[nabs-l] To Be, or Not to Be, A Blind Character

Joe Orozco jsorozco at gmail.com
Sat Aug 21 20:21:47 UTC 2010


Hello everyone,

Thank you for your thoughts on this project.

Andi,

I guess you figured out how the plot unravels.  The character is shot, and I
was on the fence about whether to make the consequence blindness or
paralysis.  Unfortunately my knowledge of the latter is limited, and I do
agree it's better to write about what one knows.  A friend suggested moving
forward with the blind character, and assuming the first installment was
published, a later sequel could allow more space to fully depict what the
character is experiencing.  I also thought of including a second blind
character, someone to counterbalance the first, motivate him to recover more
quickly, but then I would be seriously running a risk of steering away from
the main theme of the book.  I feel the blindness feature would already be a
significant secondary plot to undertake, but we'll see how it goes.

Jedi,

Excellent.  I'll have to check out this book you recommended.  I like good
examples that positively resonated with readers.

Marc,

That adjustment phase is what scares me.  Even if my character was a
headstrong go-getter, one must factor in the realistic range of emotions
they must endure before returning to the front of the action.

And you know, the name association never even occurred to me.  Names
randomly pop up, and I put them down temporarily until I can come up with
something more fitting.  Eight or so years ago I wrote my own short story
rendition of the Hotel California lyrics, and the character's name in that
piece wound up being Randy Strope.  At the time I hadn't met or ever heard
of the lady who is now Ryan Strunk's wife, though my character was a guy and
the real life person spells her name with an "i".  At any rate, this guy's
name will not stay the same.

Your point about the answering machine cracked me up.  In my home office I
have a phone with answering machine even though I prefer to use the
telephone provider's voice mail system.  If I went with the voice mail
approach, he could have easily ignored the call, and I needed something to
jar him into picking up the receiver.  We'll see.  I'll give it some
thought, though he is an older character and could probably get away with
choosing older technology.

Thanks again all.  I will most definitely give the NABS-L due credit in the
Acknowledgements if any publishing house winds up picking it up.  I may post
links where more portions of the ongoing manuscript can be read for anyone
interested.

Thanks,

Joe

"Hard work spotlights the character of people: some turn up their sleeves,
some turn up their noses, and some don't turn up at all."--Sam Ewing 

-----Original Message-----
From: Andi [mailto:adrianne.dempsey at gmail.com] 
Sent: Saturday, August 21, 2010 12:04 AM
To: jsorozco at gmail.com; National Association of Blind Students 
mailing list
Subject: Re: [nabs-l] To Be, or Not to Be, A Blind Character

I like your idea.  I am a writer myself, and struggle with the 
same problem 
concerning the blind in books.  I don't want to fall in to a 
stereotype, but 
you are rite when you say it would help educate people.  It is 
true that 
blind individuals are either overly romanticized or seriously 
degraded, no 
one seems to find that reality.  I think it is a good idea to 
put a blind 
character in your book, but to dissuade from stereotypes I 
guess I would 
make it a secondary character.  That however depends on what angle your 
going for.  Since you said you wanted the person to go blind 
later in life 
and it is a rival gang theme, perhaps the individual could get 
shot.  I have 
a few friends who went blind that way all later in life.  I 
myself can't 
attest to losing my vision quickly as I was young when I lost a 
large chunk 
and it is now a gradual decline however the friends I know who 
went through 
it in a "now I see, now I don't" faction, told me a bit of what 
they went 
through.  Of course it was different for each individual, 
most agree that 
the first emotion was: helplessness, followed by denial, then 
sadness, then 
most prominently anger, and then for the strong acceptance, and 
for the week 
back to denial.  I don't mean to be harsh but I have friends 
that took both 
paths.  I think if your story has a sudden blindness it is important to 
cover all this, but if your trying to educate the reader I 
would pick the 
stronger of the two characters, as one negative takes ten positives to 
remedy.

