So… I was sitting here at my computer building a scene. One character was seeking treatment for a… wound. That’s all I had. So I looked up “types of wounds”… and came up with jack [Except perhaps some medical sites]. I eventually hit on a site that gave me some adjectives like dreadful, ancient, bite, infected. Not quite what I had in mind. So I thought, in the interest of helping all those writers out there I thought I’d create a burgeoning list of injury types and descriptions to aid the querying author. For this piece, I will only be talking about physical wounds, mental and emotional wounds will come at a later date =) Okay!
FIRST, you need a location for the wound or injury. This should be fairly simple for everyone out there just look up basic (or detailed.. whatever floats your boat) anatomy. Shoulder, stomach, side, ribs, ankle, neck… finger… the list goes on and on.
SECOND, you need to know the type of wound. Internal or external? Serious or minor? Do they require immediate medical attention, or will they heal on their own? Was your character shot, stabbed or punched? Did they fall or trip? Or perhaps they had their neck wrenched back in a fight with multiple assailants. What you choose is entirely up to you and your characters. For my scene, my girl Gryphon had been badly injured on her back. Right shoulder, to be precise. One of the BGs tore into her back with its claws and in that moment, I needed to describe her wound from the perspective of the person treating it. Given that they were claws, it would indicate that there were multiple cuts in her flesh. The image I had in mind was three cuts, two deep and one shallow because the cut was interrupted, each totalling about 6-8cm in length. These are the things you need to know. BUT, that doesn’t mean all those details will make it into the book. One of my favourite analogies is that of the iceberg- what you see in the book is maybe the top 3rd of the story. The rest is just for you, hidden beneath the surface of the water. Decide what details to include about the wounds. How long has your character had the wound, what medical treatment do they require? This will depend on the setting of your book and what tools your characters have at hand, along with their knowledge of treatments… etcetera, etcetera… Like I said, the list goes on.
This leads on to the THIRD point – you want to know how the injury occurred. You could have the above occur, or you could have them roll their ankle balancing on a fence trying to impress a girl she doesn’t know. Whatever it is, make sure it fits your story. A punch will cause a very different wound to a knife and that differs again from a gun. How deep is the wound, is it through and through? Is there swelling, a broken bone or two? Bruising?
FOURTH is how your characters react to those wounds. Remember! You have five (or six depending on your genre) senses. Use them. Does the coppery scent of blood turn your character’s stomach? Does the sight of the parted flesh make them feel faint? Does the pain burn, sear or blaze? Is it numb or does is niggle at them with a dull ache they can’t be rid of? If the wound is infected or festering, what can your characters smell? Can they hear their own pulse in their ears, do they feel dizzy? How familiar with pain is your character? Do they freak out, blubber or babble? Are they stoic, is this old hat for them? Use your imagination!
Add all of these together and you should come up with a fairly accurate description of your characters injuries. But I promised you descriptors! and here they are (there may be duplicates if the word fits into one or more categories).
For pain: searing, burning, aching, torturous, agonising, bad, chronic, crippling, dull, excruciating, irritating, itchy, raw, bad, painful, sharp, stabbing, tender, stinging, violent, hot, throbbing, scalding, prickling, drilling, shooting, pinching, sharp, gnawing, pressing, smarting, scalding, blistering, paralysing, weakened, piercing.
For other feelings: weak, dizzy, faint, sharp, dull, panicked, unconscious.
For blood: gushing, seeping, spurting, oozing, trickling, dripping, leaking, exuding, coagulating, percolating, saturating, bubbling (indicating an air embolism).
For visuals: gaping, bruised, swollen, split, rended, dislocated, broken, hung at an odd angle, bad, inflamed, blistered, torn, pierced, ripped, scarred, inflamed, paralysed.
For basics: strained, sprained, torn, broken, chronic, punctures, lacerations, incisions, abrasions, penetrating, paralysed, weak, concussion, amputation (consider phantom pain as a result).
Lastly, don’t forget the healing process. Does it leave a scar, has it scabbed over, is your character prone to weakness in that area now? Can they no longer perform functions properly anymore? What medical treatment occurs in your book? Do they apply field treatment or go to the hospital? Consider your world and write for it.
Well, there you have it! I am now able to finish describing that injury of Gryphon’s =) Research can be very useful for our writing. Remember to have fun with this and be creative?
Did I miss anything? Let me know in the comments below.