Before I begin, I’d like to take a quick second to let you know that, yesterday, Part 2 of my interview with my friend Natania Barron went live yesterday. Natania’s new book, “Queen of None” Hit the shelves recently and she stopped by to answer a few questions.
On with the Post.
So there are a lot of quotable lines in Raiders of the Lost Ark but, in terms of sheer usage, the one that serves as the title for today’s post is my favorite. I use it quite often and it sparked the topic for today.
First some backstory:
A week ago today, I developed Achilles Tendonitis. Aside from putting a cramp in my plans to walk every day this month, it kept me on minimal activity for a solid seven days, making me long for the times when something like this would happen and I’d be 100% in a day or two.
If you remember the scene where that quote comes from, Indy has just been through the ringer and is pretty beat up and sore. The scene turns out to be a bit of a romantic interlude with a few comedic bits included to give the viewer a chance to rest from the action scene that just passed.
Indy was pretty beat up. Struggling to take off his shirt, or otherwise move without pain. The very next scene – presumably the next day – Indy is moving about without any problem. No hint of how he was feeling before. And, while I can’t say that I’m speaking from experience, I imagine that you can’t spend any amount of time being dragged along a dirt road by a truck and “walk it off” the following day.
I’ve mentioned it before that I’ve got the capacity to suspend disbelief so completely, it borders on being a superpower. Today though I’m thinking about that scene and and considering the idea of nagging injuries – especially in light of my own.
Genre fiction is rife with characters that get hurt in a dramatic moment, then shrug off the injury in the next scene. While it may be expedient and, honestly, forgivable (Up to a point), as a writer you may be doing yourself a disservice by allowing those bumps and bruises – the wear and tear – to wash away.
While it’s a rare reader indeed who wants to sit with your characters through weeks of rehab, bringing those strains and sprains up every now and again will serve your story.
How you might ask?
At the very least, you’ll be offering a subtle reminder that your characters are, in fact, mortal. They can be hurt and need time to heal. You can forge a connection between your character and your reader in describing something that they themselves have suffered – and that’s always a good thing.
Additionally, in getting those details right, you’re building credit with your reader when it comes time for you to ask them to swallow something a bit more incredible.
Finally, a nagging injury can be used as one more obstacle for your character to overcome. Maybe they’ve developed a fear of repeating the injury and it causes them to hesitate at a crucial moment. Maybe that improperly treated tendon ruptures while it’s being used.
That last bit you’ve got to be careful of. You can’t have an injury escalate into something serious simply to add drama. Not without laying the ground work early, and especially not after you show your character doing something that would exacerbate the damage without suffering any ill effects at the time.
Now you and I both know that serious, even debilitating injuries can happen without warning during intense physical activity, but this is one of those times where reality has it over fiction in that reality doesn’t need to make sense.
While it’s perfectly normal for someone to blow out their ACL – even after a proper warm up (something which your characters might not have the opportunity to do before battle). If it happens out of the blue to one of your characters at a pivotal moment, you risk your reader giving you the side-eye at that.
Injuries happen – and they do…all the time. Used properly they will fit nicely in your writerly “Spice-rack,” drawing your reader deeper into the story.
And that’s worth a bit of wear and tear, don’t you think?
Thanks for reading.
Be safe out there. Be Excellent to Each other.
I’ll see you on Thursday.
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