An alpha reader, after reading What If … Wasn’t, asked me “Why PTSD?” He’s read the two books of Transformation Project, where Shane also suffers from many of the same issues that Peter exhibits. So why do I keep going back to that topic?
It might have something to do with growing up in a military town where a lot of the adults I knew suffered from the psychic wounds of war. My dad didn’t talk about it much, but as a Merchant Mariner in World War 2, he was once part of a convoy of ships going through mined waters. One of the ships blew up. Dad had screaming nightmares for the rest of his life. Based on what he shouted, I guess there were men on fire in the water. How could that not affect his daughter?
I worked as both a court transcriptionist and a psychiatric transcription in my career. I’ve been privy to some of the descriptions I share in the books … though I fictionalized them. Those sort of intimate peeks into the thoughts of others have an effect even on the strongest mind, so in sharing them in fictionalized form, I hope to purge their power over me.
As a writer, it is a great way to explain why a character is who he or she is now. By bringing that trauma into the current setting through a PTSD flashback, I give the pain immediacy for the reader. Conflict drives drama. That conflict can be between characters, but I find that some of the best conflict is within a character.
Peter will indulge his trauma more than Shane does because Peter can. Shane is living in a post-apocalyptic world. He doesn’t have time to be in pain. And, thus, I show two different ways of dealing with the trauma. You get to decide which character does it more successfully.
A part of 12-Step lore is the idea of accepting the things you cannot change, changing the things you can and exercising the wisdom to know the difference. I won’t tell you how my characters work their way to their ultimate victory over their issues or acceptance of them … that would give it away … but this last quote should tell you something about my view of the issue.