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Category Archives: Chasing Humanity

Dealing with disability in fiction

Got this image from 'silver collection'

Got this image from ‘silver collection

One of my main characters (Justin) is disabled and I’m finding that this provides an interesting challenge for an able-bodied writer like myself. To write about a disabled person’s life, even in the third person can be tricky but one of the key issues I try to keep in mind is the difference in the capacity for movement that any individual might display from one day to the next.

Though the nature of my character’s disability is quite complex (and it would reveal a lot of the plot of my book if I discussed it here), I can at least touch on the basics. His movement is limited by degrees. I’ve purposely decided not to give him a fixed and unchanging degree of movement, this is for a number of reasons but primary among them is realism. From my experience, when I think of people with disabilities and incapacities that I’ve known, or that I currently know, I’ve seen a surprising fluctuation in both in their capacity for movement and level of discomfort from one day to the next. For example, someone with enduring back problems may have fairly fluid movement one day, only to stiffen up in pain the next.

I want my characters to feel real, I want Justin to be able to surprise himself in the heroics he can achieve, just as much as any hero I write. For this I need adrenaline to be able to help him when he needs it but I also want to point out the increased pain and discomfort which may plague him in the aftermath. If I just decided that he can only move so quickly, or that he can only endure so much then I’m putting limits on his character that I wouldn’t put on an able-bodied character. In fiction your heroes need to be able to surprise the reader in the deeds they can perform. If I were to limit any character in a fixed way it would detract from that, and worse still, it would exclude the character from the standard behaviours expected of a hero/ine.

All of my character’s difficulties are physical (in a general sense), in terms of his mental capacities they’re around average, though Justin is very wise. I imagine the formulation of their character would take a very different form for a character with a mental disability or one who suffers from mental illness. I’d be very interested to hear any other writers’ takes on this. Have you written a disabled character before? How did you deal with their limits? What form did their character development take? Are you disabled yourself, if so are there any aspects of your life/experience that you feel should be present in the characterisation of a fictional character with a disability? As always thanks for reading and I hope to hear from you either here or over on twitter, All the best, John

 

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Long term romance or teen crush?

Romeo-meets-Juliet-in-the-1996-filmWhat to choose? What to choose? In basically all three of the books I’m working on at the moment I have a main character who (at least during the book’s opening) is a teenager. But what am I to do about romantic entanglements? You can’t miss this element out when writing a teen character without them looking a little robotic (I did try) so I need to include a romantic partner/love interest for my character to feel real. That part isn’t really a problem as simply exploring the differences between the two characters seems to help me to open out my main character’s personality with the use of a foil.

However, I hit a bit of an issue when dealing with the fact that occasionally their love interest is a secondary (or at least important tertiary character) who will feature through a large portion of the book and a sometimes sizeable portion of narrative time will pass through the course of the book. So here’s my question should I break characters up, even if they seem right for each other, just because my characters are young and statistically there’s little chance a relationship in your teens will last even into your twenties?

This can certainly be done to great dramatic effect (Shakespeare did all right with it anyway) but the thing is at least two of my books are part of a series so I’m a little apprehensive about killing off characters that I could use later. Something I love about Terry Pratchett’s ‘Discworld’ books is that you revisit the same world with many of the same characters each time. He rarely kills off a character off and seems reluctant to even allow a character to disappear entirely from the overall narrative of his world. This clearly saves him a lot of time at the start of a book that would otherwise be spent getting to know the characters.

Don’t get me wrong, I know that I’ll have to explain my characters a little in later books (at the very least I can’t guarantee my books will be read in sequence) and I’m honestly not trying to take the easy way out, it’s just that I’m in this series for the long haul so I’m loathe to dispatch a well-formed character who could otherwise prove useful in a later story-line.

The love interest angle is something I’m finding really easy to use as a means of moving the story on, developing emotional involvement and (possibly most importantly) highlighting the personalities of some of my main characters, but I’m feeling a snag coming up that I’ll need to deal with before I progress much further with these characters. If they’re to break up why do they break up? when does it happen? and why would they feel OK continuing to be around each other?

