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

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    Using "sighted" verbs for blind characters.

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Link the Writer, Nov 7, 2011.

    Been a while since I posted a question on here.

    I just realized something: Suppose I were writing from the perspective of a blind person (let's use Amos Garnier as an example), but from third-person.

    Now, suppose I want to describe that he's supposed to be facing something. But, wouldn't "facing" imply that he could see? For example,

    Amos sat opposite of Mr. Wilmer, keeping a cold expression at his direction.
    "Do you really think I believe that?" he said, squinting his eyes.

    Or let's suppose he's standing next to someone who's clearly taller than he is.

    Amos tilted his head up to Mr. Parrish.

    I guess my question is, would using "sighted" verbs like this confuse readers?
     
  2. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I don't think these would confuse readers. I had a blind friend once who used to look up at tall people who were talking to him, face people who were talking to him, and so on. And when we would explain something to him, we'd freely say things like "See what I mean?" and he'd say "Yeah, I see." He didn't literally see, but everybody knows what we all mean. It's the language we all use, and he used it too. He didn't demand that we find blind ways of talking to him. He adapted to the sighted world instead.
     
  3. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    A face is a face, even if the eyes in that face don't function, so I don't see any problem at all with "facing". Plus, you face someone to hear them and speak to them as well as to see them. And I don't see the need for "at his direction"; I think the following would be less awkward:

    "Amos sat across from Mr. Wilmer, facing him with a cold expression."
     
  4. Jhunter
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    Jhunter Mmm, bacon. Contributor

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    I agree with both minstrel and Chicken.

    I am curious though, since this is third person, cant you say whatever you want to describe the scene without it contradicting the blindness? Since it isn't first person? Also, since it is third person, doesn't the reader already expect you to describe what is happening in the scene the best way possible and not with the (for lack of a better word) "crutch" of blindness?
     
  5. Jhunter
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    Jhunter Mmm, bacon. Contributor

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    Double post.
     
  6. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    That's what I had in mind. Since we're in third-person, we're able to "see" what's around us even though Amos can't.

    I'm just considering this because I tried writing Amos in the first person perspective, but I realized I wanted the readers to be able to see what the other characters were doing and the world around Amos. He's still the narrator, mind you, just in third person.
     
  7. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    are you writing it from a 'third person limited' pov, such as hemingway did in his 'old man and the sea'?

    if so, how can anything/anyone be seen, since the narrator is blind?... hemingway also did this in 'for whom the bell tolls'... but you still can only write of what your narrator experiences/hears/feels, etc., can't include anyone else's thoughts/feelings, or anything that happens outside of the narrator's purview...
     
  8. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    In third person, the narrated character is, by definition, not the narrator. How closely you decide to have your narration parallel the experience of the narrated character is entirely up to you, and not subject to any kind of formalised rules.
     
  9. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    While Hemingway kept close to his Robert Jordan character throughout most of For Whom the Bell Tolls, he let his POV roam a little. There are scenes from the old man Anselmo, and a sequence from the gypsy whose name I forget. There were even a few paragraphs in that novel that he narrates from the POV of a horse!
     
  10. Makeshift
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    Makeshift Active Member

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    It's actually a pretty great coincidence I noticed this topic. This kind of reflects a short story I'm working. It's a fantasy/science fiction piece set in a world in perpetual darkness and none of the characters are able to see anything, in fact they even don't have eyes. They do have other senses to observe with plus it's written in the third person, so it really isn't wrong to include their perceptions. It did pose some problems for me and when editing I noticed I had inserted some sentences which referenced them seeing things. It would be a challenge to write something from the point of view of a blind person. Saying a blind man tilted his head up to face a tall man, maybe it makes sense if he knew the guy was tall or maybe he could hear it, at least at a close range. I would be tempted to write in the third person to have more freedom.
     
  11. thewordsmith
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    thewordsmith Contributing Member Contributor

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    Actually, a non-sighted person may look in the general direction of the person to whom they are speaking but, actually, they would 'lend an ear' to the speaker as much or more than an eye. The real tricky thing is that, since an unsighted person, if they are completely without sight, tend to have the major muscles in the back of the eyes atrophy through lack of use. This means they would not be moving their eyeballs around as they turned toward someone to whom they were speaking. They would have slightly more upper body movement.

    Have a visually impaired friend who is a right wit and loves to mess with people's heads. Someone asked if he knew where someone was and his smart asterisk response? "I haven't seen him all day." Or he'll face his girlfriend (in a restaurant of other place full of people (collapsible white cane apparent)), move his head around, reach over and touch her hair and say, "What's wrong? You look like you're not feeling well." He LOVES to use visual verbs just because it's so unexpected. I told you he has a roguish sense of humor? Of course that wouldn't exactly apply to your question, which is more about narrative descriptions of an unsighted person's actions or perception. I asked my friend about the question and, in his normal fashion, leaned back in a chair, ran a hand over his mouth a few times, and said, "Yeh. I see what you mean."

    (See is not always about visual perception, you see.)

    Since you are concerned about the narrative descriptions, he (and I) would suggest, for the most part, to describe scenes as you would for any sighted person. Which is to say, if you want a blind person to turn and face someone, let them turn and face them! If it is clearly evident the person they are talking to is taller, let them turn their head upward slightly. None of this would be untoward in the world of the 'visually modified' as my friend likes to call it.

    He also hastened to add that, although the eyes may not work the same, a 'vm' person can still 'see'. They 'see' the sun on their face. They 'see' colors through their sensory perception of what red (hot), green (cool, spring-like), blue (cool water)yellow (warm) etc. feel like. They 'see' things on a different level.

    Good luck.
     
  12. tristan.n
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    tristan.n Active Member

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    You can always throw in little things to remind the reader that he's blind, too.
    I've only known a couple of blind people, and although they tried to look at me while I was talking to them, it was like they were looking through me. I bet if they had given me a cold expression, it would have been even more uncomfortable because of that. One of them had just recently gone blind while the other had been blind for years, and the one who had just gone blind always had her eyes open really wide, but the other person looked pretty normal, so that might be something to consider, too. Has Amos been blind for a week, a month, years, his whole life?
     
  13. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    Amos had been blind his whole life.

    I think once I have Amos reaching for his cane or groping a wall the first time we see him, readers will know he's blind. I don't think they'll forget that...would they? xD
     
  14. tristan.n
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    tristan.n Active Member

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    I guess reinforce would have been a better word. :)
    Adding in sentences about him using his cane or how someone meeting him notices that his eyes are milky, etc. will remind reinforce readers that he's blind. Otherwise they might think "Well maybe he was blind and then got better." I would at least, but I'm kind of a literal thinker. lol
     
  15. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    lol, okay.

    The next question is more about POV. Would it make any difference if I decided to switch the third-person from Amos to his friend? Like so:

    Chapter xyz
    (third person-following Amos)
    Amos: I want you to do something for me. (tells friend what the plot-related thing is)

    Friend: No problem.

    Chapter xyzy
    (Third-person-following friend)
     

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