Bookish Musings: 3 Things Every Character Inexplicably Knows How to Do (But I Don’t)


There are certain things that seem to pop up in so many books, and even movies and TV shows, and every time they do, I find myself wondering, well, 1) why they pop up so often, but mostly 2) how the characters know how to do these things in the first place.

So I decided it’s high time I took to the internet and find out whether it’s just me who lacks the worldly experience and unflinching toughness required for the things I’ll be mentioning in this post, or whether the characters just had really strange childhoods 😉

3 Things Every Character Inexplicably Knows How to Do (But I Don’t):


1. Fix Dislocated Shoulders

I’ve seriously lost count of how many books I’ve read in which a character dislocated his shoulder and then just popped it back into place themselves or told someone exactly what to do. But how do they even know how to do that? Do YOU know how to fix a dislocated shoulder? Because I sure as hell don’t. With my luck, I’d just pop it into a different wrong place, which is precisely why I wouldn’t even try. I know it’s possible and there are people who have done it, but those are people who’ve had it happen before and know that it’s likely to happen again. I can’t imagine all these characters have a history of dislocating their shoulders, and it doesn’t seem like the kind of thing most people just decide to learn for fun in their spare time. Yet every character ever just seems to pop their own shoulders back into place like they’ve been doin’ it all their lives.

2. Remove Bullets from Gunshot Wounds

Ok maybe removing a bullet doesn’t take all that much know-how if you’re in a desperate situation and the bullet isn’t somewhere that you’re at risk of hitting a major artery or something, but the mental aspect alone would make that a difficult task that not every person would be capable of doing. And I won’t go into any details here because blegh *shudders*, but I imagine it’s probably not that easy to physically do either without any sort of medical instruments. Plus there is always that possibility that you would make things worse if you didn’t know what you were doing.

3. Knock People Out

I have already waxed poetic (ok, ranted might be a more apt description) about my dislike of characters constantly passing out or getting knocked out as a plot device and then waking up later feeling completely fine, but everyone knows how to pass out since that is rather involuntary, so that’s really not the discussion here. No, I’m talking about all those times when characters need to escape, especially those times when someone is helping them escape but has to make it look real so they don’t get in trouble, and then one of the characters hits them on the head in some “safe” way so that they pass out but aren’t seriously harmed. Ummm, what? I’m like 99% sure there is no “safe” way to physically knock someone out with a blow to the head. And if by some chance there is, it would take quite a bit of training to master. Even knocking someone out in a non-safe way cannot be as easy and common as books make it seem and probably also takes quite a bit of training or copious amounts of luck to hit the right spot. I’m totally including this link as proof: Is it really as easy to knock someone out in real life as in the movies?


Talk to me!

Have you noticed characters doing these three things in a lot of books?
Do you know how to do any of these? Is it just me who is unknowledgeable and inexperienced???


Your Thoughts


36 thoughts on “Bookish Musings: 3 Things Every Character Inexplicably Knows How to Do (But I Don’t)

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  1. Kazza

    I’m pretty certain I know how to do a sum total of zero of the above mentioned things. Not even badly. Watching MacGyver may have helped, but I doubt it 🙂

    Concussion is a serious thing and punching someone’s lights out enough to cause passing out, therefore some kind of concussion, would take a lot of technique and strength… I think. I’m tall and pretty strong but I don’t see myself doing it. Nope.

    My son’s shoulder was dislocated thanks to gymnastics, one of the things I see you love, so does he, and I was not there putting it back in place. He actually shattered his elbow and broke his arm too, I was no good to him. Nope. No action from me except to take him to emergency. BUT he remembers it was the first time I swore around him. Hmmm, apparently I was good at that. I’ve now come to the conclusion that if something happens to someone around me I’ll be less than useless, except I will suddenly swear very loudly. Gee, thanks for making me think about it, Kristen *grumble-grumble snort*

    I remember the basics of a news story once about a woman who was in Antarctica for research, and therefore isolated, who developed breast cancer – she was a doctor so she operated on herself, talk about gutsy. No one was able to get in. for a while.. Eventually she was picked up, after months, and had formal surgery. That’s the kind of person you need to be and have around you when it hits the fan. Just wow!. Me thinks real life is more in your face and complex than fiction could ever be.

