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I have been writing a story about a young pianist living with the great composers. After the composers have a meeting, it is decided that Mozart should be her first teacher. My main character's name by the way, is Lydia. Lydia and Mozart have lunch together and it turns for the worse for Mozart. He goes from his happy and humorous self, to being in a lot of pain and feeling nauseous. Lydia, understandably gets quite concerned about him and stays by his side. He ends up needing to go to the ER and needing an abdominal scan done. Before he leaves for the abdominal scan, a high fever shows up in his vitals.

I have noticed however, that I am not getting across pain well in my story. Here is an example of where I am trying to get across pain:

“Hello, I'm Doctor Sarah. You must be Leopold Mozart.”

“Indeed I am. I came here as soon as I could after my wife, Anna Maria Mozart told me that my son was sick and going to the ER.”

“And your son is the famous Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, am I correct on that?”

“Yes. And there he is on the bed, still in his red suit with golden lace on it. Anna Maria sewed that up for him.”

“Oh, don't remind me Leopold. It took a month just to make sure the pattern would fit my son. And the lace edges, boy was that demanding.”

“I'm glad you made it for me Mother. Ahh, the pain is worsening again.”

Doctor Sarah said “Now Wolfgang Amadeus, listen to me. I know you love your red suit and that everybody even outside of your city recognizes you in that suit. But, that suit is going to have to be taken off, lest you spoil your own suit.”

Ahh tends to be my go to dialogue word for the grunting, moaning, yelping, or screaming that pain causes. I'm thinking that a more effective way of getting across pain in that section of dialogue might be this:

“Hello, I'm Doctor Sarah. You must be Leopold Mozart.”

“Indeed I am. I came here as soon as I could after my wife, Anna Maria Mozart told me that my son was sick and going to the ER.”

“And your son is the famous Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, am I correct on that?”

“Yes. And there he is on the bed, still in his red suit with golden lace on it. Anna Maria sewed that up for him.”

“Oh, don't remind me Leopold. It took a month just to make sure the pattern would fit my son. And the lace edges, boy was that demanding.”

“I'm glad you made it for me Mother."

Before he could say another word, Mozart clutched his arm around his abdomen and curled up.

With a sudden release of the curl, Mozart raised his eyebrows, and yelped "The pain. It's worsening again Mother.” and clenched his teeth as he took in another deep breath.

Doctor Sarah said “Now Wolfgang Amadeus, listen to me. I know you love your red suit and that everybody even outside of your city recognizes you in that suit. But, that suit is going to have to be taken off, lest you spoil your own suit.”

But, in general, I tend to have a weakness getting across pain in my stories. And if anything, pain is the most important of emotions to get across in a story if a character feels it. You would think that, as a person who has experienced a lot of different pains, that I would be great at getting across pain in my stories, but nope, I'm not. And, when I am trying to get across severe pain, as is the case with the dialogue I showed, pain being a weakness is definitely not good.

How can I get across pain more effectively in my stories? The physical implications of pain such as curling up or raising your eyebrows help, but I don't want to bore the reader getting this pre and post dialogue description of pain whenever I am writing dialogue from a character that is in pain. At the same time though, just using "Ahh" before the actual sentence might undermine the pain or worse, confuse the reader and make the reader think that the character is calm when the character is anything but calm because of the pain. So, how can I get across pain more effectively in my stories?

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"he physical implications of pain such as curling up or raising your eyebrows help, but I don't want to bore the reader getting this pre and post dialogue description of pain whenever I am writing dialogue from a character that is in pain."

The description of pain (unless excessive or clumsy) will not bore, but rather create a sense of empathy.

If I may be so bold, the example of the dialogue given feels contrived and lacks emotion. Nobody worried by their son would say 'Ah and there he is in the suit his mother made for him'. He might have thought it, but... There's no emotion, no sense of worry. I'd suggest the father answering the doctor but not even looking at her, as he scans the room for his son and immediately spots the mum-made suit. His dialogue should be only about how he is, what the problem is, not naming his wife nor going over nostalgic memories of how fickle he was during the making of the suit. The doctor also seems to be treating him like a child who would see a separation from his favourite clothing as emotional pain being added to the physical one.

Back to the pain, make sure he shows physical sings of pain. Personally, I have no beef wiht 'Ahh' if he just shouted because of a sharp pang, but some readers/writers might prefer 'he shouted' or 'he yelped'. However, if he doesn't look pale and strained, clenched teeth or something to that effect, I, as a reader, will not be able to see, feel and empathise with any pain.

Likewise, show the parents acting worried. How would you talk if it were your son in hospital for unknown reasons? Would you even worry about what he's wearing before making sure the problem is being tackled? Wouldn't you want to rush to his side, or at least curb the wish to do so?

It feels as if Mozart is a little boy who prickled his finger, the way his parents are talking! Get emotion into their words and into their actions. I want to see them wringing their hands, feel how upset they are

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Perhaps the biggest indicator of pain is not the actions of the injured one, but of those who care about them. Make them somewhat frantic, visibly upset and even a little irrational.

Have them snap at the nurses/doctors, accusing them of not doing anything (then apologizing if it fits the character). Have them pacing the room, wringing their hands. Don't use extended dialog, use short, disjointed phrases, constantly interrupted by their worry.

The characters' calm, collected, nostalgic dialog minimizes the pain greatly, no matter how much writhing and moaning Mozart is doing. Given Mozart's propensity for drama and theatrics, this dichotomy might actually be quite appropriate, with Mozart on the bed, making a ruckess while his parents calmly dismiss his antics. This is kind of the vibe I'm getting, but I don't think it's what you are going for. Making things more tense and urgent should get you going in the right direction.

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