May is short story month.
My head is killing me.
This isn't unusual - unfortunately - as I've had pretty miserable headaches and migraines since I was about thirteen years old. I remember other kids being jealous of how many days of school I'd miss - especially in Grade 11 and 12, when I hit my peak and was having blindness-inducing migraines about once every other week or so. I would have happily traded with them. I have a high pain threshold - I think anyone who suffers from real migraines (not just bad headaches, which I think a lot of people unknowingly confuse) gets practice at that. I've broken bones and not really noticed right away. No matter how sick I am, or how much pain I might be in, if it's not a migraine, then there's that measuring stick to make it a bit more tolerable by comparison. "At least it's not a migraine" is a strange comfort, but there you are.
Writing when I've got a headache is rarely productive, but thinking about writing when I've got a headache can often be fruitful. In fact, whenever I'm sick, or need to go lie down to make my head stop pounding, I generally roll stories around in my skull. This is one of the reasons there's a journal beside my bed.
We don't remember pain - though I've read some interesting papers on autism that suggest that autistic individuals might be able to. You can remember how much being in pain sucked, and you can remember how limited you were by pain, but you can't actually remember the pain itself. Emotional distress, absolutely - but the physical sensation of what it felt like is not recorded in the brain. There's probably a thousand evolutionary reasons for that - not the least of which would be crippling yourself by remembering - and reliving - what something horrible felt like.
I've been working on LIGHT today - that would be the novel - and I just got to a scene where I realized I'd used my square brackets trick again, and wrote [headache, describe]. That I've got a lingering headache that really doesn't want to get lost was actually useful.
I took inventory. If I've got a headache, I heat up. My husband knows it's a bad one if he kisses my forehead and I'm very warm. Ergo, I sweat when I have a bad headache. Pressing against where it feels like it hurts is a minor relief - even though I know the science of the nervous system has long ago proven that it's not actually your head that hurts, nor that particular side of your head. I also start to yawn - as though I can't get enough oxygen - and every yawn just makes it that little bit worse. When I have a migraine, I often have aura - it's like someone is dripping glowing golden oil onto my eyes - and sometimes my hand or arm will go numb. Everything seems to smell so much more powerfully, and light becomes painful. I have to sit up, since lying down will make my head pound a thousand times worse, and lead to me throwing up.
Which will then make me feel better, if I do. That part is one of the more annoying catch-22s of my migraines. I've never been able to pluck up the courage to make myself throw up, but if I do, the migraine is usually over within half an hour thereafter.
Happily, my character is just having a regular headache. I'm not going to inflict a migraine on him.
Characters end up in pain a lot. Emotional pain, for sure, but in most of the action or mystery stories I've read, they also end up smacked around physically. Some writers do this extremely well - there's a scene where a character is down on the ground and being kicked in one of Greg Herren's Chanse Macleod mysteries that rang so true I nearly hyperventilated on the bus. In "Keeping the Faith" I give the narrator a tussle with three bigots - though he comes out the victor, except for a bloody nose.
I don't like writing physical pain, nor physical violence. I'm struggling my way through a horror themed short story as well right now, and I've so far given myself a pass with the same square brackets trick. In the middle of the climactic scene, I've dropped a [Describe. More mayhem here.] right in the middle, and moved on to the denouement.
In some ways, it's like the opposite - and a parallel - of erotica. In erotica, you're trying to make someone emotionally and physically react. You want to invoke arousal, really. I've never tried to aim for revulsion before. It's interesting, and... well... revolting.
Anyway. Back to the novel. I'm skipping past some of the blood and pain. I'll get back to it when I've got the nerve.