Another thread about Skald’s novel-in-progress! Wow, that only makes ten billion! :wally
As some of you may recall from my days as Fabulous Creature, I’m working on a fantasy novel. (Technically speaking it’s a mixture; the first half is an urban fantasy set in the 1980s, the second half is a high fantasy set in an alternate world). I’m in rewrite at this point, and I’ve decided I need to add some ambiguity to a character. I’d appreciate some input from the group, if you don’t mind.
First some background. One of the story’s two protagonists is a boy named Andy. As the story opens he’s 10; for the majority of the action he’s 14. Andy is the son and namesake of a Marine gunnery sergeant who is lost in a plane crash before the action begins. Andrew Senior’s body is never found, and Andy never relinquishes hope that he is somehow still alive. He wants to shape himself into the image of his father; to his mind, being a leatherneck–which to him means an honorable, brave person who protects the innocent and helpless–is what every man should aspire to be. Consequently he puts forth no small effort into taking care of the story’s other protagonist, Hannah. After her husband’s death, Andy’s mother, Beatrice, collapses emotionally, leaving his older sister, Rosemary, in charge of running the household and raising Andy. Andy and Hannah both adore Rosemary.
Four years after his father’s death, Andy’s mother, Beatrice, remarries. Her new husband, George, was Andrew Sr.'s CO in Vietnam; Andy Sr. saved his life during the battle of Khe Sanh. He has a son, Christopher, about Andy’s age. George brought the family news of Andrew Sr.'s death, told Andy the story his father’s heroism during the war, and is the first of Beatrice’s suitor’s both Andy and Rosemary approve of.
Naturally he’s a son of a bitch.
By means of various plot convolutions I won’t go into here, George betrays the family. Specifically he is allied with the same evil wizard who murdered Andrew Senior. In exchange for a service provided by said wizard, George stealing a fraction of Rosemary’s soul; this assault leaves her dying. Andy and Hannah must go on a quest to cure her.
Still with me? Good. Now for the reason for this thread:
In my original draft, George betrays the family simply because he wants magical power the wizard can provide. Looking over my manuscript I’ve decided I don’t like that; I want to make his character and actions more ambiguous. I’m opting to do that by changing his motivation. Rather than simple magical power, George will be seeking healing for his son. Christopher will be suffering from mundane ailment that the wizard can cure – but the wizard is only willing to do so in exchange for the fraction of Rosemary’s soul. George, in this view, is genuinely fond of Andy’s family – but simply cares more for his own son. He tries to be a good stepfather to Andy (and even, initially, Rosemary), partly because that’s what he wants to do, partly out of guilt.
Which brings me to my questions:
1. What ailment(s) should Christopher suffer from?
2. How serious should this ailment be?
My initial idea was that Christopher is confined to a wheelchair because of an accident; in this concept, he was crippled in the same accident that left George a widower. On the other hand, it might be better if Christopher has some other problem that seems bad to George because it prevents the boy from being an athlete. Andy and George get along very well, not least because Andy is athletic and is so interested in becoming a Marine himself. If Christopher has asthma or some other problem that prevents him from being the jock Andy is – but nevertheless will neither kill him nor prevent him from leading a full life – does that make George’s actions more ambiguous, or less? In this view, in other words, George is trying to fix his not-really-broken son, because Christopher isn’t what HE imagines a boy should be.
If anybody can name a specific medical problem that Christopher could suffer from, they should feel free to do so. Thanks in advance, Dopers.