Why and How I Write

Readers are endlessly curious about a writer’s motivation and technique. I am so often asked, why do I write? How do I go about it?

One answer to the why question is that I want people to know what happened in Vietnam and during the AIDS crisis in the U.S. Another is that I have to write because that’s my mission in life. But it’s also true that I write to vent.

My time on the battlefield in Vietnam scarred my soul. My work with men dying of AIDS changed me permanently. I suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Injury (PTSI). To cope with that disease, one must bring into the conscious mind the unspeakable memories accumulating in the unconscious and confront them. One of the most effective ways to do that is to write down what happened.

So all of my writing is about what actually happened to me. I’m no good at making up stories. But it’s also true that my vocation is fiction. The result, as critics have noted, is that my writing is fiction in name only. The events in my novels and short stories really did happen.

In sum, I write to vent my soul of unbearable memories. Because my discipline is fiction, I attribute my experiences to fictional characters. I write from multiple points of view so that I can show the reader what was going through the souls of the different characters confronting the insufferable.

My novel, The Trion Syndrome, for example, is about a Vietnam veteran with PTSI. Throughout the story, the point of view alternates between the protagonist and his wife. The reader sees the PTSI victim recovering the excruciating memories from his unconscious, his struggle to come to terms with them, and his start on the road to peace.

That novel, in short, is my story told as fiction. Writing it forced me to take a hard look at myself and come to terms with my own memories. It allowed me to vent. I am more at peace as a result.

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