I like to give my opinion and I like to share what I’ve learned. This time it isn’t necessarily about writing or style per say, it’s more of an individual observation on behavior. I try to envision what I’m writing about as I write and keep the scenario firm in my mind. The reason for this is believability. If it doesn’t look right in my mind, how can I expect it to play out in someone else’s?
Since there is action, violence and clumsiness in my stories, there is pain. It is a sensory response tightly tied to emotions and therefore is often an internalized experience and generally written the same way. But, what if I don’t want the POV inside my characters head? I look at others in pain. Yes I know that sounds weird, but its true. How do real people respond to pain? In the movies, the pain threshold is amped up a few notches for the Hollywood experience. So when someone is riddled with bullets and still carries on, that might not be realistic, but it’s fun to watch. But, is it fun to read? Maybe. It depends on how well it’s written.
Like with everything defining, I put my characters pain threshold in their bio. Some people are naturally tolerant to pain. Some take a bit to catch their breath and wits to continue on, while others will shut down until the pain ebbs enough to function again. In addition, like with many other things, pain tolerance can be learned or they can develop a tolerance for it over time.
Aside from the obvious screaming, grunting, cries, profanities and “Ow! That hurt!” what else can we do to show pain? What are the physical indicators?
Grabbing the injured area swiftly
Sucking breath through teeth sharply
Pursing lips and moaning
Crying and tears
Rubbing the affected area rapidly
Staring at the injury wide-eyed (Especially if blood is involved. I’ll talk about blood another time.)
Falling to the ground(In various ways, also dependant on type and placement of injury)
Gasping for air (If wind is knocked out)
Blood, swelling or bruising
Broken bones (Best used if it’s an obvious or super disgusting break)
Stunned, Dazed or confused
The people that shake it off would do just that. Shake a limb or even jump on the spot a time or two then move on.
Sasha admired the large bruise on her hip from being knocked to the ground earlier. She poked at it with her finger, sucked her breath in sharply and winced.
Cal ran over to the car. The woman in the driver’s seat was conscious, her right hand on her forehead and her left on her chest where the seatbelt dug in. He assessed her quickly asking her the standard questions as she gulped air and struggled to answer.
Anne walked with a slight smile to her lips, the sun warm on her face and a cool breeze brushing by. Her foot strayed too close to the sidewalk edge, her ankle gave way and she fell sideways to the ground. Landing hard on the grass, she cried out pressing her hands on her ankle.
“Ow, ow, ow, ow.” She blinked the tears from her eyes.
“Are you okay?” A tall man squatted beside her.
“No.” She swatted his hand away. “Don’t touch me it hurts!”
“Let me see, I can help I’m a nurse.” His soothing voice made her look up into his steel blue eyes. Reluctantly she gave him access.
“I’m Tony.” His gentle fingers pressed and ran across her skin.
“Ow! Anne.” She yelped and pulled her foot away when he pressed too hard.
“It’s not broken. Here.” He held his hands out. “Let me help you up Anne.”
The boy fell to the concrete with a dull thud. Sasha gasped along with a few others. He laid still as his mother knelt. He rolled over and sat up dazed and unsure why everyone was staring. He raised his hands seeing the scraped cut palms and red starting to surface near the tiny embedded pebbles and started wailing in earnest.
Sasha opened the new clients file, reached for the top page, it requesting a vegetal ‘feel’ for the advertisement and drew her hand to her mouth instantly. Sucking her finger, she scowled at the offensive page. She looked at the razor thin trench filling with blood as she pulled air through her teeth hissing at the wound.
These were tame everyday examples of immediate responses to pain. Obviously, there are other types such as acute from gunshot, stabbing, and broken bones. Long-term pain can affect a person’s personality and even change them over time such as arthritis, improperly healed bones, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease or COPD, Shingles, Fibromyalgia, headaches and migraines. These are just a few, adding this type of dynamic to a character can be beneficial to the cause as much as the character. If it’s not something close to you, do your research and talk to someone living with or near someone with chronic pain. Other types of reoccurring pain that can vary in intensity are menstrual cramps, labor and birthing, surgery, earaches and toothaches.
My advice about pain.
You can pretty much do anything you want to your characters and have them react in any way you want them to. From interesting, to predictable, to way out of left field. As long as you work it into the story in the same voicing you’ve been using all along it will add the ick factor or cringe moment that will make the reader want to know what happens next.
Other sensory posts