Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Characters: Finding Mack the Marine

Where do characters come from?

When Mack Singer, retired Marine and high school chorus teacher, popped up, I had no clue where he came from. I still don't, but I know why he's in my Cherry Hill books. His steady, protecting nature gives my ladies--Laura Grace and Rosemary--much needed support as they deal with the realities of the abuse their children have suffered. Besides, who can resist a man in the Marine Dress Blues? ; )

As I worked with Mack Singer, I realized that not only did he have a warm, rich baritone singing voice, he was a Master Gunnery Sergeant with extensive service in both Iraq and Afghanistan. So what does a Master Gunnery Sergeant do? Who better to ask than a Marine? Luckily, I had a Marine available in one of my former students.

I expected to get great info to help me write Mack's back story with accuracy--and I did. But I was floored by the discovery that I had conjured Mack up with amazing accuracy before the interview. Mack is a take charge kind of guy. He deeply cares about young people and their proper education in work ethics and honor. Just the sort of thing a Master Gunnery Sergeant is in charge of in the Corps. I had chilled as Bill C. told me about the job of a Master Gunnery and how important the rank is to the Marine Corps being able to complete its mission.

I didn't expect the other revelation of the interview. When I read the following snip to my friend, he had chills, too. Mack's voice is real to Bill as was his reasons for joining the Marines.

Dean reminded him of those bewildered teens he had trained and led. Boys--no young men--who found themselves under life and death stress; like he had been so many years ago. Fingering the globe and anchor he always carried in his pocket, he felt the solidity of his career. But it would have been just as solid if it had been a stack of Broadway playbills; his name bold in the leading parts. That was the career his profs had predicted even though his degree was music education. He was like Dean, with the same huge road block--a bastard of a father who said, 'Hell no!' to the dreams of a son. He hadn't told the women, but he has made a promise to himself--that boy would never live another day within his father's reach. He would take the boy in. Yes, he knew Rosemary would have to agree, but she would. He'd seen the terror in her eyes. Terror that testified to a vision of that fine boy stretched out on a slab, dead at his father's hand. Like so many of the boys he'd trained, dead of the enemies' hate. Or friendly fire. Yeah, it happened. Dammit! But this was one young man he could protect. The miles clicked over as he sped down the highway chasing the kids. He'd find them. He had no doubt. Dean needed him. There was no doubt of that either. When a small man made his way through the big man's world, it made for a tempering of steel like the finest of swords. Yeah, Dean needed him. And Samantha did too. She was the reason men enlisted in the services and public safety ranks. She and Laura Grace.
Where do you get your characters?