I have a medic friend, who does wonders for the novels. She’s not only brilliant to talk to about ideas, but her very character is a great source of… well, read and you’ll guess…
But perhaps her most wonderful achievement, is the continual provision of sensible, medical advice. Take, for example, the top of the Midnight Mayor. As readers will know, I go to often great lengths to make things difficult for my characters, since I figure an easy life isn’t necessarily very interesting. It also throws up new problems and questions if, for example, a character who relies on being basically in a good position to get things done, suddenly finds himself, say, medically injured and thus unable to get things done in quite such a satisfactory manner. Hence, at the top of this particular book, I sent an email to my medic mate which went something along these lines:
Dear [Medic Mate],
I need to incapacitate Matthew Swift. I need him to be in considerable medical trouble for about twenty pages, without actually losing full functionality. I then need him to be functional for another few hundred pages, but running the perpetual risk of not being functional at any given moment, or in times of great stress and over-exertion. I will later need to really, really push just how non-functional he is in order to force dependency on other characters, but this second injury need not be a side-effect of the first encounter if you judge it silly. I am willing to inflict all manners of injury upon Swift, but need him able to run and use hands, to preferably not feet, and for the sake of having all his fingers for any future novels, not necessarily amputation unless you can make a really good case for it. Tools available to inflict injuries currently include heights, drops, boiling tar, knives, broken glass, teeth, copper wire and a cash register. Please advise.
And god bless her, she did. I don’t think I still have the precise email, but its gist went something like this:
If it’s a long-term injury that leaves you functional but in mega trouble, you can’t beat fractured ribs. Excruciatingly painful, but not totally incapacitating so long as you have enough drugs, and with a really cool thing where you might get a punctured lung. But hell, a punctured lung is like, way up there for serious trouble, so maybe you don’t wanna go down that road. If we’re saying that cutting off feet and hands are out of the question, but your basic flesh wound is a good start. There’ll be pain, there’ll be blood loss, but if you miss a major organ you’re probably okay so long as you don’t tear anything. I’d advise going for the shoulder – hips and stomach and you risk severing a major artery and that’d probably knock you out by page 200, which kinda isn’t any use. Also, if you’re using, like, broken glass or teeth, then risk of secondary infection if it’s not treated right, which I’m guessing it ain’t, and that’s like, fever, which is mega-cool. If it’s something you’re looking for that’ll see you fine for a few hours and then really really not fine, then scratching the spleen is a good’un. Seriously, I know that it’s like, the spleen, whatever, but actually, what happens is that all this blood builds up and builds up and builds up and you’re okay and then you’re just out like a light which might be kinda what you’re looking at. Avoid the femoral artery, ‘cos that’s just stupid, but actually wrists are kinda spectacular and not necessarily as bad so long as you get really fast treatment, and then there’s shock which might be up your street, I dunno, depends on how much running we’re talking about. I’d say be careful with concussion, because if it’s minor it’s just minor, and if it’s major then it’s like, whoa, that’s brain damage which isn’t so good for sequels, I’m guessing.
Hope that helps!
The moral of this story?
You can’t beat expert opinion.