Romantic Friday Writers: New Horizons

Romantic Friday Writers: New Horizons This blog has a challenge for writers of romance/love stories to write 400 words on a theme each Friday.  The theme this week is New Horizons

First, a question.  If you’ve been coming through and reading my entries for the last few weeks you will see that my male characters are always disabled.  I would like to know if that is a problem for your enjoyment of the story.  It seems like people don’t quite know what to say.  I’m guessing that it feels like you think it’s a good thing to have a story that shows a disabled person having normal experiences, but it’s not really appealing or romantic to you personally.  Am I getting that right?  I’m worried that I’m making people uncomfortable with my excerpts.  Please give me some honest feedback: is a romantic hero with a disability too tough a sell?

Okay, this is a rough, rough draft.  I just wrote it last night.  This is such a great exercise!  I got some interesting ideas while I was working on it.  Creativity really can flourish under pressure.

It’s for a spin-off story based on the male main character in (W)hole, that you met last week.  This will be a short story.  Stewart has just moved back to California after fourteen years away.

Word count:  399  Feel free to critique this fully if you would like.  It is a first draft, so I’ve got plenty of time to think about and implement revisions.  I can take it! 🙂


Leah was already there when they arrived.  She was wearing a mini skirt that didn’t quite cover her butt and a sport’s bra.  Her skin glistened, still wet from swimming.  The few patrons were all riveted to her.  As Stewart’s wheels rumbled onto the wooden floor, she turned and fixed him with her well-honed siren smile.  Jeff gave her a wave, then went into the kitchen to get them food.  Stewart slowly wheeled over to Leah’s table and pulled a chair out of the way.

“No girlfriend this time, huh?” she said.

“Could we talk about something else please?”

“Oh, don’t be touchy.  I enjoyed seeing you this summer and now I’ll be seeing you a lot more.  A whole lot more.”

“I really don’t want to do this with you.”

“Do what?” She leaned forward and smiled again, twirling a piece of her ocean-soaked hair in front of her.

Jeff came back with baskets of burgers and put them down.  “So,” Jeff said, “I was thinking that tomorrow we should catch the surf together, like old times.”

“I can’t,” Stewart said, “I’m starting student teaching in the morning.”

“Oh right,” Jeff said.

Leah hadn’t taken her eyes of Stewart and he was purposely not looking back at her.  She wasn’t really interested in him, this was all a game.  A game she was good at and always had been.  All she wanted to do was win, not actually follow through on any flirting.  But Stewart liked to win too.

He decided to make her as uncomfortable as he possibly could.  He pushed his hands against the seat of his wheelchair, shifting his body and thought “Score one for me” when Leah looked away and fidgeted with her hair.

“Maybe this weekend, though,” Jeff continued.  “If we get out early enough to beat the tourists.”

“Yeah, maybe,” Stewart said, looking at Leah. “But you know it takes me a while to get ready in the mornings these days.”

She met his eye and he couldn’t read her expression.  She certainly didn’t look disgusted or put off.

“What about Lee?” Stewart said.  “It’s not the old gang without your brother.”

“He probably won’t make it,” Leah said.

“He hasn’t been able to look at me since I came back in a wheelchair,” Stewart said, slapping his lap for emphasis.

“Oh, so he’s an ass,” Leah said, “What else is new?”



  1. Daydreamertoo
    Aug 19, 2011

    This was a very good read. Many people tend to think because someone is in a wheelchair they can’t think or speak for themselves when truth is, they are exactly like any one of us except they are sitting down as they speak or interact with us, that’s all. I like the naturalness of it all and the characters are interesting in just that short introduction to them.

    • RuthMadison
      Aug 19, 2011

      Thank you. Yes, that is how I feel too. I want to dispel some of these silly ideas that someone who can’t walk is in some way lesser.

  2. Well-written story. Your characters feel like real people. I agree with Daydreamertoo; a person sitting in a wheel chair is just someone sitting down.

    Toward the end of his life, my father had trouble standing and was more and depended upon sitting in a wheelchair to get around when we all went shopping or went to church or ate out at a restaurant. His disability came with old age, so he had had a fairly long life walking normally. But I never thought of him as a ‘handicapped’ person, just an old person. So it surprised me when I was trying to locate the family on a trip and telephoned a restaurant, and the manager discribed him as ‘a man sitting in a wheel chair’. For me he was still my father who could reach down and scoop me up in his arms when I was only five years old. My picture of my father was so much broader than the narrow slice of time that what most strangers thought of him in his last years, sitting in a wheel chair.

    I don’t have anything against a protagonist who is sitting in a wheel chair as long as you make him a worthy character. Give him a sharp wit or a talent that is not affected by not being able to walk.

    Take a peek (I am sure that you already have done this, sorry id I sound like a silly know-it-all) at some well-known handicapped person’s fight against the odds like FDR, who was a polio-victim and had a much harder time doing things than he let on.

    It’s alright to continue writing about a hero a hero who is sitting in a wheelchair as long as you don’t let that overshadow everything else. Give the guy a chance to shine as other people are allowed to shine. Let him love and be loved as other people love and are loved.

    Personally, I am still a beginning writer. I have not come that far that I know that I want to write about a special kind of character and only that. I find myself drawn to certain themes again and again, but i am still trying to ‘windowshopä a little longer before committing myself to only one theme or one special character. Obviously you know what you want to write about, so go for it!

