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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Character Clinic: April Herring

Today, I've got Katrina's character April on my couch. April resides in a fantasy. She's 18 and has been deaf since birth. She's a professional diball player (like soccer, but where the ball is moved around by magic instead of feet). She never really learned how to speak properly, always signing at home or using text-to-speech, so she's frustrated and embarrassed at not being understood sometimes, especially since she left home to pursue her diball career. She wants to connect with someone outside her family, and her diball partner Travis just might be that person, but he likes to dive into things without thinking, and it drives careful April crazy.

Katrina wants to know: Any suggestions on ways that Travis could help push April out of her comfort zone that don't depend on the fact that he can hear and she can't? Also, I know she's not going to get better overnight, so what would be considered reasonable progress?

April -

It's understandable that someone with a hearing disability--and subsequent speaking challenge--would shy away from conversations. It's great that you can connect with Travis through sign (your comfort zone), and hopefully you'll experience some acceptance through him that might make you less self-conscious of your speech. People have a way of doing that to us. They imbibe us with confidence that we might lack were it not for our relationship with them.

I think it would be interesting to see what would happen when both you and Travis were taken out of your comfort zones (say, the diball arena, for sure) and were forced to rely on each other. So then, it wouldn't be all about Travis pushing you out of your comfort zone and falling into that literary cliche. Now, as to what the two of you could do, perhaps bringing in a subplot would help.

Ask yourself, What's the one thing that you'd never do? Donald Maass says we need to work that into our novels, to make our characters true to life, layered. So once you answer that question, you'll have a great start on where Travis and you can go.

I'm reminded of The King's Speech, with Colin Firth. He had a horrible stutter, and it took his speech therapist thinking outside the box and having the king read a portion of a book with extremely loud music playing in his ears for the king to be pushed to the next level--to an understanding that he does have it in him. Even though you can't hear, it's a similar disability in that you need something to play loudly in your ears/mind--loud enough to drown out the fact that you can't hear and have trouble speaking...something to make those facts about you less important, make them slip into the background and not define who you are.

You're improvement, your confidence, will gradually come. There are going to be moments when you're not going to want to speak (probably to someone new, or to someone you think is important), but your experiences through the book will help you face these hurdles. Some people never get over the fear of public speaking, but they manage it--and their anxiety--and it's realistic. They don't get cured, per se, but that's the goal of help make life's problems manageable, not necessarily to go away.

Hope you've enjoyed your time on the couch, April. If you want to go deeper, you know where to find me.


McKenzie McCann said...

Hmm, I like this idea for a story. I don't think I've heard of a fantasy/sports book.

Miss Sharp said...

This is a good one! Readers will be rooting for April (nice name btw!), cringing when she stumbles and cheering for her when she overcomes. IMO lots of readers will identify with her awkwardness so don't be afraid to really let her struggle for a while. ;)

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Both comments and questions are welcome. I hope you enjoyed your time on the couch today.