Thursday, 19 April 2012
Author Spotlight - Writing a Deaf Character
Needless to say, writing a deaf character as a hearing person does present some challenges. The first was ignoring what American Sign Language I do know; those gestures didn't exist in the 1700s so I had to make up new signals. Signals that a seven-year-old boy might invent.
Next was remembering that Brander Hansen can't hear. Seems obvious, but I lost count of how many times I started to have him react to something as common as a knock on the door! Of course, I'd also write the heroine Regin Kildahl doing something inappropriate as well. When I caught myself, I would write that into her action: "She lowered her voice until she remembered she didn't need to."
Third, Brander's multiple methods of communicating needed to be conveyed to the reader in an easy-to-follow manner so that I wasn't constantly having to use cumbersome tags and explanations. By Book Two, "A Discreet Gentleman of Matrimony," I'm trusting the reader to know and understand how Brander is communicating without them.
Fourth - and this was an easy one - was explaining my visual code to my publisher. I needed them to know these quirks weren't mistakes, they were intentional. I settled on the following formats:
"Spoken words are always in quotation marks."
Written words are always in italics, whether in dialog or letters.
Brander motioned: When the dialog is gestured, there are no quotation marks.
Fifth - and this was the hardest one - I had to be sensitive to the deaf community and walk the line between 18th-century attitudes toward the deaf, and Brander's own identity as a deaf man. I think I've done well based on early readers' responses.
Here is the silent ASL trailer for "A Discreet Gentleman of Discovery":
And here is the traditional trailer:
Enjoy them both!
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