Friday, January 7, 2011

Realistic Pain

In most good  medieval fantasy books there is some amount of action.  You know what I mean.  Fighting, battles, wars, sword duels, bows and arrows.  And in most books not only the bad guys suffer an injury.  Treatment of injuries in medieval times would vary, perhaps the wounded's health would depend on herbal treatments or magical doctoring.  Either way, people receive some kind of medical assistance.
I'll save the medicine post for a later discussion but for now I want to talk about the pain of injuries.  Today I had surgery on my ankle(old basketball injuries piling up).  The minor operation became a bit more when the surgeon discovered the damage was more than expected.  More fixing up equals more post-op limitations and pain.  It hurts.
As writers, we love, or at least now we should, torture our heroes and heroines.  Emotional pain can be the best but sometimes in those fight scenes they get hurt.  Most of haven't been sliced by a sword or shot with an arrow so we don't exactly what if feels like.  When I lay in the pre-op yesterday, I reminded myself to hold onto the feelings, emotional and physical of waking after someone took a knife to my body.  I'm doing some major edits on the rough draft of my current WIP.  My hero suffers.  A lot.
I'm not a hero and I wakened with groggy half-formed memories of nurses talking to me, moving me and the painful lump wrapped around my ankle.  I swear my bones hurt on the inside and I could feel it.  It felt like the surgeon had left  a big thick hunting knife sticking in between my bones.  I don't do pain meds other than ibuprofen or Tylenol so I experienced the real deal.  I'm not brave.  I only get very ill with narcotics.
Now if I were one of the warriors in my books and someone stabbed me and then another person stitched me up, I guarantee I would need some magic to get me back into the fight. 
We stab our characters, let them take injuries that would fell lesser men or women.  But we must be careful how unrealistic it is.  I'm sure many of us have watched shows or movies where a character was shot and yet kept going to perform more incredible heroic tasks.  Or in the case of the antagonist perhaps he continued to wreck havoc and deal murder.  But could they?  Wouldn't the pain stop them?  Wouldn't the blood loss?  If a thigh is sliced horribly by a sword or knife the muscles would be badly damaged.  Could the joint at the knee or hip even move?
I've had multiple knee injuries and of course, the old weak ankle.  It's not only painful to walk on certain injuries but physiologically impossible.  So when your hero overcomes his pain and steps back into the fray, make sure it's realistic.  Or put the magic to use as I do a few times in my current WIP.  I wish I had a little of that magic for my ankle. 
So can you name a TV show or a movie where a character continued to run and fight? after and injury that should have left them unconscious or dying?  Did it take you out of the moment?


Cate Masters said...

Oh no, hope your ankle's better soon. That sounds awful.
Rambo comes to mind, but the character was trained to move ahead no matter what. So if the hero's conditioned against pain, or is used to it, it wouldn't take me away from the story.

Linda Leszczuk said...

How about pretty much every old western from the 50's and early 60's? The hero always got shot in the shoulder and was still able to defeat the villian and save the damsel in distress.

And an old favorite romance novel comes to mind where the hero was shot in the shoulder, managed to defeat the villian, held perfectly still while his wife dug out the bullet (although beads of sweat did appear on his forehead), and then immediately demanded they make love. A little over the top.

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

Rambo and the old westerns are great examples. I know those old colt revolvers didn't create the damage modern weapons do but to keep on going and then have a drink of whiskey for the pain... I don't think so.

Jon Sprunk said...

A great reminder, Susan.

Feel better soon!

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

Thanks, Jon. It actually hurts more today than right after surgery yesterday. Guess the numbness wore off. A couple days off work are enough to keep my spirits up.

Helen Ginger said...

It seems like most TV shows and movies would have you believing you can keep fighting after getting shot or stabbed. One show that drives me crazy is CSI Miami. The head of the CSI tells the police what to do! Police don't enter a scene or situation until he goes in first, gun drawn. Grrr. Uh, okay, that's totally off topic.

I do hope you're able to walk without pain soon.