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

My Crimson Christmas // Ft. Lindy Bop

Quick disclaimer: This is not a paid sponsorship nor am I in affiliation with Lindy Bop at this time.

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This wonderfully beautiful 1950s inspired dress called the “Marianne Red Swing Dress and Jacket Twin Set” came from Lindy Bop! It was the first time ordering from them and I can’t wait to order another dress in the future! I also bought the crinoline there which I’ve already wore this my last fashion post!

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The crimson color, the fullness of the skirt, the style of the jacket, and its perfect fit made this the best Christmas dress. I just love it! Incidentally, it also comes in dark blue, light blue, pink, burgundy, black, gray, and white, all of which I would love to have. Coming from London, it is of high quality and of wonderful craftsmanship. Unfortunately, the price matches the high quality, so I shall be content with this red one for a while. (P.S. I bought this particular dress on sale. Three cheers for Christmas sales!)

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If you love vintage fashion and classy clothes, you must head over to Lindy Bop! They have so many great finds, and coincidentally, they’re having a 60% off end of year sale, which includes the “Marianne Burgundy Swing Dress and Jacket Twin Set!” Go check it out and come back and tell me if you like it!

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The New Year will soon be upon us, so this will be the last fashion post of the year! Do you have any specific goals for 2018? Any fashion goals?

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dress and jacket // lindy bop

shoes // payless

crinoline // lindy bop

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Megan Joy

Retro With a Chance of Flurries

Snow flurries! What can be better than snow flurries? Hot chocolate and a book by a warm fire, actually! But before you sip your steamy cocoa topped with marshmallows, you have to get outside and frolic in the snow a bit! So that’s exactly what I did!

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I was very excited to finally wear the new crinoline I ordered from Lindy Bop! It works perfectly with this skirt that I made last year. They have so many color choices of crinoline, but I chose classic white. Lindy Bop has such a great vintage collection! If you love dressing vintage, wish to start, or just want to try it out, Lindy Bop is a great place to shop! I do suggest collecting all the things you want in your shopping cart, and then waiting for a sale because it can be on the pricey side.

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My sister did my hair and added the bows! The whole day I felt like Minnie Mouse!

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While you may see me smiling in these photos, what you are not seeing is: me shivering nearly to death, my feet frozen in the snow, my hands turning red and numb, and me yelling, “It doesn’t matter if it’s in focus! Just take the picture so we can go inside!

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To match all the colors of my outfit, I wore my “I Like Ike” pin! I once wore it to the voting polls and the people in front of me thought it was funny! Comment below if you know what my pin means!

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Besides liking Ike, I also like this little snowflake, resting on my sweater, all by itself. It reminds me of that well-known fact that no two snowflakes are alike. Out of all the times it snows, and all the millions of snowflakes that make up a storm, none are the same. Yes, this little snowflake is different, it doesn’t match another, and maybe it’s a little small among the countless other flakes, but it’s still beautiful. Just like us.

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skirt // made by me

sweater // target

shoes // old navy

crinoline // lindy bop

hair bows // (white) icing, red (christmas ornament)

pin // free

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How much snow did you get this week?

What do you think about snowflakes being different?

Do you know what my pin means?

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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

1940s Red Floral Frock

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I love how this dress is so World War II inspired! It feels as though it could be right out of an old 40s movie! It’s truly a gem in my vintage wardrobe!

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I found this brooch at a flea market one day and decided to pair it with this dress since the roses seemed to match it perfectly. It is a replacement of an original pin I have worn with this dress, since the old one is no longer with me. We, the old pin and I, parted sadly one stormy day while I was attending a car show. There were cars ranging from the 1910s to the 1980s, all of them Buicks, driven there from all over the country and Canada. It was a lovely day as I donned this red dress and my little rose pin, until a crack of thunder had us running into the nearest building to hide from the rain until it passed. The downpour stopped briefly as we ran to our car and headed home. It was then that I realized the absence of my little pin. We turned back, threw on ponchos, and searched the entire muddy show grounds; me in my bare feet not wanting to ruin my shoes. I watched as the paths were transformed into rivers, carrying leaves and things down the way and into the storm grates below. I, still to this day, wonder where my tiny rose pin ended up. It would be nice to think that someone has found my little treasure and is taking good care of it, better than I had.

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dress // thrifted

shoes // thrifted

purse // thrifted

brooch // thrifted

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Do you like 1940s fashion?

