1. Link the Writer

    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    How do you avoid visual cues when writing blind characters?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Link the Writer, Apr 29, 2018.

    So basically, throughout my fantasy, I seem to be having a huge problem writing Mishu’s POV. She’s blind, yet I’ve noticed (from what some told me) that I keep using visul cues. Of course, the idea is that she has Soul Sight, meaning she can see the souls of sentient, living beings who can use magic but not inanimate/dead things.

    My issue is I’m trying to find a middle ground between overly-describing what should be common knowledge for Mishu (i.e., something being placed on a countertop) versus her seeing things she shouldn’t. Here’s an excerpt of what I’m talking about (417 words.)

    Once the chicken was devoured, Cassie lumbered around the counter, pulled out a chair and sat, her hind legs propped up on our table. I heard soft scraping as I saw her paw work around her jaws, picking bits of our chicken off with a claw I surmised. I swallowed my rage. “Is there anything you need?” I asked coldly. “Can we help you?”

    Cassie belched, her tail flicked as if she were pleased at her theft of our meal. “As I said earlier, Frelan wrote to me saying you were to join our crew?”

    Yevno tugged at the small of my back. “What’s she talking about?” I grabbed her arms and squeezed, indicating for her to be silent. “Didn’t Edric say the old ways were gone?” I told Cassie. “Everyone went their separate ways.”

    Cassie’s shoulders shrugged. “Eh, seems Frelan begs to differ.”

    Frelan’s words came back. Old roses die, sure, but does that stop new buds?

    “Who said I wanted to join anything?” I demanded.

    “Lord Gregreo.”

    The air grew cold. Lord Gregreo set this up? “That bastard…!” I growled under my breath.

    Cassie’s ears perked. “Careful, little cub. It’s not wise to insult a lord.”

    “What does he want from me, then, huh?” I stepped forward, hands splayed out, hoping my posture would elicit some reaction from the Devonian. Nothing, she continued to recline and nibble on her paw as if she were enjoying a relaxing day in the sun. “What does he want from our family? Why can’t he just leave us alone?”

    “He wishes to see you — he’s summoned you to his manor.”

    My arms fell to my sides. Out of all the things our intruder could’ve said, this was exactly the last thing I expected. “He…wants to see me?”

    Cassie brought her paw onto the table and drummed it. “That is what I said, yes? Are you deaf as well as blind?”

    A lord had summoned me. I found it difficult to swallow. A lord had summoned me… “Why? What if I don’t want to go?”

    “You live in his lands, little cub,” Cassie said. “Short of dragging in the Higher Courts, his rule is law. He asks, you do.”

    “Or else what?”

    “Or else you will face the consequences of defying your liege lord.”

    I tried another tactic. “From what I’m told, Gregreo isn’t a mercilessly cruel tyrant. I’m sure-”

    Cassie bolted like a spring from the chair. I jumped back, narrowly avoiding stomping on Yevno’s toes. “He has sent me to collect you, Mishu. You think I traveled hours to this house to sample that half-baked, pathetic excuse of a chicken?” She spat. “Too tender and soft for me. You humans have weak jaws.” She leaned forward. “Either you come on your legs, or I carry you there.” She chuckled. “Your choice.”

    I know that standing alone it made it look like she could see just fine, and that’s another thing, I don’t think readers want to keep being reminded that she can see Auras like “The Aura of Cassie’s head moved”. “Cassie’s Aura flew up as she bolted off the chair.” That’s bound to get irritating for the readers. Like, “Yes, we get it, she can see Auras! Quit reminding us!”

    The other issue to note is Cassie pulling at the chair. Do I need to write something like, “A chair dragged along the carpet as Cassie sat down”?

    I hope I’m making sense. :p Basically, how do you avoid visual cues without treating your blind character and the readers like they’re stupid?
     
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  2. GrJs

    GrJs Active Member

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    You can still use visual cues for her so long as you stick to your own rules about it. Mishu can only see auras, so you can give visual cues as far as magical things moving and what not. You don't have to say 'Cassie's aura...' you just say 'Cassie...' but make it clear in the beginning that Mishu can only see certain things and the rest is blank.

    Mishu can't see in the conventional sense, but she still has a version of sight. Stick within your rules.
     
