If you ask an author, ‘Where do you get your ideas,’ the author will probably mock you. And then they’ll say, ‘Oh, from a little “idea of the month” club or from a little ideas shop behind Charing Cross.’ Or they’ll just be horrible to you. This is because authors are scared. And we don’t know.Neil Gaiman
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.”
The age-old foe. I had a rough time wanting to write last week, but this week I appear to have defeated the beast!
I do still appreciate the things I wrote while I was working through it. I might not keep all of them, but it feels good to accomplish even a little bit when struggling to write. I would encourage writing 50 words on days when it’s hard to find that motivation; you don’t need a lot, just enough to let yourself know you Did It.
(This one got forgotten by accident because I’m terrible about simply remembering things)
The first step in my process is to be comfy. Not fall-asleep comfy, but the type of comfy that won’t leave me stiff and unable to move when I’m all done. Sometimes that means I sit at the kitchen table, other times at my actual writing desk, and still others I am curled up in as little space as possible with my phone and some quick thumbs. Being comfortable minimizes the distractions around me, especially on days when focus is hard to come by.
Next, I decide if I’m gonna play music; usually the first couple of songs tell me whether or not I’m in a writing-with-music sort of mood.
I try to set a small goal to write every day so I don’t get into a daunting task (getting in this habit makes something like NaNoWriMo much easier to do, when you choose to take the challenge; you’re already used to having a goal number every day). I look at my goal, usually 200 to 500 words, and because it is manageable, some fretting goes away. “It’s only 500 words! That’s easy!” Sometimes, I end up with a lot more because I don’t go into it dreading how huge my goal is.
Stare at an open document for at least thirty seconds before you decide you don’t want to write for that story. Give it time to appeal, and if not, it’s okay. Pick a different one. If you’re like me, you have a hundred other story ideas waiting for you to poke at them.
Once a story is picked, I usually read through the last few paragraphs or maybe a chapter (not the whole story. This is a Trap). Then, with the mood set and my comfy chair chosen, I can actually make words to add to the story.
There are some purists who say never to edit a single thing until the story is all done but like. How many stories get left behind in the dust? Sometimes, those stories can be revitalized and our love for them rekindled if we just go back and spruce up older chapters, and that’s okay. So if you are doing the step of reading the last few bits of your story and you just have to change something, do the thing. Trust your instinct when it comes to your story, because really if someone else could tell it better than you, they would be doing it already.
Have fun. You’ve got this.