Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Dr. Mom

St Marys by Candlelight--Anna Zinkeisen

This fall and winter have really tested my nursing abilities.

Unfortunately, both my children have the seasonal flu right now. One of those kids has already had H1N1 recently (October.)

I’ve been busily refilling water glasses, taking temperatures, handing out bowls of cut fruit, and checking in with doctors’ offices and schools.

Monday my daughter was only interested in either sleeping or curling up in a tight ball of misery on the sofa and watching “Spongebob.” It’s amazing the work you can do, sitting beside a sick child with a cartoon running in the background.

Tuesday morning I got a text message from my son. “I’m sick.” Sure enough, the middle school was delighted for me to take my feverish, hollow-eyed child back home. They’d both been fine only a couple of hours before the flu hit them like a ton of bricks.

Do your characters get sick? I’ve got illness on the brain now and my characters will probably come down with something nasty.

The thing about illness is that it’s intrinsically boring. You feel like you can barely lug yourself out of the bed. You’re not running around leading an interesting life when you’re sick.

But getting sick is real life. And it’s another way of adding some depth to a character.

In my Myrtle Clover series, I’ve had Myrtle fake being sick more than once. It’s proven a good gimmick for getting her way or to get suspects bearing casseroles to her house (all the better to question these suspects.)

What if it’s a chronic illness and the character is the protagonist’s child or mother? Then the illness provides a good vehicle for conflict or for the protagonist’s growth as a character.

If the protagonist learns to deal with medical problems like heart disease, diabetes, or even the flu, it not only shows the vulnerability of the character, but their strength, too.

Do you plan on inflicting any illnesses on your characters?