Something that often bothers me in books is unrealistic injuries. Authors can tend to overplay the effect of the injury, or underplay it. Both are equally annoying, coming from someone who’s broken three bones. Let’s remember the difference between what is possible, and what is realistic.
You don’t have to fall very far, or hard, to break something, and there are plenty of instances in books where characters jump from a third story window, roll, and get back up running. I’m sure this is possible, but a fall from that high can break bones. Is it possible to keep running with a broken arm? Yes (I broke both bones in my arm and ran several blocks back to the house. It’s totally possible.), but remember, as soon as that adrenaline wears out, not only are you tired, but your senses are somewhat down. You react to things slower than normal.
Your character might not have an adrenaline rush at all. People vary, so you’ve got some room to work with. When I broke my collar bone, it hurt like heck. I honestly don’t remember very much about it except the pain. There certainly wasn’t any adrenaline rush to numb the pain there. What’s the psychological damage of it all? A broken arm or leg can look pretty strange, and/or gruesome. Maybe your character doesn’t handle blood well.
It is entirely possible to not realize you’re hurt until after things have calmed down. For instance, if the character broke a bone in their hand, they might not realize until after everything’s happened, but don’t downplay the broken hand once it’s been recognized. That’s going to hurt, and they’re going to need to be treated.
Consider how long it takes them to get treated. If a bone is left broken for too long, it has to be re broken so it can be set properly. Also, don’t forget other, smaller injuries. Let’s go back to the window example. Even if all the character has broken is an arm, they are going to be pretty banged up otherwise. When I broke my arm, I didn’t even notice the huge gash in my knee until I get to the hospital and the doctors pointed it out. I didn’t feel it at all, because I was so focused on my irregularly shaped arm.
Head injuries get downplayed a lot. They’re serious, and shouldn’t be taken lightly. Head injuries can be fatal. If someone is knocked out for more than a few seconds, something serious is going on.
Even bruises can hurt for a while. Don’t forget that you don’t have to get in a fight to hurt – practicing sports can leave aches and pains as you use normally unused muscles. Often in books someone gets in a fight, and the author describes the vast bruises and aches they have, then promptly forgets about them in the next few days.This always really bothers me. If several large events happen one after another, this is going to affect the character’s physical and mental strength.
Different fractures heal and are treated differently. Is it going to be a full length cast or just a half one? Even after a cast gets taken off, many people wear a brace. Collar bones are different. There isn’t much you can do but wait, or wear a sling. (I hate slings – I think they’re really constricting.) Broken bones can take up to ten weeks to heal, and the younger you are, most likely the faster that will happen. When I broke my arm, I went through two different casts and a brace, and my arm was still really weak for a while afterwards. If your character breaks their leg, they’re likely going to have a limp.
Make sure you don’t downplay all of this, but don’t overplay it either. After a week or two, it will likely stop hurting, and you can get up and do things, though not to the extent you could before. A broken arm is not going to leave a person bedridden for a week.
Other unrealistic injuries that bother me a lot are sword/arrow injuries. An arrow to your arm is going to hurt, but unless it’s poisoned, one arrow probably isn’t enough to kill you. What will kill you is loss of blood. The more you move, the more blood you are going to lose. Removing the arrow can be a bad idea, since it might have been staunching the blood flow. Simple nicks from swords can cause a lot of blood loss too. Character’s can pass out seeing the blood, or feeling faint from loss of blood. You don’t have to cut off someone’s hand.
Lastly, consider the reason your character got hurt. Maybe they got caught up in something and it couldn’t be help. Maybe they got seriously hurt and needed a break from the action in the story. Attitudes affect You can learn a lot about someone by how they react when injured, or how they react to help injured friends/enemies.