Memorable Military Research Book – Redeployment by Phil Klay

Jordan Dane

@JordanDane

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I heard Phil Klay on MSNBC talking about his fiction book entitled – Redeployment – and I was intrigued. The first thing that grabbed me was the fact that the book is fiction, a group of short stories. Klay is former military (see more about him below) and from what I’ve seen, many war books written by young men of his experience/background, they tend to write non-fiction, so he had me hooked. I also noticed his book was a 2014 National Book Award Winner. Very impressive.

I wanted to read Klay’s book for research. I’m currently writing a few Amazon Kindle World series books involving the military. Reading pure romance books on the subject of military lifestyle wasn’t satisfying my need for authenticity, especially when I’m in the head of my male characters.

I’ve been watching online videos on snipers and reading books written by Navy SEALS. Klay’s anthology is my latest attempt to get a feel for an authentic voice for the character I will be writing shortly. Since my market is generally women readers, I have to temper any research with how I would write a story for women, but I do love discovering male voices that connect with my own life experiences, similar to the guys I worked with in the oil fields. (Yeah, I have stories.)

I feel I must warn readers interested in this amazing book. It’s taken me awhile to read through it. The first person voices in these stories are intimate, poignant, and gripping. They are presented without judgment. It’s a stark reality without any solutions or answers, but I found an honesty to it. These stories have gotten me down and I find I have to pace myself in reading them. I read at night and there are some days I can’t pick up this book, but I love the rich distinctive style of the voices in this anthology. I highly recommend this book. No question. This book would make an interesting read for anyone looking for a good character study.

5 TIPS ON RESEARCH:

1.) GET IT RIGHT – Research is important for authenticity, to insure your book doesn’t get thrown against a wall. There are women readers serving in the military, so I would have to “get it right” for them, yet still appeal to a woman’s desire for romance.

2.) NEVER OVERDO – Too much jargon or acronyms can bore a reader. In my crime fiction books, I will use police procedural language in dialogue, but find a quick way to explain what things mean after I first mention it. It can be tricky, but reviewers have liked the subtle way I do this, without overkill that can slow the pace. It’s all about balance.

Example:

“You have TOD, doc?”

Chambers knew the medical examiner would be challenged to estimate time of death, given the conditions of the body.

3.) CAPTURE THE ESSENCE – Read research related books or watch videos to get a general feel for an attitude, lifestyle, or the types of characters and their backstories you want to portray, but NEVER copy another author’s work. To prevent the temptation, when I read books like Klay’s, I jot down notes of ideas for my own book, then set the research book down for days/weeks before I start on my story and I never read books like this WHILE I am writing. In fact, I don’t read books in the genre I’m writing while I am in the midst of a project. Your mind can put words onto the page subconsciously. Your story MUST be your own, to retain your own voice.

4.) NEED VISUALS – For action scenes or locations, search online for your own visuals. Practice describing what you see, to get your own interpretation as seen through the eyes of your character. If you have video, use your ears too. What sounds do you hear on location? What other senses can you pry from your own experiences? Using all the senses can be a rush, especially if they spring from your own life.

5.) FILL IN THE GAPS – Once you get your character’s voice in your head, add other things that fill in around him. How does he or she dress? How do they live? Who are his/her friends? Who does he/she trust? What baggage does he or she carry? What’s the last thing he or she would do, then make them do it in your story – to face their demons. This gets into character – another topic – but my natural next step after I get a distinctive voice in my head, is to fill in a visual of my character’s life. Then I’m ready to write.

DISCUSSION

1.) What research books have stayed with you long after you’re written the book?

2,) Do you have any recommended reading for me on authentic military action, jargon, and dialogue?

ABOUT THE BOOK

Phil Klay’s Redeployment takes readers to the front lines of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, asking us to understand what happened there and what happened to the soldiers who returned. Interwoven with themes of brutality and faith, guilt and fear, helplessness and survival, the characters in these stories struggle to make meaning out of chaos.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Phil Klay - Author

Phil Klay – Author

Phil Klay – Author Phil Klay is a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps and served in Iraq’s Anbar Province from January 2007 to February 2008 as a Public Affairs Officer. His writing has appeared in Granta, The New York Times,Newsweek, The Daily Beast, New York Daily News, Tin House, and The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2012. Klay is a 2014 National Book Foundation’s 5 Under 35 Honoree.

“In Klay’s hands, Iraq comes across not merely as a theater of war but as a laboratory of the human condition in extremis. Redeployment is hilarious, biting, whipsawing and sad. It’s the best thing written so far on what the war did to people’s souls.”
–Dexter Filkins, The New York Times Book Review

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About Jordan Dane

Bestselling, critically-acclaimed author Jordan Dane’s gritty thrillers are ripped from the headlines with vivid settings, intrigue, and dark humor. Publishers Weekly compared her intense novels to Lisa Jackson, Lisa Gardner, and Tami Hoag, naming her debut novel NO ONE HEARD HER SCREAM as Best Books of 2008. She is the author of young-adult novels written for Harlequin Teen, the Sweet Justice thriller series for HarperCollins., and the Ryker Townsend FBI psychic profiler series, Mercer's War vigilante novellas, and the upcoming Trinity LeDoux bounty hunter novels set in New Orleans. Jordan shares her Texas residence with two lucky rescue dogs. To keep up with new releases & exclusive giveaways, click HERE

16 thoughts on “Memorable Military Research Book – Redeployment by Phil Klay

  1. Jordan, a couple of comments. Oddly enough, each branch of service has it’s own jargon, and because the members of each don’t interact often with the others, there is a surprising lack of commonality. And the jargon varies significantly from war to war, driven by the fact that young kids going on active duty have an argot all their own that they bring to the party. I grew up with parents and adults who were WWII vets and used one jargon, but when I went to Vietnam, it was totally different. My only other suggestion is to avoid most of the military acronyms. These change at an incredibly rapid rate, and can be meaningless to people just a few years either side of your fictional world. Like your technique for explaining the acronyms, though.

