Body Trauma
David W. Page, MD
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Buy *Body Trauma: A Writer's Guide to Wounds & Injuries* by David W. Page, MD online

Body Trauma: A Writer's Guide to Wounds & Injuries
David W. Page, MD
Behler Publications
240 pages
February 2007
rated 4 1/2 of 5 possible stars
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One of the most necessary tools in a writer's belt is conflict. There has to be something going on in a story or the reader will get bored and put the book down. Often, of necessity, this conflict is physical in some way. Other times, something physical unintentionally happens, such as a character falling from a cliff. When that happens, the writer needs to know what's really going on or the scene won't seem to have any basis in reality whatsoever.

Hence, Dr. David W. Page's Body Trauma: A Writer's Guide to Wounds & Injuries. This book goes into great detail about all sorts of ways that a body can get mangled, or just a little banged up. From contusions to amputations, a cut to sexual assault, this book has it all. This book is part of the "Get it Write" series of handbooks for writers, and it's pretty good. It not only covers the injuries themselves but what medical professionals have to do to fix things up as well. It's an interesting primer even for the non-writer to get some basic idea of just what a doctor does when an arm is hanging by a thread (to name one example). Even so, it probably won't be that interesting to non-writers, and even writers must want to do something damaging to their characters to get much out of the book.

The book is arranged helpfully, with the first chapter covering terminology for those who don't understand a word of medical science. Page also lays out the concepts of trauma and trauma care, including examples of forms that need to be filled out and procedures for transferring patients from a lesser-equipped trauma center to a better one. The second chapter has to do with the modern trauma center and how it's laid out, so a writer can make accurate descriptions that bring the reader along for the ride.

Beginning with these chapters and sprinkled periodically throughout the book, Page provides possible story hooks in each chapter. This kind of detail can be very valuable to the first-time writer who wants to set his/her story in a modern-day medical area. It's not quite as useful to those of us who might want to write a fantasy story and just want to know what exactly will happen when that sword cuts into that arm. That, however, changes slightly with the following chapters.

Page describes various types of trauma and wounds, from bullet wounds to having your arm smashed with a blunt object, from head trauma to a broken toe. These chapters not only deal with the wounds themselves (useful to us fantasy writers) but also how they're cared for and fixed (not quite as useful). Page talks about the decisions doctors and surgeons have to make when there are multiple injuries, often giving more story hooks as he goes along. While the book is quite technical, Page never seems to lose sight of the fact that he's producing a book on writing, and he'll often take a moment to talk about how a writer can fit what he's just said into a story. Thatís appreciated, especially when the text starts to become otherwise a little dry.

There is also some wonderful advice contained throughout Body Trauma. One of the most basic suggestions is that you don't need to include everything Page tells you in your story. This just bogs the reader down in unnecessary (and boring) description. Instead, you should have all of this in the back of your mind and use your descriptive talents to give the correct impression to the reader, and he gives several useful examples. There are plenty of diagrams to help you through this, especially things like how different kinds of bullets cause different kinds of wounds. With these pictures in your mind, you should be able to describe a scene quite thoroughly without boring your readers to tears.

The book ends on a bit of a sour note (not counting the textual example illustrating the use of the information he's provided in this book, which is actually quite well done). The chapter on organ donation, while still containing some good information for the writer who wants to include organ donation in the story, sounds much more like advocacy than any of the previous chapters - like he's extolling the virtues of organ donation and the need for it in our society where not enough organs are available for transplant, rather than just giving good information. It's a subtle difference, and I am in no way disputing the need for it. It just seems out of place given the relatively neutral tone (with a couple of exceptions) in the rest of the book.

So go out there and torture your characters (yes, there is actually a chapter on torture). This book will show you how, and show you how to make it - and the clean-up - realistic. It contains valuable information even for those who are not writing modern medical thrillers, though obviously those writers will get the most out of Body Trauma. For the rest of us, using it to look up how to describe the internal injuries of a dagger to the gut will have to suffice.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at © Dave Roy, 2007

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