My body aches with twinges of sharp pain thrown in for good measure, letting me know that I’m very much alive. Rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and fibromyalgia affect joints, muscles, and even skin. Pain is a constant companion but not a friend. Different methods or combination of methods help people manage living with pain, but not all work consistently. Knowing and using some of these methods in writing about a character helps develop that character more fully.
Pain medications are the main line of defense for many pain sufferers. Everything from aspirin to heavy-duty narcotics help delete or deaden the pain that wracks bodies. Also, often those medicines only deaden the level of pain, without dispersing it completely. However, the use of such drugs can allow a person to have a better quality of life. A person in a book or story might use pills and/or injections to move and do things.
Massage and/or manipulation helps alleviate some aches and pains. Such treatments also relax a person, which in turn causes pain to decrease at least somewhat. When the arthritis in my neck and back is severe, massage works with my medication to reduce the levels of agony. Another bit of information which could be woven into a plot.
A warm bath, or at least a shower, relaxes a person and eases the pain in muscles, tendons, and joints. Climbing into a hot tub with jets pounding against sore places brings relief, too.
Some people practice bio-feedback to help manage pain. The results seem to vary from person to person. At times, a person can develop a method that greatly reduces pain levels; at other times, the results are little to none.
Exercise appropriate for a person’s condition, age, and/or situation helps with pain. With my many problems, my physical activities are quite limited, but swimming, short walks several times a day, and isometric exercises help reduce the level of pain. When I’m in a lupus or RA flare, activity has to be limited, but exercising in warm water helps. One of my characters not only had to endure the agony of pain from an injury, but also the misery caused by therapy.
When all methods have been tried, often some pain remains. Then a person has to learn to live with it. I know that I’m never completely without pain, and if I should be, I would be like the old woman in a joke. She woke her husband, insisting that she was dead. He assured her that she wasn’t dead. She would state again that she was dead. Finally he asked her what made her think she was dead. Her answer was, “I’m not in pain, so I must be dead.” I laugh because it’s so close to the truth, and crying just makes the pain worse.
But, you ask, what does that information have to do with writing mysteries? The best writing has believable characters, and a character who lives with constant pain needs to exhibit how he does. Knowing about methods to deal with pain, a writer can invest some of that knowledge into his character. A hero who lives with pain but still acts and reacts “heroically” despite it appears more human to readers. Villains, who suffer physically, also seem more human. Every character, at least major ones, should be well-rounded, three dimensional, not flat. Therefore, the protagonist shouldn’t be without flaw, and the antagonist shouldn’t be all bad, completely evil.
In my mystery/suspense novel Midnight Hours, the protagonist is recovering from being shot in the back. He lives with pain as he attempts to regain the use of his legs. I used "real" life solutions and experiences in the book.
Brain Cells & Bubble Wrap