I know that in writing break-ups there’s the potential for some lovely moody moments, will-they-won’t-they plot elements etc. but to be honest I find the prospect a little boring compared to the narrative I’ve got planned. I think all the trappings of a break up would just get in the way. What do you think? Would a reader be able to handle a teenaged couple that stays together or would it seem a little too unrealistic/over-romanticised? Any opinion welcome, as always thanks for reading, Cheers, John

 

‘Chasing Humanity’ (fiction): Character profile: Tobias

The world is different, human beings have changed and in a last ditch effort to hold on to what was once ‘normal’ human civilisation, an exodus of like-minded people has occurred. In the beginning only the wealthy few made the trek but eventually the new colonies were substantial enough to enable thousands more to leave their home countries and head to the only landmass on Earth still untouched by human hands: Antarctica.

Our story begins with Tobias, a young man who has spent the past few years of his life (and all of his savings) gaining invaluable skills for tending the habitat that keeps the elements at bay and allows the people of the domed city of Loam to live something approaching a normal life.

The Antarctic winter has set in and the lighting employed to battle the endless dark is limited to just a few hours a day. UV lamps pour out just enough to keep plants alive and the dome’s environmental controls are straining just to keep the temperature inside above freezing.

Icy winds of -50°C howl through the endless night outside the dome, and yet at times Tobius would rather take his chances outside if it meant he could get away from his dad’s relentless lecturing.

Cabin fever is setting in but the only way to get out the house is to go to ‘Mike’s Place’; an entertainment center near Tobias’s home, and that costs credits that Tobias just doesn’t have. Blagging his way through free coffees one repair job at a time Tobias longs for something different, a break from the monotony.

His wish is about to be granted in a way he never would have expected, Tobias’s time in Loam is running to an end and he has no idea. For now he’ll settle for a cup of coffee with the girl who makes his days worthwhile: Anyanka.

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Let me know what you think in the comments below, as promised there is much more to come (though I’ll do all I can to keep spoilers to a minimum). ‘Chasing Humanity’ should be ready sometime after Christmas, but if I get a bit of extra free time who knows it could be sooner. Please subscribe to find out more about this book or to see my hints and tips about writing.

Today’s tip: don’t take the easy route now, you’ll just give yourself more work later. Before running on to the next chapter of writing, review what you just wrote, make sure it’s formatted correctly, reads easily, and is as free from grammatical errors and spelling mistakes as you can manage. Also if you intend to publish on kindle don’t bother about page run over, in fact save your writing in html format and when writing view as ‘web page’ that way you remove the temptation to move paragraphs to a new page etc.

Thanks for reading, I welcome any comments and I’ll have some more content from ‘Chasing Humanity’ to share very soon. Cheers, John

 
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Posted by on 27 August, 2013 in Chasing Humanity

 

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‘Chasing humanity’ (fiction) sample

As promised here’s a sample of the book I’m writing right now. It’s still slow going but I’m setting aside time each week now to ‘work’ and I feel as though I’m finally making progress again.

” This is more like it; as I walk into ‘Mike’s place’ the mature scents of roast coffee mix with the hot buttered popcorn at the cinema stand and the faintest hint of chlorine from the pool downstairs. It makes me feel like I’m ten years old again whilst standing as a reminder that I’m not. Tempting as a matinee and swim would be about now I really can’t afford it, I’ll just have to settle for a couple of coffees and, hopefully, some good company.”

The story is set in the not too distant future, where human society is very different yet where human relationships still follow very familiar patterns. I’ll pop more samples up once I’ve figured out how much I can share without leaving ‘spoilers’.

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Writing Tip: For anyone who is interested, I’ve set aside 2 or 3 2 hour blocks of writing each week and it’s already paying off. More importantly it feels maintainable. At this rate I could be finished the full novel sometime after Christmas.

Any comments, hints, or tips are more than welcome, thanks for reading, cheers, John

 
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Posted by on 23 August, 2013 in Chasing Humanity

 

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