1. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    A mystery story where your MC is blind.

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Link the Writer, Nov 2, 2009.

    OK, so I've had this idea in my head for a while.

    I want to tackle mystery, but in a new angle, in a new light. I want to see if I can write a mystery story where the MC is blind, and I mean blind physically. Better yet, it's through his POV.

    Now, if the setting were today, then it'd be easy because there's Braille, speaking programs for computers, and all that stuff. But I went ahead and took that setting...

    ...and moved it back to Colonial America, specifically 1770s at the time of the American Revolution.

    His background and everything, I can take care of that. (Maybe he's the son of a lawyer or something, that way it's plausible that he'd go solve the mysteries with the help of siblings and friends)

    What I wanted to know is: Is that too tricky? Would I have to, instead, write it from a third-person perspective? I was considering switching POVs to a sighted person in some chapters/scenes so we can get a glipse of the world the character (Let's call the main character Amos) lives in.

    However, I don't want it to be so sudden and distracting if the readers can see in one chapter but in the next, they can't and Amos is in another place. Now that I think back on it, it's probably a bit confusing.

    Another problem I have is the climaxes. How would I build up tension when Amos confronts the perpetrator of the mystery? He won't be able to see the criminal reaching for a gun/saber (he'll probably hear it though). That's why I was considering the switching POV.

    It's just a neat idea. What do you think of it?

    EDIT: The reason I don't want it to be put in third-person, because I felt it would be confusing. We're seeing, say, a red-brick building in front of Amos, but he can't.
     
  2. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    There was a TV series back in the 1970's based on this premise. It was one of several series that capitalized on the success of Ironside, starring Raymond Burr as a San Francisco detective confined to a wheelchair after surviving an assassin's attack. Ironside was so convincing that rumors spread that Raymond Burr himself had lost the use of his legs.

    The blind detective series was Longstreet, starring James Franciscus. It only lasted one season, but I don't know if it really reflects on the quality of the show. I do know I was never really sold on it, and what I mostly remember is how it seemed to be stretching the genre trend. I don't remember any of the actual stories from it.

    Do I really need to repeat the litany about asking about story ideas? Write it, or don't. Don't ask if the idea is any good, ask if the story is when you're finished writing it.
     
  3. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    So, too much of a stretch?

    I guess I'd have to write it very well if I want to pull it off convincingly...

    Didn't mean to annoy you, Cogito.
     
  4. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I didn't say it was too much of a stretch. After all, the show did sell a full season to a major TV network, back when there were only three and a half networks (PBS was the half). But it was a bandwagon show. We also had the fat detective (Cannon) and the eldery detective (Barnaby Jones) appear around the same time. What I'm saying is that the timing bred a lot of cyicism. The networks were pushing concepts, and that has nothing to do with whether the characters or the stories are any good.

    Of course you have to write it well to be convincing. That's true regardless of wheter your MC has a physical challenge. You have to learn all about what it is really like to be blind. Not the nonsense about other senses becoming more acute, but how the blind person makes better use of them than a sighted person who never gives them a second thought.

    Was he or she always blind? If not, how is the character dealing with it? Is it a recent loss he or she is still adapting to? If the character has been blind for years, is he or she still bitter and resentful, or obsessed with proving that he or she has no limits?

    It won't be easy, and you will need to do a lot of research. But don't let blindness be what defines your character. Make your character into someone interesting who happens to be sightless.

    As for me being annoyed, I wouldn't spend this much time discussing it if I were annoyed. It's just that ideas come easy, and they are not intrinsically worth all that much.

    Write what you know, or come to know what you write. This project will have a steep learning curve. Is it worth it to you to proceed with it? If so, go for it.

    You don't need anyone else's approval.
     
  5. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    Before you embark on this little literary adventure, you might wanna grab a copy of Oliver Sacks' The Mind's Eye. It explores the (sometimes ectremely complex) psychological effects and reactions to blindness with some surprising results.
     
  6. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    Here is a way to deal with it. His helper describes the setting.

    So the blind man writes things like. My assistant, or Mrs. Black told me the car was red and she gave me the license plate number.

