Tim O'Brien's short story "How to Tell a True War Story- is his fictional depiction of one of the narrator's experiences in the Vietnam War. This first person account of a tragic death of a friend is the example that the author uses to prove his theme of the impossibility of being able to actually express a true war story. By writing many separate narratives and then connecting them with a common theme, O'Brien uses an interesting literary technique to prove his point. It is the many retellings of the same basic event that gradually portray how difficult it is to write a war story and manage to express all that it contains. Interjected with each retelling are paragraphs describing what war stories are like and each additional section also proves the same point that telling a true war story is impossible.
The plot line of the text is difficult to follow due to the scattered and separate sections included, but when carefully analyzed still conforms to the basic pattern of most literary works. The basic needed information was given in the beginning, by describing the strong friendship between Rat Kiley and Curt Lemon through Rat's letter to the late Lemon's sister. It starts at the end of the action, where Lemon has already been described as dead, and slowly goes more into depth about the incident as the narrative continues. The first interjection is also important in the story because it begins to express how difficult it is to write a war story by stating, "a true war story is never moral- (459). .
The first attempt at expressing the story of Lemon's death is a very calm and beautiful description of the event. Under the shade of giant trees, the two guys were playing a simple childlike game and suddenly there was destruction. As Lemon stepped on a hidden mine, it was said, "it was almost beautiful, the way the sunlight came around him and lifted him up- (460). Then after this first version, the author adds one more explanation of writing war stories, explaining, "it's difficult to separate what happened from what seemed to happen- (460).