Or, “Anything that happens to, or near, a writer becomes part of the soup from which stories are dipped.”
In the category of “You’re never too old to get hurt in a new way,” I now have an injury I haven’t had before, and would retroactively inflict on a character if I could, just to show that I know what it’s like. I screwed up a stop on my bike today and in the process of falling allowed one bike handlebar to gak me in the neck in a serious way. Not as serious as it could have been, but serious. (Advice to would-be writers: don’t do this just to get the experience. I’ll be glad to help you with the details if you feel it necessary. If you achieve it and don’t kill yourself, you’ll wish you hadn’t.)
When it happened, I didn’t know yet that it hadn’t been the much more serious and potentially fatal crushed larynx, so my immediate thought was “That was really stupid,” and “I hope I don’t die right this instant.” (I can think really fast in emergencies, but the body doesn’t always react correctly, or I wouldn’t have fallen.) The blow came just *above* the larynx but I have a visceral memory of the elderly woman (younger than I am now) who fell off a 4-wheeler on a ranch near here back in the early 80s when I was both younger and on the local ambulance crew. She crashed just as she was taken into the ER; she’d ruptured her brachial artery and bled into the mediastinum, gradually compressing her trachea. She’d asked to sit up in the ambulance, and had the standard neck brace on, so the gradual swelling in her neck didn’t show. They couldn’t get a tracheotomy in because of the swelling and blood. And we had a crushed-larynx death another time. So that was a pleasant thought when I realized I couldn’t talk or swallow for a bit there.
Luckily for me, two people (the guy driving the pickup I was avoiding with the turn and stop, and the young woman I’d passed a few seconds before, who jogs up and down a street at right angles to the one I ride on most) came to see if I was OK, and stayed with me, calling my husband, untangling the bike from my legs, etc. And it’s over three hours later now, and it hurts quite a lot, but the vital tubes are staying open, blood pressure hasn’t dropped so significant internal bleeding isn’t happening, and the other bruises have made themselves obvious.
Writer Mind started making up scenarios as soon as I was sure I could breathe, cheerfully doing the writer mind thing of sticking this incident (and any variations it could think of) into different settings, with different characters, with different outcomes. It’s STILL doing that. The overall consciousness of a writer does things no psychologist would approve of, I’m sure, like splitting into different POVs and running them in parallel, and always having the Writer Mind Function turned on and active no matter what else it going on. Reminds me of the newscaster character in Tanya Huff’s Torin Kerr books, Presit. Whatever happens, Presit is always looking for the media advantage, taking notes, telling her cameraman to get “that” shot, etc. Well, Writer Mind is like that. “Remember now, *exactly which* part of you hit *exactly which* part of the bike and then the ground! How does this impact compare to the time Illusion bolted and you fell off in the north field? The time you fell off the bike on that tight turn in the woods?” Now, over three hours later, it’s telling me to remember the details of how it’s done since. Exactly what does the swollen bruised knee feel like? Is that a sting or an itch or a burn? Does the bruised hip actually hurt, or…? And so on. Writer Mind has zero sympathy for the writer, and a great interest in collecting “material.” On the one hand that’s great, because someday, someone, somewhere, in some book, is going to get hit in the neck with something and I’ll have all those details stored away, properly labeled, and the injury will seem realistic to anyone who’s had the same thing, or medical personnel who have cared for that person. But on the other hand…if you can’t get sympathy from your own mind…? (“It was your fault anyway,” says Writer Mind. “Why should I give you sympathy. The computer is right over there, and it’s on. You should be writing all this down.”)
What saves writers from stark insanity is that (most of us) know what Writer Mind is doing is creating fiction. Fiction is not real the same way getting hit in the neck with a bike handlebar is real. We don’t “believe” what we create; we think it. We know it comes from within (partly) but we also know it’s something we made up. t
The scenario has been re-run (by Writer Mind) in both fantasy and science fictional settings, as well as contemporary here-and-now-this-world ones, from multiple POVs (victim, assailant, onlooker, medical personnel, relative.) Meanwhile, my neck hurts, my throat feels scratchy inside, and I wish Writer Mind would shut up and let me read someone else’s book to take my mind off the neck, knee, other knee, hip, and elbow. (Truly, I was VERY lucky, and all the non-neck injuries are minor skin and soft-tissue and will be gone. As Granny Weatherwax put it in a note, “I aten’t dead yet.”)