    Love the post, Kristen..

    1. Kristen Burns

      Don’t worry, I can’t do any of them either, haha.

      Exactly! I feel like even if I swung a board of wood at someone’s head it probably wouldn’t be enough to knock them out lol. I seriously don’t think it’s as easy as books make it seem.

      Ok, yikes! What level was your son? Those are some serious injuries! I used to do gymnastics but luckily no dislocated shoulders or shattered elbows for me. But you know, sometimes you just need a good swear word, haha, so maybe you’re not *entirely* useless 😉

      I remember a news story about some guy who cut off his own arm once when he got stuck rock climbing alone or something like that. I would die. I would just die because I can’t see myself ever being able to do something like that. I guess me and you just don’t have what it takes like these other people do lol.


  2. Wendy

    I was complaining about #3 exactly when my husband and I were watching NIkita last night. One blow to the head, someone drops to the ground. Unconscious, but not dead. How likely is that, really?

  3. sjhigbee

    I’ve been around people who’ve had blows to the head and have been concussed – without losing consciousness and frankly, they’re good for nothing. They talk rubbish or sit quietly staring into space. Often with severe headaches and if they try to do anything more energetic than slowly shamble across the room, they’re physically sick. I hasten to add, this is AFTER they’ve been seen by a doctor and told to go home and take it easy… So the notion of coming around, rubbing your head ruefully then rushing off to hurl yourself back into the adventure is a non-starter, as far as I’m concerned.

  4. Emily

    I’ve noticed the knocking out thing in many action books! When you’re a small person up against a big burly villain, it should not be that easy to knock someone out! Maybe the heat of the moment makes them stronger?

    1. Kristen Burns

      I feel like it’s probably not easy for anyone to knock anyone out, unless maybe they’re like super crazy strong. But even then, it’s still probably not that easy! I’m sure their adrenaline probably does give them extra strength, but it still seems unrealistic to me.

  5. Lola

    Yes these things seems to happen way too often. Also I think I read somewhere (probably also in a book, lol) that sometimes it’s better to leave a weapon inside a wound as it will bleed more when you remove it. Not sure if it’s true and if it also works for bullets, but leaving it in and going to someone who knows how to remove it still sounds a lot more realistic.
    And yes getting knocked out sure seems common and books and movies make it seem like this is way too easily and I also wondered if there really is a way to knock people out without risk. I mean it sounds pretty risky to me. Although I can imagine that if you have trained in this it might be doable, but not all characters have actually had training on the subject.

    And I wouldn’t dare try and fix a dislocated shoulder, I am pretty sure it’s not as easy as books make it seem. My sister has dislocated her should when she was little and my mom took her to the hospital to get it fixed.

    I do think that there are lots of small things like these that happen often in books and aren’t that easy or common in real life. And if you start noticing it, it just feel unrealistic every time it happens.

    1. Kristen Burns

      I think it is better to leave something like a knife inside the wound, but I don’t know if the same goes for bullets? And maybe it depends on where exactly the bullet is, if it’s near certain arteries or something. All I know is that characters in books always seem to think bullets need to come out ASAP, so maybe it’s the opposite for bullets, but I’m really no expert on this topic lol. Then again, most of the books I read are about supernatural creatures, and if it’s a silver bullet or something, or their body is healing really quickly and going to close over the wound, it makes sense why they’ve have to remove it ASAP.

      I really don’t think there’s a way to knock someone out without risking serious injury. I mean, any blow to head that’s hard enough to actually knock someone out is a risk of brain damage.

      I’ve actually read about fixing dislocated shoulders, so I know it *is* possible, but generally the people who know how to do it are the ones who have it happen often and don’t want to constantly go to the hospital. But yeah, since I wouldn’t have a clue, I’d just go to the hospital too.

      There are definitely a lot of little unrealistic things in books, but when they show up in like every book, that’s when you really start to notice and roll your eyes lol.

