Writing Forums

Writing Forums is a privately-owned, community managed writing environment. We provide an unlimited opportunity for writers and poets of all abilities, to share their work and communicate with other writers and creative artists. We offer an experience that is safe, welcoming and friendly, regardless of your level of participation, knowledge or skill. There are several opportunities for writers to exchange tips, engage in discussions about techniques, and grow in your craft. You can also participate in forum competitions that are exciting and helpful in building your skill level. There's so much more for you to explore!

Questions of character (2 Viewers)

KeganThompson

Staff member
Board Moderator
I am thinking of a story right now with one. Not the main character tho... It's relevant to the story.
I want to write a person who happens to be disable and not just a "disabled person"
If that makes sense.
 
Last edited:

Ajoy

Senior Member
My recently finished novel includes a woman who is wheelchair-bound. She's a fairly involved secondary character and actually one of my favorites (specifically because she's a badass horsewoman and I'm a horse girl at heart.)
 
Last edited:

Phil Istine

WF Veterans
Something I'm currently writing will include a couple of characters with specific disabilities, though neither are the main character and the disabilities aren't physical.
There's no particular reason to include a disabled character, main or otherwise, but the two I will be including are or were real people as it's non-fiction with embellishments. One of them is essential to part of the story, but the other will be a very minor character and I may yet exclude her - just as I will exclude non-disabled minor characters who turn out to be superfluous in the final edit.
 

Foxee

Patron
Patron
I don't think I've ever tackled this - and I say tackled because I wouldn't want to write such a character wrong. Now that I have some direct experience as a caregiver for a wheelchair-bound person with MS I could probably write that into a character. There are so many other handicaps that I wouldn't want to write without a lot of research, and as much of that in-person as I could reasonably achieve.

Dean Koontz's By the Light of the Moon is one of my favorite Koontz novels and includes a severely autistic character who turns out to be of surpassing importance to the story. It's a good example of how to do this with sensitivity and style.

With any handicap that you'd want to include in your work I'd say if you don't have direct experience with it, don't assume anything.
 

vranger

Staff member
Supervisor
Why would anyone just artificially throw in a particular character type if it doesn't work for the story? Is this just another case of writing-by-checklist?
I wouldn't say so, and who said it doesn't work for the story?

There are prominent examples of disabled characters. They were especially popular on TV in the 70s. Ironside and Longstreet come easily to mind. Then later we had Adrian Monk. There are rich lodes of dramatic effect to mine from a character with mental or physical limitations. In Monk it was comedic as well. I've come across it from time to time in novels and series. Like any trope, it could be overused, but I wouldn't say it has been to date.

To answer the OP - In the mystery I've just finished the first outline pass for, my MC becomes afflicted with an odd sort of MPD. In my fantasy series, the leader of the castle is wounded in combat, and so has a crippled leg which I haven't seen fit to permanently heal. A character in "Part Time Pagan-God" is both physically incapable of movement and insane. Two others also suffer from curses, though one of those is a very minor character, and the other has her curse lifted at the end. Do those qualify? ;-)
 
Last edited:

EmmaSohan

WF Veterans
I just self-published my version of The Scarlet Letter. My main character wasn't interesting enough to me, so I gave her a stutter. The idea wormed its way into about 20 scenes and into her character, including how people react to her stutter. So that addition was very successful, even though it sounded stupid when I thought of it.

It seemed like a standard Y/A technique, though it could be used in any genre, The Bourne Identity being a classic.

People are always asking, "how do I make this scene -- which I have to include -- interesting?"

"Do you, Hester Williams, take Roger Prynne to be your lawfully wedded husband?"

"I d- d- d- " I am so embarrassed. I wish a hole would appear in this church floor and swallow me up. But it does not, and I must -- as always -- live with my stuttering. "D- " I nod my head yes, I do. The preacher takes pity on me and accepts that as my answer. Roger squeezes my hand softly, telling me that everything is okay.

"I would like some p- p- paper."

He looks at me with disgust. Why does he become angry with me? God gave me this stutter. It was a gift from God. Or a punishment, I do not understand God and his ways. But I was a child. Would God punish a child?

"And ink and a q- q- " I stop. "Q- " I motion with my hands. A gift from God, so that my beauty would always be flawed. So that I could never be proud. So I would always think myself less than others, never greater than anyone.
 
Last edited:

Cephus

Senior Member
I wouldn't say so, and who said it doesn't work for the story?

There are prominent examples of disabled characters. They were especially popular on TV in the 70s. Ironside and Longstreet come easily to mind. Then later we had Adrian Monk. There are rich lodes of dramatic effect to mine from a character with mental or physical limitations. In Monk it was comedic as well. I've come across it from time to time in novels and series. Like any trope, it could be overused, but I wouldn't say it has been to date.

To answer the OP - In the mystery I've just finished the first outline pass for, my MC becomes afflicted with an odd sort of MPS. In my fantasy series, the leader of the castle is wounded in combat, and so has a crippled leg which I haven't seen fit to permanently heal. A character in "Part Time Pagan-God" is both physically incapable of movement and insane. Two others also suffer from curses, though one of those is a very minor character, and the other has her curse lifted at the end. Do those qualify? ;-)
I didn't say that it doesn't, but there are a lot of people out there who are running around with a checklist. "I need so many black characters and so many Hispanic characters and so many gay characters," etc. They don't let it happen organically. They do it to please a particular political ideology that, let's be honest, isn't going to read their book in the first place. They are acting out of fear and self-loathing. I have a problem with that.

