Impaired characters


Good lord, all I ever do is bang on about characters these days… but then again, characters are a reader’s guide through a fictional world, their eyes and ears in the story.

Anyway, it’s a sad fact of life that very few people get through it without picking up a few scars or taking some hits along the way. A fictional character’s life has a tendency to be rather more eventful than not, so it stands to reason that some of them take some damage too, emotionally and physically.

Many writers who don’t suffer from a specific complaint themselves make the mistake of assuming that being mentally, emotionally or physically injured/disabled becomes the entire plot of that person’s life. Of course, for some people it does, and there are some problems that make it almost inevitable. But others pick themselves up and go on with their lives as best they can.

A blind person, whether born blind or having lost their sight later in life, isn’t reduced to sitting in a living room listening to Radio Four dramas and wishing they could remember what a daffodil looked like. Some might, of course, depending on the person, but I know at least one man who didn’t let being blind stop him from being a truly fantastic stage technician. A person can suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and function as if nothing is wrong, most if not all of the time, unless something triggers their symptoms.

What I’m saying is that your characters can be damaged, impaired or disabled – even just upset – they’re allowed to have lasting side-effects from what’s happened in the past. And they’re also allowed to be able to manage it. People are remarkably adaptable; an injury, a disability, or a trauma doesn’t have to be the end of their story, or the sum of it.

Just a thought. See you tomorrow.

Apologies if any of the phrasing in this post offends anyone – let me know and I’ll try to fix it – I’m writing this at the end of a very long day and I’m trying to include as many conditions as possible.


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