    Best wishes,
    Anna’s RFW No.15-‘New Horizons: Cissi tells Selma…’

    • RuthMadison
      Aug 19, 2011

      I agree. Your father is still your father, whether he walks or not. And my heroes are complete human beings with lots of interesting aspects (I think!), not just disability. So, it sounds like you are open to reading a romance with a disabled hero as long as there is more to him than just that. It’s very encouraging to me, thank you.

  3. Sorry about the typos!

    • RuthMadison
      Aug 19, 2011

      Haha! I know as writers we are so sensitive about those. The fact is, though, when you’re just rushing to share your thoughts in a comment, it’s easy to have typos.

  4. Just a thought:
    It may give you some encouragement to look at how some older authors have written about protagonists who are or who become handicapped. The first story that comes to my mind is ‘Jane Eyre’. Her love for Mr Rochester is so unyielding, that she still wants him when she finds him again at the end, despite the fact that he is injured in a fire and blind.

    • RuthMadison
      Aug 19, 2011

      That is true. I’ve read Jane Eyre, but the disability only comes in at the very end, so it’s hard to think of how a disabled protagonist works in a story. Do you have any other suggestions? I’m very open to hearing them!

  5. Francine Howarth
    Aug 19, 2011


    Absolutely nothing wrong in having a disabled hero! There are enough around in real life, not least ex military bods. And, there are writers out there who are not afraid to go for unusual characters. Jennifer Wilke has a disabled wheelchair bound hero, in her novel “Heart of little Faith”

    Any piece posted out of whole/context loses impact, but this is not half bad given that you bashed it out quick. Yeah, it’ll sing better with a little read through and minor revision. But, that said, I’m betting he’s going to give her a right run-a-round on sexual tease, and end up the winner! 😉


    • RuthMadison
      Aug 19, 2011

      Thank you for that suggestion! I didn’t know about that book and will definitely read it. I appreciate your confirmation that a disabled hero will work just fine!

  6. Laura
    Aug 19, 2011

    I loved your piece last week, and this one’s no different. It is refreshing to see ‘real’ people written about in romantic fiction – no matter what their disability / abilities, and I find it brings a crisp edge to your work (i.e. lacking a lot of the baloney and cliche that I find creeps in to my stuff – especially the early drafts). So, far from being unappealing, I find your stories romantically appealing and satisfying…

    PS sorry if I waffled. It’s late… I should go to bed!
    Thanks for a fab read
    Laura x

    • RuthMadison
      Aug 19, 2011

      Thank you! My main problem in writing tends to be that I’m too terse, too direct! Have to find the right balance 🙂

  7. Beverly Diehl
    Aug 19, 2011

    Disabled characters don’t put me off. (Except for characters who come off brain-damaged, and not as an intentional act of the author, lol!) Being sexy is in the brain, and you can “work it” regardless of shape, size, age, or physical challenges. I have seen some HAWT men in wheelchairs. (Prolly some hot women too, but I don’t look at women much, regardless of how they navigate.)

    I thought this was an AMAZING first/rough draft. This paragraph: “Leah hadn’t taken her eyes …Stewart liked to win too. ” is a little muddy. I *think* the entire piece is supposed to be through Stewart’s eyes, correct? At the very beginning, and in this paragraph, it’s a little hard to tell.

    • RuthMadison
      Aug 20, 2011

      Thank you! You always do pick up on the weakest parts, which is great. That paragraph is where the story suddenly changed direction and started doing something I hadn’t expected at all. I’m excited to revise it now, as it became more interesting than what I had originally planned.

  8. L'Aussie
    Aug 20, 2011

    Ruth I love the way people are responding. I think a person in a wheelchair should wear a tee shirt saying: It’s only my legs that are a problem, the rest of me is A OK. Many people can’t cope with ‘difference’ and are embarrassed and can’t meet a person in a wheelchair’s eyes which is ridiculous. And why shouldn’t your hero be disabled? He’s still the same as most people – looking for love. Go with the idea.

    For a quickly-written piece this is good. Just a bit of head hopping but you’d pick this up in revisions.

    Made a great entry for New Horizons.


    • RuthMadison
      Aug 20, 2011

      I agree, the response is great! I was expecting more naysayers, but everyone has said it’s not a problem. I will happily continue to write these sorts of pieces every Friday! 🙂

      There are some great t-shirts out there. One of my favorites says “I’m only in it for the parking.” Another is “I’m not disabled, I’m just lazy.”

  9. Kiru Taye
    Aug 20, 2011

    This is a nice snippet, Ruth. Regardless of disability, everyone deserves a bit of romance. Your stories capture the conflicts and personal struggles of disabled characters well and I enjoy reading them.

  10. L'Aussie
    Aug 22, 2011

    Hi Ruth. You mentioned that you’d have liked to see my fuller version of the dark Cinders tale. Here it is:

    Tell me what you think…


  11. Ms. Queenly
    Aug 22, 2011

    *typed again because I’m sure it didn’t go through the first time*

    I think you handled your scenes well though I am aware that I’m speaking as a generally able-bodied person. It doesn’t disgust me or put me off at all. We need to raise the bar on our writing/reading standards and write against ableism. I enjoy reading about intimacy between people and writing about the possibilities.

    • RuthMadison
      Aug 22, 2011

      That is wonderful news! Thank you

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