Wednesday, August 10, 2011

In Which I Wonder What Is Too Much

'm toying with a new idea for a character in "Penny's Luck". Cal, her boyfriend (Penny would say, "he's not my boyfriend", but he will be, she just doesn't know it yet). Anyway, Cal is 16, can drive a car (so he's frequently Penny's ride to and from work), and used to be a pretty good gymnast. He shot up over a foot in the last year, so he can't do gymnastics any more, but the high school coach is pushing him to do pole vaulting or high diving (or both!)

Because his center of gravity has changed so quickly, and his arms and legs are longer than his brain is used to (yet), he's also a little clumsy. He bangs into things or knocks things over. A lot.

I like Cal, and he ends up getting kidnapped with Penny at one point. I want him to be more than just comic relief. I want people to see why Penny would end up with him. I also want him to have a skill that Penny doesn't have. (Her skills are sleight of hand and misdirection.) I think I want Cal to be deaf. He had meningitis a  few years ago, and became deaf as a result of it. His skill would be lip reading.

I don't want his deafness to be a big issue in the book. He's a just a teenage boy, who has a crush on a girl, and he happens to be deaf.

I'm playing with the idea for now, but my worries are:
  1. Deaf culture. I know enough about the deaf culture to know that deaf people aren't as simple as "create hearing character, remove hearing". I'm also big on people not writing about minority subcultures without an understanding of that subculture. (I know I hate it when my religion is misrepresented in fiction.) Can I learn enough about the deaf subculture to do a credible job of creating Cal? 
  2. Is it too much? Is making Cal be deaf a "kitchen sink" problem, where I'm just putting too many elements in the story? 
I think it makes the story stronger, but I may not have the chops to write it well. I guess I'll have to try and see if I can pull it off. If anyone has any thoughts or advice on the subject, I'd love to hear it!


  1. Sounds like to me that you might want to do a little research. What you might want to consider is that people are not always totally deaf, there are degrees. For example two people two different areas of deafness. One can't hear some sylables, the other uses a hearing aid and almost sounds normal. Think about it. I think you should go and do it. Just do a little research.

  2. No, he's deaf, not just hearing impaired, but thank you for your input! I love it! :)

  3. I know what you're saying. There are some very strong feelings about deafness (and Deafness) out there, so you would need to tread carefully and respectfully.

    Any chance you have chosen the name Cal for your guy drawing on Calvin O'Keefe? Your description reminded me of him. And if you don't know to whom I am referring, then I guess the answer is no...

    I love your new blog style, BTW. Clean, spare, beautiful.

  4. Hi mfantaliswrites! I don't think I was consciously thinking of Calvin O'Keefe, but I could totally see the resemblance once you mentioned him. I love Madeleine L'Engle's books!

    I agree, carefully and respectfully, get some insider feedback when I'm done, and then see if I pulled it off. I think I'm going to do it. The major reason *not* to even try is fear, and that's never a good reason (by itself).

  5. Oh, and thank you for the nice words about the design :) I wanted something that was thematically in keeping with what I wanted to do on the blog (post shiny things), had a literary reference (how is raven like a writing desk?), and something that not everyone else had :)


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