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  3. S A Lee

    S A Lee Contributor Contributor

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    Have you ever done a 'learning style' test? One version I did notes that the favoured sayings of a person can be a hint at their favoured method of learning. You're visually oriented so your default is to use visual cues.

    But perhaps where Mishu can't see, you should redirect to hearing or touch, the scraping of the chair on the ground as Cassie pulls it, the sound of her tearing the flesh off the chicken bones or even crunching them (depending on whether she's feline or canine in nature). The warmth or coolness of Yevno's wrist and whether it is thick or thin in her hands.

    In short, what do her other senses pick up on in the scene? Give them more emphasis instead.

    As for not reiterating the seeing auras stuff, I think you're right. When she meets a new person stick to the aura's colour until she gets a name and then once that mental link is established to her, then just switch to the name. Explain early on the level of detail that she sees (does it look like a picture from a thermal camera for example) but once that is established to the reader it is there for reference.
     
  4. Link the Writer

    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    I haven’t heard of the learning style test. Sounds very interesting.

    That’s one of the things I struggle with, I think. I get the basic gist of not using visual cues for things she can’t see, it’s the way I execute them that won’t make Mishu come off as an idiot. Take Yevno for instance. She already knows the girl is thin, so wouldn’t it be redundant for her to mention Yevno’s bony wrist? I could mention that it feels warm to the touch and its trembling, that could work.

    Another example, a cart. Let’s say Mishu is hearing a cart moving down the street. What would be better and less redundant?
    I heard the sound of a cart move down the street.
    The rattle and clacks of wheels grew louder, a cart was approaching.


    I do like your last point. Once she sees the Aura of a person and associates what she sees with a name, she wouldn’t need to keep saying “[name]’s Aura.” We would know she’s looking at the person’s Aura, the basic shape of their body. In conjecture to what she hears, smells, or touches, she can see what they’re doing.

    Ex: A chair scrapped along the floor as Cassie sat, placing her feet up on the table.
    ** Would ‘placing her feet up on the table’ be too visual? Or could readers surmise that there would be a table in a kitchen and deduce from there?

    Other examples could be things like: “An Aura flew across my line of sight, startling me.”/“Peaking from under the hem of a curtain was the Aura of a Devonian’s tail.”

    OK, I just spotted something wrong with the last sentence. How would she know there was a curtain? She’d see what looked like a severed Devonian tail and react accordingly, unless earlier on she felt the curtain as she went up the stage. That could work. Using deduction, the readers would know she’s next to a curtain and when she sees the Devonian, she would reach the logical conclusion that it’s not a severed tail, but rather that a Devonian is on the other side of the curtain.

    I guess the point is, there has to be some context behind it — in that I explain early on what she interacts with (i.e., feeling the curtain) so any visual cues is simply her drawing a logical conclusion based on what her other senses tell her. (Or maybe she sees what she thinks is a severed tail, freaks out for a bit but once she realizes she’s not smelling the tell-tale scent of dried, coligulated blood, she reaches another conclusion.)

    EDIT: Why did I forget my own rules? Of course she wouldn’t see a severed tail because it’s not connected to the owner anymore — it’s basically a dead limb. She wouldn’t know it was there unless she smelled the blood or stepped on what she thought (at first) is a long, thin fleshy cord. :p
     
    Last edited: Apr 29, 2018
  5. S A Lee

    S A Lee Contributor Contributor

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    There are three primary learning styles, visual, aural and kinesthetic (touch/action), sometimes people use expressions that lean more towards them. So rather than more visual language.

    I think when it comes to furniture it boils down to one question. Is she in familiar surroundings? If she knows the layout of the room, she won't know any colours beyond the auras, but she will know what furniture is in the space and where it is. A blind person can tell when they're in a dark place because they don't feel the sunlight's warmth on their face. I imagine the blind have everything a certain way for their safety.

    With the tail, maybe there's a short time where the severed tail is visible because it's got residual 'life' within it, but maybe it fades because it's not being maintained.
     
