Monday, October 13, 2014

30-Week Writing Survey: Week 28: Disability



Today's question: Have you ever written a character with physical or mental disabilities? Describe them, and if there's nothing major to speak of, tell us a few smaller ones.


First, there's a character in my webcomic Negative One (and the novels it's based on) who's got a disorder that manifests similarly to profound autism. (The protagonists don't know if she has a real name, but because of some weird interaction stuff that happens in the comic, they refer to her as "Neptune.") She can speak, but it usually is not actually in response to what other people are saying. (The folks who know her well have noticed she tends to repeat phrases--either the first half or last half of a sentence--and will even duplicate the pitch and accent.) She also hums a lot and tends to have at least one of her hands on her face most of the time. She doesn't make eye contact, though sometimes when she SEEMS to be doing so, it's more like she's looking through you. She has no understanding of social conventions and no understanding of other people as people. She's also an albino, though that's normal where she comes from.

Theresa, also from Negative One, is epileptic, though this hasn't manifested in the comic at any point where any other characters witnessed her having a seizure. It's part of the reason she ended up not being able to keep a job for a while, losing her health insurance, losing custody of her children, and ending up homeless. Great situation, huh?

Ami from my old novel series The House That Ivy Built is physically disabled (has lost the use of her legs), but this is at least temporary because she is going through rehab. She was hurt in a car accident and at the time she first entered the story, she had braces on her legs, and got around with arm crutches or her wheelchair. 

Cassandra from Finding Mulligan could, in some ways, be thought of as mentally ill because throughout most of the book she demonstrates a mode of thinking that could be classified by some as dissociative or schizophrenic. Oh look, spoilers. She has an alternate self that lives in an alternate universe. When she was a child and her parents found out about this, she went through some therapy, and instead of recognizing anything wrong with her thought process, she elected instead to "protect" herself by changing her answers and telling the psychologists what they wanted to hear. Thing is, despite her delusions, she's completely functional and has some amazing cognitive abilities (like an amazing memory).

I have a character in a short story, currently named "Protector," who has a pervasive memory disorder that causes him to be unable to have access to long-term memories (and even fairly short-term ones). Sometimes he'll be searching for something and forget in the middle of doing so what he's searching for. The thing he seems to be able to remember best is his girlfriend's name. Bonne loves him unconditionally despite his issues.

In my short story "That Story about Fortune Cookie Girl," the protagonist's fiancée, Bridget, has ADHD. Her future mother-in-law claims it's a "fake disorder." Kind of one of the minor annoyances in the story.

In my short story "Your Terms," published in Timeless Tales (last story), the character Hope has severe agoraphobia.

Jesse from The House That Ivy Built is severely dyslexic. He loves to write, though, and does so by using a voice recorder and having someone else transcribe his plays for him. He's left-handed and tends to write in almost mirror fashion (except that it just isn't consistent, really).

Marz from Joint Custody is also dyslexic, though not severely. She does have to take some "special" classes at school because of it, though, and sometimes the kids give her crap about being in those classes. ::eyeroll:: Her parents and family don't make a big deal out of it at all though.

Iris's mother from "Her Mother's Child," a short story I sold recently and will appear online in 2015, has lost the use of her voice, though the story does not reveal why. Iris's mother communicates through sign language and gestures. She's hearing, though, and could speak earlier in her life.

Bad Fairy has three characters with disabilities later in the series. Delia, the protagonist, feels a bit of camaraderie with folks who have intellectual disabilities, who in her era (sometime in an alternate-world middle ages) are basically just institutionalized as if they're prisoners. She feels like she was one of the fortunate (being born with magickal abilities as a birthright), but because she is also half human she ends up facing prejudice and isn't able to get what she wants most. When she encounters people with intellectual disabilities during some research through the land of the departed, she eventually ends up campaigning for their cause because she feels they, like her, were handed a difficult lot due to birth circumstances, and she hates it that just for being born some people get imprisoned and others get to be king. 

So there is one intellectually disabled man who she meets in the afterlife, and also a character who is deaf and mute with typical intelligence and whose interesting agricultural inventions end up having a chance to flourish because of some help she provides nudging royal policies. And then there's Moira. Moira is an intellectually disabled princess. Princess Aurora (later Queen Aurora), like her mother Queen Trinity, has an unstable reproductive system and has great difficulty conceiving her daughter and doesn't become pregnant until she is over forty. Her child Moira ends up being born with Down's Syndrome, though of course I don't call it that since the term wasn't invented then and there. :) Because the kingdom's princess has this condition, attitudes toward that particular phenomenon become kinder in their area due to more awareness and an interest in not wanting to seem insensitive to the princess's situation. Surprise.

Minor physical or mental disabilities or stuff that might not really "count":

Tab from The House That Ivy Built can't read, and it's not because she hasn't been taught. She can't process letters or words in print, and I'm not sure why. I'm reluctant to dub that "dyslexia," though, because Tab isn't human and I'm thinking it's just part of how her brain is built, and I don't think it's the same processing issue that dyslexic people have. She can speak fine, but I guess maybe her mind won't adapt to include understanding print. Adele's the only one who knows about this. She's embarrassed to admit it since the other kids in the house (Nina and Thursday) can read. I'm also reluctant to call this "a disability" because even though from a human standpoint not being ABLE to learn to read would be, for Tab it's probably how she's supposed to be.
Ivy from The House That Ivy Built and Negative One has deformed hands and feet; she's missing her pinkies on both. It's a very minor thing, but it does cause her trouble sometimes. She's unable to play piano or type in the traditional ways (so she has to invent her own fingering positions), and sometimes has to deal with embarrassment over people assuming having five fingers on each hand is a standard (well-meaning phrases like "high five," "five-finger discount," "have him wrapped around your little finger," and "pinky swear" have unintentionally annoyed her, and rhymes like "This Little Piggy" or tricks like counting on your knuckles to figure out how many days a month has have failed miserably in her case). One of her friends joked that if she tried to speak American Sign Language she would have a speech impediment. She didn't think that was too funny. She would also have to modify gloves to fit her if she was going to wear them, though she hasn't done so as such. As for her feet, it hasn't been a problem except that having fewer toes actually makes her feet quite a bit thinner than most people's, and she finds that shoes do not fit her well.

That's all for my characters and disabilities!

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