The tickle of curiosity. The gasp of discovery. Fingers running across the keyboard.

The tickle of curiosity. The gasp of discovery. Fingers running across a keyboard

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Running for Her Life in the Rain: Information for Writers


മലയാളം: മഴയിൽ ജിദ്ദയിലെ റോഡിൽ വെള്ളം നിറഞ്ഞപ്പോൾ
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I have a scene coming up in a story I'm writing where the evil villain chases my beautiful heroine through the woods in a torrent. 

It always irritates me when I'm watching a movie, and the heroine is dressed in some gorgeous gown and high heels when she has to save her life - I mean really, can' t the bad guy ever come after her when she's in her hiking boots and pants?

Personally, I can barely make it from  my car to the restaurant without ripping my pantyhose - how can these ladies crawl through glass and still
keep everything intact? I want to know the brand
of stockings they buy.

My heroine will definitely not be dressed in her Greek-revival toga dress with strappy sandal stilettos because, let's face it, in reality - she's not getting very far that way. She will not be clean and beautiful when she's done saving her life. Yes, she will have ripped her stockings into shreds and no, it is definitely not attractive. 

Even dressed properly, if you're writing it right, she's in for the world of hurt.

To do research for my story, I just ran the Mudderella. Mudderella raises money to support initiatives to stop domestic abuse. It was a five-mile course with thirteen mud obstacles. I was dressed for it. I wore Spandex shorts, an exercise tank and light weight shoes built to let water pass through them. What I wasn't wearing was my glasses. I knew they'd go flying off right away. Not being able to see clearly can mess with your heroine - and we know that nothing should ever come easily for our heroines.

Now to be clear, I'm not writing this as a bitch session - I had an AWESOME time running Mudderella and CANNOT WAIT to do it again. I am merely posting my observations so that perhaps it can give texture to your plot line.

Some observations:
*Running in nature is nothing
  like running on a treadmill or 
  even running on pavement. It's
  a lot more work/fatiguing.

* Running along this
   fairly clean
   path, I constantly encountered
   brambles and roots. The
   thorny vines wrapped my
   ankles and tripped and cut me as I went.

* The uneven ground was taxing on my ankles and knees - so your
   heroine will feel those early on, after the adrenaline starts to
   abate, and she is hunkering down for the long haul to civilization
   and safety.

* If your heroine is going in the drink, let's hope she has on light
   weight shoes, or she may have to pull them off to stay up,
   especially if she's tired. Now she's running barefoot? Those rocks
   are going to bruise her feet quickly to the point that she can only
   hobble if she can stand up at all. Also, getting shoes to untie
   when they are wet (and mud-caked) is nearly impossible. She's 
   going to have to hope her feet haven't swollen from the run, 
   because she'll have to pull the shoes off still tied.

* She should try her best to keep the mud and dirt out of her eyes - 
   there's nothing clean to wash them with and a scratched cornea is
   bad news.

* While the water feels good on tired legs, it makes her shoes
   harder to run in, especially if she is developing blisters.

* I saw a lot of people wearing cotton shorts and a few of the guys
   were running in running shorts that came to their knees. These
   soaked up the water and flapped about their legs as they ran. At
   some point, if I were escaping, I would have just taken them off
   and run in my undies (keeping my pants or skirt with me around
   my neck - they may be useful later) but then you'd have to
   write in the trade off of more exposure to the environs, twigs, and
   sharp rocks etc. 

* While the water might be a great way to escape - floating on a
   current, not leaving a trail. Currents will also wear your heroine

* Once she's in the water, eventually she has to get back out.

* This was a very steep slope. It was clay, which is extremely
   slippery. There were no toe holds or hand holds. My teammates
   (you can see behind me) took a few tries to get up. I was clinging
   to the tiniest baby weeds trying for anything that would keep me
   from sliding back down. You can hear in this film people were
   growling - me included. The growling actually was very helpful.
   It worked a little like a martial arts k'ihap. It kept the power 

* This exercise was mainly about balance, weight distribution, and
   upper arm/back strength.

* If someone were close on my heels, this would be a very
   dangerous time. I would try to find a bank that had a friendlier
   exit, especially if it provided cover - but sometimes beggars can't
   be choosers and your heroine will have to make it up the slippery

* Is your heroine running with someone? This could be
   a hindrance, or it could be very helpful. It would help if the friend
   was in the same shape or better shape than your heroine or had 
   special skills. And was healthy and unhurt. It would help if the
   friend was positive and encouraging and going forward as a 
   team. Just having someone around who could catch the
   heroine if she were falling, or to help over the obstacles you're
   sure to throw in their way is morale boosting. 

   It would not help if any of these were reversed.

* The most effective way my team found to get out of the deep
   water onto dry land was for one person to link their fingers to
   make a stirrup and let someone step into the hand hold. Then they
   would do a squat thrust. Once one person is up, they can reach
   down for the second. Lifting in any other way was taxing and not
   as effective.

Things I learned in the mud
* Shoes will fill with tiny rock particles and clay. 
* The rocks and clay will take up quite a bit of space in the shoes
   and become very heavy.
* Cleaning this out is problematic because - the shoe laces won't 
   come undone. If she were washing them out, the heroine would
   be using the same water that made them that way in the first
   place, and she couldn't stop anyway - there's a villain on
   her heels!
* The rocks and mud will cause bruises, blisters, and tiny cuts in
    very weird places.
* All the cuts will be infected by the time she gets to a place where
   she can clean herself.
* Bruises will appear in random places on her body, and she will
   have no idea how they got there.
* She probably won't feel any of this until she gets to a place to

Thanks for stopping by!

Related articles


  1. Very nice, I do have a heroine running for her life in my current wip.

  2. Thanks for the information as I have a number of running scenes through a park, but aside from the fatigue I didn't have a scratch on them. Time to add some!

  3. Thanks for the cool little tidbit, brambles and roots lol

  4. Well done and I agree about writing realism!

  5. Bless you for that run. Since I can barely walk and hurt all over, I am making you my substitute runner. A week or so ago, my memory is also bad, I tried to walk down the block where I live and my shoe was hurting me and I sat down on a short wall. Well the wall was shorter than I thought and I could not get back up. I sat there for some time and a woman who was running came by and I asked her if she could give me a hand and she said that she was running and could not stop and just left me there. I sat there for about 30 minutes and finally pushed myself forward and was able to get up, thank goodness. I was afraid to try to do it earlier because I was on a busy street and I was afraid I would fall into it.

    1. I am so distressed to hear that that runner left you there! My goodness. I can't wrap my brain around that. I'm so glad you finally got up and made it home.


  6. I can't stand it when the women are in heels and either trying to be sneaky or run for their life. Only a few times have I seen it written in where the lady takes the heels off, or breaks off the heels... romancing the stone has a scene where he cuts off her heels so she can hike better... not great but better. Now for you... you knew what you were getting in for... so why didn't you have goggles to keep the mud and stuff out of your eyes. Yeah, they get muddy, but better to have it on the glasses than your eyes. Just once I'd like to see an experienced outdoors woman the the bad guy not knowing squat about the outdoors.

  7. Brava! Excellent example of really doing your research. The same principles apply to every story element. If you don't know what you are writing about, find out--or find somebody who does know. I pride myself in the technical accuracy of the action in my thrillers, so I even went through police training at one point. For what I don't know or can't experience myself, I draw on subject-matter experts who read and comment on drafts. --Larry Constantine (pen name, Lior Samson)