Unrealistic injuries seems to be a big problem—nay, an epidemic—in books, at least the ones I read. And once again, I’m on the side of realism.
I want characters to have realistic injuries. Give me the realistic injuries! (Well, don’t give me the injuries. I’m a masochist in that I like to suffer through the characters, but I’m not that much of a masochist.)
Anyway, there are certain things that bother me in regards to injuries in books, and probably certain things that bother you all too, or maybe you don’t want to read about any injuries ever which is also fine, so I’m once again looking forward to everyone’s thoughts!
Consequences/Aftermath of Injuries
Ok, I’m once again referencing Cait’s post about realism in books because she mentioned that she likes responses, or reactions, to be realistic, and I completely agree. And her example was that, if a character gets punched (the action), there should be a bruise (the response/reaction). And I fully agree. But, for some reason, in so many books, injuries just disappear or have no effect.
– A 17-year-old human taking on ten super-strength paranormal creatures who have 100 years of practice and then having no bruises, no scrapes, not even fatigue by the next page is not realistic.
– A character getting injured enough to be hospitalized but then popping out of bed to go run and jump and fight the next day is not realistic.
– A character passing out or getting knocked out but then waking up with not even so much as a headache is not realistic. (And really what is up with this ridiculous plot device of characters constantly passing out or getting knocked out? In twenty-something years of my life, I’ve never once had that happen to me. Yet even I know that when people do pass out or get knocked out, they wake up feeling like shit. And getting knocked out could cause some serious damage. Not to mention actually knocking someone out, especially in a “safe” way, is probably not as easy to do as it looks. Now I’m off-topic rambling, but I swear I could write a whole post about this alone since it seems to be in 90% of the books I read. Seriously, authors, if you’re reading this, please stop using this in your story unless you’re going to do it right.)
Injuries linger. They have temporary or sometimes permanent consequences. They need time to heal. The body needs rest. Sometimes injuries get re-injured. And as a reader, I just want these things taken into consideration!
So whenever I read books in which characters actually do feel their injuries, do take time to heal from them, etc., it makes me really happy. And just to celebrate those types of books and the authors who write them, here’s a list of some of the good books I’ve read in which characters actually get injuries and don’t magically, immediately recover:
– Incubus by Amanda Meuwissen: Ok this actually doesn’t really come into play until the second book, but one of the characters gets injured, and throughout much of the second book, he’s taking pain pills, getting adorably cranky and groggy from the pills and taking naps, and re-injuring himself when he stupidly jumps into action. (Book Review)
– Soul Breaker by Clara Coulson: This MC gets his ass handed to him numerous times, and boy does he feel it. Plus, when he gets knocked out, he does, in fact, feel like shit upon waking and has to take it easy until he recovers. (Book Review)
– Untaken by J.E. Anckorn: One of the characters gets knocked out and gets a concussion. For days he’s dizzy and mostly just sleeps, so the other character does the driving during that time.
– North to Zombieville by Meg Bawden: The MC dislocates his shoulder near the beginning, and it keep hurting him throughout the entire book. (Book Review)
See?! it can be done! A book can have realistic injuries without slowing down or negatively impacting the plot. It can even be done without being gory or gruesome because the consequences, the after-effects, whatever you wanna call it, can be realistic without graphically showing the actual injury.
Descriptions of Injuries/Gore
I do also happen to like when the descriptions are realistic though, to an extent. While I don’t particularly enjoy reading about gruesome stuff, I respect it when it’s included because it makes the story more real. For example, if someone is bludgeoned to death, there would be lots of blood and gore. If a character just walks right up to the crime scene as though it were simply a person taking a nap on the floor, no mentions of anything gruesome, it feels less authentic. It also makes death and violence seem less serious than it really is, but that’s kind of another matter.
Why I Prefer Realistic Injuries
I get that many people don’t want to read about anything gory and gruesome, and that’s one thing. It doesn’t actually bother me if gruesome scenes aren’t described in detail. It’s just those unrealistic after-effects of injuries and the lack of injuries that throws me out of the story. The realistic injuries are what make everything seem more real, and as I’ve said many times, the stories that feel the most real (in their context) are the ones that pull me in!