Guest Post // Tips for Writing Disabled Characters in Your Stories

Penny Wood Guest Post 5-24-18

Today, I’m excited to introduce to you a guest blogger! Her pen-name 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.”

Penny Wood Bio.jpg

…………………………………………………………

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!

………………………………………….

Megan Joy

Quote of the Week // 48th Week

Quote of the Week - 48th Week Simply Megan Joy Blog

It’s another quote by Mark Twain!

Do you speak more than one language? If you are reading this, it’s likely you speak English, but are you fluent in any other language? How long has it taken you to learn how to speak that language well? Can you converse with others in that language?
The reason I ask all these questions is to introduce an idea that “kindness” is just another form of language.

“Kindness: the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate.”
This language is easy to learn, and everyone can speak it if they try. All it takes is some practice and then some determination to speak it in your everyday life. Speak kindness to that older lady at the grocery store who is hard of hearing, or that man who skipped ahead in the checkout line. Speak kindness to that friend who can’t seem to say anything nice or who talks behind your back.

Everyone is given the ability to speak the universal language of kindness and is offered an opportunity to speak it to others every single day. Even those who do not speak our language can understand us if we speak the language of kindness. Do we choose to speak this language to everyone? Do we make exceptions for those who are rude to us? Are we forgetting to speak this language to those who need it most? By this I mean, those who don’t expect kindness and generosity.

Because kindness is a universal language, everyone can understand it, from babies to great-grandparents. The deaf can hear it and the blind can see it; there are no exceptions to who can receive our kindness, and there are no exceptions of to whom we can give it, regardless of the person’s attitude or opinions.

Ephesians 4:32: “And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.”

…………………………
Do you speak more than one language?
Would you consider “kindness” a universal language?

………………………………..

Megan Joy

P.S. Speaking of this quote, I encourage you to check out “My Blurred World,” a blog written by a legally-blind teenage girl, Elin. She tells her story and helps her readers to better understand what life is like for those without sight. Go read her latest post, “10 FAQs About Sight Loss.”