    The room was cramped and small. I could tell because the pitch in the background noise changed, something that people with sight ignore, but I can't ignore it. Such details are vital to my survival. I couldn't see what Mrs. Black could see, however. On the other hand, she couldn't put the clues together.

    Running my fingers along a rectangle object, I felt a jelly-like screen and buttons. A flat screen monitor. These kinds of details wouldn't help me solve the mystery. I needed to know what was written on the crumbled piece of paper in my hand that I picked up from the desk. She read it to me. Now, that was information I could use. A suicide note, but something was off about the wording.

    Anyway, I think it could be an interesting read.

    What would be really satisfying, is if he figured out the final clue only because of his keen sense of hearing or touch. A clue a detective with sight would have missed.
     
  7. Irish87
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    Irish87 Contributing Member

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    I think this is a brilliant idea. You have your work ahead of you, but still, if you can pull it off then you've earned all my respect.
     
  8. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    @ arron= That's very interesting. I'll look into that. I may also want to check out "33 mistakes writers make about blind characters" written by a blind woman herself!

    @ Cogito= Oh yeah, I'm making sure it's not the case. Of course, Amos (his name) does use it as his motivation to keep forward (and he's somewhat of a trickster, playing with his cane and all). Oh, and he was born blind, so he's probably used to it.

    @ Arch= Excellent idea! Amos' friends could describe the scene/situation to Amos, but I think the important thing I need to note is that Amos isn't an idiot. There are things he's gonna know already.

    I probably will run the risk of repetition where I keep describing the texure of tables/walls/that kind of thing.

    But I can pull it off. After all, I am half-blind myself. hahaha. My left eye has poor vision, only sees peripherally (sp?)

    Speaking of what Cogito said about writing what I know, maybe Amos' blindness is "legally" blind, like his vision is what I have in my left eye? I don't want to do what I think is the cliche "blind=cataract" or "blind=whiteness"
     
  9. Grissom Barnes
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    Grissom Barnes Member

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    This seems like a believable plot idea, but as Cogito said, it would depend on the story, not the idea itself. Any writer can take an idea, no matter how "good" it sounds, and turn it into five hundred pages of crap or five hundred pages of pure thrill. Research on the topic makes it good, or at least in my opinion. I'd read something like this, though, if I saw it in a bookstore. It seems like a decent and believable idea, but I've never read any story so far where the MC was blind. In fact, there was only one book I read that had a blind character in it, and it didn't give much detail about the topic. I hope this didn't seem harsh. I really think this is a good idea.
     
  10. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    haha, yeah. The whole story isn't revolved around Amos' blindness, it's just what he has.

    I wonder if setting it in the Revolution is a good idea? I can explore the patriot/loyalist angle, yet that's been done to death probably.
     
  11. Grissom Barnes
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    Grissom Barnes Member

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    What it seems like to me, though, is that this is a big part to the story. From what you've stated about it being set in first person, he'll have to overcome his setback to catch the crook.

    Many novels have been written about the same time period. Whether it's "been done to death" shouldn't set you back. This seems like an original idea that I don't believe has been tried with that time period. And if it was, it doesn't mean you can't write a novel like that. For instance, (This is going to sound really stupid, but it's the only one I can think of right now. Haha.) Bram Stoker wrote Dracula, and it became one of the best well known classics. Today, Anne Rice wrote a bunch of novels about vampires, her first one starting back in the past like Broker's. Both writers took the idea of vampires and gave them different angles. What you're talking about doing with the setting is no different. Go for it! :)
     
  12. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    Sweet! I'm gonna make them all loyalist living in a majority loyalist town set a few miles away from Boston, but it's around there. It's a port city at the Atlantic.
     
  13. tonten
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    tonten Senior Member

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    I remember Piers Anthony wrote one of his Xanth novels with the main PoV character being blind; however, I don't remember which novel it was. All I did remember was he was able to pull it off really well.
     
  14. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    I think it was "Air Apparent". Just checked it on wiki.

    The climax is what probably gets me. Sooner or later, Amos is gonna have to fight. He's not gonna ride in every time saying: "I have the answers, gentlemen. Arrest this man." That's gonna be tricker. Doable, but trickier.

    But I do like the plot I have. :) I've made him quite a silly, clever boy who likes to do tricks with his cane. You know how House from "House M.D." plays with his cane? It's kinda like what Amos does.
     
