1. pbear

    pbear New Member

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    Disabled Character Insights and Advice

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by pbear, Feb 19, 2020.

    I have an idea for a supporting protagonist based off a man I met. He was a cowboy and hunting guide in Alberta until he had a stroke at the age of 39. Now he is paralyzed on the entire left side of his body and can barely walk. Everything he was good at evaporated in an instant. This guy was a riot to listen to and was one of the funnest drinking buddies I have ever met. I have an idea for a supporting character based off this person, except this person have a cybernetic leg and a pneumatic arm the can crush skulls. He's off of a chaotic good type character who leads a clandestine cell of rebels working against a large institution. Does anyone have any advice for writing such a character? I don't want to do something stupid or offensive. I just think it's a cool idea.
     
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  2. Iain Aschendale

    Iain Aschendale Lying, dog-faced pony Marine Supporter Contributor

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    If your character is based on a real person whom you're still in touch with, talk to him first and foremost. Tell him exactly what you're up to, and if he's willing, ask for his insights into how he felt in the aftermath of his stroke. Be honest, but milk him for all he'll give you.

    After you've done that, try and make sure that your story isn't minimizing the effects on the character. He doesn't need to be all broken up about it all the time, but too often super-heroish stories take severe disabilities and turn them into "Oh wow, that's cool!" Most superhero/supervillain origin stories are just PTSD, but somehow they turn it into something neat and fun, which always bugs me.
     
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  3. N.Scott

    N.Scott Active Member

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    Don't let that become their identity. Consider how long have they been that way and what stage are they currently in regarding to their acceptance of the fact.
     
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  4. matwoolf

    matwoolf Banned Contributor

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    As a supporting character this could be acceptable. I'm thinking military background rolled on some porch who believes in himself.
     
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  5. J.T. Woody

    J.T. Woody Book Witch Contributor

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    Sorta kinda hijacking this thread... but i also need advice/insight on a disabled/disfigured character:

    he is one of my main characters. He lives in a small, mountain village where everybody knows everybody. He is disfigured and suffers from memory loss and mood swings due to a TBI, all of which is the result of a cave in that happened in his young adulthood. He is depressed because he feels that everyone else keeps thinking of how he was before the accident, and he even compares himself to how he was before the accident.
    My MC is not a part of his village and met him briefly when they were children when her family passed through, before the accident, but she doesnt remember his appearance. She tells him that to her, how he was before the accident is irrelevant to her because all she knows is who he is now. she says maybe its a good thing she doesnt remember him from before because then she has nothing to compare him to. She means it to be comforting.
    I've also made it a point, as she regains her memory her past encounter with him, that his face pre-accident, is left blank.

    Is this comforting or insulting? I dont want it to come off as insulting or saying that his former, pre-accident self is not important anymore. I know it can be frustrating not being able to do things you used to be able to do (my grandfather got so depressed after his stroke...) and I dont want to minimize it by writing my MC's response to him basically as "stop thinking about how you were before. This is who you are now, so accept it"

    (because of this quarantine, we've been doing a lot of webinar and TedTalk trainings... one of them was on empathy and it said that its minimizing to hear someone else's trauma and to say things like "well at least you're alive" and "it could be worse," is not very empathetic at all. After that webinar, i feel like my MC lacks empathy....)
     
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  6. Cdn Writer

    Cdn Writer Contributor Contributor

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    I realize it's probably not possible to interview people at the moment but there are resources out there.

    For example, there is a television program called "you can't ask that" which has people asking questions of people with various disabilities - blind, wheelchair users, stroke survivors, etc.

    Another show is "the employees" which focuses on people with disabilities searching for employment.

    I would start there. Then once life returns to normal, visit some places that support people with disabilities or provide services to them and ask if there is someone you could speak with. Let them know you're an aspiring writer that wants to write a character who has a disability in a respectful manner.


    EDIT: Damn spell check!! The show is called "The Employables"
     
    Last edited: Apr 16, 2020
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  7. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin A tombstone hand and a graveyard mind Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Do you mean insulting from one character to another, or in the abstract sense of an author telegraphing "prejudice" to the reader?

