If done well, writing about long-term injuries can add an important element to a work of fiction. The character’s psychological development from the initial shock to adapting to the consequences of his injury provides an emotional and uplifting story that can inspire readers. Injuries of all kinds will affect people in different ways, and those responses can lead to interesting and dynamic characterization. However, writing about long-term injuries is a sensitive subject and must be done with care. Here are some tips about writing injuries, especially those sustained through car crashes and common accidents.
Write Long-Term Injuries
Including a long-term injury in your writing can be either central to the plot or tangential to it. It doesn’t have to affect a main character; it could affect a peripheral character as well. The long-term injury can add an extra dimension to the plot of your creative writing even if it doesn’t define it. It’s important to add injuries to your characters not just for the sake of representation, but because there are many people who live with some sort of injury. It’s natural to show people with their own problems and circumstances. While you may feel nervous about handling long-term injuries correctly in your writing, proper research and avoiding common mistakes can help you to integrate a long-term injury into your writing successfully. Remember the psychological impact that injuries can have on people.
Ask any professionals you might know about the medical details of treatment and recovery from long-term injuries, so you can write realistic depictions of them. Look into common injuries for some inspiration. It’s essential to know how long it takes to recover from different injuries, for example, how long someone would use crutches or a wheelchair for a leg or lower body injury. Or perhaps, the usual amount of recovery for a hand or arm loss or injury. Research the effects of shock if the injury is immediately present in the story. Also keep in mind that common long-term injuries happen to actual people, including your readers. Depicting a long-term injury incorrectly could offend your target audience.
Also, the consequences of a long-term injury should make sense within the greater plot of your story. For example, if you’re writing about a character who was paralyzed in a car accident, but then finds himself walking six weeks later, then the injury seems incongruous and out of place. Make sure the injury’s effect is felt and understood. If someone gets hurt for no reason, or because you think it’d be interesting, then it may not be the best reason to put it in. Make the injury and the recovery part of a character’s story.
Focus on the Injury’s Effect
If the injury is central to the plot of your writing, it should have a significant effect on the mindset of the affected character. Does the injury allow them to empathize with others more? How has adapting to the lasting consequences of a long-term injury changed their outlook on life and how they interact with the other characters? Does the injury help them develop new skills or abilities? How does the injury make it harder for the characters? Are there negative repercussions to the injury like a character starting to over-rely on pain medication or something along those lines? Does this injury put the character in positions or places to make new friends and meet new people?
Here are some famous examples of characters reacting to injuries. Iron Man from the Marvel comics and movies has a serious injury that deeply affects him and his abilities but also helps him become even stronger. Characters losing a hand or a finger is seen in The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Game of Thrones, and more. Many films, tv shows, and books show the effects of amputation or losing a limb. House MD is a good example of the usage of someone with a long term injury that’s discussed frequently in the plot and makes up a defining characteristic of the character. There are also countless examples of characters being blind or deaf to draw inspiration from.
Don’t reduce the long-term injury to a mere trope or plot device. Emphasize the details of the recovery so that the reader can be absorbed in the growth and development of the injured character. Help readers understand the slow process of recovery. If you’re going to take the time to research the injury and include it in the story, make the narrative worth it for both yourself and the reader.
Don’t Let the Injury Define the Character
Many writers commit the mistake of defining peripheral characters by their injury or using injured characters as foils for the charitable impulses of the protagonist. No one is completely defined by their injury. Flesh out the peripheral injured characters by giving them personality traits that supersede their injured condition. Give them a role beyond being a focal point for others’ sympathy. By writing fully fleshed out characters, you are able to represent more people better, and more readers will feel like they identify with your characters and story.
If you follow this advice, writing a character with a long-term injury will improve the plot of your writing. You will be better able to show more nuanced characters, and they will feel more alive in your work.