  15. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    I guess the main thing to be wary of is portraying the psychology realistically. In Sack's book, several of his patients completely stop thinking in visual terms, even those who had at one time had sight. Spatial relations don't exist in the same way that they do for seeing people, memories manifest in different ways, and several different forms of synesthesia are developed and discussed. So I think the biggest mistake you could make would be to write the character as though they were a normal person with their eyes closed. The psychology of blindness is infinitely more complex.
     
  16. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    Wow, I had no idea it was that complicated...

    Makes me realize that there is more to it than what is shown. I would think that Amos would remember things based off of what he heard/smelled/touched. Like if a character said something like: "I went to the fish market with Anna and she got into an argument..." Amos would remember it like anyone else would, if it were important.

    I think its like he would rely on other senses for memory. Like if one of his sisters had an interesting perfume, he'd smell her coming because she wears it.
     
  17. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    ^ All the more reason to read Sack's book. And besides that, he really is a brilliant author, his books are just as compelling as most fiction. He has a couple of talks on TED.com as well I think, if yu are interested..

    //shameless plug
     
  18. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    Well, I've been around blind people when I was a child (went to a school for the deaf and blind because I'm deaf), so it's probably marginally easier for me, but I'll look into the steryotypes of blind people and find out the truth behind them, and the cliches of blind characters (one being that they're almost always superpowerful and have this tough outer shell: See Toph from "Avatar: The Last Air Bender".)

    Hoooo boy, whoever said writing was easy needs to have their brain checked. XD

    But this sounds like a fun project I can do. Just imagine all the things I can have Amos do. :D
     
  19. SilverWolf0101
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    SilverWolf0101 Active Member

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    Your idea sounds wonderful, actually something I would look forward to reading.

    Actually though, I once watched a movie about a blind Samurai that helped out a town. I don't remember the name of it, but I do remember the content well. I suggest looking up "The Blind Samurai" on google, as I believe that was the name of the movie but not one hundred percent sure. It may help you over come how to make a blind detective believable in colonial times, as this movie was based back in the days of the samurais. All the same I wish you luck.
     
  20. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    I just watched it a few weeks ago! :D It's called Zatoichi.

    I've got a basic idea down for the first mystery, called "The Blacksmith's Tablet". Now just gotta figure out where to go with it.
     
  21. HondaWriter
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    HondaWriter Member

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    Your character could have been blinded at a later age, say in his teens. This way he could understand dimensions, ect. Just a thought.
     
  22. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    Well, he's born blind, but I have considered that he had an injury at childhood or an illness that left him blind.

    I've found an interesting link that lists all the myths and steryotypes about blind people and dispells them. I'm not sure if I am allowed to post links, but that's a very good site.

    EDIT: I did plan on him being somewhere around the age of 13-16 years old.
     
  23. Operaghost
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    When one sense doesn't work correctly other sense become more acute to compensate, so in terms of the character knowing if somone is reaching fo ra gun for instance this doesn't need to be a problem as they coudl be aware of this from subtle sounds created , or even from an increased sense of spatial awareness, and obviously this gives you fantastic scope to describe things, the character might not be able to see, but they can have their own thoughts on what things might appear like. In terms of the increased senses there is really no limit ( still keeping it in the realms of beleivability) there is a kid in the US for instance you was born blind and yet walks around and rides bikes like everyone else by using a system similar to a bats radar using a series of audible clicks
     
  24. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    That's a good point. He'd be able to hear how heavy the gun is and be able to hear it clicking. Same with a knife or sword.

    Origionally, I had his background be that his parents were killed in the French-and-Indian War and he went to go live in a tavern, but realized that kids loosing parents to a war is a cliche, so I changed it. He does have his parents. He lives with them and, to make it plausible that he'd be solving mysteries and to have an air of authority behind him when he questions people, his father's a lawyer. ('Cause who's gonna listen to a tavern boy?)

    I'm worried that I may end up dumming down his parents a bit, because what parent in their right mind is gonna let their child go out and attempt to nab a criminal?

    Well, I'm off to plot out the first mystery!
     
  25. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    That's a myth. The person merely reliues on those other senses more.
     

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