Pain is extraordinarily hard to write about. Chronic pain is hardest of all. How do you write about a character whose every day, every moment, is shaped around constant pain? And not wear out the reader’s sympathy.
It can be done. It has been done.
And when it is done convincingly; those are often difficult books to read.
Half the time we don’t want to know about the pain of people we know in real life. Part of us wants them to suffer in silence. We’re embarrassed by others’ suffering, bored by it, made to feel helpless in the face of our inability to do anything about it, afraid it might be contagious, upset by it, angered, and a gazillion other complicated feelings.
It’s even hard to write about relatively minor injuries. There are gazillions of books out there where the character suffers an injury only for the writer to forget about it for the rest of the book or totally minimise it. I am guilty of this. Reason is injured in the first book of the Magic or Madness trilogy. Somehow telling the story kept getting in the way of showing Reason’s injury and how she dealt with it. (Since the book takes place over a short period of time the injury would not have healed entirely.) If I could go back and rewrite the trilogy that’s one of the many things I would fix.
Pain is something we all go through to a lesser or greater extent. It’s something we all know intimately. Yet it’s so hard to describe and write about. It’s hard to push beyond “it hurts” and not wallow in it and also hold your reader.
I’d be curious to hear about your experience writing characters in physical pain. (For some reason emotional pain is easy as pie.) And also your experiences reading characters in pain. Are there any writers or books you think handle it particularly well?