Inspiration: Fair Shares

Today I share the inspiration behind ‘Fair Shares’, the fourth story in State. There may be spoilers ahead.

State Front Cover‘Fair Shares’ started life in response to the flash-fiction prompt ‘Restitution’, and was a deliberate attempt to write a war story.

While I enjoy a well-written epic battle, many of my favourite books are more focused on overcoming personal odds or facing chthonic terrors. So those were the tales I told when I began writing. Having been roleplaying and wargaming for decades, I posted these stories on wargaming forums; where they received plenty of positive feedback. However, some members were also amused that I had never posted a war story. So I challenged myself to write one in the next flash-fiction competition.

However, as many agents, editors, and fiction coaches have commented, most readers need to care about a character before they care that the character is at risk; which made writing a edge-of-the-seat battle in under 1000 words tricky. The easiest way around the issue would be setting the story in a famous war (either historical or game-related) to use the readers’ existing knowledge of the stakes in place of set-up. However – while it wouldn’t be wrong, per se – it felt inappropriate to challenge myself and then not make it a self-contained piece.

So I went back to the prompt. Restitution immediately brought to mind someone gaining a justified revenge. But a protagonist who was wronged by triumphed in the end because he held true to his principles, didn’t trigger any ideas. So I turned it around: modern history has been filled with debate on whether war can be a moral act, so I decided instead of a good man struggling with hard choices I would have a decidedly grubby protagonist and explore whether someone who isn’t always ethical still deserves fair treatment.

With war re-imaged as an individual character’s struggle, the idea of an unreliable narrator seemed perfect: both for not forcing a definite moral stance on events and for foreshadowing the death of the narrator by ‘killing’ the evidence.

Quite pleasingly, some people thought it was a great war story and others thought it was a solid character piece.

What did you think of ‘Fair Shares’? Do you think Harrin was right in the end?

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