Part 2 in the series, “The Fascination of Physically Challenged Characters”
The reason physically challenged characters intrigue readers so much is because they present a quandary. We wonder, have they become fascinating individuals because their handicap forced them to overcome serious obstacles just to survive, or will the physical hindrance somehow eventually lead to their demise if they encounter a situation in which all human faculties are required? We watch these people, study them, try to learn from them. They constantly are in an adapt-or-die kind of environment, which heightens plot intensity.
It is important not to portray these individuals as pathetic, unless there is some sort of subsequent redeeming change in the person. For example, Cap’n Dan in Forrest Gump truly is a pathetic individual—drunken, slovenly, abrasive, self-pitying, and spiteful. As a wheelchair-bound double-amputee Vietnam vet, his bitterness makes him hateful to everyone around him until Gump’s love, loyalty, and friendship give Dan a new reason to live and be happy. He may still be bound to the wheelchair, but Dan no longer is emotionally “handicapped.” It makes for a good story.
Next week: “Ensuring Character Empathy”
Dennis E. Hensley, PhD, is director of the professional writing department at Taylor University in Upland, Indiana, and a Christian Writers Guild board member. His 54 books include:
- Jesus in the 9 to 5: Facing the Challenges of Today’s Business World
- How to Write What You Love and Make a Living at It
- Man to Man: Becoming the Believer God Called You to Be
- More Than Meets the Eye: Finding an Extraordinary God in Ordinary Life
- Alpha Teach Yourself Grammar and Style in 24 Hours
- Surprises and Miracles of the Season: Devotions for Christmas and New Year’s
- The Power of Positive Productivity
© 2014 by Dennis E. Hensley. All rights reserved.