The premise of my scene is basically that MC is electrocuted by scientists trying to trigger some sort of power in him. I've been writing his view (3rd person) the whole time before, alas I'm only describing things he notices.

And there's the part I'm not sure about. He wakes up by being electrocuted and basically can't think through the pain, so everything I write will be the thoughts he has that slip through his hands like sand.

Can I write it like that or should I change the view? I don't want it to be graphic, but I do want the reader to feel sympathy.

(I haven't written the scene out yet, but it will be something along the line of 'Pain was the only thing he could notice as he woke up. Was he even really awake? It didn't quite feel like anything outside the pain existed. He was distantly aware that he was being electrocuted, but couldn't find out how he knew. He couldn't quite dwell on it too.')

  • Are you wondering if you should switch to writing in the first person point of view?
    – Grace
    Nov 4, 2019 at 4:16
  • How is the rest of your work written?
    – Andrey
    Nov 5, 2019 at 16:40
  • @Grace, I was wondering whether I should move the point of view away from my character to capture more details, first person would probably be even less detailed, I think
    – Mina
    Nov 6, 2019 at 8:30
  • @Andrey My work is written in 3rd person with the narrator only describing what the character in question feels, thinks or notices (he was running. Maybe, if he just ran quick enough he wouldn't be too late. But nobody was there as he arrived. The Park was empty.) Or sometimes what a friend thinks (MC sat down calmly and started with the exercises. His friend was watching him warily. He was being too calm and that was something that threw [Friend] off. There was no way this was normal.)
    – Mina
    Nov 6, 2019 at 8:34

2 Answers 2


In 3rd person limited, which you are writing it, it is perfectly valid to describe what somebody is feeling, like panic, or horror, or anger, or whatever. That includes pain. It seems like you feel restricted to describing actual thoughts and what he knows; but being tortured is not an intellectual exercise, it is a visceral exercise of enduring searing pain, fear and panic without a word being thought.

Imagine you slip on grease spilled on a kitchen floor, and in your instinctive attempt to catch yourself you slap your hand on the stove, and squarely on red hot burner. No words will go through your mind in that moment, nothing but pain and animal reaction will ensue, as you withdraw your hand, lose the balance you had, and fall to the floor. There are not words in your mind when you are screaming in pain.

Every reader knows this, has had some similar experience, and part of writing is to relate this pain to something they can sympathize with, times of pain or grief or terror without word or thought but aware of what is happening.

That is what is called for, here. Describe his feelings, without his thoughts.


I would advise a dream like haze of blending reality. Dreams can be influenced by real world stimuli (I once had a dream that I was with Scooby-Doo and the gang and we were trying to solve a mystery that included an odd sound no one could find a source for. When I woke up, it turned out that it was my parent's alarm clock). A much odder phenomena is "sleep paralysis" where a person wakes up before a dream ends. Basically, the dreamer wakes but finds they are unable to move their body and there is an unusual presence in the room (often described as either a moving shadow or a goblin, witch, demon, or grey alien. The nature of the presence is different given the culture of the victim, but there are a whole host of myths throughout the world of folk monsters or entities associated with an inability to move. Europe favored demons, goblins, or witches. Japan has a tapir like creature associated with the phenomena (it looks vaguely like the Pokemon Drowsey. Notably the Japanese myth predates the discovery of the Tapir in South America).

Basically, what's going on in sleep paralysis is that for one reason or another, a person wakes up in a way that doesn't terminate REM Sleep, the phase of the sleep cycle where we dream. During this period, the brain stops the body from recieving signals for voluntary motion, to prevent your dream running you into a rock or off a cliff. This is a safety feature, not a bug, of REM sleep. When you wake without exiting REM properly, it will fail to stop you from dreaming and basically overlay perceptions in your dreams with your perception of reality.

In effect, this acts sort of like how the dream thieves in "Inception" work: The setting in your dream is created separately and you populate the dream with it's characters. Since being suddenly awakened is normally due to some external problem pulling you awake, your mind instantly starts searching your room for the source of your sudden alertness... and since at this point, you're in a lucid dream, you create your own nightmare, and it's composited onto your own sensory stimuli. It's like putting a CGI character in an otherwise practical effects only scene. It's a real picture, but it's painted over to look like the fictional element is real too.

It's entirely possible that the victim in your story is responding to both external pain stimuli and "sleep paralysis" so that the it's difficult to tell if it's real or fake. I'd highly recommend watching the Star Trek: TNG episodes "Chain of Command, part 1 and 2" which include a rather realistic depiction of a torture victim's reaction through the process. While the depiction is mostly contained in the second part, the two episodes combined are required to understand the story. Another TNG episode, "The Minds Eye" features another character's torture using electric stimuli that could be used to force a blind character to "see" whatever the torturer wanted him too, and more importantly force him to look at it (as the "images" were bypassing the optic nerves and being beamed directly into the brain for processing") and the effects of false images like dreams to effect the character's reasoning.

Both episodes do end with the tortured character reflecting on the fact that they were convinced certain falsehoods were indeed true.

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