War is often an integral part of a fantasy novel, whether it be a conflict between neighboring nations, an invasion by demonic hordes, or even within a single man’s heart. It is a simple thing to write about men throwing fire at each other, or slashing with blades and arrows. However, while a fight might be simple, war is not.
There are many pieces to war, the majority of which do not happen on the field of battle, but rather prior to the fighting, or behind the scenes. In order to have a war, one must have certain specific things, otherwise it is impossible.
Firstly, one must have money. War is expensive, and money is needed for soldiers, food supplies, bribes, horses, armor and weapons, living quarters and uniform. War is often funded by kingdoms, or else by a coalition of noble houses. House Wars are little more than games for rich nobles, who have no inkling for the lives they waste in petty brawls.
Secondly, one must have a cause. Whether it be for a way of life, or one’s homeland or monarch, there must be a reason to fight. Sometimes, money is not enough to make a man fight for you, there must be a grander purpose.
Next, one must have morale. Tired or dispirited soldiers do not fight well. Minor victories can boost morale, but might degrade from the ultimate purpose of the war. There has to be a balance between favorable conditions and winning conditions. This leads us to our fourth point…
To fight a war, one must have a strong leader. A general must know not only how to win battles, but also keep his men alive. He must know when to retreat and when to advance, which fights are worth stepping into, and which to avoid. He must understand the greater scope of the battle, but also the plight of every soldier who must take an arrow to the heart in order to advance the greater good. He must know the minds of every soldier who must strike down a fellow human being.
A political war is different, yet it may prove far more costly to a nation. Often houses or single nobles will feud, hoping to gain what the other possesses. Sometimes it is land or wealth, others it is a political position or influence. People can suffer under the hands of a power-hungry noble, and if another takes his place, it can prove beneficial. However, more often than not, they are merely exchanging one fool for another.
A war of the heart will have a much smaller body count when all is said and done, usually these only affect a single man and those close to him. A judge must decide whether to hang his son for murder. A man decides to defy his religious beliefs. However, when a person in power has to wrestle with his own heart, more might suffer due to his choices. A king does not wish to abdicate the throne, even as his hidden mental health deteriorates.
There are other factors to consider when writing a war. How does magic factor in? How do magical beasts? How much detail is too much detail, or too little? How does one successfully keep the reader involved and entertained?
I write what feels right to me, how my characters would fight or react to battle, or to war as a whole. The best one can do is make sure the logic works, and I use the foundation explained above to model my wars. As to what the reader thinks, that is not as important as you being satisfied with your own final product.
Be sure to check out the other articles coming out this month, as they will address more of the questions you might have about battles, war, magic and swordplay.
Andrew Wood is an 18 year old recent high school graduate with a love of writing and a dream of becoming a published author. He first began writing during elementary school, with short stories. He wrote three novels during high school, one of which was for National Novel Writing Month. Now, with his fourth novel complete, he is ready to publish. You can find out more about this novel at http://www.inkshares.com/projects/storm-of-fury