Writing Tough

on April 27, 2010 in Misc

I’ve decided that, like me, Layla should get injured.


Yes, that sounds very cold of me.   It also sounds like I might be projecting my frustration and pain onto an innocent character who never did me any harm.   A character who is, in many ways, my alter ego, or at the very least the woman I want to be if only I were younger, cooler, better looking, better educated, had a super cool job and a lot more money.

It’s also a little extreme because it means more writing.   After all, Layla’s story/my novel The Compass Master is finished and just about ready for publication.   So if Layla is to suffer an injury, I’ll have to go back into the final quarter of the manuscript and change several scenes.   It means that after she’s in a fight with one of the bad guys and gets away, she must sustain an injury that hobbles her actions and even threatens her life.

But you know what?   This change could be a very good thing.

Ninja Assassin

So many thriller novels I’ve read and movies I’ve seen – no matter how gritty on the surface – are flat out fantasies when it comes to the consequence of a hero’s injuries.   The guy can get hammered and thrown around and lose consciousness for a couple hours, but he still gets up and fights on.   She can be blasted by a bomb or hurled against a wall, and she’ll moan and groan but still rally onward.   You never, at the end of all the body bashing, see him or her lying barely lucid in a hospital bed, drooling and mumbling and begging for more pain killer, PLEASE.

Not that this describes my recent personal experience in a hospital.

But back to Layla.  What kind of injuries will I give her?

A partially collapsed lung and fractured ribs, of course.

It makes perfect sense.  Write about what you know, we writers are always being told.   Well, I sure as hell know about lungs and ribs.   I can tell you all about the sudden and frightening inability to run or even walk fast for fear of passing out because I’m so short of breath.   I can describe in detail the pain that spiders across one side of the chest and makes any kind of lifting and carrying nearly impossible and ultimately dangerous.   But Layla will still have to lift stuff and run as best she can, and in the process try not to pass out.

Mila running

I gotta say I’m getting excited about making these changes in my manuscript.   They’ll add depth to the character, even more tension to the story, and will feel like a slap of hard reality in scenes that currently might be a little too typical for the genre.  

Who knew I would ultimately benefit, in only a literary way, from being banged up by an idiot?

POSTSCRIPT:  Here’s a personal note to Robert.  I’m still thinking about your crazy and semi-fantasy suggestion about an internet school for action heroes.  And maybe soon I can write a semi-fantasy school curriculum that I’ll post here.   Might be really fun.

16 Responses to “Writing Tough”

  1. Ben says:

    I totally know what you mean. It is a ton of work to go back and edit the story after it’s already been “perfected”.

    Oooh, the second picture, it’s from the movie Ninja Assassin; have you seen that movie? It’s so epic.

  2. Helena says:

    Ben — Haven’t seen the movie but I’ll try to catch it. As for rewriting — it can be hard, but to me rewriting is always easier than writing from scratch. Helena

  3. Ben says:

    Seriously? I find editing so much harder! I never know what to take out. And, I find it hard to settle on where to add something that I want added. Writing from scratch feels more relaxed for me.

  4. Helena says:

    Ben — Wow, I really am your polar opposite in the writing/editing debate. I’m definitely not relaxed when I write from scratch.

  5. Ben says:

    Really? Wow, I can’t imagine how that must be… obviously I do get writer’s block and get nervous about if i’m going to potentially mess up the story line with what i’m about to write when writing from scratch, but when editing it’s just boring; writing from scratch is vibrant with creativity and life.

  6. Ann says:

    First of you I want to tell you that your illustrations are very interesting. They really enhance your comments. I’m glad you’re going to make the most of your painful experience and it will be interesting to read the results of your Layla rewrite. Although I do feel kinda sorry for poor fictional Layla. She has no idea what you have in mind. Of course we know she’ll prevail because action heroes always do.

  7. Helena says:

    Ben — how romantic and true. The first draft of writing is really alive. But for me there is always the dread of facing the blank screen or sheet of paper. Editing for me takes much less effort — but also much less emotion. Only writing the original draft gives me an emotional thrill. Maybe the dread of the blank page happens because I’ve always been hard on myself and I know I’ll end up judging every word I write, so I try all the harder to make it come out right the first time. I gotta learn to go with the flow.

  8. Helena says:

    Annie — Not only that, in the end she and Zach will be back together again. Course with her ribs being fractured there’s not much she can do with him until they heal….

  9. Ben says:

    A famous ancient sculpter was asked how he managed to create such beautiful masterpieces when looking at a block of marble. They were in awe at his creativity. The sculpter smiled and said: “The sculpture is already there before I start, all i’m doing is removing the rough edges from around it.”

    Don’t think of writing as combining words from the English language or by creating something from nothing… the story is already there. The characters have already lived the tale. You just need to follow your character’s life and jot it down as it happens.

  10. Helena says:

    Ben — I love that perspective. It’s the storytelling above all that matters.

  11. Hart says:

    I think this sounds like a GREAT addition to your novel! Someone who has such an amazingly hard job will undoubtedly get hurt at some point, and what a great way to really probe at her–se what she is made ot. I love it!

  12. Helena says:

    Hart — Thanks for the encouragment! Yes, Layla is gonna find out the hard way what’s she’s made of. Poor thing.

  13. rick says:

    Well, you know what the song says – “Hurts so good, C’mon Baby make it hurt so good, Sometimes love don’t feel like it should, You make it Hurt So Good!” I’m guessing Layla and Zach will find some way to enhance their post-trauma evening together.

  14. Helena says:

    Rick — True, but by then The Compass Master is over so we’ll never find out.

  15. Ketutar says:

    “innocent character who never did me any harm”… yeah, sure…
    She seduced you into living her life. :-D

  16. Helena says:

    Ketatur — And I’ll never forgive Layla for that!