I am an advocate for including characters with illnesses and disabilities in your fiction, including heroes, side characters, and villains. But be careful when your villain has a disability, as there are some tired, harmful tropes associated with these characters and it’s best to avoid them. Here are some tips on what to consider.

Avoid the Following:

1. Connecting a disability with evilness.

A crippled body does not mean a crippled soul, but this trope exists because writers like the symbolism. It’s also common to use a disability as the source of a villain’s evilness—perhaps they struggle with trauma from an accident or, if they’ve been disabled since birth, they may envy the able-bodied. Perhaps they were lonely or ridiculed as a child for their condition. Perhaps they are in pain all the time and want to get revenge on the world for their condition.

In Battlestar Galactica, the turning point for Felix Gaeta’s morality is when he loses his leg. He’s had a lot of horrible things happen to him (like cylons destroying his planet and trying to kill him), but it’s this event that really brings him over the edge, which suggests that disability is the absolute worst thing that can happen to you.

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