>Stories and Disability – A Writer’s Perspective

>The theme for the next Disability Blog Carnival is “stories”.  Which as someone who is a writer is an interesting one.

At the last NaNoWriMo meet up, one of the others asked me if I wrote disabled characters.  And sometimes I do.  Sometimes I don’t.  With my last NaNo I didn’t deliberately because I almost always do when I do long pieces of writing and I thought it would be a good thing to not do for once.  I’m not sure why I thought that.  Possibly because writing about disability is writing what I know and I wanted to stretch myself as a writer (which I do).

My script frenzy attempt from April doesn’t yet have a disabled character in it.  It’s currently abandoned but I’m considering returning to it, possibly more as a novel set up.  Weird things keep happening in this story line which can’t be explained.  I think a disability aspect may come in from that point of view.  I’ve already got one character suddenly acquiring children out of no where, I’m thinking a life long wheelchair user who no one else remembers as ever using one before might be interesting.

Anyway, the other comment she made was to ask whether I found including the disability made things difficult with the plot.  Her example was that she’s diabetic and often starts off with characters who are diabetic too. Then the plot calls for them to miss a meal and so the diabetes has to come out because they two don’t work together.  I found that an interesting question.  This blog entry is my a bit more thought out response not what I told her in person.  In no way is it meant to be a criticism of my friend.  We just have different perspectives, that’s all.

I’ve never even considered changing a character that fundamentally so the plot will work.  My disability is a part of me.  I wouldn’t be who I am if I didn’t have it.  I would be completely different because my whole life experience, frame of reference and everything like that would be altered.  There is almost always a way of making things work in real life despite the disability and I don’t think fiction is any different.  My characters are who they are – and if they’re disabled, that can’t be changed (or shouldn’t be changed).

Maybe it’s because I don’t plan my plots rigidly before I start writing and let things grow and change as they need to. But I can’t imagine not being able to make a disabled character “work” because changing it isn’t possible in real life.  And to me I want my writing to be realistic wherever possible.

As a final point I will say that I suspect part of the reason why we have such differing perspectives is because her condition is acquired and mine is life long.  It’s probably easier to consider making such a huge change to your writing when you do know “before” and “after” then when you don’t – acceptance is different for both groups of people, perhaps.

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