Writing the Military Hero

Have you ever thought about writing a military hero into your story?

If so, be sure to get your facts and lingo straight. At a recent Florida Romance Writers meeting, we had the good fortune to have as guest speaker a Navy Captain and the brother of one of our members. Let’s call him Captain X for the sake of anonymity to respect his privacy. His experience includes flying helicopters, missions over Iraq, and special ops support.     soldier

He explained (Disclaimer: All comments are subject to my interpretation) that Special Forces means U.S. Army and Special Operations Forces (SOF) refers to any service. In general, these guys are professionals, fairly introverted with quiet personalities, and very patriotic. Rogue agents like you see in the movies probably would be “PNG-ed” or deemed “persona non grata” in reality. A QRF refers to Quick Reaction Force. These are the guys who stand by in case “things go sideways.”

Captain X mentioned how you don’t really know how you’ll react until you are actually under fire. A brave man faces his fears and chooses to overcome them.

The Captain talked about Iraq and how he’d rather be there in the summer because it’s too hot for the bugs to come out. It rains in the winter and the powdery sand becomes like mucilage. Some of the wildlife includes camel spiders (“as big as a dessert plate”), no-see-ums, mice, and scorpions.

His helicopter had two pilots, two gunners, and a medic. He wore armor and a helmet with a boom mike. He says they never use the word “gun” but call it a “weapon” instead. They refer to members of the military as “teeth or tail”, i.e. going to war or staying behind. He says they are careful not to cause collateral damage in terms of injuring civilians. They’re allowed to say No to a mission if they deem it to be too dangerous in this regard.

This was reassuring to me. It’s nice to know our military officers’ opinions are respected and they’re not expected to blindly follow orders, the excuse for too many atrocities in the past. At least, this is one officer who makes conscientious decisions based on the information available. I hope there are many others like him out there.

Captain X also mentioned his deep respect for Vietnam Veterans, and from his personal experience, they are as brave and honorable as anyone who ever wore the uniform.

And if anyone wishes to support the service, please consider the Wounded Warrior foundations.

The writing lesson learned is to be true to the lingo if you write a military hero. Captain X’s talk was peppered with colorful language that probably wasn’t as bad as it is in reality. Honor is still important, and so is bravery. And when your hero raises his rifle, it’s a weapon, not a gun. Or better still, it’s a specific model weapon. So just as cops and other folks in our books have their own jargon, so do the military. Get it right.

My hairdresser sleuth has a particular way she looks at things. How about your characters? What occupations have you researched for accuracy?

Make Your Characters Stronger

How can you make your characters sound stronger when they speak? Think of the ways authoritative people talk in terms of their word choices and tone of voice.

Choose one of each:

1.A. “I think we should hit the beach at dawn. That way, we’ll probably be able to avoid the patrol boats.”

B. “We’ll hit the beach at dawn so we can avoid the patrol boats.”

2.A. “It is my belief that it would be best if we took the right-hand path.”

B. “Let’s make a right-hand turn.”

3.A. “I suppose I could agree.”

B. “I agree.”

4.A. “Oh, dear, perhaps this yellow dress would be more suitable. It brings out the highlights in my hair, and I do want Butler to notice me.”

B. “The yellow dress complements my hair, so I’ll wear that one. Butler has to notice me tonight.”

5.A. “I guess it would be all right if you borrowed my bracelet, but if you don’t mind, please see if you can return it tomorrow.”

B. “You can borrow the bracelet, but I’d like it returned tomorrow.”

If you chose any “A” answers, you’re making your character sound weak. To strengthen your heroine, have her sound positive and determined. Characters should focus on their goals, not on their appearance or performance. Avoid phrases such as I think, I guess, I suppose, dear me, maybe we should, It is my belief that, I don’t know.

Of course, exceptions to the rule do exist. Just make certain your character doesn’t sound wimpy when he speaks or has an introspection. Cutting extra verbiage can help. Aim for precision of speech, but avoid curtness. Remember that dialog should further your plot or reveal character. Phrases that reveal hesitation or self-doubt may indicate places that need revision unless you purposefully want your character to act this way.

Strong heroes appeal to readers, so take out your pen and get to work. Good luck!

SIDEKICKS AND RWA

I blogged today on Sidekicks as Secondary Characters at http://ffnp.blogspot.com/.  Check it out and leave a comment for a chance to enter my drawing for a $7 gift card to TWRP.

Attended RWA conference today: State of the Industry Talk with publisher Lou Aronica, keynote luncheon with Nora Roberts, and two panels today on paranormals and writing in multiple genres.  More details to follow when I’m home.

SEQUELS: CHARACTER GRIDS

For the first time in my publishing career, I’m creating a character grid to keep track of my characters. I’m doing this three-quarters of the way through book number two in the series because it’s essential for what comes next.

It wasn’t necessary for my earlier Bad Hair Day mysteries because those stories all featured Marla Shore, hairdresser and amateur sleuth. We, the reader, viewed everything through her eyes.

But the paranormal romance series I’m working on now features warriors from the stars who join forces with a special group of Earth women to prevent a coming cataclysm. Each book involves a different warrior and his destined mate. Book One sets the story into play and creates the world building elements. By Book Two, my characters have scattered and each one has a specific job to accomplish. When all the guys come together at the end of this story, I have to know what each of them has been doing.                                                                  

Have I confused you yet? It’s complicated, especially when you add my two villains into the mix. How are they reacting to the heroes, and what countermeasures are they taking? Figuring out this grid is giving me a headache, even though I have most of these details in my notes.

For those of you who write series with spinoff characters, what methods do you use to keep track of each character’s movements?

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