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Live Workshops on Writing Disabled Characters in Fiction

Writing Disabled Characters in Fiction with Dr. Lara Ameen


START DATE: Tuesday, October 15, 2024

END DATE: Tuesday, November 19, 2024

DURATION:  6 weeks

LOCATION:  Live Zoom Classes

MEETING TIME:  Tuesdays, 4 pm - 5:30 pm PST

FEEDBACK:  Instructor Feedback and Critique; Peer Workshopping

COURSE DESCRIPTION:  Disabled people make up about 20% of the U.S. population, but only about 2% of disabled characters are represented on-screen and most of that representation deals with damaging stereotypes. Films and novels like Me Before You boast the dangerous notion that it’s better off to be dead than disabled. Other characters, such as those found in popular YA novels like Five Feet Apart and Everything, Everything portray chronic illness/disability as miserable and perpetuate harmful tropes.

This six-week class will examine writing disabled characters in Young Adult fiction. It will explore the rampant stereotypes that are so often associated with fiction and media’s portrayal of disabled characters such as the disabled character as the victim like Hillary Swank’s character in Million Dollar Baby, hero or “supercrip” like the John Locke character in Lost or the villain (when a character is negatively associated with having mental illness) such as Captain Hook in Peter Pan or The Joker. We will explore how YA novels such as One for All and Where You See Yourself change the way we write and view disabled characters. A resource guide of YA novels written by disabled authors will be provided as well as resources on alternatives to ableist language.

**Disabled writers with any type of disability (physical, chronic illness, invisible disability, neurodivergence, etc.) especially encouraged to take this class**

Students will learn to apply a disability studies methodology to their fiction writing and how disability studies can help shape one’s understanding of fictional narratives. Students will be expected to complete weekly reading and writing exercises. This class will teach students how to write well-rounded, interesting disabled characters without trite, clichéd, or offensive language as well as addressing core concepts in disability studies and how to recognize them in fiction, ableism/ableist language, harmful tropes/stereotypes, and person-first language (person with a disability) versus identity-first language (disabled person). By the end of this class, students will have a 3-5-page outline and opening chapters (8-10 pages per chapter or 10-15 pages per chapter) to their Young Adult novels with disabled characters. Students will also submit a revision of their novel chapters for workshop.

6 weeks for 90 minutes in person via Zoom each week: Tuesdays, 4 pm - 5:30 pm EST.

Lara’s queer, speculative fiction centers disabled characters and opens doors to fantasy, darkness, and whimsy. I’ve had the pleasure of reading Lara’s work across multiple genres and mediums (novellas, novels, short stories, and screenplays), and am always blown away by the vibrant imagination and depth of characterization. Lara will help students dream up worlds while ensuring characters and their readers are treated with the dignity and adventure they so deserve. ~ Jen St. Jude, author of If Tomorrow Doesn’t Come

Lara’s background in screenwriting helps inform her unique approach to fiction, allowing her to create a cinematic experience for her readers, fully realized, vibrant characters, and heart-pounding plot twists. ~ Lillie Lainoff, author of One for All

Lara was a valuable expert reader for Martin McLean, Middle School Queen by Alyssa Zaczek. She provided detailed feedback on a disabled character who uses a wheelchair as well as guidance on eliminating ableist language from the text. Lara was a pleasure to work with and her notes went above and beyond to strengthen the book. ~ Rachael Stein, Freelance Children's Book Editor, Formerly Editor, Sterling Children's Books

Lara Ameen brings deep expertise and a passion for story to her sensitivity reading. The thoughtful comments and excitement Lara brought to my project, The Way We Haunt Now, helped me add depth to my world building and approach one of my characters with a new perspective. ~ Courtney Floyd, Creator & Showrunner, The Way We Haunt Now Podcast

Hiring Lara Ameen to be a sensitivity reader for The Reckless Kind was one of the best decisions I made. Her insightful feedback not only helped improve the manuscript but helped me grow as a writer. I have no doubt her guidance will inspire aspiring writers in so many ways. ~ Carly Heath, author of The Reckless Kind


Week One: Examining Disability Representation in YA Novels
We’ll learn about disability studies concepts, harmful stereotypes in fiction and media, as well as a brief overview of ableist language and how to avoid it in your writing. Resource guides on YA novels written by disabled authors and how to avoid ableist language in your prose will be provided in the first session.


