Red Lettering

Stories will not be written easily. A story without a heart is dead, and the only place it will get a heart is from the author.

Hold that Miraculous Healing, Please!

Hold that Miraculous Healing, Please!

“Please, Neil!” I sobbed, pushing the bandage harder against the wound. Regardless of the pressure, the bleeding didn’t stop. His body convulsed with his uneven breaths. His face glimmered with sweat. 

Blood mingled with my tears as they fell upon the cobblestones. “Please, don’t… don’t die,” I forced out through tremulous lips. 

The wound didn’t listen, the dying didn’t stop, and I knew – this was the end.

Then, all of a sudden! No worries, someone random steps out from behind a bush and magically heals Neil. Everything’s fixed, Neil can still save the day, and all you readers who were worried about poor Neil — you don’t feel cheated at all, do you?

Putting conflict in our stories requires things to be hard for our characters. Sometimes, we take that to an extreme level before realizing that, since we’ve done our research on injuries, we can’t get away with having the characters heal rapidly.

Ah, we awkwardly say, he still needs to save the world…

The easiest solution springs into our minds: we can just miraculously heal the characters! Problem solved!

After the characters have been magically healed with no troublesome after-affects, they go quickly back to living their life. Everything is fine.

Except… maybe it’s not.

Your reader had clutched the book in their hands, their grip tightening as the tension rose. How would Neil get out of this? “What if… What if he doesn’t?”

Your readers were expecting a dramatic rescue (or a tragedy). They certainly wasn’t expecting a sudden and anti-climatic departure of the drama.

Suddenly, with Neil okay and charging off to defeat the bad guys, your reader slowly backs up.  Their grip on the book loosens as their eyes remain wide.

While certainly it wasn’t your intent, you just cheated your reader. The emotions you brought up, the suspense you formed, the desperate, “No, Neil, don’t die!” running through their brain just disappeared in a whiff of smoke. The emotions were forced and – apparently – worthless.

Even if your reader doesn’t care about dear, dear Neil, you would have shocked them from the story and left them feeling bewildered.

Furthermore, even if your reader isn’t the bewildered type, you just sacrificed the drama of the long nights of your heroine sitting by Neil’s bedside as he hovers between life and death. You’ve lost the possible growth and character arc caused by the near-death experience. You no longer have the ability to have Neil continually suffer from the half-healed wound as he dramatically waves his sword around.

Miraculous healings can be done well (though I can’t at the moment think of a time I’ve seen it). If the healing takes away the mortality of the wound, but leaves the pain, you would have an added layer of tension and emotion. If miraculous healing requires the death of another character, you’ve kept up the tension and have more potential in your story.

Perhaps once, these sudden healings were original, but now, they reek of overuse. While your books is yours to decide about, always think twice about miraculous healings. Always ask yourself: is what you gain worth what you lose?

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15 thoughts on “Hold that Miraculous Healing, Please!

  1. And let’s not forget Miraculous Healing’s twin brother–Inexplicably Pops Up Later. 😉

  2. BeeTheOne on said:

    Wonderful article, as usual. I’ve always thought about this but was never able to put it into words. Nice job!

  3. Wonderful! One of my characters has healing powers, but she has limits to how much she can heal, and the longer after the person is wounded, the less healed the wound will be.

  4. Good post. This is one of the things I really dislike in TV shows, which is the place I’ve seen it the most. (One TV show even brings back minor villains without much explanation to how they survived an arrow shot in their eye.) The brought back from the dead is an even bigger problem than healing someone who is badly injured. If too many people come back from the dead, the readers won’t morn death since they know that person’s coming back.
    For those who do need to pull this trick of convincing people someone’s going to die, my first advice is to only do it once, if you must do it at all. More than once and the audience will expect everyone to survive.
    Secondly, if you have to use this healing a lot, give it enough rules the reader knows if someone has been killed off for real or that they’re going to be. This way, they can mourn a death.
    If you’re writing a prequel, you can stretch things farther with characters who were in the sequel. I’ve seen this done with The Clone Wars. In there, a few characters appear to be dead, but anyone who saw the movies know they’re alive because they were in the next movie. In this case, the reader will just be wondering, “How are they going to survive?” (I did hear TCW traumatized some children who had not seen the movies and didn’t know the characters would make it. Then again, that series could about traumatize me with the death rate.)

    • I don’t watch a whole lot of television shows (and the ones I do watch come highly recommended, so I tend to avoid the badly done ones).

      That’s true. There is one author who I don’t ever believe the character is actually dead… He’s brought back so many of his “dead” characters, I no longer even blink as I say, “Yep, they’ll be back.” Unless you’re going for the in-story miraculous healing (such as you see in the Bible), I prefer if it doesn’t happen in the books I read.

      That is true, but you always have to keep in mind that some people won’t know your series when they pick up the prequel. Thanks for commenting! 🙂

  5. Although in real life miraculous healings are awesome, you are right- I feel somewhat cheated when I see them in books.
    That’s why I enjoy Jordyn Redwood’s medical blog. It lets me know how much a character can handle.

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