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World Building in your books: Military

Updated: Jan 25, 2023

I was honored to serve almost ten years in the US Army. It was a wonderful experience, even if the hours sucked. I was fortunate to meet some wonderful people, and gained a few friends along the way. But not everyone has a military background. Trying to replicate the military experience is difficult, not only because if you haven't served, you really can't know what it's like. It is also difficult because everyone serves differently. There are so many jobs, in multiple branches. An Infantryman will have a completely different experience than a communications tech. A Marine will have a different experience from someone in the Air Force. Once you add combat experiences into the mix, then the differences only grow.

Here are some factors that you can add to your book that are broad, and don't speak towards individual experience. Remember, when not actively at war, a soldier will be assigned to a position that may not actively involve their combat job. I will briefly list a few "non-combat positions" to give you an idea of what your character may be doing when not in combat.


How is your military broken down?
-Various branches (Army, Navy, Air force etc.)
- Rank structure
-Officers are only of noble birth/ rich / certain race/species
- What is the highest rank?
- Are there different structures between branches (Admiral for Navy, Gunnery Sergeant for Marines?)
- Who leads troops? Who trains troops?

How does your military fit into society?
- Military runs government
- Military isn't very big
- Mandatory service or volunteer forces?
- National guard/ reserves respond to natural disasters?

Are there militant groups?

When writing an apocalypse world, do you have remnants of a military? Soldiers who are still trying to keep together and fight? Are there para-military, or civilians trying to imitate how the military operated?

If your country went to war, how soon can the military mobilize? Could they have troops in-route within 24hours?

Here are some examples of "day-to-day" jobs that your military character may have done when they aren't at war. This is not a complete list, and it will vary.
- Communications
-Maintaining computer/ internet access
- Maintaining crypto-graphic data and access
-Maintaining unit compliance with local and central communications usage
-Unit taskings
- Upcoming events
- Training operations
- Professional Development school enrollment for soldiers
- Unit equipment maintenance
- Communications ( for example radios)

Remember, the military as we know it is a beast. There are too many moving parts to be able to cover all of them. A communications tech in the Marines may have a completely different experience than someone in the Air Force with the same job. Likewise, when at war, one communications tech may be assigned to work at Division headquarters, while another may be on patrol everyday.

If your book does not need to mention the military complex, you can always bring it down to a local level. What does the police look like? Are they genuinely good people who want to help their community? Are they corrupt?

Perhaps you are dealing with an organization that has "soldiers" but isn't the military. In a fantasy setting, you may have something like a demon-slaying organization, a peace-keeping organization. How does your character's species keep themselves in line? Are there individuals who will punish those who break the laws or reveal themselves to humans? If your book's setting is in the past, is there a town guard? Is there a group of specialized warriors who police the people? If your book is set in an apocalyptic world, how does the pockets of humanity keep their citizens in line?

I hope this gives you something to think about. If you have any questions/comments, please don't hesitate to shoot me an email.

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Happy Writing Friends!
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