  6. izzybot

    izzybot (unspecified) Contributor

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    You have vision problems yourself, don't you? (I may be misremembering, sorry.) So, my perspective is that I'm laughably nearsighted without my glasses, so while I can see, it's a pretty crap version of seeing. Y'know the big E on eye test charts? I don't! :p

    So to write character with severe vision problems or complete blindness, I'd try to consider how I perceive the world sans glasses. I didn't get glasses until I was almost a teenager, so for a lot of my developing years I relied on my hearing a lot and a lot of the habits followed me into adulthood. So (I need to stop saying 'so'), to pick a few examples just from the first part of your excerpt --

    I'd just go with what Mishu can hear. She hears a soft scraping which she assumes to be a claw against teeth, bolstered by the fact that she knows Cassie just ate a presumably somewhat messy meal, so she's probably got food in her teeth. She can use context, even with sounds that may not be 100% familiar.

    I might, personally, just cut this one. Is Cassie sort of a catgirl, with a furry tail? Maybe her fur could brush against the floor, and Mishu hears that little swooshy sound. It really doesn't have to be Daredevil-esque superpowered hearing, she just has to be paying attention.

    For these two, I suggest Mishu noting the change in Cassie's tone -- she probably sounds somewhat casual or lackadaisical when she shrugs, and instead of her ears perking, she might suddenly sound a bit more alert/interested.

    I'd skip the 'brought her paw' and just skip to the sound -- I feel like the sudden noise might be startling, or, if Mishu does have quite attuned hearing, at least louder than it would seem to someone who would see the preceding movement.

    Now, I don't really get how her Soul Sight works, exactly, so I won't get into how you might use it. It's your creation -- go wild with it. But this is how I'd avoid using visual cues: use audio cues instead, and demonstrate how things feel when she gets to touch them. And I'd draw from my own experience to do that, and when my own experience fails me, I'd do some reading or find some documentaries and the like on how actual blind people navigate the world. You'd have to adapt for your setting, of course. But I'd just focus on what Mishu can perceive -- any time something visual comes up, figure out how she'd interpret it: as a sound, as a smell, as a breeze that blows her hair against her face, as a temperature change, whatever. My method would probably be to rely mostly on that and supplement with the Soul Sight when necessary, but that's up to you.
     
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  7. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll It's Coffee O'clock everywhere. Contributor

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    Just avoid using things like colors, motions outside of their own, and
    anything that comes close to an in depth description that cannot be
    told without the use of touch or anything else they may use to compensate.
    Even with an echolocation system, things will not have much more definition
    to them than an approximate shape and distance.

    Here is an example of what I mean with echolocation.
     
  8. Infel

    Infel Contributor Contributor

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    Ooh! This is a tough one, but I'm in the same boat! I've been working on making a blind girl more believable myself; luckily, she's not the MC so things are a bit easier. I don't know much, but I hope this helps!

    I think a lot of this particular issue boils down to how much of the a soul Mishu can see: is it an entire, ghostly human figure or outline, or more of a wispy, formless ghost? If the first, I think it's perfectly fine to treat Mishu's interactions with aura-containing entities as though she could see--as long as she runs smack into a wall or stone golem every once in a while to remind me she's blind!

    This line in particular really gave me the impression Mishu could see just fine:

    "she continued to recline and nibble on her paw as if she were enjoying a relaxing day in the sun."

    This line makes it seem like Misha has actually seen what a relaxing day in the sun might look like for a cat--I assume Cassie is a cat-like entity, sorry if I'm wrong! Misha can understand that Cassie is relaxed because Cassie is behaving in a way that reminds Misha of a previous experience seeing another creature who, when behaving the same way, gave the impression of being relaxed. But that entire exchange hinges on whether or not Misha has actually seen something to compare this experience to (I know I'm being a little obtuse, but I hope I'm making sense). Since she's blind, I imagine her way of assessing the world is through auditory cues, rather than visual. I think it would make more sense to describe Cassie's actions in terms of what Misha can hear, rather than what she can see. Because that's what she's doing: taking in as much information as she can about this intruder in her room to determine how she should react next. So in this moment, she's absorbing everything she can about the situation: the parts of the aura she can see, and every single audio cue she can pick up: the tone of Cassie's voice, the sound of any nervous twitching or scratching, or licking as the case may be. She's trying to piece together the situation she's in by anything and everything her senses can pick up on.

