Thursday, November 11, 2010

Happy Veteran's Day

Today is Veteran’s Day and I want to thank the men and women who have served in the United States Armed Forces. In real life and in fiction, they are the guardians of all we value.

Romance authors love to populate our books with military characters. Honor, duty, strength, and service; whether we’re writing about a historical knight or a modern Navy SEAL, our servicemen are the perfect role models for our romantic heroes.

As the daughter of a career Air Force officer, I expected to find writing military heroes easy. In reality the opposite is true. I've written two novels with soldier-heroes and both times I swore I would never write another.

In my books, the soldiers are always silent, stoic, and steadfast. Invariably, my critique partners return my manuscripts with the following comments scribbled throughout: “He needs to say something here.” “Why doesn’t he respond?” “I feel like I can’t get inside your hero’s head.” And on the rare occasion when the hero is pushed to the limit and finally does shout out: “You might want to censure that language. It’s a bit rough.”

I would chalk this up to my own bad writing, except no one says this about my other characters. It took me a while to understand why I struggle to write military heroes, but now it’s clear.

I can’t write romantic military heroes because I write them too true to life. There’s not a lot of that swash-buckling bravado that looks so good on the silver screen. No, my military heroes are loyal and diligent, quietly working behind the scenes, doing whatever it takes to get the job done without a lot of chatter, without worrying about their own emotional states, without counting the sacrifices they’ve made.

A lot like our real-life military heroes.

A lot like my dad.

So Happy Veteran’s Day, Mom and Dad, to you and all the other unsung heroes. Please forgive us romance writers for adding loud music and panache to our tales of your brave deeds. No matter how hard we try, our paper characters will never match up to America’s real-life heroes.

I would love to hear about the inspiration for your military characters. Where do you get ideas for your military heroes and what tricks do you use to make writing them easier? (And yes, the pictures are all of my mom and dad circa 1950.)


Dawn Marie Hamilton said...

A wonderful tribute, Clarissa.

Lee Lopez said...

I have a family of full of military heroes, dating back to the Civil War. They all have one thing in common true valor, and rarely talking about it. Or as the family history would suggest..I have a lot use, right down to my grandson who is in the Marines and served in Afghanistan, and mostly likely will go back.

Samantha Grace said...

Those are pictures of your mom and dad??? I swear I thought they were actors playing the role of military personnel.

I suppose our views of military men and women are shaped by our experiences. My brother, cousin and brother-in-law are all military and they are expressive and affectionate with loved ones. They don't speak of their experiences in the line of duty, but I think their time serving has made them realize how fleeting life can be. They all seem to have a stronger sense of family now.

However, we are in a different age. From my work with WWII veterans, I see they have the same depth of feeling as their modern day counterparts, but they are more likely to demonstrate it in actions than words. And when they have trusted me enough to open their hearts, I'm so touched by the emotions they've been carrying inside.

Thank you to all the men and women who've defended our rights and kept us safe.

Catherine Gayle said...

Thank you for posting this today. I, too, come from a long line of service men, dating back to the Revolutionary War and probably farther than that. At this moment, my brother is in the process of being mobilized with his unit in the Army National Guard. They'll be heading back to Iraq in December.

I love the "silent, stoic, and steadfast" nature of real military men--and I'm hoping to be able to recreate that in the next hero I write. I'll have to count on you and the rest of our critique group to let me know if I'm pulling it off.

Donna Cummings said...

What a wonderful post! And the pictures are so great--very movie star quality.

I grew up near Army and Air Force bases, and was so used to seeing military people around all the time. (I won't even talk about my girlfriends and I finding ways into the NCO Club in our 20's. LOL Ahh, good times!)

I love reading military romances because they really do exemplify the heroic qualities that real-life heroes aren't comfortable showing to all of us.

Great post, Clarissa--and good luck with your military books. Can't wait to read them!

Liz Fredericks said...

