1. Kite2
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    Kite2 New Member

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    A loss of speech

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Kite2, Jul 17, 2014.

    For the past week or so i fave been posting questions about how I should form the plot of a novel i will soon write. Now i think i'm finally getting down to it. This is the last question I will ask before writing the first draft of my prologue

    I have been debating in my mind for a long time about this, so this is how it goes. At the beginning of the book
    I want the main character to be attacked and die. Immediately after he dies he is confronted be the spirit of death. Death tells him (but not in these same words words) that he likes the boy and will let him live but if he agrees, he must never say another word again. The fact that he looses his speech has many ups and downs to it. I can use it to create separation between him and the people around him, and i can use it to stop him from even considering telling someone about the experience. On top of that it will help the character develop in a way that i want him to and lower his ability to work in a group so he will be more inclined to go it alone, but it also hinders that story a lot. There will be times in the book where i want him to become temporary friends with other characters but having a lack of speech will make it difficult t make those friends. I am also not a fan of books that give direct insight into characters minds so it will be difficult to show how he feels when he cant talk and you don't know what he is thinking or why he is doing what he does.

    So what do you think? should i do it or not? if i don't i can adapt the plot line to allow for him to speak, just not to be a man of many words.
     
  2. daemon
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    daemon Contributing Member Contributor

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    Can he simply not speak or can he not put thoughts into symbols (i.e. not write, use sign language, or even nod/shake his head)?

    Is there a reason for his condition to be a result of a deal with Death (I am very interested if there is a reason), or would you consider writing it so that he just wakes up one day unable to communicate, or maybe so that it is the result of a brain injury?

    Are you thinking of writing a plot for him to try to get his speech back, or is the story purely a depiction of how the condition affects his life?

    These questions are not intended to be critical of the idea (I think it has the potential to be a fascinating and emotionally powerful story), but to clarify the focus.

    I myself am working on a story with a thematically similar idea. Instead of loss of speech, no one can form long-term memories or produce evidence of the existence of the protagonist. I am still struggling with difficult questions about the mechanics of the condition, the cause of it, and whether or not there should be a way to escape the condition.

    Since I can look at someone else's idea more objectively, it is not nearly as hard to decide which option I prefer. I think you could probably write the cleanest, most thematically focused story if he cannot communicate in any way, if the condition is due to a brain injury, and if there is no way for him to recover.

    No communication at all: distinguishes it from the real condition of muteness.

    Brain injury: takes a tiny bit of biological artistic license in order to frame the condition as the result of a freak accident, which appeals to readers' intuitive understanding that shit happens in life that can ruin people's lives. I think a brain injury provides more potential than a deal with Death for writing a humanist story.

    No way to recover: establishes that suffering is purposeless and hopeless (a strong humanist theme that is "in" right now), and the best the character can do is adapt.
     
  3. Chaos Inc.
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    Chaos Inc. Active Member

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    There's several ideas expressed here.

    1. "he must never say another word again." As a condition of his second chance, he's not allowed to speak but can.

    2. "he looses his speech". He is unable to speak such as Arial in the Little Mermaid.

    3. "i can use it to stop him from even considering telling someone about the experience". He lacks the ability to communicate altogether.

    #1 initially appears to be the way I would go. It fulfills your requirements as well as allows you to have an interesting caveat; if he speaks he dies. This can be used as a sense of conflict through out your story. If he's with a group of people and they're in danger, he has to choose to warn them or lose his own life. That of course depends on your setting. I would least likely go with #3 because that hinders your own ability to tell a story, something you shouldn't make harder on yourself. I'd also groan if that was the case.
     
  4. PeterC
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    PeterC Active Member

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    I agree with Chaos Inc. that the concept of his being able to physically speak at the cost of his life is intriguing. It creates a lot of conflict. I also agree with daemon that I wonder about the reason for the deal. Is the Death just being arbitrary and capricious or is there a deeper story behind it?