    I hope that helps! In a similar vein, this is a youtube channel where a guy details his life being blind, and how he experiences things. I don't know if it'd be helpful, but I figured it might be worth a look!

    https://www.youtube.com/user/TommyEdisonXP
     
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  9. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    A thought: What about removing all sight as the first edit, then edging bits of the aura, etc., in if you need them?

    Anyway, I'm going to do that thing where I edit rather than explaining, because sometimes I'm no good at explaining. Below, your original is green, my thought is blue.

    Once the chicken was devoured, Cassie lumbered around the counter, pulled out a chair and sat, her hind legs propped up on our table. I heard soft scraping as I saw her paw work around her jaws, picking bits of our chicken off with a claw I surmised. I swallowed my rage. “Is there anything you need?” I asked coldly. “Can we help you?”
    Once the chicken was devoured, Cassie tromped around the counter, pulled out a chair with a screech, and sat, her feet thumping up on our table. I heard a soft scraping and sucking; she was picking her teeth again. I swallowed my rage. “Is there anything you need?” I asked coldly. “Can we help you?”

    Cassie belched, her tail flicked as if she were pleased at her theft of our meal. “As I said earlier, Frelan wrote to me saying you were to join our crew?”
    Cassie belched and her tail scraped across the floor, wagging like a happy dog's. “As I said earlier, Frelan wrote to me saying you were to join our crew?”

    Yevno tugged at the small of my back. “What’s she talking about?” I grabbed her arms and squeezed, indicating for her to be silent. “Didn’t Edric say the old ways were gone?” I told Cassie. “Everyone went their separate ways.”
    With a tug at the small of my back, Yevno said, “What’s she talking about?” I reached in the direction of her voice, grabbed her arms and squeezed, indicating for her to be silent. “Didn’t Edric say the old ways were gone?” I told Cassie. “Everyone went their separate ways.”

    Cassie’s shoulders shrugged. “Eh, seems Frelan begs to differ.”
    Cassie said, “Eh, seems Frelan begs to differ.”

    “What does he want from me, then, huh?” I stepped forward, hands splayed out, hoping my posture would elicit some reaction from the Devonian. Nothing, she continued to recline and nibble on her paw as if she were enjoying a relaxing day in the sun. “What does he want from our family? Why can’t he just leave us alone?”
    “What does he want from me, then, huh?” I stepped forward, hands splayed out, hoping my posture would elicit some reaction from the Devonian. Nothing; not a sound from her, other than the peaceful, maddening sucking. It was as if she were enjoying a relaxing day in the sun. “What does he want from our family? Why can’t he just leave us alone?”

    Cassie brought her paw onto the table and drummed it. “That is what I said, yes? Are you deaf as well as blind?”
    A drumming on the table. Cassie said, “That is what I said, yes? Are you deaf as well as blind?”
     
  10. Link the Writer

    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    (Again, I’m floored by the way you write. I really need to read your books, CF. :D)

    I did like the way you re-arranged the words so it wasn’t just [character name]-dialogue (still trying to work on it...)

    *ahem*

    Reading your passages made me think, “When I write, I should ask myself, ‘is Mishu seeing this, or is she hearing this?’” A large part of my problem is that, obviously, I’m a visual writer. Since I myself am not blind (I’m half-blind) I use eyes to describe a lot of what the characters see, and it’s a knee-jerk instinct for me to do that even for Mishu, excusing it as “She sees Auras”; I’m only now starting to train myself to write with my other senses. It’s actually pretty tough, considering I have severe hearing loss. :p Good Lord, the odds are stacked high, chief. :p

    EDIT: Someone in another writing forum brought up an interesting point — Mishu literally being able to see Auras doesn’t really make sense given the fact that she’s blind. Even if I could explain how she can see Auras, it still defeats the entire purpose of her being blind, no? Maybe instead of literally seeing people as walking, glowing shadow-people, she merely *senses* them and their basic body shape. That way she’d still need to rely on her other senses to figure out what’s going on.
     
    Last edited: Apr 30, 2018
  11. OB1

    OB1 Senior Member

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    Unless your character is deaf and has no sense of touch, smell or taste etc, you still have 4 other senses in which to describe something.

    For example the character may not be able to see the tree in front of him. But he is able to course his hands over the bark of the tree and feel the rough undulating skin that covered the trunk. Or, he walked through the park and could tell it was summer as he smelt freshly cut grass wafting through the air.
     

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