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.”

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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!

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Thank you, Penny Wood, for being today’s guest poster!

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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!

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Megan Joy

Quote of the Week // 45th Week

Quote of the Week - 45th Week Simply Megan Joy Blog

This quote is from the 1985 movie, Anne of Green Gables. In the book, by Lucy Maud Montgomery, the words are slightly different, but the meaning is equal. In the film, Diana Barry says this in remembrance of what Gilbert once said.

I often forget this word of truth. In a world and society were being pretty is a major focus, it’s hard to remember that living isn’t all about having a flawless complexion, perfect teeth, beautiful hair, makeup, and wardrobe, and sparkling eyes.

I spend so much time, and too much time, worrying about what I look like. It seems like I’m surrounded by people who are just naturally beautiful – who look like they’re perpetually ready for a magazine photoshoot! But, for as long as I think this way, I am forgetting what Diana once reminded Anne. Being knowledgeable on the inside is quite more valuable than being pretty on the outside; because the things we do in life, whether it be school, or work, and even just daily life, will require our brains more than our looks.

Having common sense and knowledge will get us much farther in life than if our only quality is having a pretty face. If being beautiful is all we care about, we are overlooking the truth: that we don’t have to be flawless in our appearance to be beautiful, or important. I believe that people will remember us by what we do, what we say, and what we accomplish, and not by how rosy our cheeks are.

Now, I haven’t even begun to delve into this topic, but this is just a little reminder: Let’s not fill our brains with thoughts of “I wish I were prettier,” but instead fill it with knowledge, inspiration, encouragement, and all things worthwhile!

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Do you agree that being smart is better than being pretty?

Have you ever felt jealous?

Do you think that having common sense will be more valuable in your future than having a flawless complexion?

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Megan Joy

Sunday Bests // Red Tie in the Morning

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When I first put this outfit together, it was missing something, and it wasn’t until I walked past my brother’s tie collection that a bell chimed in my head. A tie! That’s what this jacket needs! I threw a red one around my neck, changed my shoes and purse to match, and ran out the door for church. At a reception afterward, a dear older man said that my outfit reminded him of a retro airline stewardess! I thought that was such a nice thing to say!

This “stewardess” outfit consists of mostly things that aren’t mine! The tie is my brother’s, the shoes are my sisters, and the skirt was sewn by my mom over 30 years ago. So now you know: I’m a clothes thief! However, the blouse and jacket are mine; they were gifts found at a thrift store. So I guess this outfit is even more special considering it didn’t cost me a cent! 

To go along with my post title, I’ve decided to include the old saying:

“Red sky at night,

Sailor’s delight.

Red sky in morning,

Sailor’s warning.”

It seems like I’ve known this little saying forever. Looking up at a blazing sky was a sign that tomorrow would be a beautiful day! What I didn’t know all those years, was that this little saying comes from the Bible! In the first book of the New Testament, Jesus was talking with the Pharisees and the Sadducees (leaders of the Jewish church). In Matthew 16:2-3 it says, “He answered and said unto them, when it is evening, ye say, it will be fair weather: for the sky is red. And in the morning, it will be foul weather today: for the sky is red and lowering. O ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times?” KJV

In my own words, Jesus basically said, “You can know what the weather is going to be like tomorrow by looking at the sky, but you can’t figure out what is going to happen in the future by looking at the past?”

Over 2,000 years ago, Jesus said this, and it is still entirely true in today’s modern world of complex technology. Weather forecasters have all these instruments and devices to predict the weather, which they broadcast all across the country. If we are so proficient in the weather in that we can know the exact percentage of tomorrow’s precipitation, why is not everyone capable of looking at past history and learning from it? We can detect, or as Jesus says, discern, the future by looking at the past. History is forever repeating itself, so why not use our own brains to research it and use our knowledge to better the future? We each hold the brainpower to learn and to discern. I, personally, love history, though I know many people who have pledged their hearts against it. But history is not just all about dates and names. It’s about stories, great legends, and the lives of our very own ancestors!

Let’s not forget how smart we can be,

when we learn from our history!

Ok, I’m done my rant now! Until next time, faithful readers, carry on!

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skirt // made by my mom

jacket // thrifted

blouse // thrifted

tie // my brother’s

shoes // payless (my sister’s)

purse // thrifted

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Do you like the little red sky saying?
Did you know that it is from the Bible?
What do you think about learning from history?
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Megan Joy