    Not being able to speak doesn't imply an inability to communicate at all. If he can still write he could interact quite nicely with other humans online, for example, as we are doing here. I'm assuming you are talking about a setting in the current day. It also means you'll have to rely on descriptions of his body language and actions to convey his emotional state... an interesting and educational challenge for you as a writer.
     
  5. daemon
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    daemon Contributing Member Contributor

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    Now that I think about it, the more I like the idea that he can communicate but may not. That makes it necessary for his situation to be more than just something that happens (like a brain injury) -- it has to be something deliberately set up, like a deal with Death. It also avoids the inevitable question of "why does he not just [insert clever way of communicating without words]?"

    And of course it establishes the tension of whether or not he will choose to break the deal in order to accomplish something more important than his own life.

    This is shaping up to be a premise with huge literary potential. It is a goldmine of directions to take the story and themes to explore.
     
  6. SuperVenom
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    SuperVenom Contributing Member

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    I like the idea he can speak but must not. The tension would be great if say if he was in a situation to shout a warning to someone but couldn't in fear of his life. The temptation would be delicious lol. Imagine a hot girl wants to know your name but you can't say it. Is this to be written in 1st person perspective or 3rd ? as that would create and answer certain grammatical questions.
     
  7. Kite2
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    Kite2 New Member

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    I see that i have sort of lacked a few details that are important to the thread so here they are. First the time of the story is in the late medieval era, close to the renaissance. This means that standard people don't know how to write and i will never have him learn to write because that destroys the purpose of the loss of speech. Second if he were to talk he would break the deal with the death spirit and die.

    I hope that you sort of understand now that he can talk but if he does he will die so he can't talk and he can't communicate because he does not know any other forms of communication.
     
  8. Chaos Inc.
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    Chaos Inc. Active Member

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    Scribbling pictures in the dirt is pretty effective. Also I can't fathom not attempting to learn how to write since losing your only form of communicating is gone. If you're adamant on this then there better be a damn good reason. "This means that standard people don't know how to write ," he's not standard anymore. It also doesn't destroy the purpose of loss of speech because no one can read it even if he did. It seems like a perfect example of the last man in the world who now has time to read all the books he wanted to, but then breaks his reading glasses (or better yet goes blind).

    I would caution against being so strict on your characters, you're losing a huge opportunity for deep character development.

    Edit: Try to interact with people you know with the restrictions you're placing on your character and see how it works out.
     
  9. Kite2
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    Kite2 New Member

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    Chaos Inc., the reason he does not learn to write, the reason why no one knew how to write, is because there is no one to teach them, and writing to communicate would not be vary useful anyway because none of your friends can write or read either. on top of the giving him the ability to write would destroy the purpose of making him lose his speach
     
  10. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    But the problem with this is that it's apparent to the reader. If most people were deprived of speech, they'd work long and hard to find another way to communicate. Reading and writing weren't un-heard-of. Sign language existed. A person could draw pictures. There needs to be a strong in-story reason why this doesn't happen, rather than the out-of-story "that would spoil the plot" reason.
     
  11. Jack Asher
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    Jack Asher Wildly experimental Contributor

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    Actually most people during the 15th century knew the alphabet, and at the very least could sign their names. If they wanted to learn more there were Jesuit monasteries all over where they could learn.
     
  12. daemon
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    daemon Contributing Member Contributor

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    @Kite2, This is absolutely true, and it is why I like the idea that the character makes a deal with Death (or some other entity) not to communicate. He is held to the spirit of the law rather than the letter of the law. He could find some clever way to communicate without speaking, but the entity who made the deal would catch on to it and enforce the deal by killing the character.

    Or maybe the protagonist does find a clever way to communicate and Death does not notice... at least for a while. This opens the doors to some fascinating ideas about how death can or cannot be cheated, how meaningful human interaction can be when communication is so limited, etc.

    It could also provide you with something to move the plot along. If you are concerned that readers would get bored that nothing happens in the story because the protagonist cannot even talk, then consider integrating tension into the plot: the tension of questions like "how long can he continue to cheat death?" and "will he actually be able to pull off what he is trying to accomplish before death catches on?"
     
    Last edited: Aug 12, 2014

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