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A Study in Physical Injuries
We all get hurt. So technically speaking, our characters do as well. In this guide, I’ll be covering the essentials and basics of writing physical injuries. This is a very long guide that covers most types and forms of injuries briefly. I have included more links at the end of each section, because the key to writing is research. FOR SCIENCE!
Disclaimer: I don’t have eyeballs in my microwave, or a head in my fridge.
1) This should be an obvious one: don’t make reference to doctor shows. That means no looking at House M.D. and seeing how he cures ailments. This is because they can’t actually injure the actors before curing them. As a writer, you’re supposed to portray a sense of truth.
2) Why is this injury necessary? Does it reflect a plot and develop it further? Or, are you just throwing it in there to make the character suffer? With that said, recovery is a great transition scene. The whole battle occurs, everyone is fighting! Boop- your character gets hit on the head. She wakes up in the infirmary with a sore head three days later.
3) Continuity. If the character falls, he might get a sore ankle instead of a twisted one. If the character was running, tripped and fell, it would make more sense for him to get a twisted ankle. In either case, he would probably feel it the next morning, and walk funny. Remember that old injuries can sometimes pain the character.
4) The reaction to the injury is important as well. This is your chance to delve into the psychological conscious of your character. Look below for comprehensive notes on reactions to injuries. How do they deal with recovering? This really says a lot about the character.
5) What type of injury is it? Did they take the hit for someone they love? Physical injuries doesn’t mean you can’t describe the emotions behind it.
Here is a handy list of things you can make your character go through.
Fainting: Fear and surprise usually takes a toll on you. It also happens when you’re undergoing a lot of stress. Usually, fainting is fine as long as the person regains consciousness after a few seconds.
Screaming in pain: This one should be obvious, especially if your character isn’t accustomed to pain.
Calm: This can either be because your character had been through a lot, or they are doing something I coined “scary calm”. They are in such shock that every reaction and emotion disappears.
Freaking out: May be worsen the injury, often caused by panic. Shock is also a very bad sign, people who are frightened before they get hurt, often react with this.
Shock: Very serious business. Hyperventilation, confusion, dilated pupils, increased heart rate.
Determine the type of head injury that was caused. There are external (scalp) injuries, and internal (involve skull, blood vessels within the skull, or brain) injuries.
External injuries causes a big bump on your head, there might be swelling, and take a few days to disappear.
Internal injuries are dangerous because of torn blood vessels and fractured skull. It may cause bruising of the brain because it bangs against the inside of the skull.
Symptoms can occur right away, or develop in a few hours. The person may become very sleepy, behave abnormally, develops bad headache or stiff neck, pupils are different sizes, vomits more than once, loses consciousness (even briefly), and unable to move an arm or leg.
Concussions are a type of internal head injury; this is the temporary loss of normal brain function, repeated concussions may cause permanent damage. Symptoms include: feeling dizzy, memory loss (cannot remember what happened before and after injury), vomiting, headache, blurred vision, slurred speech, difficulty concentrating, difficulty with coordination, and feeling anxious. I once had a friend who was concussed keep asking where his keys were.
A physical hit to a body part, also called blunt force trauma.
Blow to the chest: gets hit backwards.
Blow to the back: paralysis (damage to the spine)
Blow to the small of the back: kidney damage
Blow to the front: internal organs may be damaged, damage to the pancreas may cause the digestive enzymes to start eroding the inside, damage to the intestine may result in nausea (vomiting, build up of bacteria causes high fever, drop in temperature and blood pressure), damage to the spleen (most often caused by car accidents) may lead to internal bleeding.
Broken bones are probably the most painful. The shock of seeing your bones broken and reset might be enough to cause inertia and unconsciousness.
Compound fractures may cause bone to protrude out of the skin, which may then lead to blood loss (more dangerous). Nerves and blood vessels can also be damaged permanently.
A stress fracture is a (hairline) crack in the bone caused by repeated and/or prolonged pressure.
Symptoms of broken bones include: swelling, numbness, inability to move, and intense pain.
Different from broken bones, because the victim might only feel winded. The discomfort may pass for a few hours. It will then start to hurt again, breathing can be difficult. This may be because the bone punctured the lungs, and can collapse (causing pneumonia). If you’re feeling particularly creative and poetically ironic, the air pressure builds up in the chest which cuts off the blood flow to the heart.
There are three classes of burns. First degree burns- almost like a sunburn, red and sensitive. Second degree burns- blistering on the epidermis (first layer of skin). Third degree burns- damage to both epidermis and demis (first and second layer of skin), leaving scars.
"Over 70% of the body may be life threatening due to dehydration and the risk of shock, kidney failure and infection."
Arms & Legs: may damage bone and muscle, severe blood loss (major blood vessels located at the inside of the upper arm and inner thigh)
Abdomen: Piercing more than 2 inches may result in bleeding and fatal damage. Slow death.
Internal organs: causes bleeding, infections, and slow death.
Stomach: Causes breathing difficulties, deep cuts will cause the loss of control over legs.
Format used for this guide: Writing Realistic Injuries
Any Questions? Feel free to ask!