Hospitals are the pits – bad enough if you’re sitting by a loved one’s bedside for hours on end but even worse if you’re the victim wrapped up in starched sheets, the canula running from your arm and a catheter running from goodness knows where!
Earlier this month, I’d planned to do a speed writing weekend, rather like a delayed epilogue to Kate Eltham and the Queensland Writers Centre’s Down the Rabbit hole. I had three days to do nothing but write and I reckoned I could burn 20,000 words onto paper in that time. Easy… until my husband was rushed to hospital by ambulance.
Fortunately, his diagnosis was neither long-term nor threatening. Kidney stones are supposedly the closest a man ever gets to the pain of childbirth, but they are treatable. I spent the weekend by hubby’s bedside before and after he had an emergency operation. He returned for two more surgical stints to ensure all those noxious rocks finally met their match.
During my husband’s hospital stays, I didn’t get a lot of writing done, but we spent a lot of quality time together and I spent a lot of time reflecting about my characters, wondering how they’d react if they were forced to spend a night or two in a white walled room, sharp with antiseptic smells.
My Shahkara sees sickness very differently to most humans. After all, she gained Taloner healing abilities as a young teenager. From that time, she may have suffered pain, but her body had the natural ability to heal itself from most injuries.
At the start of my second novel, The Ghost She Killed, Shahkara has been turned human. She is no longer impervious to pain and her body cannot regenerate. She struggles to cultivate the patience to let her broken bones and bruised flesh heal naturally, believing that if she focuses on her next goal, she will heal faster.
But even in speculative fiction novels, we are not always superheroes. In fact, our favourite heroes and heroines have endearing and tenacious flaws. Shahkara’s Achilles’ heel, impatience, almost destroys her. Fortunately, more determined forces intervene, save her life and lead her on to greater challenges.
None of us know when we might have to fight against illness or other unexpected circumstances. An old Japanese saying once said, “Fall seven times, stand up eight.” A hero is forged by standing up after every time they fall. Sometimes, however, a real hero’s greatest gift is knowing when they must rest before they pull themselves back towards the quest. Maybe that’s a lesson that our heroes can teach our readers, as well.