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

12 Ways Get Your Book Started

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Writing a book means being inspired by something and then transferring that inspiration into words, sentences, and chapters. There is something that sparks our imagination and urges us to begin writing in fury, typing down the story that we so much want to tell. However, what happens when you’ve no idea how to begin your story and have no inspiration to get started?

Now, I’ve never had trouble starting a book, but instead my dilemma is with finishing them. I write out the plot, get more than half way complete, and suddenly a new story pops into my head. It seems as though there will never be enough time to write down all the stories I want to tell! Nevertheless, I do get stuck in my writing sometimes which calls for inspiration. So here is a list of twelve ways to find inspiration when you want to begin writing a book (or finish one!).

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Go on a spontaneous walk or plan out a long adventurous trek. Either one is sure to spark your inspiration. Let your feet take you to an unknown destination and enjoy your time venturing.

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Sometimes, reading a classic work of fiction can help pull us into the world of writing. It inspires us to mold our own stories and put together a plot of our own. Little Women, Anne of Green Gables, and The Secret Garden are some great classics to read.

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Yes, I’m sure we can all go back into our distant memories to recollect a time when to find someone’s phone number, you had to look it up in a book that was mailed to you once a year, called a telephone book. If you still have one laying around today, you may not be able to use it as it was originally intended, however it is very possible to extract some inspiring ideas from it. Open it to a random page and point to any last name. Turn to another page to find a first name to go with it. Do this over and over, and soon you’ll have a whole book’s worth of characters to write about!

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Playing a musical instrument can be so inspiring; whether it be a piano, violin, guitar, flute, ukulele, or yes, even a harmonic or recorder. Go outside and play; see if the birds sing along. Listen to nature and hear what it says! You’re bound to have something to write about when you come back inside.

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Create a story-inspiration board and pin any photo you come across that looks interesting. The pictures that urge us to know the stories behind them are the ones that give us inspiration for writing, so be on the look out for those. Also, you can always make those boards private if you don’t want to share them with your followers.

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Get onto Spotify and play your favorite instrumental track. Listen to your favorite movie scores or find something new! I’ve found it helpful to create a separate playlist for each of your stories; it definitely helps to get you into the world you’re writing about.

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It doesn’t matter if you aren’t an artist. The point isn’t to create a masterpiece, but to create something that will get your mind flowing and open to new ideas. Draw a mountain, a dog, a person; it really doesn’t matter!

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Pack snacks, pens, and a notebook, and take a trip into the nearest bustling city. Roam the streets, people watch, or find a little café to write in, and just take in everything that you see, and use it to propel you into your writing.

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I’m not kidding about this one. Not only are you doing something profitable but cleaning out your closet or work space can also provide you with tons of inspiration. You could come across old letters or memorabilia hidden away that spark ideas for writing. If not, the cleaning will bore you so much that you begin daydreaming about anything other than cleaning, giving you ideas for a book!

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Visit any thrift shop and look around. I’m sure you’ll find something inspiring. Go with a list of things to find, like a book dated before 1900, a vintage jewelry box, or old ice skates. Anything you find that interests you can be the starting point for a book.

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For me, some of the most inspiring moments happen when watching a really good movie. If you want to write a story set in the 1820s, watch Sense and Sensibility; not so you can copy it, but to draw ideas from it; how they spoke, dressed, and acted. There’s something so motivating in seeing a movie set in the era in which you intend to write!

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Talk with other writers and aspiring authors in person or through blogs. Sometimes just reading about what others are writing, will get you thinking about forming a plot of your own! It’s always fun to know what others are doing in their writing. Below you can find a list of writing blogs to visit for more writing tips and stories!

Reveries // Ruffles and Grace // Once Upon an Ordinary // Charis Rae // Invisible World // Claire Rachel // Liv K. Fisher // The Writing Writers // Forever and Everly // Peeking Beneath

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Do you enjoy writing?

What are you working on right now?

Do you think any of these 12 ways would be helpful?

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Megan Joy

Easy 30 Minute T-Shirt Revamp

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Who doesn’t like wearing a comfortable t-shirt? Who is tired of wearing plain tees? Who is done with paying for high-priced graphic-shirts at the store? I know I am! (Is this a overloaded sales pitch or what?!)

As an alternative, I like designing and making my own tees, and I thought it would be a good thing to share on the blog! The best part is, this whole project only cost me a little under $8 to complete! This project takes about half-an-hour, so just gather your supplies, turn on your favorite 30-minute TV show, and create your new tee!

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Supplies needed: a plain v-neck t-shirt, fabric markers, a stencil, a small bit of fabric. All supplies can be found at any craft store like Michael’s, A.C. Moore, etc.

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Step 1: Lay your plain v-neck t-shirt on a flat surface.

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Step 2: Test out the marker colors on the inside of the shirt to make sure they show up how you want them to.

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Step 3: This step is very important. Take a piece of cardboard (I used the packaging from the stencils) and place it inside the shirt directly under the stencil.
This way the markers won’t soak through to the back of the shirt.

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Step 4: Begin coloring, making sure you don’t move the stencil.

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Step 5: Decorate the sleeves with a stencil or by hand, still using the cardboard in between the fabric layers.

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(back view)

Step 6: Whip stitch one or two strips of fabric to the neck (the fabric should be hemmed on all sides, so it doesn’t unravel in the wash).

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Mission Accomplished!

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Have you ever re-designed a t-shirt?

If this shirt was for sale, would you buy it?

Do you have any designing tips for my next shirt?

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Megan Joy