When I wrote the character of Danny Jefferson, a young man with Down syndrome, in The Dreamland Series, I wanted to endow him a particular talent and chose photography. When his mentor, retired teacher Hetty Green, gives him a camera, he soon finds that he sees his world through the viewfinder in a unique way. Enter forensic anthropologist Sean Mercer, who introduces Danny to his own state-of-the-art photography equipment and is amazed at the young man’s ability to snap a picture at exactly the right angle to capture the subject
Then, believe it or not, after the Dreamland books were up and running, I happened on an article about an eighteen year-old in the UK, also challenged by Down syndrome, who dreams of being a professional landscape and wildlife photographer, and who is mentored by his stepfather, himself a professional photographer!
Meet Oliver Hellowell here and take a look at examples of his work.
I love it when fiction finds roots in ‘real life’!
Why do I include characters with challenges in my fiction? Obviously less than perfect fictional characters and real life folks too often make other people uncomfortable, but they shouldn’t. And that’s why. I’m a believer in the possible—the mountain peak—the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
In Where Is Papa’s Shining Star? (my first published novel), Alan Ashely has returned from WW I, scarred, blind and embittered. The scion of a wealthy family, he earned a master’s degree in business from Harvard before hitting the trenches of France, and he expects to return to run the lucrative business his now-deceased father established. He also expects to marry his beautiful debutante fiancée.
His profligate cousins bring suit to have him declared incompetent so they can take over the business, and Elise informs him she could never marry half a man. Although he wins the right to run Ashley Enterprises, he withdraws into himself, determined never to be hurt or rejected again.
In the novel I’ve been working on for at least 30 years-and which I may never finish because I’m so attached to my characters I can’t bear to say goodbye, the plot is awash with challenged characters:
Vic, son of the town drunk, who earns his college education on the football field with two good legs—and then leaves one of them behind in Germany during WW II.
Peggy, an orphan, brutally assaulted by one of her aunt’s boarders and left unable to bear children.
Peaches, beautiful and talented but crippled physically by polio and emotionally by the worst kind of abuse.
Bix, scarred at an early age by the loss of his father, wrongly convicted of embezzlement and sent to prison where he is killed by another inmate
If I ever finish Blest Be the Tie, I’ll let you know!.
Challenges, met with courage, determination, and the love and support of friends and family, are not always stumbling blocks, and the sky’s the limit!
Now I write with a very personal “agenda” because I’m the proud grandmother of a little boy with Down syndrome. At 2 ½, he’s endured more pain and stress than any child should have to go through, but hopefully it’s all behind him now—and he’s on his way!
Too, I think of the adults I was privileged to know at the sheltered workshop where I spent some time in the classroom. So many of them inspired me with their quiet acceptance of their limitations (though often they could do things I couldn't!), their work ethic, and their willingness to be my friends.
Don’t forget to visit Oliver Hellowell at his website. You can also find him on Facebook. He “only” has 38,348 likes…oh, make that 38,349 since I just joined his fan club!
You can read more about Alan Ashley and the other characters in the Shining Star Books at my website.
And remember…it’s a good clean read!