Okay, I'm on the topic of fiction. What I really want to write is a fictionalized version of a soldier's time in Iraq. Ideally, it wouldn't really be a story so much as a series of snapshots. If anyone has read Tim O'Brien's "The The Things They Carried", then you know what I mean. It wouldn't be strictly factually accurate, but mostly. And it wouldn't be a narrative so much as a series of scenes; jumping from critical moment to critical moment.
Start probably in mobilization, or maybe even in basic training. Then follow one soldier, jumping through the lengthy periods of nothingness to the key points, or key days, maybe a dozen out of a yearlong deployment.
There's several things that make it complicated: keeping the pace up, of course. Communicating the boredom that comes in the skipped weeks or months without actually describing them. And most importantly, making the reader feel the story, put him in the experience. Combat, conflict, service, the lifestyle; not only the big points, but the minor details. Especially the minor details, in fact. The minor stuff is what makes it so real both in my memory, and in a story. Getting across the small victories and defeats of life in a combat zone (or, really, life anywhere, but it's amplified in such a situation) is what seperates a hack from the great.
Unfortunatly, this project is probably beyond both my attention span and my writing talent. I am a moderately talented author, but I don't have the time or the talent for something like that. People have done it: Joseph Heller, Kurt Vonnegut, and Tim O'Brien come to mind. Their books communicate not only the things that you would expect, but the stupid shit that is so very real.
Anyway, I liked the title. If I ever do get around to putting some of my war-stories to paper, the title will come from Mark Antony's speech in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar: "Cry Havok...And let slip the Dogs of War". "Cry Havok". That single line, even taken out of context, is so evocotive; it brings to mind not only a literal image, but an emotional one.
That is exactly what I want to write: A book full of literal imagery, but also full of fury; a story that communicates not only the mundane aspects of life in the desert, such as, say, incoming mortar fire; but also the chaos, confusion, and havok of it:
The first blast was drowned out by Evanescence and Madden Football, playing on the bunk next to me.
The second took off the end of our building; spraying through the thin warehouse walls we were bunked in. A piece of it hit Jennet, three bunks down.
I had no idea what was actually going. We set up tents inside the warehouse, to create the illusion of a living space; I couldn't see the shredded metal or fire at the far end of the warehouse. The second blast shook me out of my Clancy novel. I marked my place, grabbed my helmet and rifle, heading to the tent door as a matter of habit.
"Not a-fucking-gain." That was Ritenour, who bitched every time we took fire. Outside the tent, the walk we usually took to the bunker was on fire. Fuck.
The truck. The HMMWV was safe. I headed to the close end of the warehouse.
Well, see, that's not really it either. The idea is that it moves fast, but still creates an emotional impact, hopefully even moreso because of the blunt, swift syle. I'm not really doing either here; too much explaining, too impersonal.
But damn, do I like the idea. I like the book. Now I just have to hope I can pull it off.