Just a scene I pictured- (Character receives a syringe in the chest but doesn't feel the after pain until a moment later) Ex:

Johnny begins to feel a burning like sensation in his chest that's more painful than a gunshot. It forces him to fall down on the ground and hit his head, bear in mind Johnny's like 6'1. Then the pain travels up to his brain and causes him to scream in pain. Shortly after he blacks out

I'm having trouble describing this in first person present because it's kind of difficult for me to describe pain in a story in this way.

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    Is transitioning directly to first person not working for you? "I begin to feel a burning in my chest that's more painful than..." – Ken Mohnkern Mar 26 '19 at 20:18
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    Note: I VTC because this question is a duplicate. While the other question asked about "dialogue" and this one asks about "first person present tense" both questions are about describing pain and will have pretty much identical answers. – Cyn says make Monica whole Mar 27 '19 at 1:27
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    While the two questions are definitely related, I wouldn't say they're identical. @York, you can always decide for yourself that yes, the other question gives you everything you need, or edit your question to explain why no, the other question doesn't provide the answers you're looking for. It's always good form to show you're aware of other related questions on the site - shows you've done your research, and makes your question more specific. – Galastel supports GoFundMonica Mar 27 '19 at 2:14

One problem is that you are outside of the character describing what is happening. I have been rather rough on my characters (shot, stabbed, tortured, etc) and I try to crawl inside that character for a moment and be him/her.

Pain is not felt immediately. It can also build in intensity.

Ask yourself who is Johnny? How will he respond to the stimulus you have chosen?

How intense is the pain? What duration?

Imagine that you are Johnny - feeling the sudden sharp pain, not quite understanding it.

Since he is standing when he receives the injection, I don’t think it is an epinephrine shot.

Like you, I prefer third person narrators. In my piece, my secondary protagonist takes a bullet for her mentor and I have her feeling as though a tsunami just hit her. Her pain comes in waves, exacerbated by any movement.

The last time you were injured, how would you describe that pain?

Johnny staggered back, the sharp blow to his chest more devastating than he thought. It hurt to breathe now, and his 6’1 frame had crumpled under this sudden blow. His hand strayed to his chest, clutching at the syringe. He could feel no blood - thought he’d been shot. He hated needles, always would. His breathing sharp, ragged and shallow, he glanced at his assailant, who was counting. Seven, six - what? Three, two the world faded and he fell, striking his head on the pavement.

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There are two issues at play:

  1. First person present tense (FP-PT) is a very particular combination. A lot of the descriptions found with third person narrators, or with past tenses, would feel gimmicky with your choice. In my opinion this type of narration is a great mask for a stream of consciousness, perhaps polished and a bit more streamlined. In this question, the OP has also the goal to provide a linear narrative. This means giving the reader an account of facts as they happen, or at least a key to be aware of such events.

  2. Pain is likely to be one of the most subjective experiences. When it comes to pain, be it physical, as in this case, or emotional, I'd not dwell as much on the description of it, as one may give it to a physician. That would sound unnatural, and I can hardly imagine a person under excruciating pain thinking about describing pain to themselves.

That being said, you can focus on the subjective experience:

  1. denial. Refusing the possibility of pain. Revolting against feeling it. This builds up the tension, and prepares the reader to feeling the pain.

While the world takes a slanted angle, and the ground comes to me, I cannot but wonder: could the syringe still be there? I have been holding my breath for an eternity now, and I cannot feel a sign of it. Not even the stinging of the puncture. Not even the awkward dangling on my chest. There is just nothing. Where is the burning? The pressure? The bouncing? I can't even feel the weight of it, and I know it is there, attached to my chest like a flea.

  1. anger. This just happens: bump a toe against a piece of furniture, and a random choice of swearwords may flow, uncontrolled. It is a short burst in reaction to the waves of pain. My advice: keep it short.

It is a cursed snail of magma that eats my lungs. Out of me, damned beast!

  1. bargaining. This is probably the longer part. MC will try to find a way to make the pain stop. Depending on the amount of pain, it can be rather desperate. This time, I'd also add some flashes of the increasing (or decreasing pain).

Breathe! It burns. Breathe again. If I breathe deeply, will the pain go? It still burns. I know I should lick it. I should lick my finger and touch the hole. Dare I? Dare I feel the blood coming out of it? It is consuming me like fire! I should lick my hand, yes, if only I could spit on the flames to quench them. With all this shaking, will I not miss it? Perhaps. Perhaps don't think of it. I think of the sea. The calming waves. Waves of water, to quench the burning. Cold water to soften the thorns inside my neck. But all that it there is just the accursed blazing scorching fire of the sun! And the night, dark like the wet tarmac under my face, in which I faint.

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