I am currently working on a super hero short story in which a hockey player (the protagonist) suffers a brain injury in the first scene which leaves him in eternal pain. In the quickest explanation possible of his powers: this injury becomes his super power when he realizes he cant feel it when people punch him since he is already in pain.

What are the psychological ramifications, for both the protagonist and audience, if the injury inflicted is an accident versus a malicious attack by another character?

The big thing I can see for the character would be in one example he has a specific person(s) to blame, in the other example he has no one to blame and might be angry at a god or something similar.

I'd like to hear the pros and cons relating to plot and character development for these two scenarios as it would apply to his condition and which is the more likely scenario that would lead him to becoming a vigilante?

Extra info that I am not sure will affect answers: a) I am shooting for a "PG-13" rating. The person who inspired this story is only 14 and I want it to be an appropriate story for that age group. b) It will be a graphic novel and not a traditional prose piece.

2 Answers 2


There are two main themes that you might want to consider. The first is "man against nature." If you believe that the hero's main future struggles will be with "nature," e.g. pain, I would have "nature" inflict the injury by "accident." If the story is about a struggle with another man, then it would make better sense to have the antagonist inflict the injury, as the root cause of the conflict.

The third theme is "man against himself," and maybe the wound should be self-inflicted if that's the theme and conflict.

In any case, there's no right or wrong answer, only one that fits your story in terms of the conflict.

  • I agree with everything that you've said, but self-barm may be beyond the pale for a "PG-13" work. (I wouldn't think so necessarily, but I think that the rating regime is unsystematic and useless, so my opinion isn't the best) For the third theme, one could substitute an accident that is directly or indirectly caused by the character's flaws. (e.g. peter parker's uncle being shot by a thief he allowed to escape, which isn't the best example, as it is not an accident, but is a negative consequence "caused" by the character's flaw(s)).
    – sharur
    Commented Sep 24, 2016 at 0:28
  • @sharur: self-inflicted doesn't have to be self harm; it could be an oversight or "negligence."
    – Tom Au
    Commented Sep 24, 2016 at 12:27

Well, there is simple realism.

Things happen in real life that are (or appear to us) unrelated to our current plight and random. You might be running to save your loved ones and get run over by a car because you didn't look. That will cut the "plot" short without resolution. Or you might catch a cold and have to lie in bed, instead of saving the world. That's real life.

In genre fiction, life is not real. Protagonists don't catch a cold or get run over by old ladies. But in literary fiction, protagonists don't fight antagonists so much as attempt to be successful at life in general. So they will have to deal with stuff unrelated to them or arbitrary. Because it is a measure of psychological functioning how you deal with the bus being late or your kids coming in when you try to make love.

So the question you have to ask yourself is: Are to telling a genre story that is more symbolic that realistic? Then nothing should happen in your story that is not caused by the antagoinistic forces that your protagonist is up against. Or are you telling a story about a person in this world and that your readers may learn something from? Then it will depend on the character of the protagonist and the message you want to make, how (s)he reacts to unplanned disruptions. And, in the latter case, it is not something that we can tell you how to do, but you'll have to make an artistic choice in accord with your vision.

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