1. Hydraphantom

    Hydraphantom Member

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    Disabled protagonist?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Hydraphantom, Jun 1, 2017.

    The protagonist took the bullet for his friend, got shot by revolver 4 times, 3 shots landed on right arm.

    Due to the backwardness of medical treatment at the era and infection caused by treatment delay, the surgeons were forced to cut off his entire right arm from shoulder.

    It took him quite a few years to get used to left hand.

    The incident was a massive psychological shock to the protagonist, and heavily influenced his future decision.

    Would the audience accept a disabled protagonist?
     
    Last edited: Jun 1, 2017
  2. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin Get off my Balzac... Staff Contributor

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    Sure. Why not?
     
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  3. Casca

    Casca New Member

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    Of course they would. Why wouldn't they? One of the great character arcs of storytelling is overcoming adversity and what is more adverse than adjusting to a physical disability? If you take a look at the comic book world, it is rife with characters whose disabilities are actually a part of their power (thinking namely of Daredevil here who was blinded as a young boy).

    I've mentioned this series in another thread and it seems appropriate to mention it now; Codex Alera by Jim Butcher. In this series, everybody from royalty to the lowliest commoner is able to commune with one or more elemental beings (called Furies). The story's protagonist is a boy who does not have his own Fury. Instead, he has to use his wits to survive in a world where he is treated with either pity or disgust for being so disabled.

    When you look at Bran Stark and Tyrion Lannister from A Song of Ice and Fire, they both have disabilities and are very much two fan favorites (Bran is crippled from early on so that he can't walk and Tyrion is a dwarf/little person).

    Joe Abercrombie's Half A King is all about the young prince of a society that heavily values the warrior's arm and yet he has a crippled hand and is very much useless as a warrior. But he's wickedly smart and uses his wits to escape an assassination attempt and eventually make his way back home to seek justice and that's just the first book in the trilogy.

    So I say not only would an audience accept a disabled protagonist, that could very well be a selling point for many of them. If I came across a book in which the synopsis read that the greatest swordsman in the kingdom loses an arm, you better believe I would be sold. It may not determine whether or not I enjoy the story but it would certainly catch my interest.
     
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  4. dragonflare137

    dragonflare137 Member

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    I personally love this kind of protagonist. One that has had a physical or mental trauma that has influenced them to do something. So yes, I believe that people will accept your protagonist just fine. As long as you write them well, make them relatable to others and not just the people he's representing, and give them a sense of purpose and direction, you will do fine. In the end it's all up to how characters are written that decided if we accept them or not.
     
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  5. KaTrian

    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Contributor

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    Definitely.
    If you yourself are able-bodied, you probably need to do some research, but I really can't see readers rejecting a protagonist just because s/he has a disability. One of my guilty pleasure authors, Chris Ryan, has a protagonist with a prosthetic hand in a couple of his thrillers. I thought it was refreshing, and gave a traditional alpha male hero a new kind of vulnerability considering the field he worked in.
     
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  6. Teresa Mendes

    Teresa Mendes Member

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    I have at least two disabled protagonists on my works in progress. It's an obstacle for them, it adds to their vulnerability. I think it can work very well, just do your research on how people live their lifes with that disability =)
     
  7. Miscellaneous Worker

    Miscellaneous Worker Member

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    Mental or physical problems can make the story entirely different for protagonists or even the other characters in interesting ways. There's a movie called Memento where it's a murder case of a man searching for his wife's killer, simple enough, except that he has short term memory loss- it makes it entirely different! So yeah, it doesn't matter as long as you don't ignore that event and incorporate it into the story as an obstacle in some way.
     
  8. Atrophied_Silence

    Atrophied_Silence Active Member

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    As long as you stick to respectable research, then I think it would be an intriguing character. Characters with both psychological and physical differences make for interesting story telling, especially when you get to see how they develop as the story progresses. I recently wrote a story on a protagonist with a prosthetic leg. But before I even touched that subject, I made sure to be mindful of every little detail.
     
  9. Michael Pless

    Michael Pless Senior Member

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    There have been protagonists with a disability for decades: Ironside on TV; there was a blind detective (taught self-defence by the brilliant Bruce Lee), there was another detective series featuring a wheelchair-bound main character but I can't recall the title. There's a raft of Chinese Kung-fu movies featuring one-armed masters who have no trouble beating-up everyone who comes their way. And though not a protagonist, who could forget Master Po, Grasshopper?
     
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  10. Thundair

    Thundair Contributor Contributor

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    I try to have a flaw in my protagonists whether it is a disability or inability.
    The work I am doing now is a protag with random brain seizures but is a computer whiz.
    The idea is to give them something extra to make up for the flaw.
    The one arm man could have learned a special skill while he was working to recover.
     
  11. JPClyde

    JPClyde Senior Member

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    I mean look at Game of Thrones. Many of the likable characters in the series are disabled in some way or another. G. Martin uses disabilities as a way to incite empathy and sympathy into characters. For example Jamie Lanister was unlikable and he seemed like a antagonist, then he lost his sword arm [disabled] and became likable and less villainous than others.

    So yes. Disabled characters are acceptable. Why wouldn't they be?
     
  12. izzybot

    izzybot Transhuman Autophage Contributor

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    I'd argue that seizures aren't a character flaw. Something that's random and out of a character's control isn't going to allow them much agency - like, I have a character with chronic pain, and having pain isn't a flaw, but his choice to self-medicate (poorly) instead of take a healthier avenue is.

    Maybe we have different definitions of what a character flaw is. To me, the purpose of a flaw is to give the character an obstacle that's caused by themself / in themself to fight with and hopefully beat or learn to cope with as they develop. It seems like you just mean a negative aspect, not even of their personality, but of their ... I guess just life? I'm unclear on this.
     
  13. Achoo42

    Achoo42 Member

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    In the Brotherband Chronicles there is a character exactly like what you described in the last paragraph.
     
  14. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll It's Coffee O'clock everywhere. Contributor

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    I don't see why it couldn't work. As long as you don't abuse it,
    or beat the reader over the head with it. You should be fine.
     
  15. ShannonH

    ShannonH Member Supporter

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    It is funny how perceptions change. In the tv show that character has committed incest, tried to murder a child, murdered his own cousin and raped his sister. Yet, like you say, much of the audience now likes him.
     
  16. Jupie

    Jupie Senior Member

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    Absolutely you can. The current novel I'm writing features the main protagonist with a 'lame' leg (what he is called in the medieval period), he is half crippled by this so struggles to get around (he's a prince, a neglected one at that). Because of his disability the King hates him, and sees him as weak and useless. This is a big theme throughout and his leg holds him back in many ways while also becoming his greatest teacher, so that he learns wisdom and patience as well. I enjoyed writing this because I think his pain helps to form his temperament, and as such grows his character along the way. Assigning a disability to one of your characters gives you chance to imagine what it is to live with pain (I don't need to imagine too hard as I have a slight form of scoliosis; nothing serious in terms of the spine being out of place but responsible for lots of aches and pains) and how this can bring out the best and worst out of them. In my story the MC is an outsider because of this, and has to work hard to gain the respect he deserves.
     
  17. Ettina

    Ettina Senior Member

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    A disability isn't a flaw. And the character shouldn't have to be better at something to make up for it.
     
  18. Thundair

    Thundair Contributor Contributor

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    Sorry poor choice of words> I meant he isn't perfect and I play off the things that make him not perfect.
     
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  19. Jupie

    Jupie Senior Member

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    I knew what you meant. A disability can make someone feel disadvantaged, and so they work even harder than someone else to make up for it. The disability, which is tough on them, also makes them stronger and adds to their character.
     
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