I’ve been sick. Nothing too bad, though, just a flu that disabled both my taste and smell senses. However, I tried to enjoy the experience, as far as one can enjoy being sick. How come so? Because one of my characters will also be catching a flu somwhere in the story and the disease will stick with him for a considerate time. I wouldn’t want it in any other way. This character’s persona practically scram to me: “Make me sick!”. He is of a robust nature, and yet I made him go through this little incident because I felt like. After all, characters are just like regular people. They can and will get sick once in a while.

That’s something that botters me a bit. When I read a book, how come the characters never get sick? Their fragility is most of the time psychological, never does the body behave in the way a normal body is supposed to behave. For the contrary, it always presents itself healthy and vigorous. Well, your characters have the right to be ill. And if the story extends for a long period, the more likely is that your character will fall to some physical sickness.

Here’s some points to consider.

Snow and fire – If your character’s going on a trip to a place with extreme temperatures, that will take its toll on their body. This character of mine I’ve been refering from the beginning has little resistance to cold and he’s a bit “manly”, causing him to ignore his wife’s advice and not wearing enough warm clothes, which will lead to a nasty flu.

Prudent characters will pay attention to the weather in order to prevent sickness; less wise characters will suffer more. Also, unless you are talking about a sorcerer with some powerful protection spells, don’t expect to send your characters to the Winter tundra/blazing desert with their regular outfit.

Fever makes you dull. When someone contracts an infection, they’ll develop a fever. Fevers are relevant to your character’s jugdment, speech and actions. They make your movements slower and you tend to sleep a lot. You can’t think straight. A warrior with a fever will have less agility and has to compensate in battle whether by retreating to the back row or by requiring extra help from his comrades, for example. Most likely he will be a nuisance and has to take some time out to rest.

Recovery time – You cannot have your character going through a potentially fatal disease and then have them return to normal within two days. Allow them a decent recovery time which you may use to focus on another situations/characters. An average flu will likely take two weeks to get better and a poisoning two or three very bad days following a week’s recovery. Also, beware of the recovering conditions. If your character won’t be able to recover on a comfy bed with some sort of accompaniment, it’ll take a lot more to get back to good shape as the body as to work harder to be healthy.

Medicine and healer’s experience – What’s your character taking for the disease? Remember that not all medicine/potions have to be extremely effective and some may even not be the best for your character. The healer’s experience adds to it, as they’ll be of better help if they’re more experient and used to treat that particular disease.

Relapse – If the illness is indeed serious, chances are it can strike again, specially if it’s not conveniently treated on the first occurence. Lord of the Rings hobbit Frodo Baggins never fully recovered from his injuries in Amon Sûl, which led him never to be fully healthy again. Although I would like to focus in sicknesses more than physical injuries, the principle still applies. Just think of a virus that never leaves the body or a chronic illness.

When you are creating a new disease for your character, take your time on answering the following questions:

  • Name of the disease?

  • Origins?

  • How do you catch it?

  • Is it a common or a rare disease?

  • How long until you realize you’re sick?

  • What are its symptons?

  • Is it treatable or does it disappear naturally?

  • Is a special artifact/medicine necessary to the healing process? Why?

  • How does the society looks at people with this disease?

  • Who is more likely to catch it? Does it affect specific classes, etc.?

Do make your characters sad when they’re sick and do make them immensely happy when they start getting better. That’s what’s happening to me ;)