Editing Rant: Bruised and Battered

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I get it. Really I do. Action means characters get into fights. Thriller, mystery, urban fantasy, sword & sorcery – fist-to-cuffs and knife fights, sword clangs and gunshots.

But what makes all these so thrilling is the threat of injury. Not necessarily death; even simple disablement could mean the difference between finding the treasure or the enemy staying two steps ahead.

For the threat of injury to carry weight, the consequences of any injury need to be real and continuous. If a normal person gets a shiner, it takes a couple days for the swelling to go down. A healthy teenager or twenty-something will have a visible bruise for ten days to two weeks; while a sixty-year old, slow to heal and with thinner skin providing more visible bruising, may take a couple months. If writing a fantasy, such  as a superhero or werewolf, healing will be faster and pain is the biggest threat.

This editing rant is based on a book I read (not edited), published by a big house for a named author. A cyber-thriller with “normal” human beings who were exceptional hackers.

I’m going to call them “continuity” issues.

The main point-of-view character gets beat up, a lot. Before his arrest, some people who he had hacked found him and registered their discontent. He barely pulled himself home with a loose tooth, split lip, likely black eye (swelling), and BROKEN ribs (he heard the snap). He arrives home to find the feds, who taser him. Tasering in the real world makes all your muscles contract, which wouldn’t help his injuries but wouldn’t make them noticeably worse. Next time we see the POV, the agent-in-charge only notices the split lip. Please note BRUISED ribs take three to six weeks to heal in healthy adults, BROKEN ribs more so. The book narration reports no medical evaluations or intervention.

When he meets the rest of the hackers, no one thinks anything of his injuries even though they all sleep in the same area. Have you ever gotten out of bed with bruised ribs? I have. Unfun.

How long has passed between the first fight and him getting stuck in the dorm room? No clue, this “thriller” has no ticking clock, and therefore no thriller ride. Best I could figure is about a week, likely less.

The second day in the secret hacker prison/”work-for-us-and-we-erase-stuff” location, the POV gets tasered again and, the same day, a guard “pistons a fist into his side”. Even if the ribs were bruised and on the other side, I seriously doubt a geek-hacker would “launch himself upwards” swinging fists. Getting punched that hard hurts, knocks breath from the body. Doing it in a body area undergoing healing, opposite side (no side specified for either injury so let’s be generous and say opposite side) just means both sides are non-functional.

The POV continues to be a punching bag throughout the story, but I gave up at 25% of the book because the injuries of this normal human being had no impact on his life or the story.

I understand. Someone getting beating bloody in a thriller is a wonderful image. But obey the rules of the world. If you have normal people, SHOW the consequences of the injuries, CONTINUE the consequences of the injuries.