How Violence or Trauma Effects Your Characters

In so many adventure novels and screenplays, the hero has a lifetime of violent confrontations and trauma.  Yet, he or she seems fairly normal, filled with energy and vigor.  Reference, if you will the James Bond movies of, in alphabetical order ~
  • George Baker
  • Pierce Brosnan
  • Christopher Cazenove
  • Sean Connery
  • Timothy Dalton
  • Bob Holness
  • Michael Jayston
  • George Lazenby
  • Roger Moore
  • Barry Nelson
  • David Niven
  • Toby Stephens
Until the most recent movies of Daniel Craig, Bond is always on top of things, flip, and a healthy, horny womanizer who sleeps soundly and well ~ despite several lifetimes of lost loves and mind-boggling violence.  It's a popular franchise, but believable?  Not really.

The common result of trauma in a person's life is Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSS), and one of the primary symptoms of is sleeplessness, as experienced by one in every two American soldiers who have been deployed in recent military operations. So says Dr. Adam Bramoweth of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Pittsburgh Healthcare System, and Dr. Anne Germain of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine in the US.

Insomnia is reported by up to 54 percent of the two million men and women who have served in various American combat efforts since 11 September 2001, compared to up to 22 percent of civilian adults. Although it is possible that a person's insomnia may develop prior to joining the military, it can also occur during the service period, or post-deployment when the soldier returns to civilian life. Studies have found that deployment-related stressors like combat exposure, mild traumatic brain injury, irregular sleep/wake schedules and the adjustment of returning home, all contribute to sleeplessness.

Soldiers who suffer from insomnia while being deployed have a bigger chance of developing traumatic stress reactions such as depression and post traumatic stress disorders, and even committing suicide. Also, it contributes to physical war-related injuries.

Something to think about as you develop your next character:  what price does than man or woman pay for the events in their life? 

Classic sleuth Lord Peter Whimsey suffered greatly from both his combat experiences in the First World War as well as the effects of his sleuthing?  Dorothy Sayers wrote in the 1920s and 30s when PTSS was called Combat Fatigue and was often misdiagnosed as other disorders.

We know so much more today.  Shouldn't your fiction, no matter what genre', reflect this dramatic growth in understanding and knowledge?
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Story Source:  Bramoweth et al. Deployment-Related Insomnia in Military Personnel and Veterans. Current Psychiatry Reports, September 2013

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