Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Pain by Morgan Mandel

Monday at work I was taking the copy paper from the box and putting it away on the shelf, when my back decided it didn't like what I was doing. It's been stiff and sore since then. That's happened a few times before, so I'm hoping it's just a strain.

This kind of aggravation reminds me of when a character gets hurt in a book or movie. Sometimes it's almost miraculous how that person can heal so instantly, run around and do all sorts of heroic actions. In real life, it's not usually the case.

Remember, if you include an injury in the plot, give your character time to suffer instead of making everything all right real fast. And if the hero or heroine has to ignore the pain to reach a goal, at least include some references to the fact it's there, like sweat on the brow, bruises, gouges, swellings or some other kind of evidence that all is not perfect.

Rising above difficulties is always a good way to heighten tension in a story, so don't make everything seem too easy. Pain is part of the human condition, unfortunately, so think about including it in when you write.

Morgan Mandel
http://morganmandel.blogspot.com/

13 comments:

Mary said...

Excellent information.
It's one thing to accept that time passes but sometimes a specific frame is mentioned that makes no sense. Cop breaks leg on Monday and by Friday he chases the killer down the streets or through the woods. Really? Talk about miracle cures!

Writing4u said...

The most significant pain we can show is the pain of being human. My characters, being more cerebral than phsyical, usually get no worse than a paper cut. But life itself delivers wounds that shape the character and later its course as it wends its way toward a destination even I can't predict.

Fiona said...

I agree. Pain should be felt by the reader as well, so they can identify with the character. Unless it is a super-hero or a dead guy, there should be a recovery time during which ordinary activities (like, I don't know, sex?!) should be difficult!

Keena Kincaid said...

My characters frequently get wounded. I try not to go on about the pain, but try to make the injury and recovery time at least somewhat realistic.

liana laverentz said...

Absolutely, I include the pain. And the progression of bruises, etc. But like Keena says, I don't overdo. Just an occasional reference. The story isn't about the character's pain. The character's pain is just part of the story.

Debra St. John said...

Great advice...as usual!

I hope YOUR back is feeling better.

Carolyn J. Rose said...

Pain - both physical and emotional - is crucial because it often a key to character change and can have a huge influence on the story arc. But don't let your character become a whiner.

Cheryl said...

Sorry to hear your back is giving you trouble.

I don't think my character have been too seriously injured so I haven't come up against this, but when Little House on the Prairie was on TV, there was one episode where Almanzo Wilder suffered a stroke. He was partially paralyzed for most of the episode, but by the end had regained the use of his legs.

By the next episode of the series, he was walking around like nothing ever happened. The miracle of television!

L.J. Sellers said...

I have chronic pain, so my characters often have pain too, but unlike me, they don't whine about it. :)

N. R. Williams said...

So true. One of my characters is attacked by a creature that has poison under its claws and in its blood and saliva. My character is wounded and found with the dead creatures blood saturating his wound. Only the elves can save him, but once saved, he has continued pain for months.
Nancy
N. R. Williams, fantasy author

Deb Larson said...

I use pain in my stories as well. It's a basic element to use to draw the reader into the story and reveal emotions of the character. How each deals with such a struggle moves the story forward. I'm just glad I don't have to actually feel all the pain I've put my characters through!
DL Larson

jenny milchman said...

I hope you feel better soon, Morgan.

In my novel that's on submission now I had to deal with pain of the humiliating sort--things we humans suffer, but are normally kept left of center in fiction. You're right, it was hard to really connect to what this would in fact feel like, its constancy, not just let it rise up and down like a curtain when I needed it for plot.

Lisabet Sarai said...

Interesting topic, Morgan,

I write BDSM, but I don't think you're talking about that kind of pain... ;^)

In my erotic thriller Exposure the heroine sprains her ankle during the initial murder scene. I had to keep reminding myself how that would affect her actions later.

I get really annoyed by books (and movies too) in which the hero or heroine is terribly injured and still manages incredible feats of physical prowess. Stoicism in the face of pain is one thing - total lack of realism is something else!

Best,
Lisabet