Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Character with a Disability: Not a How To Post

Hi everyone! I’m so excited to be a guest on the Science Fiction Romance Brigade Blog today! I’m going to be discussing a topic that is very close to my heart as an author and as a person. To start off, let me tell you why I chose this topic. I was born three and a half months early, weighing one pound. This resulted in an eye condition called ROP, where my retina detached in one eye (if not treated right away it can happen in both eyes). But I didn’t and haven’t let my vision stop me from living a full and happy life. I faced many obstacles but I never gave up. It’s the same for my characters—or any character with a disability.

I love reading about strong, determined characters who beat the odds, no matter what it is. But the thing about writing characters with disability is to write it in a way that’s respectful. Write the character how you would any other character, only make sure you stay true to their disability. If you have a character who is blind, they would most likely take public transportation to get places or get rides from friends or a taxi service. I have vision in one eye—though its not perfect—and no vision in the other—and I tried driving my grandma’s golf cart. Ran straight into the apple tree. I never drove the golf cart ever again. I also tried driving a real car and again, will never ever drive ever! That’s not to say no one who is blind or visually impaired won’t drive. I just choose not to—for a very good reason.

Also, I rely a lot on sound. I pay attention to how someone speaks. I don’t see visual cues nor do I use facial expressions. Someone with better vision than myself may be able to see those things. Know your character!

I know this turned into a post about writing a character who is blind/visually impaired but I wanted to give examples from my experiences. Everyone has different experiences and like every writer, I drew inspiration from my own life. They say write what you know: now that’s not ALWAYS true. If it were I’d be writing stories about a small southern town. I still may do that one day haha! But I want to branch out. Writing—and reading—is a chance to experience other ideas, other cultures, step into the shoes of someone else for a while. So when you write a character—whether they have a disability or not—get inside their head. Who knows, you may learn something while in there. You will come out on the other side with a different perspective.

I know this blog post was a little different than you probably expected. But I didn’t set out to write a how to blog! Why? Well, I may have a character who has a disability but that doesn’t mean I’m an expert. I don’t have all the answers. I’m still learning and will continue to learn the craft of writing for the rest of my life. So write, research, learn, and strive to write the best book you can!

Bio: RA Odum grew up and still lives in Georgia. Her love for writing and stories started in her grandmother's attic and never stopped. Born sixteen weeks early and loss of vision in one eye, RA faces obstacles head on. From the time she was very small, she has had a host of characters in her head, screaming for their stories to be told. When she is not writing, she loves to spend time with her family, sing and read. She also enjoys learning and teaching others American Sign Language. She hopes her novels will inspire and make a difference.


Facebook author page: https://www.facebook.com/RAOdum


  1. Thanks for sharing, RA. I've used characters with disabilities a few times because I love the heightened sense of triumph when they overcome all odds and become the hero or heroine. One hero had brain damage, and the heroine of an upcoming SFR novella had her tongue cut out by space pirates. In each case, I felt, like you, that research was crucial to learn how the disability would affect the character physically--and more important, emotionally.

  2. Very interesting post, RA. I think another thing to consider when writing characters with disabilities is that they may have other strengths or senses that are exceptional.


We love to hear from you! Comments must pass moderation to be published. Spam will be deleted.

SFR Brigade Bases of Operation