Tuesday, May 8, 2012
Disability Need Not Disable Characters
Some people want to tackle the issues surrounding disability in their fiction. I see this as a great thing. I don't feel you should BE disabled to write about disabled people. But I think people's perceptions are often guided by what they see and, even with research, it can creep up on otherwise objective writing.
There are SOME disabled people who hate God, the world, family members, and their cat because they lack the ability to walk, see, hear, etc. There are SOME disabled people who could give Mother Teresa lessons in humility and service to mankind. But the vast majority of those in existence are normal people with unique challenges.
Disabled people have every emotion "normal" people do. They want families and jobs and lives. They strive to realize dreams and minimize shortcomings. They get caught up in dramas, scandals, and everything else. Acknowledging the limitations of your protagonist and what makes his/her life harder than his/her non-disabled best friend will make your prose richer and truer to life but focusing ONLY on the hardships will turn your character into a plot device and not a person. Would you want to be the plot device, or the star?
Oh, and just letting you know, disabled people have sex. It may come as a shock but it's the truth.
*Photo: Tom Magliery