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

Why We Shouldn’t Try to Be Popular

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Being popular sounds inviting, does it not? Isn’t it true that we all like to be liked? Whether we’re scrolling through Instagram, reading a blog, or talking to someone in person, do thoughts of jealousy silently creep in when we see their greater popularity? Do we not, even subconsciously, compare our own lives to what we are presented through social media, the internet, and conversations? That’s the key word here: presented.

For this post, I’m going to use Instagram as the main example, but it can be applied to any social media platform, the internet, or an in-person experience.

The countless Instagram accounts brimming with perfectly planned photos and striking filters may make it seem to any onlooker that those accounts represent the real lives of the Instagrammers. However, I can assure you, they do not. The Instagrammers don’t see the world through the Valencia filter or have lives compiled of only the most seemingly perfect photos they post. Life doesn’t work that way, not for anybody. Many people post content for the sole reason of becoming popular with their audiences. Their content may not even please themselves, and only be posted for sheer popularity/followers/likes.

Now that we’ve established that what some people choose to present to their audience does not necessarily reflect their true lives, let’s each ask ourselves a question. Do I do that?

When we post something either on social media or the internet, or even how we act and speak, are we doing it for popularity, to impress someone, and to seem a little different than we really are? Are we trying to get more likes or friends by presenting things that do not reflect our true selves? What if, by doing that, we are creating a fictional social front and not revealing what we truly enjoy, think, or find interesting?

Fortunately, there is an easy fix for this epidemic of trying to become popular: don’t try. Just completely drop everything that is dishonestly encouraging popularity and instead be yourself. Present content that truly makes you happy and interests you. Stop “trying” to be popular, because if you aren’t being yourself, then they don’t like you, they like the artificial life you have presented.

Also, this is a reminder that you do not have to agree with other people (on social media, the internet, or in real life) just to become popular in their eyes. Do not feel as though you must pretend to like or agree with something that a friend likes or agrees with to win their friendship or approval. Lying and being dishonest about what you believe or like to gain popularity is definitely not a good thing to practice. Being popular in the eyes of friends, peers, and strangers matters not a pittance if you aren’t popular in God’s eyes.

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When people look at what we present to the world, we should want them to see us, not a fake life that we’ve created for an audience. More importantly, when people look at us, they should see Jesus. We should always remember that what we present should be a reflection of our Lord above; things that are true, things that are pure, and things that are lovely. Be yourself, the daughter/son of The King and be sure to represent Him in everything we do.

As my final question: what are you presenting to the world: content created to gain popularity, or the real you, the child of The King?

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Do you find yourself presenting content for popularity that isn’t the real you?

Have you ever felt like you had to agree with someone to gain popularity in their eyes?

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Megan Joy

(P.S. There is nothing wrong with posting pretty or pre-planned pictures on social media, but make sure that it represents the true you, things that you like, enjoy, and wish to share with others, like the love of our Heavenly Father!)