Clarissa - You've done a wonderful job of capturing the challenge of writing 'real' fiction. Thank you for supporting our military with this post. My daughter is planning a career in the Army - medical corps. I'm looking forward to seeing more female characters who are also military heroes in romance writing. By the way, your parents really do have star power. Gorgeous like their daughter??

Liz Lipperman said...

What a great tribute, Clarissa. When I married my HS sweetheart, I had no idea we would end up traveling the world in the Air Force (Nixon and the lottery!!!)

So, this guy I grew up with ended up receiving The Distinguished Flying Cross because his plane took a surface to air missile in Viet Nam.

I've only attempted a military story once, and I think I did okay with it. It's my girl who is the tough-talking, fear-no-evil -yet-psychologically-damaged-by -her-experiences persona.

Anyway thanks for reminding me that I need to kiss hubby and tell him how much I appreciate what he did for me and my country. That's after he finishes having a tea party with out 18 month old granddaughter!!

Raising a glass to all the vets out there for a job well done.

Liz Lipperman said...

Forgot to say - I loved the pictures of your parents. You should be very proud.

Meredith said...

Thanks for the wonderful tribute to all of our servicemen and women Clarissa!
It is so true - so many of our incrediable military personal are the unsung heroes. They have a job and they do it. That is what is so magnetic about them, they carry a deeper sense of purpose than most of us even dream of.

D'Ann said...

My family isn't military. But my husband's is, starting with his father, who was career Army. My BIL is currently in Afghanistan.
I can't write military heros either, for some of the same reasons you stated.
I admire these men and women every day, not just today.

Melissa Dawn Harte said...

I, too, come from a long line of military family. My husband is a veteran and both his sister and brother just retired from the air force, and his mother just returned from Kuwait as a civilian contracter for the military. What a wonderful tribute, beautiful pictures of your parents and I'm loving all the comments. It's so nice to see so many who feel such pride in our military.

Jill James said...

Clarissa, what a lovely tribute to not only your mom and dad, but all our military heroes. My son is at Ft. Hood right now and my thoughts are with him every minute of the day.

Mona Risk said...

Clarissa, I love the pictures. She is so cute and he's the dashing loyal officer.

I wrote one book, TO LOVE A HERO about foreign officers after I met them and personally worked with them. One them emailed from Belarus to say how much he loved the story. He may have recognized himself in the handsome hero.

Clarissa Southwick said...

Thank you all for the kind comments.
I had to be away from the computer and couldn't thank you all individually, but I really appreciate your taking the time to stop by.

Erin Kelly said...

I love the pics of your parents, Clarissa! They definitely look like models :) My own grandmother was in the Coast Guard, and I saw a picture of her in uniform for the first time yesterday - it made me all misty with pride.
I've never written military characters, but if I do, I imagine my gratitude and respect for the real servicemen and women out there will shine through. At least I hope ;)

Paisley Kirkpatrick said...

What a beautiful post. I don't write about military characters because of the time period, but I so appreciate what you write. This past year I had the honor of putting my Uncle Ova into the Purple Heart Hall of Fame. He was a hero of the truest kind. At 24 years old, he gave his life during WWII so his men (all 17 of them) could live. I have his Purple Heart and honor it along with the Cross of Honor. About five years ago his best friend contacted me. He'd been trying to find Ova's family for 60 years and just happened to find me. Listening to the tears in his voice brought my uncle so close to me. I was just a baby when he died so only knew about him when I could get my Dad and Aunt to speak of him. I still communicate with that friend and am honored to learn the 'little things' he remembers that I hadn't heard about. Yes, we have some remarkable service people who keep our country safe.

Clarissa Southwick said...

What a great story, Paisley. You must feel so honored to have his Purple Heart. Thank you for commenting.

Zach and Sarah Baker said...

Love the tribute, Gail, and love the photos. Thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful post and tribute! And the pictures are fantastic too, but then it helps when you have such good looking parents :-)

Joanne said...

I'm chiming in late. This is a beautiful tribute and a terrific blog.

Chris said...

Thank you Clarissa.....those old photos bring back some wonderful memories!