Recent Research – The Perils of Invisibility

My NaNo project was a fairy tale retelling of Beauty and the Beast. It started with a bang and I churned out 3500 words in a week. It was a solid start, but I decided to go ahead and finish my semifinal draft of Snow White, so I can hopefully submit both of them in quick succession. So technically, my first foray into NaNoWriMo was an abject failure. But I DID get a finished manuscript by the time November was finished which, for me, was the important thing.

Anyway, for my B&tB story, I have been researching the medical impacts of invisibility.

(If you ever wondered why certain people become writers, then the above sentence should give you all the answer you need. What other useful thing could I do with this imagination of mine?)

First, some background. In the original version of Beauty and the Beast, all the servants were turned invisible as part of the same curse that turned the Beast into a beast. Now, imagine the servants fifteen years later. Surely, there would have been adverse effects from prolonged invisibility.The biggest, I think, would be problems from lack of sunlight. If the sun passes right through you, then you probably don’t absorb much of it.

The biggest problem, I’ve found so far, would be a vitamin D deficiency. This would pose a terrible problem for children, as they would probably develop rickets, a horrifying condition in which the bones soften and twist. Legs become either severely bowlegged or knock-kneed. Ankles turn in. Spines twist. Elbows misshapen. Rickets can also affect adults as their bones soften and warp under the influence of gravity.

Other problems, I think, would include depression and arthritis. In my research stack is a notation to research cabin fever. I will also be tapping the knowledge of my nurse sister, my niece who is studying nursing, and fellow RWA members in the medical field.

I am also brushing off some old research on the history of blood transfusions. B&tB is turning out to be a sort of medical steampunk story, and once, long ago, when I wrote for the Bathroom Reader series (seriously!), I wrote about blood types. So I know all about the long and tragic history of how we discovered blood types and the complexities of Rh factors. Way back when, a blood transfusion was only for the desperate, because there was always a chance you would get the wrong blood type, and then you die.

The young lady at the left is my Aunt Matilda (or actually, my great, great Aunt Matilda), and she was a nurse during the time period in which I am setting this story. Maybe she had personal knowledge of these risky transfusions. Maybe not. But the picture is cool, anyway.

So imagine, if you will, being invisible for fifteen years. Can you think of any adverse affects that I have not thought of?

13 Thoughts to “Recent Research – The Perils of Invisibility”

  1. Very cool pic of your great aunt!

    Ref: invisibility
    I think a lot depends on your concept of invisibility. Are they invisible like a ghost–with no mass? Or are they invisible like today’s stealth technology where light is bent to give the illusion of invisibility?

    If the servants are ghosts and reappear in physical form 15 years later, they’d probably feel sluggish with the immediate weight gain and mass. They might not know how to walk, or fall asleep easily from tiredness.

    If they are simply invisible to the naked eye (which is the way I took them), then are their clothes invisible too, or do they walk around naked? If they know they’re invisible to the naked eye, they might be more likely to pick their noses at inappropriate times or scratch their butts.

    This is an interesting challenge. Good luck!

    1. Tia Nevitt

      Hmm. They aren’t ghosts, but I have not figured out the clothing problem. Since it is definitely a magical invisibility, it probably has an area effect that includes clothing, but probably not overwide skirts.

      So a total lack of physical self consciousness! Interesting idea!

  2. I’m wondering…physical adverse effects of being invisible for prolonged periods of time. I wonder if one’s senses would be impacted. They haven’t been utilized in the standard idea of usage so there could be some changes there.

    1. Tia Nevitt

      They can still see and hear, but they would definitely be unused to looking at adult human faces. The kids born since the curse are visible. Now the kids who are only used to being around invisible people would have some adjustments.

  3. Deborah Blake

    I love the way writers’ minds work 🙂

    I suspect that most of the side-effects would be psychological, rather than physical. Think about not being SEEN for years. Serious ego issues, not to mention how self-conscious they could feel after years of not being seen and then suddenly being visible.

    Can they see each other, or all they are invisible to each other too? I’m thinking if they can’t see each other, there might be men who would use this opportunity for some pretty horrid abuses…

    Medically, what came to mind was the difficulty of treating illness or accidents. If you can’t see the person who cut their finger, how can you stop the bleeding, for instance? How does a woman give birth if no one can see her?

    1. Tia Nevitt

      Great things to think about. In my story, the only one who can see them is the Beast. They cannot see each other. The children who have been born since the curse (with great difficulty, as you pointed out) are all visible. So they have never seen their parents, and probably have some pretty interesting abilities to compensate.

      I didn’t think of the abuse angle. Interesting … could make for some leadership challenges for my Beast.

      1. Raven

        I bet those kids are really well-behaved. They never know if mom or dad might be watching!

        1. Tia Nevitt

          True! But their hearing would be finely honed!

  4. Interesting things to think about. I have nothing to add, but I’m glad to know that you know so much about the discovery of blood types and transfusions. I’ve got an entire magic system based on blood type, but it’s set in the 1600s, and I just didn’t know if I could make it work, since I didn’t think they knew about blood types back then. I’ll have to pick your brain about that once I’m ready to revise that book.

    1. Tia Nevitt

      What a cool magic system! How about a magical marker to indicate blood type? So O+ would have different magic than AB-.

      I could email you some scans of my article.

  5. Raven

    You’ve probably thought of this, but there would be no judgment based on appearance. I can imagine the physically plainer folks having a lot more confidence if they were invisible.

    I suppose there might be judgment based on feel, though! The people with soft skin would become more desirable…

    1. Tia Nevitt

      Or body odor (or lack thereof) might be a whole new way to be attractive or … not.

  6. I’m trying to imagine raising a child when 1) they’re invisible so I can’t see what they’re up to and 2) I’m invisible so I can’t show them anything by example or give them that stern “mom” look.

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