Writing a Deaf Main Character
by Lynn Kelling
My new release, Hush, isn’t the first book in which I’ve written a deaf character, but it is the first time I’ve done so with the main character—Rune, the main character of Hush, first appeared as a secondary character in my novel Bare. I was so thrilled and energized to tell Rune’s point of view as someone with a different means of communicating, that the story flowed quickly onto the page. He doesn’t speak and is recently, completely deaf. Because of this, he is quite focused on the before and after of when he lost his hearing. He’s learning how to let go of the life he had before the motorcycle accident that caused several injuries, and actively figuring out how to adapt to brand new circumstances. The people in his life are not experts at American Sign Language, to say the least, but technology (and patience) help fill in most of the gaps.
As the writer of this story, having a point of view from a main character who rarely engages in traditional dialogue with quote marks posed some technical challenges. I needed to decide how I was going to convey exchanges in sign language, or in written form via mobile apps or old school notepads. It was crucial to me that dialogue still be recognizable as just that, even without the visual cue of quote marks, so that the narration of the story is distinguishable from the conversations. For the most part, italics are used for this purpose in Hush. In my research, I saw this approach in other novels with deaf characters who sign and don’t speak (such as Joe Hill’s The Fireman), and it seemed to work well. I also describe the way the signs look wherever it adds to the scene or story, though I didn’t want to be too heavy-handed with descriptive passages either.
Aside from the practical hurdles, I really enjoyed getting to tell a good portion of Hush from the point of view of someone who struggles to fit into a world that doesn’t make it easy to do so for people who are differently-abled. Rune doesn’t ask for much of others—just to be recognized as an equally-valid presence and given some respect. He’s seen people let their gaze slide over him, avoiding interactions that might challenge them. He’s well familiar with how things might be awkward in some cases, such as using apps like Grindr to hook up with guys, when there’s a chasm of silence standing in the way once it’s time to meet face-to-face.
But this story isn’t about his hearing loss. It’s about the choice to not live life as a victim, but as someone capable of making positive change in the world. Rune’s not interested in becoming the guy he was before the crash. He wants to be better, stronger, braver, and he wants it all to mean something in the end.
I found there’s a lot of beauty and humanity in the ways Rune communicates. He’s always mentally engaged, putting more effort than most of us do into everything he tells people, just in trying to make himself understood. So, it could be seen that the things he tells others carry more weight. He uses body language more than my characters usually do. He’s an expert at reading a room, and because he’s become used to watching people’s movements closely for signs of them trying to speak or sign to him, not much gets passed him. There’s an added intimacy to his ASL conversations, to the letters he writes, the texts he sends, because most of the time they’re intended only for the eyes of the recipient. He does feel isolated because of his deafness, so any small gesture of simple human kindness that’s extended his way is absolutely treasured.
I learned a lot by living in his world, and found it’s a really beautiful place to be.
Rune Tooby is a smartassed Jewish rebel and closeted gay biker with the Born Soldiers motorcycle gang. Rune’s life centered on casual sex and less-than-legal employment, until a pickup truck full of Neo-Nazis rammed into his bike, destroying his hearing and shattering his life. Learning to live deaf and silent overwhelmed Rune, sending him to humbly beg help from the last people he trusts completely: the rich and powerful Dominants of the Manse, who trained Rune in the arts of BDSM.
Oliver Hughes, cocky day trader and sexual Dominant, lives a life of indulgent luxury. Despite this, he feels adrift and unneeded since his beloved submissive, Jackson Whitney, became absorbed into life as a family man and cardiologist, leaving him little time for his Master. When a meeting between Rune and Oliver is carefully arranged by the leaders of Manse, it starts a wild ride, sweeping up everyone who gets too close to the explosive pair. Rune and Oliver find themselves on a path filled with frustrating miscommunications, rage-filled vengeance, and painfully unearthed secrets. (M/M/M)
Available at: Amazon
About Lynn Kelling
Lynn Kelling began writing in order to tell stories that aren’t afraid of the dark, don’t hold anything back and always strive to be memorable, forging lasting attachments between character and reader. Her inspiration comes from taking a closer look at behaviors and ideas lurking at the fringes of life—basically anything that people may hesitate to speak of in mixed company, but everyone wonders about anyway. Her work is driven by the taboo in order to expose the humanity within it. Lynn is an artist, designer and lover of any form of creative self-expression that comes from a place of honesty and emotion, whether it’s body art or opera. She has had multiple novels published, has written over seventy works of erotic fiction of varying lengths, and always has several novels in progress.
As part of this blog tour, Lynn is giving away an eBook copy of Hush to one lucky winner!! To enter, just click the link below!
Please be aware that the only way to enter the giveaway is to click the Rafflecopter link above. Any comments on this post will not count towards entering the giveaway unless otherwise stated but are still welcome anyway.
Don’t forget to check out JustJen’s review of Hush to see what she thought of it!