How to get across pain more effectively in my stories?


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Thread: How to get across pain more effectively in my stories?

  1. #1

    How to get across pain more effectively in my stories?

    I have been writing a story about a young pianist living with the great composers. After the composers have a meeting, it is decided that Mozart should be her first teacher. My main character's name by the way, is Lydia. Lydia and Mozart have lunch together and it turns for the worse for Mozart. He goes from his happy and humorous self, to being in a lot of pain and feeling nauseous. Lydia, understandably gets quite concerned about him and stays by his side. He ends up needing to go to the ER and needing an abdominal scan done. Before he leaves for the abdominal scan, a high fever shows up in his vitals.

    I have noticed however, that I am not getting across pain well in my story. Here is an example of where I am trying to get across pain:

    “Hello, I'm Doctor Sarah. You must be Leopold Mozart.”
    “Indeed I am. I came here as soon as I could after my wife, Anna Maria Mozart told me that my son was sick and going to the ER.”
    “And your son is the famous Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, am I correct on that?”
    “Yes. And there he is on the bed, still in his red suit with golden lace on it. Anna Maria sewed that up for him.”
    “Oh, don't remind me Leopold. It took a month just to make sure the pattern would fit my son. And the lace edges, boy was that demanding.”
    “I'm glad you made it for me Mother. Ahh, the pain is worsening again.”
    Doctor Sarah said “Now Wolfgang Amadeus, listen to me. I know you love your red suit and that everybody even outside of your city recognizes you in that suit. But, that suit is going to have to be taken off, lest you spoil your own suit.”
    Ahh tends to be my go to dialogue word for the grunting, moaning, yelping, or screaming that pain causes. I'm thinking that a more effective way of getting across pain in that section of dialogue might be this:

    “Hello, I'm Doctor Sarah. You must be Leopold Mozart.”
    “Indeed I am. I came here as soon as I could after my wife, Anna Maria Mozart told me that my son was sick and going to the ER.”
    “And your son is the famous Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, am I correct on that?”
    “Yes. And there he is on the bed, still in his red suit with golden lace on it. Anna Maria sewed that up for him.”
    “Oh, don't remind me Leopold. It took a month just to make sure the pattern would fit my son. And the lace edges, boy was that demanding.”
    “I'm glad you made it for me Mother."

    Before he could say another word, Mozart clutched his arm around his abdomen and curled up.
    With a sudden release of the curl, Mozart raised his eyebrows, and yelped "The pain. It's worsening again Mother.” and clenched his teeth as he took in another deep breath.
    Doctor Sarah said “Now Wolfgang Amadeus, listen to me. I know you love your red suit and that everybody even outside of your city recognizes you in that suit. But, that suit is going to have to be taken off, lest you spoil your own suit.”
    But, in general, I tend to have a weakness getting across pain in my stories. And if anything, pain is the most important of emotions to get across in a story if a character feels it. You would think that, as a person who has experienced a lot of different pains of different characteristics and degrees, that I would be great at getting across pain in my stories, but nope, I'm not. And, when I am trying to get across severe pain, as is the case with the dialogue I showed, pain being a weakness is definitely not good.

    How can I get across pain more effectively in my stories? The physical implications of pain such as curling up or raising your eyebrows help, but I don't want to bore the reader getting this pre and post dialogue description of pain whenever I am writing dialogue from a character that is in pain. At the same time though, just using "Ahh" before the actual sentence might undermine the pain or worse, confuse the reader and make the reader think that the character is calm when the character is anything but calm because of the pain. So, how can I get across pain more effectively in my stories?

  2. #2
    Global Moderator J.T. Chris's Avatar
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    The second example you provided is much stronger than the first, probably because you're adhering to the old adage of Showing vs. Telling.

    Pain is a full sensory experience. Your eyes water. You get nauseous and dizzy. You hear your own hearbeat. Delve into it.
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  3. #3
    Mozart is not talking like someone in pain.

    I might clutch my arm around my abdomen and curl up just as a way to go to sleep. So that's fine but didn't add a lot for me.

    Is deep breath right?

    People react differently to pain. This is an opportunity show how Mozart would react. Carpe Diem.
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  4. #4
    Sometimes you can put some exposition in between the lines of dialog, giving the POV character's opinion of what they are seeing. Try using some simile and metaphor, to get the reader to think of something that might have hurt them. You have dialog (action) and description, but there is no inner monologue. I wouldn't be afraid of a little telling here.

  5. #5
    Member Amnesiac's Avatar
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    Pain... If you've ever been in a dizzying, stomach-churning sort of pain -- a pain that makes you feel like you are drowning in a well with no way to "push back" against it, you will be able to weave it into your stories in an authentic way.
    “We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.” -Hemingway

  6. #6
    What would you do if in pain? To heck with noble discourse there would be pauses, intake of breath and groans. A bit of swearing being held back, or released.

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