On Fantasy Fiction and Telling the Truth About War

I write fantasy:  completely fictional stories that take place in world of my (and my wife’s) own making.

That is despite the fact that I have spent years in war zones around the globe. I certainly could tell some tales: there were life and death moments, epic struggles, brotherhood, love and tragedy.

But I will not tell those tales publicly. There are two reasons for this:

The first reason is selfish. There are some events I do not want to relive or have define my writing. I enjoy being able to address real world human problems from an objective place. I think that the political labels, especially in the U.S., are highly destructive and I’d like to avoid being stuck with them.

The second reason many of you may be able to relate to- especially if you have military, law enforcement, or security backgrounds. Each individual deals with traumatic events differently. Some people find that having the worst moments of their life rehashed publicly sets them back, and makes it harder to live.

If, for example, I helped someone through a traumatic medical event resulting from violence and then violate their privacy by telling the whole world … what was the point? And if I change the story to protect them, it is a lie- and everyone in the tale might as well have swords and armor, because dammit that makes it a better story anyway!

I have tried to take what I have learned about violence and how different types of people react to it and make believable characters. I have not taken real people and slapped them into my stories. I have not taken specific events and redressed them. I hate allegory, as did Tolkien, and use his idea of applicability instead. I create fictional situations that apply to the lives of real people, so that readers (hopefully) can relate to them.

I cannot take credit for this philosophy, however. I feel very lucky to have been a nerd before I set out from my hobbit hole at age 18. Tolkien I have already mentioned, but Glen Cook, Author of The Black Company series, also did a great job of addressing real life while avoiding allegory and provided great inspiration. Both of these great writers helped guide my thinking away from what I would consider dishonorable or dishonest writing.

This move towards fiction, and fantasy in particular was specific to my personality type and my world view. I’m sure many can relate to it, but I understand that fiction is not for everyone. I have seen several good examples of non-fiction writing used to overcome or work through post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but I will let you find them and judge for yourselves.

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