--------------------------------------------------
From: "Joe Orozco" <jsorozco at gmail.com>
Sent: Thursday, August 19, 2010 10:42 PM
To: "'National Association of Blind Students mailing list'" 
<nabs-l at nfbnet.org>
Subject: [nabs-l] To Be, or Not to Be, A Blind Character

> Hello,
>
> It's no mystery I thoroughly enjoy writing.  This year I've 
decided to 
> quit
> fiddling around and finish that novel that's been festering 
in my head for
> several years.  Without divulging too many details, I can 
tell you that it
> will most likely be a piece about two street gangs that fight 
for more 
> than
> just respect in a classic war between good and evil.  Think 
Stephen King
> meets S.E. Hinton in a more aggressive version of The Outsiders...
>
> Now, here's my question:  What has been your response to 
blind characters
> portrayed in books and movies?  I have mostly been 
disappointed.  They're
> either too Super Hero or too wimpy.  I've progressed far enough in my
> writing to come to the pivotal point where one of my protagonists can 
> either
> go blind or not.  Actually, featuring a blind character was 
not part of my
> original thought process.  I did not want to fit into the 
easy fallback of
> the blind writing about the blind, but it would be a very 
good means of
> educating the public, assuming anyone outside my family 
bought a copy of 
> my
> ramblings, right?
>
> I'm curious to hear your thoughts.  If you think a blind 
character should 
> be
> featured, what would you want him or her to portray?  Mind you, this 
> person
> would have just lost their sight, so they would not be able 
to come out
> swinging as a hyper independent role model.  They'll need to 
experience 
> the
> typical stages of acceptance, a daunting process that may in 
itself rule 
> out
> a blind person in my plot, but it would be a good means of emphasizing
> Braille and other forms of essential training.  I'm looking 
for a balanced
> prospective between educating in a positive light and 
realistic reactions 
> in
> someone who lost their vision from one moment to the next, 
something to
> which I cannot relate since my own vision loss has been and 
continues to 
> be
> very slow.  If you think blind characters run the risk of reaffirming
> stereotypes according to how people interpret the character's 
actions, I'd
> like to know this as well.
>
> Naturally I have no idea if my little book will make it 
anywhere, but by
> golly it's going to be finished, and in exchange for your 
participation in
> the brainstorming phase, I will offer you a teaser which I previously 
> shared
> with the writer's list.  It is very much a raw draft, so 
please feel free 
> to
> tear it up so long as the main discussion is about my 
original question so
> that the discussion stays on topic and I keep David Andrews 
off my back.
> (grin)  Thanks in advance.
>
> Joe
>
> ***
>
> Christian Slater knew they would come calling one day.  He just
> wasn't sure how they would make contact.  Perhaps a mysterious letter 
> would
> one day appear in their mailbox.  Maybe one morning he would open his 
> e-mail
> inbox to discover a message from an obscure sender, but given their
> obsession with secrecy, it was more likely that someone from the old
> fraternity would simply appear at the front door bearing news 
of the kind
> Christian and his family could do without.
> They chose the telephone.  Christian would have never guessed the
> fraternity would gamble with an unsecure line, but he had always been 
> right
> to assume that when they did reconnect with him, it would 
come as a total
> surprise no matter how much he thought he'd prepared for the 
inevitable
> encounter.
> On the morning the call came, he was deeply immersed in the first
> chapter of his latest novel.  The idea had come to him, as so 
many of them
> often did, without forethought, and by the time he'd seen his 
family out 
> the
> door, the kernel of an idea had grown into the makings of a promising 
> plot.
> With school out, he had the rest of the summer to devote to 
his writing
> without the burden of teaching the craft to a bunch of high 
school kids 
> who
> would have already forgotten what they learned.
> Christian snapped a glance at the caller ID, saw that it was a
> restricted number and dismissed it as a telemarketer.  In his 
feverish 
> state
> of mind he only wanted to be left alone with his story in 
progress.  The
> call went to the machine, and after the obligatory beep, a 
voice Christian
> hadn't heard in years came from the speaker.
> "Mr. Slater, this is Don speaking.
> Christian froze, fingers hovering over the laptop keyboard, eyes
> slowly moving back to the answering machine and the clipped 
British accent
> emanating from it.
> "I trust you are well," the cultured voice said.
> The energy left Christian in a stomach-turning lurch.  His blood ran
> cold when doubt turned to certainty.  He slumped in his seat, 
eyes riveted
> to the machine.
> "Mr. Slater, it is important that we speak at your earliest
> opportunity," the man said.  "If you are there, please pick 
up the phone.
> This is most urgent."
> Christian pondered it for a moment.  He could ignore the call,
> pretend he was not home.  Then a memory of the man's ice blue glare
> surfaced.  That penetrating stare had always troubled 
