My last post vaguely skirted around the worry I had about whether a character with a particular condition was adding anything to a story. I was very aware that the story should not be about the character’s condition, but should be a story with a character who just happens to have that condition. My friend Martin made a very interesting comment, which I’m reposting here so everyone can read it:
> The rule is generally that if something isn’t
> pushing the story forwards and there for a
> reason, it shouldn’t be in the story, right?
Generally, yes. But look at it from the viewpoint of a lexical-gustatory synaesthete. Your story would be describing the events from their default point of view (more-or-less, although the specifics will vary from person to person), and so they wouldn’t see anything extraneous to cut out.
I can remember Mat once getting feedback on a story he’d written with a lesbian protagonist, where one of the BWG members commented something along the lines of “Why is she a lesbian – it doesn’t add anything to the story” (despite the fact that, in this particular case, it actually *did*). From the point of view of this particular non-heterosexual, though, *i* always wonder why everyone tends to write about straight people all the time when it doesn’t add anything to the story; i’m also frustrated at how many stories featuring non-straight protagonists have to revolve around the fact they’re non-straight, as if it’s some insuperable obstacle that all non-straight people’s lives must revolve around, and we can never be shown being *incidentally* gay (or whatever) whilst robbing a bank (or something else rendering our sexuality ‘irrelevant’ to the story).
Ditto issues of ethnicity, disability, gender, and age. Even if you *should* slice away character’s “redundant” personal traits until you pared them down to whichever kind of “everyman” would fit the demands of the story, you’d still be making assumptions about which kinds of individuals constitute the human norm, and (by extension) which kinds of individuals get to have stories written about them (and therefore get to read about people like themselves).
Lexical-gustatory synaesthesia is pretty rare. I’m not *really* suggesting that there are oodles of lexical-gustatory synaesthetes out there wondering why people keep writing stories about non-synaesthetes whose non-synaesthesia adds nothing to the story. But i would nevertheless strongly counsel *against* treating character traits as story features you can pare away until you’re left with an able-bodied straight white male middle-class protagonist who experiences the world just like everyone else, because it’s boring, and the real world doesn’t actually work that way. You wanted to write this story because there was something about that viewpoint that intrigued you, that inspired you – go with your gut instinct, and see what happens.