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Body Trauma: A Writer's Guide to Wounds and Injuries (Howdunit Writing) Paperback – September, 1996

3.8 out of 5 stars 24 customer reviews

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Paperback, September, 1996
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

This reference book has much to offer many. Indispensable for the novelist, with gore-filled chapters and multiple car crashes spewing limbs and guts, Dr. David Page's opus will also be treasured by medical enthusiasts, hypochondriacs, and those who like lively bathroom reading. From trench foot to crunched legs, massive hemothorax to flail chests, Body Trauma is educational, comprehensive, and a jolly good time.


"A fascinating and most helpful reference for any writer of fiction or non-fiction" -- Suzanne Strempek Shea, author of Shelf Life

"A valuable resource for writers. I will certainly consult it the next time a physical mishap befalls one of my characters." -- David Anthony Durham, author of Pride of Carthage

"An authoritative guide that delivers diagnosis and plot ideas with a wry bookside manner." -- James Patrick Kelly, Hugo award-winning author of BURN.

"With this helpful guide Ahab's missing leg might have been labeled a traumatic amputation of the fibula and tibia." -- Michael White, author of The Blind Side of The Heart, A Brother's Blood, A Dream of Wolves, The Garden of Martyrs --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Series: Howdunit Writing
  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Writer's Digest Books; 1st edition (September 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0898797411
  • ISBN-13: 978-0898797411
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,208,067 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By M. S. Green on May 5, 2002
Format: Paperback
Amazing -- a book about traumatic injuries that neglects any discussion of shock. I've had to borrow my partner's anatomy & physiology text for that part. There's some good basic info here, but I'll need to look elsewhere (& you will too) for detailed information on the kinds of wounds a character might sustain in sword fights or the treatments your characters might receive before the advent of modern Western medical techniques. Better news if your story takes place in the contemporary urban industrial world, with a modern emergency room or trauma center. But when it comes down to it, for most situations, this book isn't going to replace every good writer's necessary tool: research, research, research.
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Format: Paperback
Like most of the "Howdunit" series, this is a useful volume that every aspiring mystery writer should own. It's full of helpful, often detailed descriptions of various types of wounds and injuries, how they're treated, and, if they're not immediately fatal, whether they could lead to death or long-term disability. The chapter on torso injuries was especially good: it's not intuitively obvious to a non-medical person (like me) what the consequences of a particular type of wound or blow would be, and this made it much clearer. I liked the author's use of quotations from mystery and adventure writers to illustrate his points. And, although the tone is fairly dry, I found this volume easier going than others in the series, mostly because he used comparisons effectively and included easy-to-understand graphics.
Some quibbles:
1. The book is very uneven. Some chapters are detailed and comprehensive, while I found others sketchy: for example, the description of types of gunshot wounds was a good general overview, but it didn't give enough specific information to answer the question I had. A chapter-by-chapter list of references, or suggestions for further reading, would have been useful too.
2. The author occasionally veers off into "Here's a nifty idea for your mystery novel." Some of them ARE indeed nifty ideas, but I'd never use them, because I'm sure the first person to read this book already has! I think the book would have been more useful to more writers if he'd just stuck to providing the facts.
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Format: Paperback
This book gives a good overview on how an author's character can be wounded, and the expected treatment (often simplified) and course of recovery.
If an author is looking for guidance on realistic hospital practice, dialog, medications, equipment, or lingo, the author better look elsewhere -- these items are either simplified or missing.
Equally missing is any mention of the role of non-MD caregivers in hospital care, in particular nurses. The reader of this book would come away with the impression that the only function of nurses in hospitals is to hand surgical instruments to the surgeon in the O.R. -- especially sad since this is supposed to be a guide to OTHER AUTHORS for them write realistic fiction. For example, when Doctor Page is discussing how suspected belly wounds are monitored during their hospital stay, he says, "The trauma surgeon will return to the bedside over and over to reevaluate the patient until he is certain no injury exists." Not hardly! In real life, it's the nurses who provide the hour-by-hour patient care and monitoring.
The prospective author who is interested in a realistic view of what goes on in an emergency room and other hospital settings would do well to read any book by Echo Heron, RN, including the factual Intensive Care, or Condition Critical, or Mercy (the latter is a medical novel).
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Format: Paperback
Anecdotes from this author's experience would be more valuable than general statements. What does the injured person feel--what has the doctor heard people say about their injuries? What could other characters see?

For example if a person is choked, what happens first? Skin colour? Do the veins pop? How long does it take to die of asphyxiation? Skin colour at death?

If a person has frost bite what does s/he feel? What does someone else observe? How do these symptoms change?

How long can a shipwrecked person float in the sea before dying?

The Glasgow Coma Scale can be used by any writer describing levels of unconsciousness.

The feelings and reactions of the characters are the stuff of fiction. This book read like a basic text for an emergency room physician. Fine if your character is a doctor. Not so good if your story takes place elsewhere.
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Format: Paperback
There is a lot of good information in this book, but there were several lacks that made it less useful than I would have liked. Number one, it's not that useful if you're writing period fiction. I understand if this was beyond the scope of the author's undertaking, but some historical information would've helped me a lot.
Worse yet, especially as the book goes on, sometimes it begins to seem conventional, or to describe common scenarios, where fiction is concerned with the uncommon. For example, at one point it says "It takes an impressive hit to break the flat part of the shoulder blade." Like what? A blow with a club from a particularly strong person? A gunshot? I don't know. Worse yet, I was considering a scenario in which a character suffered a hip fracture in a fall. If the book had a section about falls (it doesn't), my questions would probably be answered, but as it is, information on hip fractures is really only given for fractures in the elderly---the common scenario. Plus, most of the information on battery/domestic violence is probably already known to anyone who has taken an introductory psychology course in college.
Especially in the last chapters (domestic violence, torture, etc)., the book is pretty thick with "flavor text" that doesn't do a whole lot to impart the technical information I bought the book for. I would prefer the author had zapped all the Hemingway quotes if it would have let me have a section on falls and other massive impacts, or even just known what, if anything, could break the shoulder blade or hip of a young, healthy person.
This book has helped me at times. The chapters on head, chest, and abdominal injuries, and the one on temperature injuries are particularly good. I only wish it had been more dense with information and considered more of the unusual viewpoints common in fiction.
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