A few months ago, I was having a particularly… heated… discussion with my sister. I use my hands to speak a lot in the first place, and when I’m upset my motions tend to be a bit more expressive. While swinging my arm a bit further away from my body that I should have been, I caught my thumb on a chair during the downward stroke. Let me tell you something I learned that day: adrenaline and anger are two very helpful analgesics.
When they wear off, though, it’s not quite as fun. I had sprained/jammed my thumb – pretty badly I might add. I work for a chiropractor, so he was able to make sure the joint was set right, and I wore a brace for a few weeks.
I forgot to mention: it was my left hand that I injured, which is of course my dominant hand. Yes, shenanigans ensued as I tried to figure out how to work with an immobilized thumb. Who knew zip-loc bags required so much dexterity?
My point is that I learned a valuable lesson that day: even when you’re angry, demonstrating your emotions physically isn’t always the best way to go about expressing yourself. My thumb still aches – and I’m on the three month mark now. It’s even gotten worse in the last two weeks again, and I have to start wearing the brace once more. Every time I flex it too much, I get that twinge of pain, and I remember.
Maybe it’s a bit far-fetched, a bit slapstick even, but I think little things like this can help instill lessons in a character when you’re writing. It’s humorous, sure, but I had to laugh through two weeks of not being able to pull up my pants.
Learning a lesson doesn’t always have to be accompanied by some tragedy or massive plot device. You can interject these small, slightly offbeat, moments that will help your character grow in almost imperceptible ways. I’m not saying that you have to have a character wallop themselves on a chair, but, hey, if it works!