Monday, November 12, 2018

A Veteran's Spirit in Historical Fiction

by Peter Leavell @PeterLeavell

Historical Fiction is a powerful tool to bring the past alive.

How we see the past, how we portray events forever stays with the reader. The responsibility is heavy.

On Veteran’s Day, the celebration is about the soldiers who come home to a hero’s welcome, or return to castigation, or those at duty’s end is filled with a loneliness that cannot be filled and such despair that only a brother or sister in arms can understand. The horrors are forgotten by a nation but live on in the minds of the soldier.
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And what will history say of these men and women who sacrificed time and well-being so that we might stand in fancy suits and long gold chained watches, adjust our glasses and shake our heads and proclaim that, now we see through the lens of history, their cause wasn’t worth the sacrifice?

If only politicians had done…

If these soldiers had been more kind…

If a repressed people had more rights….

And the soldiers march on. And the veteran’s boots gather house dust while he or she agrees,
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disagrees, and screams for understanding.

And still, the veteran glances at the world, closes eyes and sighs and dreams the unholy nightmares of battle, longs for the tedium of the military work, the friendships of the mechanic bay, the base patrol buddies, the well-deserved R & R after truly important slog. Civilian mundane, hourly wages without repercussions for lazy or whining or doomed fellow workers filled with poor choices are no replacement for a tight ship, a clean bunk, a swift justice to the slacker.
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Historical Fiction authors research without end because a veteran’s story deserves to be told. We endlessly explore because our lens through which we see them is distorted, listing to the side by our experiences—our overarching patriotism or unending hatred of war and those who take part.

Historical Fiction authors write perspective. Our ship of characters does not focus unendingly on love, violence, hatred, compassion. To tilt the past with one focus is to drown all the passengers of the past in untruths. So, we focus on one thought.

The spirit of the age.

What was it like to live in the past, why did they live as they did, who were these men and women, when did they find time for romance and families and dreams, where did they serve. How are they doing after service?

And in this, we civilians salute the men and women who offered their time in service to our country. Thank you.

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Honor veterans in your historical fiction novel by capturing the spirit of the age.


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Peter Leavell, a 2007 graduate of Boise State University with a degree in history and currently enrolled in the University's English Lit Graduate program, was the 2011 winner of Christian Writers Guild's Operation First Novel contest, and 2013 Christian Retailing's Best award for First-Time Author. A novelist, blogger, teacher, ghostwriter, jogger, biker, husband and father, Peter and his family live in Boise, Idaho. Learn more about Peter's books, research, and family adventures at www.peterleavell.com.
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2 comments:

  1. Hey, Peter. Thanks for this well-written tribute. I wholeheartedly agree. The best way to honor the past is to capture the spirit of the age and its heroes and heroines. Thanks for this post!

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  2. As I have prepared (a couple times) to write a story of two vets from my family, I found myself wishing I had done more personal interviews with my family members who were in the military during WW2. But since they have passed on, I have to rely on physical research available to me on the internet and libraries. How much better it would have been to hear it from their perspective. I encourage anyone who still has relatives from that time in history to get their stories down on paper. It's the best way to honor them.

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