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What Are the Different Types of War Fiction?

By G. Wiesen
Updated Feb 11, 2024
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Different types of war fiction include various formats in which works can be written as well as stories that cover a wide range of topics. Many works of fiction are written about a particular conflict, such as World War II or the American Civil War, while others are written about combat in general. There are also pieces of war fiction that are written about a fantastical battle, such as one set in a fantasy or science fiction setting. Fictional representations of strife can include a number of different formats, such as poems and plays, as well as short stories and novels.

War fiction generally refers to any written work about warfare, or in which a battle is the major setting, that is not a true story. Some of the most common and popular works within this genre are written about a real and specific event, but tell a tale that may not have necessarily happened. In these stories, the battle is often the backdrop for events, such as a particularly character-driven story unfolding amidst the chaos and drama of a battlefield. Specific conflicts are often preferred for this type of war fiction, such as one of the World Wars or the Trojan War.

There are also many pieces of war fiction that are written about a conflict that never happened, or about combat in a highly fictional setting. This could be a piece of speculative fiction about strife between American and Canada, or a doomsday scenario involving a conflict between every country in the world. More fantastical settings can also be used for such war fiction, such as a fantasy world inhabited by mythological creatures or a battle between humans and an alien species. In these types of stories, the fictional conflict may be just as important a feature as the characters themselves, who are often revealed through the trials they undergo.

Although a great deal of war fiction is written in standard prose form, there are also other formats that can be used by writers to tell stories about conflict. Poetry may not be the first method many people would use to relay stories of strife, but it can have a powerful impact on a work. The sparse nature of many poems can be used to provide fast and intense details about a battlefield or the nature of war. Plays can also be used as a vehicle for war fiction, and character-driven works often require a dramatic setting, such as a time of conflict.

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Discussion Comments

By bythewell — On Jul 12, 2012

@Mor - War fiction can also help kids on an individual level. I know that being able to read about the experiences of soldiers in wartime helps people to understand their army grandparents and parents better, when they have no personal experience of it.

Kids get exposed to so many "war" situations in their video games, they might think they understand the reality. But those games don't show the thousands of people who died from infection or illness, or the local folk who get caught up in the conflict whether they want it or not.

Even some adults could do with a reminder that war is not glorious and that the sacrifices of soldiers should always be held sacred. I think a well written book on war can do that in a way that nothing else can.

By Mor — On Jul 11, 2012

@irontoenail - It's just so important for people to write war fiction for all ages so that we can one day do without war entirely.

I know it centers around a fictional war, but 1984 was one of the most important books about war that I ever read when I was a child. It really brought into clear relief why propaganda and rationing happen during wartime and how they can easily spin out of control. It also helped me to understand people's reactions during war. It's very difficult for a child who has grown up in a democratic country without the threat of war to understand what that kind of threat can do to a person and why we have to maintain integrity in those circumstances. War fiction can help with that.

By irontoenail — On Jul 10, 2012

While I was studying history in high school I quickly realized that nothing would bring alive a period for me like reading a fiction book about it. Of course, you need to make sure that it's a good book, with accurate historical detail (and it helps if the author includes some analysis in the back as well).

We studied the Israel-Palestine conflict and I had a lot of difficulty understanding the real meaning behind the actions we learned about. Reading Exodus by Leon Uris was the way I really understood the motivations of the people involved in that conflict and how truly sad it is that there is no easy answer to it.

If your kids are having trouble understanding things like WW2 and so forth, try getting them relevant books to read so that they can get emotionally involved and soon the dates and conflicts will be much easier to remember.

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