

  5. What an interesting read. It certainly brings some perspective to life in the US military. I’m not sure how well my experiences with the ADF and it’s associated organisations would carry over to this, but then I’m also not sure I should try with my knowledge being as limited as it is.

    You’ve given me plenty to think about as a budding author, with a few good laughs to boot. The lingo one had me close to being in stitches at some points. If seven years in cadets taught me anything about military life, it’s that brevity is all “different strokes for different folks”. It’s only really funny in hindsight.

    I look forward to more of your insights.

  6. I haven’t listened to all your pod casts yet and I just want to say….. The human element podcast is very interesting. I’m thinking about joining the British Army and this podcast has helped me to know myself — it as always been in my subconscious thoughts and feelings but, the people who care about me don’t quite understand. This podcast has helped me to familiarize them with how I think and feel about stuff.

    • War in general is probably one of the strangest facets of human existence on so many levels. If you’re not going into the military with a least a little bit of a conflicted opinion, you’re probably doing it for the wrong reasons to begin with. Best of luck with you on your journey.

  7. These are so interesting and beyond helpful. I’ve been stuck on my novel because I didn’t want to use the obviously-not-accurate-or-even-believable stuff the movies show. My characters are mostly ex-military of one type or another. Now this has answered so many of my questions and opened entirely new possibilities. I can easily see myself finishing my novel in just a few months now. I’m dying to see the last two. Best of luck with your novel, hope to see it on the shelves soon 🙂 (I’m not kidding though, I’m literally dying to see the last two)

  8. Thank you for this excellent resource. Back in the late 70’s Early 80’s I was a Second Lieutenant in the Italian Army, but I was commissioned in a NATO base and next door to me I had a US ARMY base. I wish I spoke better English at the time. While we interacted a lot, both professionally and personally, the language barrier was just too great for anything but communicating the basics.
    Nevertheless, I loved my time there, at least some aspects of it. The US ARMY of the era was already a modern army, while the Italian army was still steeped in the old ways of doing things. Italy still had a draft at the time,. Which meant an Army built around numbers rather than professionalism.

    Even with my experience in not one, but several armies (We constantly had UK, German, French officers visiting beside our US cousins across the fence), I find myself reticent to use dialogue and technical terms in my stories because I know how task specific and how many different cultures exist inside not just each nation’s Army, but inside each Army branch down to the smallest units. I was a Missile Section Commander (Lance Missile) and our lingo was slightly different than the one our 2 sister sections used and we were all under the command of the same Captain.

    I tried watching combat videos from Iraq and Afghanistan to get a sense of the way soldiers speak in high intensity situations, but unfortunately most of the dialog is either too far or drowned by the sound of the weapons.

    Even before I found your Blog, I have been wondering if anyone had been working on a repository of military dialog from different armed forces and different eras. Beside that I would find it fascinating just from an historical point of view (I read a lot of history books on the lives of the common people and it’s a topic I am drawn to) it would be very useful for writers trying to get a sense of how soldiers of a given historical army thought, spoke, and lived.

    I am looking forward to the upcoming issues and wish you the best of luck on your book.

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