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I am writing a fiction story about a elite unit, SFD (Strike Force Delta), during the Third World War. The war is basically extremely variable, it lasts from 2025 to 2030. I like to call it the 'mixing pot war' because all of the theaters of the war mimic previous wars in that area. Instead of having nukes, the countries use a myriad of nerve agents and other poison gases against each other.

The story is written from the point of view of the Sergeant who leads the squad. In the end, all of his men are killed in a horrendous battle and the squad is awarded a Medal of Honor for their actions before they died. (The men don't all die at the same battle, BTW).

Currently, the men are stationed in Passchendaele, awaiting the General's orders to attack. There is a character who is in the squad who knew the Sergeant before the war, and married the Sergeant's college sweetheart.

How do I write the Sergeant's POV without making him a angry guy but still resentful toward the character? The Sergeant is supposed to be a hot-headed laid-back guy. So how do I write this so as to keep the Sergeant's personality?

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    Hi, @Neo1009, welcome to writing SE! Is your question, basically, "How to create a generally not angry character with some personal grudge?" – Alexander Jun 27 at 23:43
  • Ho Neo1009, welcome to the site. Take the tour if you haven't already (you get a badge for it). I edited your question to try to make it easier to read. As @Alexander said it seems you question is more about portraying this character than the war, so I changed you title accordingly. Feel free to edit the question further if it isn't asking what you want it to. – linksassin Jun 28 at 2:01
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    What is a "hot-headed laid-back guy"? Is he hot headed? Or laid back? These things are opposites. – wetcircuit Jun 28 at 2:18
  • @wetcircuit I had the exact same question. Maybe he pretends to be laid-back as a mask but deep down he is a boiling pot of raging recklessness? – NofP Jun 28 at 8:28
  • @NofP has the idea. – Neo1009 Jul 18 at 22:08
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Two words: Severus Snape.

Snape's backstory is pretty similar to your sergeant's: James Potter, who bullied Snape at school, married Lily, the woman Snape loved. Snape consequently detests James, and this manifests in his hatred of James' son Harry, who looks just like James.

But I can only think of two occasions in the entire seven-book series where Snape gets visibly angry at Harry: when Harry walks in on him being treated for a horrible leg wound, and when Harry accidentally peers into his memories and sees him being bullied. The rest of the time, Snape shows his resentment through dry, sardonic insults, and casual abuse of his power as Harry's teacher.

Consider their first-ever meeting. He singles Harry out, asks him multiple questions about Potions that Harry can't answer, insults him for not knowing the answers ("Thought you wouldn't open a book before coming, eh, Potter?), and deducts a house point from Harry when he talks back to him. All this is designed to undermine and humiliate Harry, making him look arrogant and stupid, and sets the tone for Snape's casual antagonism of Harry throughout the novels. But Snape isn't angry; just cold. He doesn't raise his voice once during that scene, though he does raise it towards Neville about three paragraphs later.

Snape is a good model for how you can portray your sergeant. His inner monologue can be as seething and vicious as you like towards the other guy, but when he actually speaks to him, it's with ice-cold venom rather than righteous fury. He uses his position for petty acts of vengeance, but nothing significant enough to constitute abuse. He clearly does not like the other guy, but he's never actually angry towards him.

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Passive-Aggressive Behavior
Implement passive-aggressive actions that are apparent to the reader, yet unnoticed by the other characters in the story. It will be assumed that direct provocation may result in anger, yet the resentful character may never be pulled to action.

After recognizing the passive-aggressive behavior, the reader can make assumptions on how the character may react given a particular -- developing or imagined -- scenario.

The assumption that the character may react in anger imbues the character with resentfulness.

Nondescript Example:
"Each member of the squad drew symbols in the dirt as they waited for evac. As they departed the derrelect city into the Aerial Transport Unit, the Sergent trailed behind, nonchalantly sliding his boots over the product of his subordinate's creativity.

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There is a myriad of different ways your sergeant could be feeling and acting regarding his subordinate.

  • He could value his former sweetheart's happiness, and thus be protective of her husband, for her sake. Both Karl May's character Winnetou and the Star Trek Jean-Luc Picard have this in their backstories. That doesn't necessarily mean that he isn't resentful, and that can come through occasionally in dialogue, but there are things that trump this resentment. In such a case, any seeming mistreatment of the girl (e.g the subordinate supposedly cheating on her) would be met with a disproportionate explosion.
  • Or he could be like King David, deliberately sending the subordinate into a dangerous situation, so he would then be in position to comfort the widow.
  • He can be cold, but not out of control, the way @F1Krazy suggests. He could be distant and professional, not even unpleasant like Professor Snape, but showing a distinct absence of the camaraderie he'd have with other soldiers, maybe insisting more on discipline.

"Resentful, hot-headed and laid-back" just isn't enough of a characterisation. Different people can be all three in many different ways. You need to really get into this particular character's bones, be that particular character. Not know the character cerebrally, but feel their emotions in your gut. Then you'd know what this particular character would say, how they would act.

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The sergeant could be unfair towards the other character while being in denial about it or without even realizing it. One example that comes to mind about this kind of behavior is Birdbox.

MAJOR SPOILER BELOW

The movie is about mysterious creatures that make humans commit suicide by being looked at. If you see the creature you become insane and try to kill yourself.

In the first part of the movie, the character played by Sandra Bullock, Malorie, and the one played by Danielle McDonald, Olympia, are both pregnant. They live with a group of survivors in a house. Olympia makes Malorie swear she will take care of her soon to born baby if something were to happen to her. They both go into labour and shortly after, Olympia sees a creature and kills herself.

Note that the reason things turn bad for Olympia (and basically all the other characters in the house) is because she were to trusting and let someone in. Someone who wants everybody to witness the beauty of the creatures.

In the second part, Malorie has to raise both children in a post-apocalyptic world. They are now around 5 years old if I remember correctly. Unable to consider this living she doesn't name the children, she calls her son boy and the daughter of Olympia, girl. This part is dotted with little details to show that Malorie can't accept Girl as her daughter, probably because deep down she sees in Girl her mother Olympia who is responsible for the death of the group.

At some point, Malorie, Boy and Girl are in a small boat entering rapids. Keep in mind they can't use their eyes so they usually wear blindfolds. But to navigate the rapids, Malorie needs one of the two children to look and tell her where to row. Malorie first asks Girl to do it. The acting of Sandra Bullock makes it clear Malorie is torn by this decision because she knows deep inside she chose Girl because she's not her daughter and the resentment she has for Olympia.

In the end, Malorie, overcoming this dark part of herself, decides to try navigating the rapids without anyone looking.

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    Hi, I think you'll need to add a little more detail to explain this answer. Just linking to wikipedia doesn't explain how Birdbox is an example of what you are trying to say. – wetcircuit Jun 28 at 13:12

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