Today, I’m excited to introduce to you a guest blogger! Her penname is Penny Wood and below you can read her post about writing disabled characters into your book or story.
“Penny Wood is soon to be a homeschool graduate after being educated at home her entire life. She loves animals, writing, laughing with her sisters, and is a hopeless Pinterest addict. She blogs at A Southern Belle With Stories To Tell about movies, Christianity, writing, and anything else that pops into her mind. She lives in a tiny North Carolina town with her parents, two sisters, and her crazy dog, Buddy.”
Have you ever wanted to put a disabled character in your novel but weren’t sure how? Maybe you were worried you’d “get it wrong”? In writing my novel, The Summer I Saw Blue Peak, I learned a lot about disability and how to execute it in writing form, and it’s something that’s been on my heart to write lately. It was a little nerve-wracking at first to me, too, but I’ve learned a few things over time, and I’d like to share with you some tips on how to write them into your novel.
Research, research, research
Maybe some of you are groaning right now, but research really is the best way to learn how to correctly portray disabled people in your novel. You can find out about lifestyle, daily activities, hobbies, and technology through research. You’ll also discover that many stereotypes about disability are surprisingly not true. For instance, it is a common misconception that blind people touch people’s faces to figure out what they look like, but actual people who are blind will tell you over and over that this is not true. Every author’s worst nightmare is getting told that they don’t know anything about their writing topic. Don’t let that be you; do your research!
Ask them for yourself
This is probably one of my best tips. There are many disabled bloggers and vloggers out there who are very happy to talk to you about their disability if you ask. It will seem strange at first, but we authors are known to do weird things for our books, so you might as well get used to it. 😊 People are so kind and gracious when you ask. I love contacting real people because I get tailored answers to my questions and I end up with a new friend, too!
(Note: Please do not ask rude or private questions. It’s okay to be curious, but everyone knows that some boundaries should not be crossed. I am disgusted with some of the questions disabled people get asked that are really no one else’s business. Don’t go there, it’s just not nice.)
Remember that your character is a person first and disabled second
When writing a disabled character, it’s easy to get caught up in the “s/he is blind, deaf, et cetera” and forget to develop a personality for the character (this is even more important if the character is your protagonist.) The character still needs a rich personality, likes and dislikes, funny quirks, and not-so-nice flaws. They are a person just like everyone else and need to be treated that way as you develop them in your writing.
Don’t go with what you might have seen on a TV show or movie, or even another book about disability
Chances are, they probably don’t have it right. Disabled people are very much stereotyped, often by television and books. It is painfully obvious who has and hasn’t done their research when it comes to the disabled characters (if you’ve ever seen a western featuring a blind person, you know what I’m talking about). This goes back to research again, so no, watching your favorite TV show that has a disabled character in one episode does not count as researching it! 🙂
It’s probably not a good idea to actually pretend to be your character
If you walk around your house wearing a blindfold or earplugs for a year, you’ll probably end up in the hospital. Maybe, if you’re sitting still, you might close your eyes for a second to notice how amplified everything else becomes, or how it might frustrate you if you lived in a wheelchair and had to do everything sitting down (but don’t actually rent a wheelchair or walk around with your eyes closed). My friend Cheyenne Raphael made an interesting point when she said that when you do that, all you will be thinking about is how hard this is, and that’s not really how disabled people think.
I hope I have encouraged you to start using disabled characters in your stories or have helped you to continue writing about them. Keep up the good writing work and thank you to Megan Joy for letting me be a guest on her awesome blog!
Thank you, Penny Wood, for being today’s guest poster!
Have you ever written a disabled character into a book or story?
Have you checked out Penny’s blog yet?
Do you want to be a guest poster on Simply Megan Joy? Just contact me so we can talk!
5 thoughts on “Guest Post // Tips for Writing Disabled Characters in Your Stories”
Thanks for the tips, Penny! Incidentally, this is also good advice for writing a character of a different race/ethnicity/culture than you. I have been wanting to include disabled characters in my books, but I’ve been scared of getting something wrong… which is not a good reason to avoid it! This post has encouraged me to try. (Megan–would you potentially be interested in featuring a post about how to write about characters who belong to a different race than you?)
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Hi MoMo! I’ll contact you about doing a guest post! 🙂
~ Megan Joy
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As soon as I saw this, I was wondering if Penny was the guest speaker. What a great post!! 🙂
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Haha! Yep, it’s Penny! 😉
~ Megan Joy
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Woohoo so professional. Nice job covering your quirky side up Penny.
No but really, this post was sooo good!
hides yes some of my research comes from reading other fiction books. cringes yes, actually, most of it. But I’m working on actually reaserching for real!!!
I love the point especially about being a person first, and having a disability second. Especially if it’s first person. Because people around might see the person as a disability, but those with difficulties don’t actually seee themselves as just a disability. This is a great post about more than just research, but about living out a life among other people in general! Thank you Penny. 😀
Ps. I hope my comment wasn’t too embarrassing. 😛
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