Feeling war through a character’s eyes

Let me take you to Outremer with the knights of Richard the Lionheart…

The term PTSD  – post-traumatic stress syndrome – was given its name in the 1970s during the Vietnam conflict. Shakespeare has a scene in Henry IV, Part 2¹ (written in 1597) that describes it, though generations have ignored or glossed over it for hundreds of years. During World War I, it was called “shell shock.” While PTSD is commonly associated with the effects of war, any traumatic event can trigger it.

War is a central theme in my novel, Men of the Cross. War leaves its scars on young Henry de Grey. Henry’s idealism about the mission to take Jerusalem back from Saladin and his naiveté about war fade as he sees brutal acts done in God’s name.

“Midst war atrocity and soldier camaraderie, [the knights] force themselves to question their own stolid values and their relationships. Their life and lifestyle decisions are as hard fought as those of the battlefield. The scars of war cause them to rethink everything about their lives – except loyalty to their King.” (from a review by Mark Rogers, Fiction House Publishing)

I had to put myself there. See what Henry saw. Feel what he felt. I also had to see Henry through Stephan l’Aigle’s eyes:

[Stephan] had walked through battlefields where men lay sprawled, eyes blank, staring at the sky with lance, bow, or sword at their sides. He’d never really seen those men, never felt their deaths or thought twice of the carnage until he’d met Henry and felt Henry’s pain.

Can a writer who has never been in the thick of battle even come close to imagining what it must be like? The words did not come easily, but I hope you find that I captured the fear, the exhilaration, and the horrors or war in Men of the Cross.


¹Thank you to Sharon Kay Penman for mentioning the Shakespeare reference in one of her own blog posts.


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