Hey friends! I mean minions! (Whatever, same thing.) I hadn’t been planning on writing about sickness again, but then I came across this Awkward Yeti comic:
I don’t really know what Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is. Or, well, I guess NOW I do (Thanks Awkward Yeti!) but I hadn’t heard of it before. I was vaguely aware of what the thyroid did and equally vaguely aware that there were diseases where the immune system attacks itself and stuff but not really what any of it was because it sounds terrible, is a lot of stuff to remember, and I don’t have it.
I’ve been giving a lot of thought to diversifying my cast, not due to any sort of PC reason but just because I’m talking about the cast of my saga where the second half doesn’t have a lot of characters due to most of the original main cast not being around anymore halfway through and I need to make up a bajillion more and bigger diversity is more fun. When people say “More diversity!” in fictional casts, they usually mean more race and/or sexualities. Which yeah, I’ll have diverse races – although since it takes place on a fictional planet, when we see someone who is dark-skinned, they’re probably going to be closer to black rather than a deep brown with beautiful gradations to pink in a few spots, like their palms, and there’s an entire race of albinos, and actually pink-skinned people, and daffodil-colored, and vitiligo-colored (and they’re considered “exotic”, not “diseased”). And yeah, white. And people with wings. And lamias. And- well, it’s a fantasy story. But there are so many ways to diversify than just race and sexualities.
Which brings me back to The Awkward Yeti’s comic. Usually if a character has a medical condition, it’s a motivation factor, something the character is trying to get rid of. It might be fictional:
It might not be. Usually fictional is easier because so far as I know, the whole point of a chronic problem is that it’s chronic and we can’t fix it very well. There isn’t a mythic cure (until research makes one; it’s still mythic because probably your insurance won’t pay for it).
But even though a lot of people have a lot of semi-unusual problems, there aren’t a lot of heroes and probably less villains who have any sort of health problem at all, unless the villain has a serious mental problem. You don’t really see any heroes (or villains) with sickle-cell disease, for example. Maybe cancer, that’s a big one everyone knows! But not like, er…
…well that’s kind of the problem, isn’t it? I don’t really know about a lot of “my body isn’t perfectly healthy but you can’t really tell by looking at me, can you?” sort of problems. Joint pain? And with these sorts of problems, your villain (or hero) could still probably just go about their business nbd. So in that case, what’s the point of even bothering to give them a problem in the first place?
Well, no point, if you write it that way. He has hypothyroidism, but he fights on anyway. Yeah, might as well not put it in there. But a symptom of hypothyroidism – that comic – is fatigue. You can do something with that. A villain who has a hard time mustering up the energy to Do The Thing might be totally useless to you, something that would be A Bad Idea. Or maybe that’s an incredibly interesting idea. Go for it.
When you’re thinking about ways to make characters more interesting, maybe a weird quirk is good, or an “unusual” sexuality, but basic and in a way common bodily problems are so underlooked I think that they’re an ignored resource that are worth considering.