    • I’ve seen what you mean about jargon & wars being different from generation to generation. I fit the age of my characters to any possible yrs of service, which complicates the character study, but it can be fun to show the age diff between charscters in different ways.

      I’ve also seen the differences in jargon between service branches. Navy is quite a bit different from Air Force. Lots of common ground on certain attitudes but sea vs air service is varied.

      Thanks for making that clear. Reading Phil Klay’s book, I see loads of regional & environmental differences and weapons have changed too. That’s why this book has been so good on many fronts.

      Thanks, Steohen.

  2. To answer your question, I have several research books I use and refer back to them time and again. None on military, though. Sorry I can’t be of help. If you need a book about cause of death, however, I recommend POSTMORTEM by Dr. Steven Koehler and Dr. Cyril H. Wecht.

    I’m sure you’ll nail your story. Love your writing!

    • Thanks, Sue. Appreciate the research book tip. I always like to add to my library. Military authenticity is important to me to get right, but like I mentioned, it’s a balancing game between my target audience romance angle & a stringent military world.

  3. Ah, research! Honestly, I think I love researching even more than writing (my writing progress reflects that. LOL!). Wish I could make a living doing research.

    I especially love reading about military history and world development, but I don’t have resources that would work for your purposes because I’m a 19th century geek so all the stuff I read is focused on that time period.

    Thanks for the referral on “Redeployment”. I’ve added that to my list of books to check out.

    It’s not related to military per se, but if you’ve ever asked yourself questions like “Why has the U.S. been so prosperous yet Mexico, just a titch south has seemed to struggle throughout it’s history? Why have there been disparities in other countries?” I’m reading a book called “Why Nations Fail” by Daron Acemogluwhich which is proving interesting. I’m not finished it yet, but have enjoyed the discourse so far.

  4. Physician-author D.P. Lyle’s books on forensics are great resources for writers. Clear, concise, and accessible – on Amazon. His “Forensics” or “Howdunit Forensics” is an excellent overview.
    Thanks Jordan.

  5. Some war books I have loved, for the way they convey the emotional experience of war–Different wars, though, and none of them Iraq: Michael Shaara, Killer Angels; anything by Tim O’Brian. Sabastian Faulk’s Birdsong was so powerful I felt as though I’d lived through trench warfare. A good non fiction is Deserter, by Charles Glass. I’m interested in the years of Nazi occupation and civil war in Northern Italy, 1943-1945, and am having trouble finding the technical stuff, the small concrete details.

    • Thanks so much, Nsncy. I’ll check out your recommendations.

      One more tip – when I need research, I find a physical book is better than ebook. Real book is easier to flip through & take notes so I bought hardcover for REDEPLOYMENT but ebooks have their benefits to do keyword searches. On important topics, I buy both.

  6. One of the things I keep having to remind myself when doing military research and then writing about it, is that there are differences, sometimes subtle, sometimes huge, between the views, jargon, tactical and strategic doctrines, as well as other differences, between the services. Sometimes, even between the generations of men and women in the same service.

    If you call a SAW gun–a squad automatic weapon–a SAW gun, Marines and soldiers will understand what it is. It’s the same for most other standard American weapons. But the different services may have their own names for certain things. (And, that’s another thing: Marines do not appreciate being called soldiers, and they will boo you–or pants you and run you down the street BA naked–if they discover who you are, if you do. You ought to hear what my son’s USMC buds call Captain Steve Hiller, a Marine pilot, of the original Independence Day movie (and the actor who plays him) when he calls his wingman, Captain Jimmie Wilder, “soldier.”) My brave statement of the day? I guess it takes a Hollywood Liberal screenwriter, director, actor, and a whole tier of movie maker personnel to miss that distinction. Or not care about it.

    As well, as I said, different generations of the same service may not use the same jargon. My son, a Marine who fought in both Ramadi and Fallujah, didn’t know what pogey-bait is. Yet, Gunny (Gunnery Sergeant) Jim Moore–the immortal, word-biting Jack Webb in the 1957 movie, The DI (The Drill Instructor), reams his trainees about wanting “to flake out, eat pogey bait, and talk about your love life.”) If a Vietnam Vet Marine tells my son to “Didi on over,” my son is liable to sit there and look him and not walk on over.

    I love this article. I’ve filed it as one of my all time favorite articles on writing, in my e-mail file.

    Thanks, Miss Dane, and thanks, Mr. Klay, for great advice and a great resource. (Do I say “great” too much? Well, I mean it.)

    • Hi Jim.
      Thanks for your kind remarks about the post. I find the comments/discussion really enhances any TKZ post. Thanks for being a regular contributor.

      You have summarized the nuances in military research in such a complete way. There are many layers of complexity to each generation & war & advancement of weapons. When I want to write about futuristic weapons (to show my characters are cutting edge or covert), I start by online searching of DARPA where advances in weapons/technology are usually generated. Very cool stuff there.

      Thanks again, Jim.

  7. Wow–I haven’t done anything like that kind of military research. But I definitely second the thumbs up on Doug Lyle’s books.

    Doing research on the 19th and early 20th centuries led me to some terrific photographic books–one in particular, but I’m in NOLA and not at home. Photographs give an immediacy to the facts that just plain text can’t match.

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