While I’m not a fan of plague scenarios I am completely okay with writing in a little humanity, in the form of illness. A main or support character might need a little cold, flu or stomach bug to change things up.
It’s funny how things like being sick make me think about writing people being sick.
How much I illustrate with illness depends entirely on the outcome I want. Gross or tender moments have equal opportunity here.
Scenarios mild Illness can bring
Develop closeness between characters
Show tender side
Show callous side
Demonstrate weakness or strength
Cause a loss of job
Induce stress/tension in those caring for ill
Worry and anxiety
Personality change from mild to extreme (Some people become totally different when sick)
Ann frowned and startled when the doorbell rang. Puzzled she got up and trudged to the door. She peeked out the window, her heart skipped a beat and she opened the door.
“Tony, I told you I was too sick to go on our date.”
“And I told you.” He stepped inside. “That drugs are no substitute for good company and.” He held up an opaque Tupperware container. “Chicken noodle soup.”
She closed the door and led him to the kitchen. “You’re like a weird romance novel character. Too perfect.”
“There’s a compliment in there I just know it.” Tony set the soup on the counter and made her sit. “Soup pot?”
She sneezed loudly into her elbow and pointed at a cupboard sneezing again.
“Bless you.” He opened the cupboard.
“Ugh, I’m a culture of disease. You take care of sick people all day long, why would you want to on your time off?”
He smiled and handed her a glass of orange juice. “Because work is strangers, it’s way better when you like the person you’re caring for.”
He laughed when she rolled her eyes and fat watery tears dripped down her cheeks.
Amber wiped her mouth with toilet paper and flushed. She rinsed her mouth, washed her hands and nearly bumped into her perky redhead roommate coming out of the room.
“Still hungover?” Susie snickered. “Or knocked up?”
Amber narrowed her eyes at her hateful roommate. “Neither, I think I caught a bug.”
“Uh huh. Twenty bucks says that bug will last nine months.” Susie laughed as she left the apartment.
Amber leaned against the wall and slid to the floor. She did the math in her head. How did she not realize? If Susie was right then that meant… Her eyes widened at the potential candidate. “No. Not him.” Just the thought sent her scrambling for the toilet once more.
Dale wiped his brow again as Amber approached. “You look a crappy as I do.”
“Shut up Dale.” Amber snipped and sat in her cubical beside his.
“Seriously I’m shooting dinner out like nobody’s business. Total mudslide every fifteen minutes.”
Amber rubbed her face. “I swear to God Dale, shut the hell up or I’ll barf on you.”
“Huh. Maybe the food we ate at Habanero’s was tainted.” Dale got up and trotted quickly down the hall.
“Maybe.” Amber muttered glancing at her purse with the pharmacy bag in it. “Hopefully.”
Illness is common enough that people know what it is. I don’t need to describe the consistency of Anne’s boogers or colour and smell of Amber’s vomit. I could, but it wasn’t necessary to go for gross factor, it was gross enough IMO. Sometimes too much will turn a reader off or make them leery to keep reading. These were small examples that didn’t really impact the story too much. If I needed someone to lose a job I’d make them sicker longer or have it impact their life drastically.
My advice about mild illness.
It happens often enough in the real world. If your people are too perfect maybe, give them a sniffle or food poisoning. Bring out their sulky or cranky side. When it comes to illness in writing, the world is your bacteria tainted oyster.
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