The writer Tim O'Brien fuses fact and fiction in the way he structures his characters and stories in the book. First and foremost, he names the main character and narrator of the story after himself. His character O'Brien, is a soldier turned writer after being discharged from Military duty like himself. Through his story character O'Brien, the writer O'Brien stresses on the significance of telling one's story to cope with disturbing memories of war.
The character O'Brien starts the chapter "Spin" with bits of stories of his fellow soldiers that are disconnected to the continuing war. O'Brien describes how his fellow soldiers entertain themselves in the more subtle moments of their time in Vietnam like two of his friends digging a foxhole every night so that they ca play checkers. Here he now reveals that he is now a writer and is at the age of forty three. He claims that writing stories of the past has made the bad memories reappear. Although his daughter Kathleen encourages him to write happier stories; he maintains that writing about what he remembers is a way of coping with things that you can't stop thinking about. For the character O'Brien, there is a need to tell his stories so that the past can be brought to the future and in that, bring understanding for people who are strangers to that experience.
In the next chapter, "On the Rainy River", the character O'Brien recollects his dilemma of going to war. As an outstanding graduate from Malacaster College, he has always been against war and especially to a war that he did not understand. When he was being drafted into military service right after graduating from college, he was confronted with the pressure from society and going against his own principles. Amongst his ponderings on his predicament, he considered running off to Canada to escape his drafting enlistment. In his confusion, he later runs off, landing along Rainy River, the river that separates Minnesota from Canada. There he meets Elroy Berdahl, the owner of the fishing resort that he stayed for six days. In this time that they spend together, the character of Elroy Berdahl helps O'Brien to come up with the decision unknowingly and that is to adhere with his draft notice.
On this chapter, readers are made to realize of the character O'Brien's need to give good reason for his decision to go to war even if it was against his principles. He describes the difficulty of making a decision on such a young and gullible age to defend his decisions. Moreover, this part of the story is another example of the author's fusion of fact and fiction because he himself was faced with the decision to obey or forgo his draft notice as a fresh college graduate. O'Brien also stresses on the first chapter, "The Things They Carried", that instead of eagerness to do duty for country, the more overpowering reason why soldiers like him go to war was fear of being shamed or "fear of blushing".
Of experiences in the wartime, the character O'Brien says that it is not possible to neither believe nor tell a true war story. In the chapter, "How to Tell a True War Story", the author focuses on the nature of storytelling in the confusing times of war. O'Brien says that elements that are real in a true war story are almost always connected with