Writing Tip

I sent a message in to a blog over on tumblr that specializes in questions about how to write disabled characters to ask for advice on a future plot point. It was a very informative answer, so I’ve decided to crosspost it here.

Hi. I have a story in which one of the protagonists loses a limb during a major event in the plot. My plan is for her to opt for a prosthesis rather than magical intervention to repair the damage; she’s used to adapting and looking forward, as she puts it. I’m wondering how to respectfully handle the other characters reacting to the injury and her choice. They’ll want to help and support her as she retrains her body, but I don’t want it to seem like pity/guilt drives them. They’re just shaken.

Mod Kate – I don’t think that it’s necessary that they have no feelings of guilt, actually. Their friend got hurt and they may very well feel as though they should have been able to stop her from getting hurt. I don’t know if this would count as survivor’s guilt, since no one actually died, but it’s a similar concept. The thing is to make sure that the focus of those feelings is more that she was hurt and not so much that she is now disabled.

When they learn of her choice to use a prosthetic, depending on how you write it you could go a few ways. One is that they just don’t question it, because it’s her own decision and her own body. Another is that they could be shocked for a bit and maybe question if she’s really sure, but ultimately, like the first option, settle into the idea that it’s not really their business. I would recommend you steer away from a plotline where they try to convince her to get the magical intervention, but with enough research it could probably be done.

It varies how people react to things like this. When I was born the most memorable reaction was that my grampa immediately started trying to figure out how to hold a golf club one handed and decided “Oh, she can still golf with me so it’s fine.”