August 27 Blog Hop: Your assignment, if you choose to accept it -- is to discuss how we make our stories interesting with characters who have some kind of psychological, spiritual or physical wounds. The process of healing them becomes the character’s arc, the meat in our stories. What mental, physical or spiritual wounds or scars have you used in your stories?
The idea that men, women and children can triumph over adversity is uplifting and encouraging, so it’s little wonder that such stories make for a satisfying reading experience. Whether it’s a child growing up in poverty or with abuse and rising above it to succeed as a well-adjusted adult, a soldier who comes home from war wounded either in body or spirit and finds a way to put his loss behind him and move forward, or someone who has lost faith and is struggling to find it again – sitting in the figurative bleachers, we cheer them on, groan with each setback, and celebrate every success.
One season on Dancing With the Stars one contestant, Noah Galloway, a sergeant in the US Army, had lost both an arm and a leg in combat. His motto, Never Give Up, And he didn’t. Not on himself, on the dance floor or in life. Watching him win that Mirror Ball trophy over contestants far less challenged than he, was a triumph I will never forget. We did not see the struggles he had overcoming his injuries but there’s a book out now, Living With No Excuses, and that character arc IS the story.
Two books in my contemporary romance series, The Camerons of Tide’s Way, are built around the story arc of the healing of one of my characters. In Loving Meg, Lieutenant Cameron is also a soldier, a woman who joined the Marines to get an education, never expecting to end up in a war zone. Unlike Noah Galloway, she was not physically injured. Her wounds are inside, the kind that can’t be seen, nor easily understood. The story begins when she returns home to a husband who is thankful that she’s home in one piece and back in his life and their sons’ lives. But Meg knows she is not the same woman who left a year earlier. She’s seen things, and done things that have changed her forever. She is plagued with guilt, regrets, painful losses, nightmares and the feeling she no longer fits into her old life. Ben slowly begins to realize his wife is struggling, but he has no idea how to help her. It takes patience on his part, the willingness to be whatever she needs him to be as she finds her own way back. And for Meg, it means facing the fact that she has problems and finding ways to work through them rather than trying to bury them. There is a happy ending, but it wasn’t always easy and there were scars even from the healing.
In Healing a Hero, Gunnery Sergeant Philip Cameron, nearly lost his life saving men from a bombed vehicle while being shot at. He spent weeks at Walter Reed getting put back together before he is sent to a new therapist closer to home. There, he is Elena Castillo’s most challenging patient ever. The Marine Corps is his life, and he’s not reconciled to accepting a medical discharge and life as a civilian. He’s willing to endure any amount of pain to get back to his men and his life. His usual easy-going temperament is constantly challenged by the frustrations of his limitations and the pace of his recovery. And everything is complicated by the fact that Philip and Elena had a whirlwind romance one summer while he was on a 30-day leave. They parted with every intention of being together again by Christmas, but then 9/11 happened and tore their worlds apart leaving both of them feeling betrayed and heartbroken. The struggle Philip now faces in the physical therapy gym gets tangled up in all the what-ifs from long ago, and Elena knows if she is successful in healing this wounded warrior, she will be sending him back into harm’s way and maybe have her heart broken all over again. Philip’s healing is both physical and emotional, and in the end he finds himself at peace with an ending he never realized he wanted. Meg’s wounds were psychological, what we commonly know as PTSD. Philip’s were physical. Both had to work through the healing process with acceptance, determination and patience.
I love edge-of-your-seat books like those of Lee Child and Vince Flynn, but the most rewarding stories I read are about men and women who face adversity, wounds – both physical and psychological, and heartbreak with strength and courage. Their struggle to get back to where they started or to find a new normal is what makes the triumph satisfying and memorable. I’m impressed with successful people like Michael Phelps and Margaret Thatcher. Both worked hard and achieved remarkable things. But it is men and women like Noah Galloway or Gabrielle Giffords that I admire above all others, and it is stories like theirs, fact or fiction, that restore my faith in humanity and make the book worth reading.
If you like stories like these, visit these other authors and learn about the wounded heroes and heroines in their books.
Victoria Chatham http://victoriachatham.blogspot.ca
Dr. Bob Rich https://bobrich18.wordpress.com/2016/08/27/the-wounded-healer
Rachael Kosinski http://rachaelkosinski.weebly.com/
Anne Stenhouse http://annestenhousenovelist.wordpress.com/
Helena Fairfax http://www.helenafairfax.com
A.J. Maguire http://ajmaguire.wordpress.com/
Fiona McGier http://www.fionamcgier.com/
Rhobin Courtright http://www.rhobinleecourtright.com