Thursday, July 5, 2012

Rats! Gotta Rewrite 'Cause They Won't Buy It

I just can't do it. I have a really good story with Family Secrets, but there is one element that I am now convinced just will not work for most readers. I came to this insightful conclusion after reading yet another book written by a combat veteran of the war in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The memoir is titled The Blue Cascade by Marine veteran, Mike Scotti. The language and the emotions shared by the author are raw, but real. Many of his statements express his frustration over how the press has romanticized the war and the returning warriors. We American citizens not only do not comprehend what they have been through or how it has impacted their lives, we do not really want to. For the majority of us, while our military are in combat risking life and limb and regularly witnessing scenes of horror, for us at home, life goes on as if there is no war. We do not care how difficult it is for our returning service personnel to return and adjust to civilian life, especially for those in the national guard and reserves and their families. Because of their unique position of dual civilian/military employment, they have fewer options when they return from combat, especially if they are unable to return to their civilian jobs.

Although the author is not shy about expressing the desires of many of his fellow Marines to find women and get laid, he states that in the Corps, adultery is strongly frowned upon. I don't know if the same thing is true for the Army, but I have read where studies show that the divorce rate in military families is lower than that of the general population.

I finally acknowledged the feeling that I have tried to rationalize away for several months. Casting Jennie's husband as  a combat veteran who is unfaithful and demanding a divorce just does not work. Many readers, as well as agents and publishers, will not response favorably to that negative portrayal of an active-duty soldier, even if there are those instances where scenes like the ones I described in this novel do happen. As much as I would like to offer moral support to those military wives who find themselves dealing with difficult marital problems with their combat veteran husbands, the Gerald character as written would be too unpopular. The readers, the agents and the publishers -- they just ain't gonna buy it.

So, Rats! Here I have been sending out queries, and here I am struggling to do the final-final fine-tuning copy editing of the last half of the manuscript, and here I now need to do a rewrite of Gerald's character. I can put him in another traveling occupation where I know a lot of adultery takes place and where his occupation by itself will not make him a sympathetic character when he is behaving like a jerk.

Unfortunately, I need the modern combat warrior connection to make the Mike in Vietnam scenes work the way I want them too. Maybe Jennie needs to have an older brother deployed to Afghanistan. Maybe a twin? I will need to think on that, but I need to do so quickly.