1. rybowman
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    rybowman New Member

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    How to write a dumb charater

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by rybowman, Jul 30, 2010.

    I have an idea for a character who is dumb (as in mute, not unintelligent). He is fluent in ASL (American Sign Language) and has no problems with his hearing. The majority of his communication with family, friends, etc. would be through sign language.

    My question is, how do I get his communication across as I write? Would it be as simple as my speech tag saying "he signed" instead of "he said"? This seems like it may get redundant throughout the course of the story. Is this the best way to do it? Does anyone have any suitable alternatives?

    I read The Sound and the Fury a long time ago and recall one of the children being mute, but from what I remember it was in first person and the charater didn't speak...but I could be wrong. Does anyone know of any other novels with a similar character? How did the author approach it?
     
  2. Islander
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    Islander Contributing Member Contributor

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    A lot of the time you can leave out the speech tag and just use beats, or nothing. But I have a feeling that after a while the reader will get used to the "... he signed" tag and not think about it much.
     
  3. constant scribbler
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    constant scribbler Member

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    The whole 'he signed," would work fine. Instead of using quotation marks though you might use ' ' or italisized just to help define that. I have a mute character but she is around the main character who narrates the story and that main character just translates in her head. Or that main character or another relate outloud to those who don't know sign laungage what she said. I like that you are trying to make this character of yours a strong character, I am afraid my mute (or more persisly deaf) character fades into the background.
     
  4. Sang Hee
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    Sang Hee Contributing Member

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    It seems to me it could be solved the same way like in fictional stories where they deal with telepathy. Just substitute the word to suit the needs 'said' -> 'signed' or put the sign language in italic. Might work too.
     
  5. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    War Boy by Kief Hillsbery is the best literary deaf character I have read. Its gay literature and the story is very raw, at least for me. My best friend gave it me when I was writing a deaf gay character for my story. (I had to miraculously heal him when he became head of the secret service, I think lol)
     
  6. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    It's dialogue. Format it as such. Do not use italics, please!

    Here we go again...
     
  7. Aeschylus
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    Aeschylus Contributing Member

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    ASL is signed, but it's still a legitimate language. When a character speaks in another language, the best thing to do is to simply mention the fact that they're speaking in that language and then write it as English dialogue--you can assume that the reader is smart enough to understand that it's in another language.

    Example:

    "The men in the corner spoke softly in Russia.
    "'How's your day going?' Mikhail said.
    "'Pretty well,' said Viktor. 'You?'
    "'Same.'"

    That's all that has to be said. Now the reader knows that the conversation is in Russian.

    So, why should it be different for sign language? Just address the fact that he uses ASL at an early point in the story and make it clear that he uses no verbal language. From that point on, simply use "he said." The reader will be able to keep track. And if a character speaks back using ASL, simply bring that up when they use it, then treat it normally for the rest of the conversation.
     
  8. thewordsmith
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    thewordsmith Contributing Member Contributor

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    BRAVO! You cannot see me, Aeschylus, but my hands are waving around my head in strong approbation. (That's ASL for applause)
     
  9. Aeschylus
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    Aeschylus Contributing Member

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    I'm glad you agree, Wordsmith (I never knew that that was applause in ASL btw). The idea of using "he signed" sounded like it would be really annoying.
     

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