Adding characters with disabilities in your novels or campaigns is an amazing way to not only make the world more realistic but also give visibility to underrepresented parts of society. So, to help you with that, we interviewed Dimitris, cofounder of World Anvil, to talk about how to write characters with one eye. We’ll discuss the challenges that come with this condition, but also about the superpowers that you get!

How did Dimitris end up with one eye?

People can lose an eye for a variety of reasons. In Dimitris’ case, he was born with a single eye. The reason for that is that when his mother was pregnant, she got toxoplasmosis, a bacteria that can create dysmorphia in the face. It usually causes loss of hearing or sight in one or both sides. In his case, he was born with an empty eye socket. So, all things considered, he got pretty lucky with it.

This has had a profound effect on all aspects of his life, even on his physical build. For example, in order to compensate for his lack of sight on one side, his eye has ended up focusing towards the middle to keep the body balanced. This means that when he’s looking straight forward, his head is actually turned to the side. It’s important to remember that even though the eyes seem small, they can have dramatic effects over your whole body and the way you move.

Challenges with having one eye

The biggest challenge for one-eyed people is lack of depth perception. In order to create a three-dimensional image, our brains need two eyes—which means that Dimitris lives in two dimensions. For example, crossing the street or walking up or down the stairs can be an issue, as it’s very difficult to know the height of the floor just by looking at it. Difficult terrain in D&D just became even more difficult if you play one-eyed characters!

Being born with it, however, makes things a bit easier, because you don’t have to get used to a new reality later on. As a child, Dimitris developed some tricks to help him compensate for the issues of having one eye. For example, he got used to looking at shadows to calculate distances between objects. Or, when he’s pouring water on a glass, he makes sure the water doesn’t flow out until the rims of the bottle and the glass are touching. So, when writing a one-eyed character, think about the tricks they’ll have developed!

Social challenges

Unfortunately, not all challenges that come with a disability like this are physical. Dimitris shared his experiences as a child during the 80s in Greece, a country with very little diversity. Having a visible disability like this automatically put him at the bottom of the social hierarchy. This, added to the fact that he has a lower sense of balance than the average person, made him an easy target for bullies. He also couldn’t take part in social activities like soccer, because running after a ball with one eye is very difficult. All of this, in his own words, turned him into a social pariah.

Think about how much worse it could be in medieval times or in settings with an even more defined hierarchy. But when writing characters, this is a good character building opportunity too. Having a visible disability defines first impressions. This means that the character needs to know a lot about themselves and other people to change how other people see them. In fact, that’s part of the reason Dimitris has a degree in psychology!

Superpowers with one eye!

Having just one eye has a bunch of problems, as we’ve covered. But it also gave Dimitris several abilities that two-eyed people don’t have! Here are some of them:

  • He can get blind drunk and still see perfectly fine, because a single eye can’t create double vision.
  • His iris can expand about 200 times more than most people’s, to compensate for the missing eye. This means that in low light, he can see much better (almost like night vision!). But it comes with a limitation: sudden changes in light level can blind him and give him migraines.
  • He’s a great marksman as long as he doesn’t need to calculate distance. Bows are out of the question, but since he already sees with a single eye, he has great aim with a gun.
  • He’s pretty good at spotting camouflage, too. If there’s two-dimensional camouflage in a three-dimensional space, he can easily see oddities in the shadows. That’s beucase he’s already used to using them to calculate distance.

Of course, everybody is different, so consider your character’s circumstances too. For example, a character who’s just lost an eye won’t be used to it, so they might not be able to do any of this.

Eye patches and glass eyes

Eye patches and glass eyes are a common trope for one-eyed characters. But the reality is that not all one-eyed people use them! Dimitris is an example of that, but he still used eye patches when he was younger. If you’re curious to know how it feels, he describes the experience as “very itchy”! As it turns out, the empty eye socket is always lubricated (it feels like the inside of your mouth), which means that eye patches become soaked quickly. And if the weather is warm, it becomes very itchy (and can lead to infections if not cleaned properly).

As for glass eyes, it’s worth noting that they aren’t actually spheres! They are shaped like a little bowl that you wear inside your lids. And just like an eye patch, they need regular cleaning because there’s a gap between the eye and the back of the eye socket. And apparently, for people who’ve lost their eye later in life, there are some glass eyes that can move by connecting them to the muscles at the back of the eye socket! Unfortunately, they can’t shoot lasers yet…

In any case, using eye patches and glass eyes will generally be a matter of personal choice. They have their issues, but they can help reduce some challenges (especially the social ones). Plus, eye patches look super cool!

Listen to the full interview!

Want to learn more about what’s life with one eye like and how to represent this disability in your stories or campaigns? Check out the full interview in YouTube and Libsyn (part 1, part 2)!

Who is Dimitris Havlidis?

Dimitris is a web developer, UX researcher, photographar, and designer, plus he holds degrees in social psychology, computing, and graphic design. If you’ve been around World Anvil for a while, you might know him as the co-founder and CTO of World Anvil! Follow him on Twitter to see what he’s up to and check out Lyra, his World Anvil world!

Want to get more tips from experts like Dimitris? Follow our podcast! In episode 6, we talk with Andy Hook and Giles Gasper about medieval food!

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