Natasha McNeely's Author Blog

Never stop dreaming, 'cause the day you stop dreaming, is the day you stop living.

Characters: Blind or Deaf?

15 Comments

Hearing impairment

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Characters are essential to any novel. They bring the story to life, especially when you include their emotions and, of course, their senses.

What do they see, hear, feel, taste or smell?

Those senses are important to as, and enrich the reader’s experience throughout the novel. It’s a challenge to learn to write in a way that includes subtle hints to those five senses, but what happens when you take one away?

People are blind, deaf or mute in life, so it only makes sense that fictional characters can endure that same thing. How would you write about such a character?

One of the necessary options is to focus more on the other four senses. If a character can’t hear, go more in-depth into their other senses. It’s more complicated if the main character is blind; how can you write from the view of a blind character, in a way that is still appealing to readers?

Maybe they have a sixth sense that helps replace real sight, or maybe you include feeling the characters surroundings into said-character having a visual in mind – the way they perceive it to look.

Of the five senses, blindness is one of the most difficult to overcome in writing. Sight is a key part for any character; taking it away leaves gaps that need filling for the story to work. Without something to compensate, readers will not feel as attached to the character.

A deaf character can still see – the same with characters who lose their taste, smell or feeling, although the latter is easily one of the more difficult ones to write about.

Sight and touch – two difficult aspects to write about, when a character does not have them.

It’s hard to write about characters with only four senses, but a challenge. You can only improve by mastering it.

Have you ever written about a character who is missing one of their senses? How did it go and did it take you time to adjust? Let me know in a comment!

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Author: Natasha McNeely

I'm a writer, a reader, a gamer and a dreamer. I love losing myself to thought and considering possibilities. That is how I create my stories and weave the erratic tales into readable ones.

15 thoughts on “Characters: Blind or Deaf?

  1. I did write a heroine once who had something sprayed in her eyes and was temporarily blinded. She had to use her other senses to escape the villain. It was a learning experience and fun to write. Great post!

  2. Yes, one of my secondary characters was blind. He was only narrator of three or four chapters, but I found it kind of refreshing to dig deeper into the other senses.

  3. I have a character who is mute by choice, it’s actually a blast writing her. Everything is a million times simpler because you see how much communication can happen without words. I also have a character whose eyes were burnt out for a brief while before he was killed, and again, strangely enough, I found it easy to write – granted though, that it wasn’t a full novel like that. I’m lucky because I get the stories from the characters’ viewpoint, so… I kind of get what they’re getting. If they’re not seeing something, I don’t see it either. Sometimes it’s annoying because they focus on things I’m not interested in. XD

    • That does sound like a blast! I guess it’s easier for some than it is for others. I imagine it comes more naturally to some writers, than it does to others.
      That would definitely be annoying! I hate when characters cause that. πŸ˜›

  4. I have a main character who is blind, and a couple of minor characters that are mute. My main character, however, doesn’t ‘see’ anything wrong with being blind, which gives her a depth that a lot of characters don’t have. She also has a great amusement with making blind jokes and poking fun at her own weaknesses and strengths. It can be a challenge, but it’s also fun to work with her. Ironically, she’s one of my strongest characters because of her acceptance of her issues. It would be interesting to see how I wrote of a deaf person, especially as a character to be a foil for her, since the communication between them would be interesting if not impossible. I don’t think half-blind characters or people who just aren’t very talkative really counts though, haha. Close, but not quite there.

    • Would Nai happen to be the one you’re talking about?
      That does sound like it would be a nice challenge, but a lot of fun, regardless, especially with the type of character she is. Her accepting her issues is great.
      That communication would be very difficult. Not impossible, but hard and complex.

  5. Most of it would be handled through careful perspective writing, I imagine. Part of writing is that the narration and description can be a separate entity within the story, so they don’t need to be dependent on the characters to exist, only to be fully incorporated.

    I’ve considered writing characters with disabilities and how that would effect my style. I don’t have a very distinct answer, because none of my characters have called for that kind of trait yet.

    ~Ashlee
    http://ashleesch.com
    http://theDragonsHoard.bigcartel.com

    • I agree. Descriptions would have to include more details on the other senses, but it would be difficult to not accidentally slip up and add a detail that the character shouldn’t actually be aware of.

      I’ve considered it, as well. I actually have a character trying to wiggle into my mind who’s deaf; she’s the one who influenced this post.

  6. I’ve only dealt with a blind character once, but I’m interested in doing that again. It was a hard challenge, for sure.

  7. Interesting post! Thank you for reminding me that I need to explore all of my characters’ senses. I haven’t written anything where a character misses a sense. This is going to be a challenge in case I decide to do so.

    Also, thank you for visiting my blog. I really appreciate your comments.

    • Thank you! I think it’s something writers forget a lot; that there’s more to characters than just what they see. The more of the other senses you add, the more it enriches the experience.

      You’re very welcome. πŸ™‚

  8. Pingback: A Favorite Character: Do you have one? | Natasha McNeely's Guide to The Beyond

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