  6. Greg

    I was just thinking recently how digging out bullets seems to be everywhere now- seems like every show I watch they have it. lol I just saw it the other night on something I was watching. And yeah on books too. Sorry but I think it’s a little harder than they make it out to be- they don’t make it look easy, but still… and I always laugh when someone with NO medical training does it. “Here bite on this stick, I’ll just rummage around in like, you know your wound, and find it.” yeah right.

    Same thing with being knocked out. So true. I remember reading the Hardy Boys books as a kid and they got knocked out like every book- sometimes more than once. Those guys would be concussed so bad… but no they were soon fine. lol And I’d love to see someone try to pop a dislocated shoulder back in and make it worse- is that bad? Just once… I’d be like see?? But I don’t think that’s going to happen. 🙂

    1. Kristen Burns

      I don’t watch much TV, but I swear it’s in like 80% of the books I read, haha. And seriously, it gives me the heebie-jeebies because rummaging around in someone wound?!?! Awful. For everyone involved lol.

      The knocking out thing has just become the most ridiculous, overused, unrealistic plot device. And hahaha, yes. Now I kind of want to see that too lol, someone trying to fix their dislocated shoulder but failing.

  7. Michelle @ FaerieFits

    LOL! You read such violent things!

    I’ve often thought similar things whenever these things miraculously happen in books. I’m fairly certain my husband knows how to fix a dislocated shoulder, because I think he’s done it. But I wouldn’t have a CLUE! I’d just let it dangle there and go “Help?” And probably cry. Because let’s face it, feeling helpless AND in pain really really sucks.

    I’m wondering if there are pressure points that might be a safe way to knock someone out? I realize that’s not what you’re referring to in books, but maybe it’s a possible solution in real life? *shrugs*

    1. Kristen Burns

      I do read violent things lol. But these things seem to show up even in the non-violent books!

      I know that some people do know how to fix dislocated shoulders because apparently once it happens once, it’s likely to happen again, and people get tired of going to the hospital. But I wouldn’t have a clue either! I’d just be panicking and letting my arm dangle lol.

      You’re right, I wasn’t referring to pressure points, but I did think of that and wonder if that’s possible. Ok I just looked it up, and in my brief five minutes of research, it seems the answer is likely no. Though of course I’m still no expert!

  8. verushka

    Nope, I don’t know how to any of those things. AT ALL. And you’re right, how do you safely knock someone out? Way too much literary licence. Nods.

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  10. Aj @ Read All The Things!

    I would add guns to the list. If someone put a gun in my hand, I’d only have a very basic idea of how to work it. When a character picks up a gun, they’re suddenly gun experts with deadly aim. The head injury thing bothers me, too. If you get knocked unconscious, you will not be in a good mood when you wake up.

    1. Kristen Burns

      That’s true, lots of characters are good with guns, though I did actually just read a book in which the characters all went out to learn and practice shooting before they got into the big fight! So hey, at least one book did it right 😛 And yeah, the head injury thing annoys me to no end!

  11. Keionda @Keionda Hearts Books

    Your creative discussion posts always amaze me. They’re always so well thought out and just different! 🙂 But YES, sometimes I do run into things like this but I’ve never actually really paid any attention to them, I guess? But goodness, how weird is it that they do just KNOW how to pop a shoulder back in place? I mean, I could see if they were like a doctor or something but other than that… And EW. Taking a bullet out? *cringes*

    1. Kristen Burns

      Aww thank you! I’ve only noticed these things because they come up SO OFTEN. And exactly, if they have a reason to know how to fix a dislocated shoulder, that’s one thing, but it’s always just random people who know how to do it in books! And ugh, seriously, I ALWAYS cringe in books whenever anyone digs a bullet out of someone else!

  12. Ashley G.

    YES! Every character does know how to relocate a shoulder. Just HOW!? When writing I always try to make sure it’s someone with some kind of medical background even if it’s their parents were doctors or something lame like that. . . But it’s better than nothing. XD

    The bullet thing I do see as often, but it could just be the books I read.

