Posted by: Kerry Gans | January 24, 2013

Sickness as a Stakes-Raiser

Usually I don’t have too much trouble coming up with blog posts, but this week was hard. Why? Because I’ve been sick all week and my head is as fuzzy as a Muppet (can you tell I have a toddler?). Feverish, sinus pressure, cold-then-hot-then-cold, runny nose, cough. Unpleasant, but not fatal in the course of my normal life. It’s just a cold.

But suppose you felt that way when your life WAS on the line?

A plain old cold can be fatal if it stops you from performing at your best in a life-or-death situation. And I got to thinking that I don’t see illness (other than fatal illnesses like cancer) in books too often. So maybe sometime I will see what happens if my character catches a cold at the wrong time.

You all know how you feel. Weak. Exhausted. Shivery. You can’t breathe properly. You can’t sleep. You can’t hear very well because your ears are plugged. You can’t think because the mucus is clogging your brain. Sometimes your eyes are sensitive to light.

Any one of those things can be a problem if you are facing a villain, but all of them together is formidable. I’ve seen plenty of books where INJURY gives the main character issues, but not illness.

So next time I need to raise the stakes, maybe I’ll just have someone get a cold.

How about you? Can you think of any books where a minor illness at the wrong time played a major role in upping the stakes for the main character?

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