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War stories


Disciplines > Storytelling > Plots > Classic story types > War stories

Description | Example | Discussion | See also



War stories tell tales of comradeship and heroism in settings ripe for such action. Ordinary people are thrust into situations of extreme danger which quickly sorts the men from the boys and the heroes from the cowards.

War stories are typically set in known historic wars, with World War 2 as probably the most popular setting.
The framing of many war stories is a mission that must be accomplished, such as the capture of a hill or town. The action typically starts with the mission being set and continues with a build-up towards the main action. Loud action and excitement ensues as the battle rages and people die. Eventually the battle is won. War stories seldom encompass an entire war, rather using it as a backdrop against which a particular human story unfolds.


Band of Brothers
Apocalypse Now
From Here to Eternity


Wars give plenty of opportunity for heroic action as soldiers and others put themselves in harm's way to save their comrades, serve their country or otherwise serve good cause.
The treat of heroic and other sympathetic characters getting killed is significant and provides an easy source of tension, particularly as they are harmed in the action.

Just as we are impressed by mighty storms and other natural displays of power so also do the explosions and destruction of war create awe in its audiences.

War is largely a male preserve and can echo their primitive battling for mates and protection of the tribe. Women are traditionally impressed by displays of power and the two genders may thus gain different pleasure from such stories.

War stories also play to our baser aggressive nature and our suppressed desire for violence can be played out in a vicarious manner for us in the story. The thought of carrying a gun and killing people makes us feel secretly all-powerful and perhaps harks back to early feelings of omnipotence.

These stories can also remind us of the horrors and madness of war as men become monsters and senseless sacrifice on a grand scale is justified for political gain or ideals that seem not to be worth such carnage.

See also

Espionage stories, Escape stories

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