Writing characters who are mute is a great challenge which every author should try sometime, even if it’s just in a short story or writing exercise. In my review of Encrypted, I mentioned that I was very impressed with the handling of the mute character, Jennifer.
Now, Jennifer was just plain mute from birth. She simply could not talk, so far as I could tell. But one of the best parts of choosing to create a mute character is that you get to decide why they’re mute. Scarlet fever gone horribly awry as a kid? Specific brain damage in the talking center? Voice box sold to an evil octopus/hag hybrid? Vow of silence rather than physical muteness? Are they a mime? It’s up to you!
The problem is, if you can’t make them talk, how are you going to illustrate their character? This is the reason that I suggest everyone play around with a mute character. Because that requires a lot of thought and consideration. Jennifer was one of my favorite characters in Encrypted. I knew that she was essentially faithful, intelligent and funny. Not quite as boldly ‘take no shit’ as, say, Ronnie, but she definitely could hold her own in terms of ego.
But how did I know that? Because of her actions, her friendships, and her interactions with the other characters. The whole book, Jennifer is handing things to Amanda before Amanda even know she needs them. Intelligent, faithful, check. She hangs out with Quirk, the flamboyantly gay techno genius, and they trade text messages constantly. Anyone hanging out with that guy can’t be a downer, so, funny. Jennifer is constantly jabbing Amanda’s side and stomping on her foot to get her to talk. She doesn’t take crap.
See how I got all that not from any tellingbut all showing? A mute character encourages you to master that art. The author could have just as easily had Amanda say “Oh, Jennifer was the top of her class.” and Quirk say “Oh she’s so funny.” Instead, she showed us.
Writing a mute character in the modern age is pretty easy. Depending on your setting, many people know how to write, and many of those people know how to type or text.
Writing a mute character in a different setting? Not as easy. You have to decide whether muteness would be considered a curse or a neutral problem. You have to decide whether the mute person would communicate by hand signals or writing. You have to decide if your character can write, or must be taughtto write. If you decide by hand signals, you have to decide if you are consistently going to describe communication as “he signaled that he was unhappy with the situation” or if you’re going to move it into “‘I’m very unhappy with this situation.’ He signaled.“
Now, there isn’t a mute character in The Athele Series proper, however, I want to explain a little quirk of The Athele Series that Michael and I are trying to get together.
You see, we’ve got one linear story line which will be under the main books of The Athele Series. But there’s so much more story than that, and we really want to show it to you. So, between main titles of The Athele Series, we’ll be putting out other stories, which have to do with the characters or the worlds of The Athele Series, but not necessarily the main story line.
None of the stories will be essential reading to understand the main plot, but we hope that it will be a fun chance for you, the readers, to explore side characters that we love and have the entire back story for when we don’t have time or space to give them love. It also gives you something to read between books! (Which was a huge motivation for this plan. I always hate waiting for the next book to come out.) Most of them will be at least Novella length, but they will vary.
I mention all of this, because one of the later full length stories will feature a mute character, who has taken a vow of silence in protest of her parent’s slaughter. It also involves a king in bad health, a prince of questionable sanity, and an angel in disguise as a healer.
Sounds like fun, huh?
What kind of quirky or strange characters have you written? Have you ever written a mute character? If not, try this: choose your character’s reason for being mute, and then have a different character try to coax them into telling them why they are silent. You’re call on how they react to that! Have fun!
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