Have you ever lost a special piece of jewelry?

Do you ever imagine what could have become of it?

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Megan Joy

Sunday Bests // Nifty 50s

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What, another polka dot post?! Yes, indeed! You can never have too many polka dots. This 1950s outfit reminds me so much of “I Love Lucy,” my all-time favorite TV show!

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My Ginger Rogers moment, dancing atop a picnic table!

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Last night, I whipped up a crinoline to wear underneath the dress to make it fluffy. I still have to add a few more layers of tulle to make it puffier.

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dress // gift from my cousin

jacket // gift

shoes // payless

clutch purse // thrifted

dress crinoline // made by me

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What do you like about 50s styles?

Have you ever worn a crinoline under a skirt before?

Do you like “I Love Lucy?”

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Megan Joy

Sunday Bests // A Few 70s Vibes

Hello, all! Today I’ve got a quick Sunday Bests post to share!

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This 1970s inspired outfit is so enjoyable to wear! It’s comfy and carefree, two things that are a must in every wardrobe! The head scarf, pumps, and long hair add a few 70s vibes.

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A twirl is always fun!

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skirt // thrifted

blouse // thrifted

shoes // thrifted

purse // thrifted

head scarf // thrifted

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What do you think about 1970s styles?

Do you like polka dots?

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Megan Joy

Sunday Bests // Ode to Jackie

Hello, again!

Today is a very 1960s day as I pull out my three-piece checkered skirt suit, pumps, and pillbox hat! This style was made famous by the First Lady, Jackie Kennedy, who is known for her chic outfits and hats!

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Below is a photo of Jackie Kennedy sporting a white pillbox hat, pearls, sunglasses, and a checkered jacket.

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Her style was very popular in the early 60s.

early 1960s styles

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I bought this hat at church sale last fall. Someone had pushed the top up to make it rounded, so it didn’t look like a pillbox hat at all. I bought it for $4, brought it home, and later discovered that the top should be pressed in to make it look right! It was a happy surprise to find that I had bought such a classic hat! It was good lesson learned, that sometimes things are not at all how they seem. When we first perceive something, it’s very possible that it will turn out to be completely different than the first impression it made. This doesn’t go just for hats, either. We can apply this to pretty much everything, including people, places, and other items.

When a first impression is made, let’s remember that it may not determine the future. It may turn out to be completely different after time. We just have to be patient and see!

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skirt suit // thrifted

pillbox hat // thrifted

shoes // payless

earrings // gift

necklace // my sister’s

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What do you think about the 1960s pillbox hat?

Have you had any experiences with first impressions that didn’t establish the future?

Are you enjoying your summer?

Megan Joy

Stars and Stripes Forever

Happy belated Independence Day, America! Today I donned one of my patriotic outfits with a little bit of 1940s flare here and there!

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This the first time I’ve successfully worn my hair in a 1940s faux bob! It’s more of a lob because it fell before I even stepped out the door, but now, after looking at the photos, I think I have figured out a better way to do it! Hopefully, you’ll see a better version of it in some upcoming posts!

I just love these little hair clips! They’re really useful and can hold a lot of hair!

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dress // j.c. penney

sweater // thrifted

shoes // payless (my sister’s)

belt // thrifted

hat // boscovs

hair clips // icing

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Have you ever tried a faux bob?

Any ideas or tips on how to make a bob?

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Megan Joy

Schoolgirl in Summertime

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I happen to love this dress so much that I wish I had seven of them in different colors, one to wear each day of the week! It’s so cute and comfortable I wear it all day long!

When I wore this dress to church one day, a lady came up to me and told me that she used to be a teacher in Australia many years ago and that the schoolgirls down under would wear something like this every day to school! That conversation is what inspired this post!

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I love collecting old book! Pictured here we have:

“Mrs. Browning’s Poems”, by Elizabeth Barrett Browning. There isn’t a date printed, but it was first published in the mid-eighteen hundreds.

“The Clue in the Crumbling Wall”, by Carolyn Keene, 1945.

“Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland”, by Lewis Carroll. It was first published in 1865 but since this copy also includes “Through the Looking Glass” which was written in 1871, it would have to have been printed after that date.

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dress // thrifted

belt // thrifted

shoes // payless (my sister’s)

glasses // gift

bobby-socks // dance store

books // thrifted

book ribbon // my great-grandmother’s

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Do you like old books?

Have you ever read the three in the post?

Megan Joy