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Young Writers Society
Need some advice writing a character with disability
Sun Apr 18, 2021 9:41 am
The disabled character in question is the protagonist's elder brother. As a teen he had to jump from a second storey window with his sister (the protagonist) because of a house fire during a war (in which their parents and grandfather die). He broke his sister's fall somehow, but injured his leg in the process, and requires a cane to walk ever since. Next, they fall on hard times, and the brother has to work in a farm with an injured leg.
His sister feels personally responsible for this, even though no one blames her. Her strong sense of guilt leads her to do reckless things to protect what was left of her family from further harm. She ends up making a deal with an evil deity that endangers her life.
I was wondering if this portrayal would be offensive to persons with disabilities. I really, really don't want to come off as offensive or insensitive. Therefore some advice will be highly appreciated.
Sun Apr 18, 2021 4:15 pm
NB - I am not disabled.
The key thing, in any representation of a minority of which you are not a part, is to ensure that their disability (or other identity)
isn't the focus of their storyline
. When you're writing it's important that you aren't writing about his experience of being disabled, but rather writing a story in which this character happens to have a disability, but that isn't the defining trait.
Stories where this is done pretty well include
A Curse So Dark & Lonely
by Bridget Kemmerer -- I'm not a massive fan, but the representation of a heroine who has cerebral palsy is pretty well done.
Your story is also giving me big vibes for a series called
The Demon's Lexicon
by Sarah Rees Brennan, and I really recommend it. It also has a big brother who has a badly injured leg and walks with a limp, and deals with demons.
Also check out the
Six of Crows
duology by Leigh Bardugo - Kaz Brekker walks with a cane and it's barely a side note in how otherwise complex his character is.
The other thing which I personally hate (though again, I'm not disabled, but I've heard similar) is
. If your character is disabled in a real world way, that doesn't have a real world "fix" -- don't do it. Don't use magic to make him walk without a cane. Let him be the way he is, and don't use 'fixing' his disability as a happy ending.
Otherwise actually I think your story sounds really cool! And I like that his sister's motivation is to protect her family, not guilt from his injury etc. I think you're nicely sidestepping a lot of offensive stuff with not making his disability a focus of her or his own motivations.
"Stella. You were in my dream the other night. And everyone called you Princess." -Lauren2010
Mon Apr 19, 2021 4:50 am
Thank you so much! I was so stressed thinking whether it was offensive I even considered completely removing this part, though a lot of characterization of the siblings would be lost. This was really helpful and I'll be sure to check out the books you mentioned. I've read the six of crows duology, it was awesome!! Glad that you find my story idea cool, it gave me a motivation boost hehe
Thank you again, and have a great day/night!
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