How well do you know your character’s pain? by Bren Kyveli

A few months ago I wrote a short story about a gangster who was beaten and left for dead and forced to walk back into the city to exact his revenge. I drew on all my experiences of pain, typical stuff we can all relate to; a sprained or broken ankle, an accidentally sliced finger, a bad fall, too many squats for an out of shape body, etc. And was told from a few beta readers that I really made them feel for this character, that they could imagine each painful step.

Last Friday I was in a head-on collision and broke my femur. I had to have surgery to put a rod and screws in my leg. So with each and every excruciating movement, I have to wonder: How well did I (or does any other author) really show/know the character’s pain?

Normally when people (doctors, nurses, friends, family, etc.) ask about someone’s pain it’s phrased referencing the pain scale: How’s your pain? Which elicits bland responses of it’s about an eight or it hurts like mad but I’m getting through. That doesn’t really tell anyone anything at all does it?

Instead, I was asked: What’s your pain like? And this different phrasing made me stop and really analyze what I’m feeling and think about the right simile/metaphor to describe it. Which was:

It’s like someone is filling my thigh with boiling hot water while the muscles are twisted in a tight Charlie Horse. So there’s this hot pressure from within while the muscles are drawn into that tight pinching/pulling feeling of a deep muscle cramp.

I could see the gears turning in her imagination. She gasped, recoiled, grimaced and said, “Oh God! That’s aweful!” Which is the same reaction I want my readers to have to my character’s pain.

So the next time you have to write a character in pain ask yourself: What’s his/her pain like?


Bren Kyveli is a stay at home mom of a spirited two year old little girl and a couple of rescued mutts. She’s been happily married to her high school sweetheart for twelve years now. She’s had a deep love for the written word since she was a toddler; reading everything she could get her hands on and writing in a fancy journals with a pretty pens. Bren writes contemporary Romance and Erotica in the hours left at the end of the day when the house has gone to sleep, some of which you can find over at

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