Christian.  Now it 
> was
> almost as though the man were in the room, daring him to be 
foolish.  He
> slowly reached out for the receiver, willing his voice to 
sound calm and
> collected.
> "Hello," he croaked.
> "Ah, good.  You are home after all," the caller said, sounding
> genuinely relieved.
> "Wha, what do you want?" Christian stammered.
> "Come now, Mr. Slater that is no way to greet an old friend."  The
> man's voice appeared to be amiable.  Christian, despite not 
having heard
> this man's voice in nearly twenty years, knew this was only a facade.
> "We are not friends," Christian countered.
> "So you are still a bit sore about that old business," the man
> mused.  "I dare say it has been far too long for you to hold 
a grudge."
> "You're unbelievable," Christian hissed.
> "Alas, it would appear time may not heel all wounds after all.  So,
> let me get to the purpose of my call."
> Christian's hand tightened around the receiver.  He had never cared
> for the man's false joviality, but he was sure it would be 
far preferable 
> to
> the blow that was no doubt coming.  "Please do," Christian said.
> "One of your brothers has met with an unfortunate...accident."
> "I have no brothers," Christian said in a voice that was just over a
> whisper.
> "I'm sorry," the man replied.  "I thought we were done being coy.
> Of course I was referring to the brotherhood in the fraternity."
> "I left the fraternity," Christian muttered.
> "You never left the fraternity," the man sighed as though exercising
> immense patience with a stubborn child.  "You never left the 
fraternity. 
> No
> one ever leaves the fraternity, Mr. Slater."
> "I was told I could--"
> "You were told you could what," the man interrupted, dropping all
> pretense of pleasantries. "You thought you could just leave 
and pretend 
> your
> allegiance never existed?"
> Christian's eyes strayed to the family photo hanging over the
> fireplace in his study.  In the picture his then three-year-old son, 
> Aaron,
> stood blithely between his parents.  Their daughter, Trish, 
was a newborn
> cradled in the arms of a smiling Carolyn.  Posing for the 
photo, he had 
> felt
> that his life had truly taken a turn for the better, that his 
past would
> fade into distant memory.  Now, despite the fear raking his 
stomach, he
> almost grinned at his own stupidity.  Had he truly believed 
he could just
> get away?
> "One of the brothers and his wife have met with an untimely death,"
> the caller went on.  "They had a son, Theodore, who has been 
left behind
> with no suitable guardians.  The High Council has met and decided your
> family would be best suited to take responsibility for the young man."
> "I beg your pardon?"
> "A family has died.  Their son needs a home."  The voice was slow
> and irritatingly precise, exhibiting all the patience of a teacher
> explaining to his dimwitted student the basic principles of gravity.
> Christian was torn.  On the one hand he could not have felt more
> relieved.  He had been certain the request would be far more 
despicable.
> Exactly what he thought they might ask of him he did not want 
to begin to
> imagine, but on the other hand, this business of a homeless 
boy was, well,
> random!
> "What part of it is confusing, Mr. Slater?"
> Christian sat forward.  "You want me to just take in a boy I've
> never met?  From a group of people I haven't even spoken to 
in more than
> eighteen years?"
> After a pause, the man asked, "Do you foresee a problem with that?"
> "Do I foresee a problem with that?"  Christian was appalled.
> "You're damn right I foresee a problem with that.  I think 
you're crazy to
> just call me up this way.  What, did you just draw my name 
from a hat or
> something?"
> "I do not pretend to understand the Council's decisions.  You have
> an obligation to the fraternity," the man explained in a tone that was
> almost brittle with disdain.  "Your respite is over.  Far worthier 
> brothers
> would be all too glad to assume this responsibility."
> "I'm sorry for the boy's loss," Christian hissed.  "But you just
> can't call me and expect me to be overjoyed when I'm being 
coerced into
> taking in a child from a family I never even met."
> "Coercion," the man pondered, savoring the word.  "You are right to
> assume that you do not really have a choice in the matter.  
The boy will 
> be
> coming to your home in two months, just in time for the fall 
term.  This
> should give you ample time to prepare for his arrival."
> "And if I refuse?"
> "Mr. Slater," the man chuckled.  "Don't be silly.  I'll be in
> touch."
> The line went dead.  Christian dropped the phone into its cradle and
> then just sat staring at it.  There were too many questions 
colliding in 
> his
> head, too many competing thoughts.  The call had been a 
shock.  The nature
> of the call had been just plain strange, and...  With dawning horror,
> Christian looked around the room.  The fraternity was indeed 
obsessed with
> secrecy.  It would never take unnecessary risks.  He suddenly 
wondered how
> long they had been monitoring his family.
>
> ***
>
> "Hard work spotlights the character of people: some turn up 
their sleeves,
> some turn up their noses, and some don't turn up at all."--Sam Ewing
>
>
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