    GAH! Yes. I remember reading somewhere that it takes a lot to knock someone out. One punch does do it. And the person getting hit isn’t going to whirl around 360 after being hit like they do in the movies. 😛 It’s always so annoying when that happens. It would be better if the character put a choker hold on them and let go the moment they passed out. . . But even then they have to know when to let go! They still have to know what they’re doing.

    1. Kristen Burns

      Seriously, I roll my eyes at the shoulder thing every time it comes up! But if your characters have a reason for knowing, that makes it more acceptable lol. Like in one book I read, someone dislocated his shoulder, but one of the other people with him was a nurse or medic or something, so she fixed it for him, and that made sense.

      Yeah, from what I read, sometimes when people are boxing or something they get punched like 20 times in the head and are still conscious, so… A choke hold would at least make sense, right?! At least that’s realistic. Of course it could still be dangerous, but probably less so than a blow to the head, though I suppose I don’t know for sure.

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  14. kimbacaffeinate

    Ha..truth. Although I have watched enough television to see a should relocated and I guess in a zombie apocalypse I might try to do it. Yeah, I think removing a bullet is a lot more complicated. I love the heroes who remove it and stitch themselves! Cast iron frying pan…will knock someone out or at least disorient them! LOL It is the perfect weapon and you cook with it. #essentialapocalpyse tool.

    1. Kristen Burns

      I mean, I suppose if I were in an apocalypse with no one to help me, I might try to pop it back in since the alternative would be a useless, dangling arm lol. But I’ve read plenty of books where it wasn’t even an apocalypse, and the characters weren’t even unsure, they knew perfectly what they were doing. And lol, I don’t know if I’ve read about anyone removing a bullet from their own body and stitching themselves, but I seriously don’t think I could ever do that. A good frying pan probably would be helpful to at least slow someone down, haha, like in Tangled!

  15. S. J. Pajonas

    Lol. I’ve only ever allowed one character to pop her own shoulder back in, but she was a survival specialist so I figured it would be a part of her resume anyway. 🙂 I have no idea how to knock someone out besides to knock them upside the head, and then I’m pretty sure that would accidentally kill someone. That’s totally NOT going into any of my books unless the person is a real fighter!

    1. Kristen Burns

      Lol if she was a survival specialist, then that’s a little more believable. But yeah, knocking someone upside the head hard enough to knock them out is definitely super risky, so it’s always so strange when characters do it in some “safe” way. Haha, good, please don’t have random people knocking other people out in your books!

  16. Got My Book

    I love the method they used for the dislocated shoulder in the movie The Russkies – they had him sit down, and put a really huge book in his hand.

    I think any time you succeed in knocking someone out, you have to use a dangerous amount of force. Just think of all the people who have gotten serious concussions without ever losing consciousness.

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    1. Kristen Burns

      I’ve never seen that movie, but hey, if all I have to do to ever fix a dislocated shoulder is hold a book, I think I could do that lol.

      Exactly, I don’t think there is a “safe” way to knock someone out like that because it takes a lot of force and causes trauma to the head which can cause brain damage. And that’s a good point, people get concussions without even losing consciousness, so imagine how much worse the damage must be if they do lose consciousness!

  17. Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

    I think I’ve read about and seen so many movies talking about fixing dislocated shoulders that I FEEL like I know how, but I’m gonna guess that if I tried to put it into practice, I would be sorely disappointed. 🙂

    The knockout thing always gets to me too. It seems like it couldn’t possibly be that easy or people would be constantly knocked unconscious in real life!

    1. Kristen Burns

      Haha, but the books and movies never actually explain *how* to fix the shoulder, so I still don’t have a clue.

      Seriously, people would be getting knocked out all the time if it were that easy! I hate that plot device so much lol.

  18. AngelErin

    Yes!!! This is so true Kristen. I sure don’t know how to do these things. Most of the time I can overlook these things in books (and movies and shows), but if there’s too much of this kinda thing in a book it can turn me off. Excellent post!!

    1. Kristen Burns

      I feel like we have to overlook them or there wouldn’t be anything out there for us to read. That’s how widespread these things are -_- But yeah, usually if it happens once in a book or something, I can overlook it. But if it just happens a whole bunch or there are already other things annoying me about the book, it bothers me more. Thanks!