That's not to say that you can't have any type of character in your book if the book itself calls for it. It just shouldn't be done out of some misguided attempt at representation. "I think I need to put a one-armed, Swahili-speaking bearded woman with a limp into my book!" I write the characters that seem to be in the story, no matter what they are. Sometimes, they're black, sometimes they're write. Sometimes they're gay, sometimes they're straight. Young, old, abled, disabled, it doesn't matter to me, so long as they serve the story being told.

Way too many people are writing for identity politics points and that's just stupid.
 

vranger

Staff member
Supervisor
I didn't say that it doesn't, but there are a lot of people out there who are running around with a checklist. "I need so many black characters and so many Hispanic characters and so many gay characters," etc. They don't let it happen organically. They do it to please a particular political ideology that, let's be honest, isn't going to read their book in the first place. They are acting out of fear and self-loathing. I have a problem with that.

That's not to say that you can't have any type of character in your book if the book itself calls for it. It just shouldn't be done out of some misguided attempt at representation. "I think I need to put a one-armed, Swahili-speaking bearded woman with a limp into my book!" I write the characters that seem to be in the story, no matter what they are. Sometimes, they're black, sometimes they're write. Sometimes they're gay, sometimes they're straight. Young, old, abled, disabled, it doesn't matter to me, so long as they serve the story being told.

Way too many people are writing for identity politics points and that's just stupid.
There are. But to assume that has anything to do with the OP here is beyond what I'd even call a stretch. It asked if writers here were doing it, and why. It did not promote those characters just for the sake of their inclusion. I've written them in three of my last five novels, and you can be sure I'm far, far away from having a checklist. For example, in "Part-Time Pagan God", I'm using documented characters from mythology. I explored the need for a character with a certain gift, and the character my research turned up had other issues which added a lot of depth to my story.

I get your rant on the subject, and I even agree with it. I just believe it is misplaced in this thread. I disagree with berating Bazz Cargo or any other responder for something they didn't yet offer to the conversation.

This harkens to a frequent topic of character building ... the hero with a flaw ... which frankly, I personally could do more often. At least I can claim that my last hero had some severe limitations, since he is a literal mouse. LOL
 

indianroads

Staff member
Global Moderator
My characters are who and what they are, they just kinda show up and tell me their stories - @vranger a character in my Inception novel is a cat... so, fair warning to your mouse.

Before finding WF I was on a forum where many of the mods pretty much demanded inclusion of different races, orientations, and abilities in the name of inclusion. The problem I see with this can be summarized by something a character from my Extinction series often stated - force creates resistance... and, only a sail can feel the wind. IMO, such demands can be self defeating.

Yes, I have POC (etc) in my novels, but they show up organically, and I don't treat them as a required caricature but as a person instead.
 

Cephus

Senior Member
There are. But to assume that has anything to do with the OP here is beyond what I'd even call a stretch. It asked if writers here were doing it, and why. It did not promote those characters just for the sake of their inclusion. I've written them in three of my last five novels, and you can be sure I'm far, far away from having a checklist. For example, in "Part-Time Pagan God", I'm using documented characters from mythology. I explored the need for a character with a certain gift, and the character my research turned up had other issues which added a lot of depth to my story.

I get your rant on the subject, and I even agree with it. I just believe it is misplaced in this thread. I disagree with berating Bazz Cargo or any other responder for something they didn't yet offer to the conversation.

This harkens to a frequent topic of character building ... the hero with a flaw ... which frankly, I personally could do more often. At least I can claim that my last hero had some severe limitations, since he is a literal mouse. LOL
I didn't accuse the OP of anything, I simply asked why anyone would do that and said not to do it. We both know that there are people, people who post here and on every writing forum on the planet today, who are running around with an identity politics checklist, wondering if they need more "representation" for any of their disillusioned groups. You don't write by checklist, not if you want to have good results and, frankly, the OP's post struck me that way. I could be wrong and I'll apologize if I was, but the idea of "let's arbitrarily make someone disabled..." or black or female or gay or whatever, that seems rather indicative of a very dangerous modern thought process that really needs to be stamped out.
 

Cephus

Senior Member
Yes, I have POC (etc) in my novels, but they show up organically, and I don't treat them as a required caricature but as a person instead.
That's exactly my point. I've got all kinds of non-white, non-male, non-straight characters in my books but I didn't sit down and say "I should make characters like that!" They are the way they felt to me when I was creating them. Just write people. People come in all shapes and sizes and colors and inclinations. At the beginning of the year, I wrote a trilogy where the main characters were a black and white lesbian couple. That's just how they seemed to me. I didn't say "I need to provide more representation for some disenfranchised group", I wrote a story where the main characters were whatever they were. Right now, I'm plotting a trilogy which features two black brothers and one of them has a Vietnamese girlfriend. So what? I wasn't trying to make any kind of political statement, I was writing a book. That's it.
 

Taylor

Staff member
Global Moderator
So, when was the last time you included a disabled person?
My MC's boyfriend has MS. She learns about it late in the story.
When was your lead character disabled?
This fellow will become more prominent in the sequel. We will follow his journey as a secondary plotline as he starts to deal with the effects of MS.
Why should you include a disabled person?
I base all my characters on combinations of people I know. I'm a total pantser when it comes to character building, so whatever attributes inspire me and work with the story will make up the personas. Why should you include any special characteristics, such as a disability? Because it makes for a more interesting and rich read.
 
Top