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Hurt and Comfort

Tantz_Aerine at 12:00AM, April 13, 2024

There's few moments more dramatic than when the hero gets hurt. The more serious the injury (or illness or poisoning or other type of affliction) the higher the drama.

And from that drama (the hurt) comes the period of treatment, convalescence, and recovery (the comfort). This is a plot device that can go either way: it can be saccharine and melodramatic, an excuse for the main lead's romantic interest to throw themselves at the lead, or it can be an interesting exercise and cause for character development for everyone of the cast that is affected:

1. The lead or other character themselves can change- for the better or worse. The shock of being hurt might change how they approach a problem (or avoid it), their mood, their emotional/mental state, and the sheer level of difficulty of what they are up against.

2. The fact that the lead or other character is out of commission is one of the most drastic ways of showing (rather than telling) why the lead is the lead. Why they are important and how the team (or their immediate environment) suffers when they're unable to do what they do. (this goes for any character, such as the “heart” or the “seemingly unimportant friend” or any other character that is in the ‘unsung hero’ type of role quietly being tremendously important for the other characters and the Plot)

3. The plot itself can become a lot more complicated. Something that had a relatively simple solution now needs a lot more effort and investment to be resolved because the usual solution (that the hurt character provided) is suddenly unavailable. New ways to solve the same problem have to be discovered.

4. If the hurt character is maimed in some way, the road to recovery (especially if that is the B plot rather than the A plot) may need to be juggled against the pre-existing problem that won't wait. The feeling of finality also makes everything feel new. The character will need to relearn to do things in ways that accommodate their new physical and/or mental/emotional situation.

5. If the (4) point is happening, how every other character reacts is cause for character development, new dynamics, and new relationships and interactions to form that may be drastically different than before.

6. The road to recovery might be part of the plot: needing to race the clock to find a cure, or gather rare ingredients, or find the solution to what is happening to the hurt character, is a motivation for the rest of the characters to cluster together and interact in new ways to succeed.

7. Before even recovery begins, and during that, how each of the other characters react to the event of the injury/illness/hurt of the hurt character, and whether or not, and how, they provide comfort is one of the most surefire ways to show (rather than tell) each character's “true colors”. That goes far beyond whether someone was a covert romantic interest or a friend and now manifests a lot more clearly. It could be a way to see how characters react under stress; who steps up and who crumbles under pressure, who tries to curry favor, who shows ‘tough love’ (warranted or not, also telling), who is uninterested or genuinely concerned, and so on.

In general, letting your characters be injured can be pretty good for your story- of course, there's ways to do it right and ways to do it bombastically wrong! How have you done it (if at all) in your stories?

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usedbooks at 10:22AM, April 13, 2024

I've had to rewrite sections after realizing a character couldn't do a task due to an injury. It ends up becoming an unintentional plot device. I let characters get hurt if the plot leads to a dangerous situation. There are a couple characters I mentally classify as "medics," and their "doctor mode" is activated by an injury (of protagonist, antagonist, minor character, small animal, whatever). 😆 That's inspired by the people I know in medical fields. It's basically a reflex, and I find it endearing irl, so it's gotta be in my stories.

mks_monsters at 7:18AM, April 13, 2024

I find that hurt is often underrated in stories especially with female leads. Getting hurt, falling from grace or facing challenges is all a part of the hero's journey. How can you grow if you never learn? And like Master Yoda said "failure is the greatest teacher". Plus, how can you really be called a hero if you don't know humility? This is why I loved recent films like The Batman, Wonder Woman (the first one ONLY) and even Civil War.

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