(© Ian Danbury Fotolia)
My latest work on the novel centres on a battle scene, something which I have been working on for a while and which is finally coming to fruition in text form. I can't really say that it is an easy task. After all, I'm not a soldier and have not served in the armed forces (though I have done military related stuff in the past such as cadets, Strategic Studies at University, so I have some vague idea of what's involved. Still, I take my hat off to those who have and give them my full support – see the previous blog for a link to my favourite charity.) This is where research, such as viewing DVDs like the ones mentioned when I wrote here previously, comes into its own. Then, it's a question of letting the imagination take over.
Having never seen active combat, this is daunting to say the least (not that I would wish to ever be in that situation!) What makes it all the more interesting is that the type of warfare which I am envisioning is a strange and bizarre mixture of ancient and modern, such would be the assumptions that I have made based on the extent of post-industrial decline after a grid-collapse. These are based on the fact that widespread energy and resource scarcity, along with rapid population decline and the collapse of central government, could cause a complete standstill and then rapid depreciation of industrial stock, along with a deterioration of the skills pool, thus making it difficult to manufacture modern-equivalent weapons and equipment, even of the types produced in the latter and early part of the 19th and 20th Centuries respectively. Older style arms and armour could be made fairly efficiently, and surviving inventories, such as 21st Century modern weapons, vehicles and other kit could be maintained and conserved where possible. It might also be reasonable to assume that crude explosive ordnance could be produced and utilised in warfare. However, for a lot of combatants it would be a return to basic single-shot firearms and hand-held weapons as a means of defence. This makes for an interesting combination of military technology in the post-apocalyptic scenario, and fortunately one of my course options years ago when I was doing my degree course was Technology and Military Policy!
Even more challenging is imagining the likely effects the use of these weapons combinations would have in the battlefield environment, the conditions they would create and the strategies and tactics these would give rise too. One of the characters in my story is obviously unable to grasp the new and rapidly changing situation as he faces off the main protagonists in the story on the field of battle. This character is not a natural strategist or leader, and he quickly finds himself coming unstuck as a result of being unable to marry his old-fashioned idealism with the reality of his circumstances. This leads him to make some rather ill-thought out decisions, the consequences of which are not positive from his point of view.
As well as this, there are the detrimental effects upon my main character as a result of his involvement in the battle, as he carries himself through the story trying to come to terms with the experience and the nightmares which it invokes (again, as discussed in the previous blog). It is an interesting journey for me, as I have found that I have to be a little more in depth in my approach and pay more attention to detail when writing this particular section. Though I have been less able to proceed through this section of the book as quickly as I have the other parts to date, I have found that in many ways this is a good thing, as I really have to think hard here about what would work in reality and what wouldn't. Again, I am finding that incorporating the five senses into the description will assist on bringing the scene to life, so that the reader feels in the thick of it. One of my aims of this is to convey the 'Saving Private Ryan' effect in the battle scenes, which means making full use of every aspect of the combat experience in the prose. I can't say I'll get it right straight away – I'll need to chop and change at both the first and second drafts no doubt, followed by any subsequent amendments as required. Yet, I'm confident that, at the end of the process, it will enrich the book further and make it more appealing to the reader.
If anybody has any ideas or tips, I'd be pleased to hear from you.