After re-kindling my efforts toward writing The Story, I’ve been using idle time to brainstorm ideas about character and plot. I came up with their names in high school: John and Trisha. John is intentionally like John Doe. Trisha’s name isn’t set yet because her character has been becoming much more complex over the years, including what I’ll cover below.
I asked some friends about what to do with a large candle statue. “If you call it a haunted piece of art and make up a good story about spirits flying around it, it will sell.” While brainstorming during a recent float tank session, I came up with a short horror story I’ll soon write, including a characterization about Trisha where she would need to use a wheelchair. This fit with scenes I imagined over the years including The Scene. I let this idea germinate, in part because I am still concerned that writing a character with a disability could be disrespectful if I don’t write it correctly, even if I know that I will treat the idea with an enormous respect.
Trisha is an ambitious character that will work toward what she wants, so she would actively fight against being wheelchair-bound for everyday activities including cooking, only relying on the wheelchair for day trips or other events where she would otherwise need to stand frequently.
Another float tank brainstorming session led me to realize she would have a physical impairment. Maybe underdeveloped toes or a medical disease where she’d have malformed bones? The moment I realized this was like a soothing lightning bolt. Of course, I will not write this in a way to either exploit or fetishize her foot, only to tell a story that needs to be told. I’m compelled to write this idea because I’ve met successful people that have been able to overcome similar issues.
Yesterday at work, I had a sudden idea about Trisha’s childhood, where a group of bullies would yell out, “hey, Chicken Foot!” How cruel! (Maybe inspired by Hey Arnold!?) I found this scrap piece of wood on my lunch walk that might look like her leg and foot. My research is inconclusive about whether her big toe could move that drastically and this is all iceberg theory thinking because I’m still years away from sitting down to write The Story in full.
I’ll focus for now on brainstorming scenes and developing the characters, writing the occasional side story featuring John and Trisha for practice. The Mystery Candle Statue is a good example, where other than using the verb “wheeled” and perhaps “hobbled,” I will treat this idea just as though she had red hair or a green jacket: a trait that does not fully define or disable Trisha. At most, maybe in other stories it will be a symbol of the adversities she’s fought. “It will make [her] strong.”
As long as I treat the topic with respect and don’t focus on it too much, I think it will work.