Many people deal with chronic pain. Do the main characters of “The Story,” John and Trishna, have any long-term medical malaises? As I considered this question, briefly thinking through disparate scenes that might appear across the short stories, novel, or series of novels encapsulated within the greater whole of the Eville landscape where my first and other novels will reside, my casual answer is no. They will have some flirtations with pain, like everyone does…
Spoilers?: Minor [considering character-building concepts]
My approach to uncovering character traits is looking at how they act in scenes.
Throughout the scenes that are too varied and chaotic to write with any coherence, I hadn’t noticed John or Trishna act in ways where they were significantly impaired by their bodies, except for their hand and foot respectively. It’s not likely that they would wake up and go back to bed because their hand, foot, or back hurt. They might have brief weeks or days where they would be sick or in pain, but nothing seemed to imply that chronic pain was going to factor in much.
That doesn’t mean John and Trishna still don’t have spoons, just more of them.
I think of Spoon theory, an emic term to describe the energy levels people living with chronic pain, like videogame hit points. For people that don’t live with chronic pain, their health bar might be a full 100 points that could replenish by 50 each night. Showering, dressing, and getting ready to go somewhere might take 2 or 5 spoons. Going to and from work might be 20 or 50 spoons. People living with chronic pain might only have 30, or even 10, spoons.
When I think about scenes involving John and Trishna, they don’t involve energy levels.
Trishna might take longer to go somewhere just because she has impaired mobility. Her wheelchair lets her do more, but when she was younger, she had no reason to go out. She stayed inside because it was easier and she could talk with John via the Internet. When Trishna’s family picks up John, they would spend more time hanging out either around her family’s house or going out to places. When I imagine them leaving to go places, the Spoon theory doesn’t pop up as a major conflict.
[Which I know sounds kind of shitty. Sorry.]
I accept responsibility and here is my clarification. I am a fully-abled person, other than frequent back pain that gives me headaches and prevents me from my full able-bodied potential sometimes, writing about two disabled characters. I can’t fully bring my experience into their story. I don’t know how it’s like to live with a physically-impaired hand or foot, outside of my own imagination, and the scenes that flash across my thoughts where they move around or react to situations.
I research as much as I can, however.
In some way, too, I think that writing about characters completely different than me is a good challenge. It gets me outside myself. I’m currently brainstorming some ENDLESS WAR short stories with my RFCKsona. In these rough draft thoughts, he’s a journalist sent in from The End Times, a formal newspaper in New Seattle aka The Expanded Spokane Wasteland by “Cutthroat” Cal. When he arrives, he turns into a humanoid version of my avatar and fights in the Endless War. I’m kicking the idea around because it’s a good way to channel the creativity of, say, seeing a group of teammates strategizing yet not getting involved with the fun, because he’s got to write to his boss for his assignment. For something like that, although the RFCKsona is still a variation of me, he’s a little different.
With John, Trishna, and “The Story,” they’re all unique characters.
They may have elements of myself in them, along with other people I meet, but, say 80%, of their character traits, personalities, and mannerisms are their own. For something like my RFCKsona, he’s 80% me. There are drawbacks to having a character that’s less like yourself. When I first realized that they had physical impairments, I had some concern because I knew next to nothing about how it was like living with a physical disability. Throughout the past three-plus years, I’ve learned an acceptable amount about disabilities. I still feel inadequate in wanting to accurately portray them. Before I write “The Story,” which will take place after I write enough practice novels involving ‘side characters’ like Sammohini and Pollyanna, I should have established enough baseline research and should have people I can consult to ask “does this seem poorly-portrayed to you?”
Until then, I’ll still work on ideas.
One idea I’ve been considering for a while is that when they go to college, they’ll join the University of Eville Accessibility Rights Club. My college had an accessibility department, but I’d say, overall, it wasn’t what it could. What I imagine the ARC to be here is an organization that will organize events, like say a dance or nature-stroll, where everyone is welcome. Something like that is something I think would improve our world. My compulsory education didn’t take able-bodiedness into consideration as a factor to be taken for granted. There were some accessibility accommodations made, in general, but we didn’t formally learn about others in regards to disabilities.
I guess I could learn more emic terminology.
If I could conclude by considering how John and Trishna might respond to all of that, Trishna would have more patience earlier on for navigating through well-intended misused terminology. John would learn that later on. My guiding thread through all of this is wondering would I betray their trust, if they were to be real people sharing their lives with me? As long as I never feel like I am betraying their trust or disrespecting them, I feel like this will be a good direction to go, not just for my own reasons, but because that’s what these characters revealed to me as I imagined them.
It’s in this whole weird Imaginarium where fiction and fact coalesce into fiction writing.
|Sources: The Story’s Imaginarium.|
|Inspirations: I woke up in pain and it took me about five hours to get over the worst of that, so here we are, considering whether I would throw my characters through that inhumane ringer that I am briefly dealing with but others have to deal with constantly. My empathy goes out to spoonies.|
|Related: Essays building “The Story.”|
|Picture: If I can imagine myself as the photographer of this photo, would John and Trishna allow me to catch a subtly intimate moment where she goes to hold his hand? If not, then I’m doing it wrong.|
|Written On: 2020 April 28 [6:35pm to 7:17pm]|
|Last Edited: 2020 April 28 [First draft; final draft for the Internet.]|