  • Read the first 2 chapters of One for All by Lillie Lainoff
  • Brainstorm your YA novel idea and be ready to discuss your ideas the following week
  • Prepare a brief one-paragraph pitch of your YA novel idea

Week Two: Outlining Your Novel
Building off last week’s session and concepts, we will discuss the opening chapters of One for All by Lillie Lainoff. What do you think the author does well in terms of the disability representation? We’ll also discuss and workshop your novel pitches and how to turn them into brief novel outlines.


  • Read the first two chapters of Where You See Yourself by Claire Forrest
  • Write a 3-5-page novel outline for your book (any format, bullet points or full paragraphs)

Week Three: Writing Your First Chapter
We will discuss the first two chapters of Where You See Yourself by Claire Forrest. What do you think the author does well in terms of disability representation? We’ll also discuss and workshop your novel outlines and how to begin writing your first chapter.


  • Write the first chapter of your YA novel.

Week Four: Writing Your Second Chapter
We’ll discuss the first chapters of your YA novels, what makes a successful opening chapter with disability representation, and discuss elements you may want to include for the second chapter.


  • Write the second chapter of your YA novel.

Week Five: Revising and Workshopping Your Chapters
We’ll discuss the second chapter of your YA novels and what makes the first two chapters work well. Reflections on the novels we’ve read. Discussion about revision and revising your first two chapters.


  • Revise the first two chapters of your YA novel.

Week Six: Revising and Workshopping; Where do you take your novels from here?
We’ll discuss the revisions you made for your first two chapters and workshop them. We’ll talk about where to take your novels from here.


  • Keep writing your novel!

Materials needed:  Computer with Internet access. Access to Zoom. Access to a word processing program and an email account. Please have access to the following books as we will be referring excerpts in class, or they may be part of an assignment. Books may be purchased via Amazon, Bookshop, or Barnes & Noble.

One for All by Lillie Lainoff

Where You See Yourself by Claire Forrest

Lara Ameen

Lara Ameen is a screenwriter, novelist, short fiction writer, sensitivity/authenticity reader, and holds a PhD in education with a disability studies emphasis from Chapman University. She received an MFA in screenwriting from California State University, Northridge. Her YA contemporary fantasy novel, SPAER, was awarded a disabled writers’ grant from Suffering the Silence, longlisted in Voyage YA's First Chapters Contest, and their Book Pitch Contest. A 2022 Lambda Literary Screenwriting Fellow, 2022 Mentorship Matters TV Writing Program Finalist, and a 2022 NBC Launch TV Writing Program Finalist, she was a 2023 Screenwriting Mentee as part of 1in4 Coalition’s mentorship program for disabled screenwriters. She is a 2021 alum of the Tin House YA Workshop, and 2021 and 2024 alum of the Futurescapes Writers' Workshop. Her short fiction has been published in Prismatica Magazine, Disabled Voices Anthology, Flash Fiction Magazine, Drunk Monkeys, just femme & dandy, Hairstreak Butterfly Review, and elsewhere. She made her traditional publishing debut as a contributor to the 2024 Lambda Literary finalist young adult multi-genre anthology, Being Ace, published by Page Street YA.


COST:  $185, which includes six live Zoom classes, instructor feedback, group workshopping, and discussions.

BUY NOW:  Writing Disabled Characters in Fiction with Lara Ameen (6 weeks, starting 10/15/2024) Limit: 10 students. Early registration is recommended.

Registration is closed. Please check here for our current schedule.

For Class Session Starting 10/15/2024


Notes: Upon successful completion of payment, your name, email address, and contact info will be submitted to your instructor.

Questions? Email Marcia & Angela at:

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