I am going over my writing and found that all of my scenes where my main character is in physical pain are dull. There is one scene in particular, when she drinks a power-awakening potion. It's supposed to be super draining and it makes her pass out, but in the space where she is conscious, there isn't enough "oomph" in the text.

I didn't feel anything at first, so I thought Uncle's research was wrong. Then I felt a tingling in the back of my throat. It grew into a tingling down mt whole spine, and I felt like my body was on fire. I must've screamed, because this...this was pain. Pure raw pain.

Consuming me. Overtaking me. I felt my head rush, and faintly heard someone call my name.

But I couldn't do anything. I curled up into a safe space in my mind, where it was comfortable and cold. Here was safe. I could be here. it was safe here.

It was safe here.

It was safe here.

it was safe here.

As you can see, it's a little flat. I'm not sure what to do, but I know it needs to be more powerful when she hides in her mind (passing out) and when the pain is consuming her.

P.S. I'm a new member here, so if this specific question isn't one that the Stack Writing platform usually handles, please let me know and I'll take it down and put this out on another website. :)

  • Call me quirky, but I'd avoid using the WORD pain in a description of pain.
    – DWKraus
    Sep 12, 2020 at 13:54

2 Answers 2


Wonderful text. I must remark that even without the "oomph" it's well written. Good job.

The way I revise is to read through the text and mark spots where my mind halted and made me rethink the sentence.


"I didn't feel anything at first."

Instead of feeling nothing, I think we always feel something. Take yourself as an example. When you are standing at the bus stop and feel "nothing". What do you actually feel? I know I feel uncomfortable standing, or I get an itch at my back or anything else that pulls at my attention. There is always something we feel. It might just be small enough to get unnoticed in usual day to day life. So instead of saying she doesn't feel anything at first, try to focus on what she is feeling right now. Maybe it's the after taste of the potion, or the way that the bottle feels in her hand, it can be the sound coming from outside that pulls at her senses. Anything and everything she feels. It's also to build a tempo towards the pain.


"...because this...this was pain. Pure raw pain."

Nice of you to tell us this, but what is this pure raw pain. You could argue it's for a reader to interpret what it actually feels like, but why waste an opportunity. Instead, give us the pain, tell us how she howls and thrashes on the floor, how her uncle's hands hold her down to the floor, how her head smashes against the cold stone. What else is she sensing, can she taste blood in her mouth? Did she bit her tounge while thrashing around? Make us, readers, never want to taste this potion she drank.


"But I couldn't do anything. I curled up into a safe space in my mind, where it was comfortable and cold. Here was safe. I could be here. it was safe here."

I had difficulties getting the picture you wanted to paint here. You said she passes out, and even though I can see it, if not for an explanation I would have had a halt moment where I had to read the sentence again. Again focus on her senses. Her vision could be darkening, she could be feeling the cold of the floor beneath her, make her shiver because of it, despite the flush of heat from the potion. One thing you already mentioned is her faintly hearing someone call her name. That's great. Just give us more of it.

Another thing is the "I was safe, I was safe, I was safe." Feels like she is still present while saying those things. It makes it seem like the pain passed and she is passing out because of an exhaustion. Instead, I think the cut needs to be instant, the pain pushed her over the edge and she feels nothing, can see nothing, hears nothing.

Reading the text once more I think you just need more showing less telling. When I began writing an answer I also thought you could improve the tempo, but it's fine.

Upon reading the answer from 21st-century writer I can see the sentences are a bit short at moments when extending the pain and the things she feels would have made the tempo better.


Your extract is a good attempt - you use a simile ("felt like my body was on fire"), and you give a general sense of how the character is feeling. Go further!

If it's pure agony, let the reader feel every inch of skin, every internal organ. You've used the word "raw"', which is an evocative word. Use more! Searing. Writhing. Wrenching. Use more imagery, like your "fire" simile. Add more specific details until we can almost feel the pain ourselves.

There are two other issues making this extract feel a little flat...

  1. You use the phrase "I felt" a few times. This means that you're telling the reader how the character feels rather than showing, and this robs the extract of power. As a challenge, try to write about the feelings without saying "I felt". Instead, start sentences with phrases such as, "The searing screamed through my veins like..." You might be surprised what a difference it makes.

  2. Your sentences are very short - which can be great for this kind of scene - but too many consecutive short sentences can leave the scene feeling monotonous. Read it aloud. You might notice how each sentence starts and abruptly stops. That's not how pain feels, is it? Pain grinds on and on, making us wish it would stop. Try a long sentence that meanders and pounds away, making the reader feel eager to finish it.

Depending on the story and genre, another element you may want to add is emotion. Agony can often evoke memories and regrets, creating a whole new dimension to the scene and expanding your character.

And don't forget to re-read your favourite books, finding the scenes where a character is in intense pain. You might take some inspiration.

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