Getting Inside The Skin of a Marine with PTSD
Whenever I sit down to write, I can hear the voice of one of my mentors, YA author A.M. Jenkins, in my head: get in his skin. This is a constant refrain of hers, a way of reminding me to stop narrating. Slipping inside your character’s skin is you, the writer, getting into the trenches with your protagonist and not leaving until your novel goes to print. Being inside someone’s skin is incredibly intimate, a blurring of the lines between reality and fiction, writer and creation. When you slip into your character’s skin, you’re crossing borders you never thought would be possible.
When I began working on Josh Mitchell, the Marine in my novel I’ll Meet You There, I knew it wasn’t going to be easy. Other than the fact that he’s a very masculine kind of guy, he’s also a Marine who just got back from a tour in Afghanistan where he lost his leg and several of his gun buddies. Josh has PTSD, phantom limb pain, and is now disabled. I have two working legs and would probably never make it through boot camp, let alone a tour of duty in a war zone. Both of my parents were Marines and my dad suffers from PTSD, but that’s about where my knowledge of Josh ended.
I was terrified to write this book.
Getting into Josh’s skin meant I’d have to go down memory lane with him and recreate some horrifying, heartbreaking incidents. It meant I’d have to face my father’s struggles with PTSD and what that meant for my family and me. More than anything, it meant that I had to get it right—every detail—because doing anything but that would dishonor not only my dad, but all the people who suffer from PTSD and have served in a war zone.
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