    If it's the former, I'd say, does it even matter if she inadvertently insults her friend? People do that all the time, and it adds texture and tension to the scene.

    If it's the latter, that's a slippery slope. You don't want to go out of your way to insult readers, but on the other hand, keeping the sensitivity-trigger on safe all the time is incredibly dull. There's nothing worse than boring art. If you're not insulting somebody on some level, you're probably doing something wrong.
     
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  8. Partridge

    Partridge Senior Member

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    There are a lot of definitions to the term "disabled". But if somebody has a robotic arm and an arm that crush people's head, I don't really class that as disabled.
    If it was me, I would start by thinking about what attracted me to a character like that to start with. Was it more the experience of loosing movement in one half of their body, and how it changed their outlook on life - or the physical implications of living with the lack of movement?
     
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  9. Rae Finn

    Rae Finn New Member

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    From the perspective of someone who has worked with people with disabilities as well as friends with disabilities, you have to walk a fine line between condescending and flattery, having someone explain the hardships they have went through as well as how they have motivated themselves to keep going will help you not to insult the readers, having insight into the mind of someone who suffered from a stroke and was able to keep going would not only show compassion but understanding as well.
     
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  10. Naomasa298

    Naomasa298 HP: 10/190 Status: Confused Contributor

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    Different people react in different ways. When I lost my foot about 18 months ago, a lot of people did say this (although I was very ill with other stuff as well). My response was - and still is "I suppose so" (because I was quite lucky to survive).

    If someone said to me now, "this is how things are now, get over it and move on" (or words to that effect), I would say "that's not for you to say".

    Some people look for sympathy, some look for solutions, some just want someone to listen.

    Personally, the thing I hate the most about being disabled is being condescended. Like when someone asks me if I need help with a seatbelt. Because yeah, you need a foot to do up a seatbelt.
     
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  11. Partridge

    Partridge Senior Member

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    ^^This. That resonates with me, as well. Very different thing, but I have a form of Aspergers which has given me awful coordination, meaning I often struggle to complete some everyday tasks like opening cans, locking doors operating a petrol pump without tying myself up in knots and making a total cock of it.

    People who try and show me "a better way" of doing tasks get on my wrong side immediately. Not only is it arrogant, it also implies the person offering help thinks I'm stupid.
    I'm 27 and have existed independently for about half of that. I know there is an easier way of doing a task.

    Not a disability, I know, but you see my point...
     
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  12. matwoolf

    matwoolf Banned Contributor

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    I think the story here - lies with the 19 year olds meeting 'the amazing guy with no mobility, speech, can down a bottle of bourbon...incredible...'

    That resonates more - those memories of being quite young and being wowed by the raconteur/down & out/the everyman... ...whereas giving him 'super powers' is not interesting to me. And there is no one 'disabled character.' I'm sure OP understands that. Lots of avenues to explore there/here...

    ...

    I'm so conflicted on this...professionally I have spent a lot of time with men so crippled by aspergers or autism, the condition that some others compare to this special kiss, this gift...which it f.....g isn't for those guys. I know the spectrum is as wide as there are types of men.

    I'd write a 2000 worder on 'the guy,' tender is best, make them weep :)
     
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  13. J.T. Woody

    J.T. Woody Book Witch Contributor

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    I have a speech impediment and ive had it all my life. Speech therapy, support groups, fluency devices, etc. Im 25. I also find it condescending when people stop and tell me to talk a certain way so that i dobt mess up as much, or if i would just take my time it wont happen, and their son/cousin/uncle/friend/friend of a friend had the same thing and grew out of it so i i shouldnt feel bad (even though they brought it up and not me).
    I just nod and smile and hope my annoyance isnt showing:nosleep:
     
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  14. Partridge

    Partridge Senior Member

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    Yup. I can imagine how that must feel...I can feel my blood pressure rising as I reply to you!
     
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