Everything I’d ever read emphasized that you should write about what you know. I write military science fiction because a) I love science fiction and b) I’ve been serving in the US Army for 10 years. I write it, because it’s what I know.
Now, what I’m starting to worry about, is when you write about what you know it can be incredibly taxing. Take, for example, my newest novel “Rage”. “Rage” follows a young conscripted Sergeant who is exposed to a virus that makes him lose control of his anger. Whenever angry, he becomes a monster with no recollection of his actions. It’s a modern day take on a Jekyll and Hyde. The crux of the story, however, is the second half of the book, which follows his return from the war and how he gets reintegrated into society. He quickly realizes that it’s hard to become a part of civilized society when you’re no longer civilized.
The story is a futuristic take on a real issue affecting our military: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Our Soldiers have been deploying time and again over the past 11 years. They’ve experienced gunshots, explosions, ambushes, and death on a scale that the modern civilized society just can’t fathom. When you consider that only 1% of the US population has ever served in the military, it’s easy to see why an issue like PTSD is not fully understood by the general populace.
One of the quotes from the book explains many Soldiers’ perceptions of how they’re treated following redeployment:
"Everyone loves a story about a war hero, but no one wants to talk about what happens after they come home from war. We fought, and we died. And those of us that came home were cheered like the conquering heroes we were. They smiled. They threw us parades. They took our picture. They tossed confetti into the streets. But the truth was, we were the confetti all along. We were a good idea at the time and we took a good picture, but when all was said and done, they left us in the streets like trash. They left us to clean up our lives and walked away to go live their own. And you, doc? You’re their janitor. Your job is to sweep us under the rug so we don’t bother the nice folks. Your job is to make sure we’re always remembered as confetti, and no one is reminded that they treat us like garbage.”
Despite having the science fiction flair, the stress factors and his reactions to stressful situations that lead up to his Rage Virus outbursts are realistic. They’re reactions that I’ve not only seen in others, but recognized in myself.
That’s the painful thing about writing about what you know. The novel becomes a mirror, exposing your own flaws and making you confront the issues that you knew existed, but chose to ignore. It becomes an exhausting experience, to write each chapter from the heart, knowing that everyone who reads the book will be reading your faults, your flaws, and your shortcomings. For once, you notice the cracks in your mirror. It’s a horrible experience.
The moral of the story? I’m tired, but proud of the work being done on “Rage”. I hope you all enjoy the book as well, once it’s finally published.