1. Paradigm-shift
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    Paradigm-shift Member

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    Conversation with a Def Character

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Paradigm-shift, Jan 25, 2013.

    I have a Def Character a female, involved in a romantic relationship it's not a big part of the story. I'm not sure how to write a conversation with this women involved. At the moment I'm simply mentioning that she moves her hands and then I write her just as if she was a normal speaking character. I feel this is a little lazy and was wondering if there was a better way to go about this.
    Thanks for your thoughts
     
  2. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    'moves her hands' is not really the same as 'signs' with her hands... also, a lot of deaf people do actually speak...

    btw, the word is 'deaf' with an 'a' unless referring to the rock band of long ago...
     
  3. BritInFrance
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    BritInFrance Active Member

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    Urban dictionary def(inition): def /def/ adj. to describe a person, thing, or event that is cool.

    Some deaf people do speak (others, even if they can, choose not to because they don't see why they should - a lot of deaf people do not see they have a disability). My wife learned sign language (British sign language - it is different from country to country) and once went to a deaf group to practice. She has never felt so excluded in her life.
     
  4. Drusy
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    Drusy Senior Member

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    I imagine that you shouldn't need too much by way of explanation. Once you establish the she is deaf, by perhaps describing her signing - you can then move on to the second person in the conversation and their responses to what she is signing.

    I grabbed Alice by the shoulders and gently turned her towards me so that she could read my lips.
    "Alice, I need to talk to you about something. Something bad happened today."
    She frowned and signed 'okay' with her delicate hands, a look of worry etched across her face.

    (Not a great example - but you get the picture.)

    Then you can go on with the conversation as though we are watching her sign from his persepctive. He would answer questions from her and only once in a while would you perhaps need to remind the reader. You could do this by using descriptions based on her emotions. For the example above, her gestures might become agitated. Her hands might jab. And, as usual, mammamaia brings up a good point that many deaf people also use words so you might intermix the two.
     
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  5. BritInFrance
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    BritInFrance Active Member

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    Good example, Drusy. I would go futher and once you have introduced her signing "okay" I would have all the signed conversation in inverted commas too.
     
  6. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    single quotation marks[inverted commas] are only used properly for quotes within a quote, so wouldn't be correct to use for that...

    signing still = speech, so there's no good reason for not writing it as standard dialog...
     
  7. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think it would be strange to have profoundly deaf people thinking or communicating in sentences exactly the same as hearing people. I can't imagine they process language like that naturally for everyday life even if they learn to decode meaning from text. One of my cousins was born completely deaf in one ear and with only 30% hearing in the other, and he talks fine. When he was little he spoke far too loudly, but now you'd never know he has hearing loss especially as his hearing aid is invisible (although it doesn't work well under all conditions when he turns it off and lip reads). He has even learnt to speak almost fluent German as well as English.
     
  8. BritInFrance
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    BritInFrance Active Member

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    Sorry, when I said inverted comma's I meant double quotation marks. I was taught (in 1970/80's Britain) that inverted commas were these "

    :)
     
  9. JJ_Maxx
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    JJ_Maxx Banned

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    Obviously, you would need to lay the groundwork beforehand.

    ASL is about a lot more than hand movements. It combines facial expressions and body movements to create a whole picture.

    I would use 'she signed'.

    Example:

    Her hands moved faster, as a tear rolled down her cheek. "I am not going to leave you!" she signed.

    Something like that.

    ~ J. J.
     
  10. blenderpie
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    blenderpie Member

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    How is writing her signing as if she is speaking lazy? Sign language (at least my knowledge of ASL) has a much different word order than English, so a literal translation wouldn't make much sense to anyone unfamiliar with sign language.
     
  11. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    When you translate, you translate the sense of what is spoken, not the literal word-for-word translation. By making it clear she is signing, you accept that the translation will be "smoothed".

    You treat it as dialogue, pure and simple. There's no need to worry about the exact mechanism, unless it is material to the story.
     
  12. PeterC
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    PeterC Active Member

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    I'm not sure if this is a good suggestion but what about putting her "speech" in italics to remind the reader that it is a kind of translation? Of course you'd have to establish that convention first. I've been toying around with a scene that involves two people conversing through a translator and I used this technique. It seemed to work fine but maybe it's just a terrible thing.
     
  13. JJ_Maxx
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    JJ_Maxx Banned

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    This is where I will put my usual, 'Don't use fancy fontery to convey information, use your writing.' ;)

    ~ J. J.
     
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  14. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    ditto that... and i'm happy to see my term coinage has become a 'standard'!
     
  15. Paradigm-shift
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    Paradigm-shift Member

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    Ok that what I was looking for, Now what if as stated above this deaf person can speak a little, what would a conversation look like when she speaks and signs her words.
     
  16. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    The obvious answer is to use tags: she said vs she signed.

    But don't micro-manage. If it isn't important that the reader know by which manner the message is conveyed, don't bother specifying it.
     
  17. Paradigm-shift
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    thanks cogito, your insight is very helpful.

    One of the biggest things I struggle with is switching from 1st person to 3rd person writing, adding a deaf has added another layer to that.
     
  18. Amin
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    Amin Member

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    This is an interesting topic. I went to Uni with some deaf people and I found that when conversing with people who can hear, they often inter-mix verbal communication with BSL (British Sign Language). I think this is because it was second nature to use sign language so it just happened as a habit.
    Another thing to consider is those who are picky about talking. I had a friend who was completely deaf and could speak very quietly but she sort of squeaked it out, almost like she was singing a pianissimo, high note. Because of this, she would only speak to certain people and the others she would mime or sign (often requiring an interpretting friend for the other person). Your character might only speak to those she is most comfortable around.
    If it is unnecessary then don't give your story the extra padding, but it you think it would add some interest then it could be fun to write.
     

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