Sometimes being a deaf writer presents a unique set of challenges that hearing writers might not be as concerned about. Some of these challenges might seem obvious, some of them less so. For example, dialogue can be something I struggle with – developing someone’s voice, the way they speak, without coming across as stilted or character voices being too similar.
A less obvious issue would be whether or not to write stories with deaf characters. Is it necessary to always write characters that are deaf, or just happen to be? does it immediately follow that I will need to learn how to convey a world-view that shows what someone can and can’t hear or understand?
Some of my fiction has been an attempt to write stories with deaf characters. Some of my experiments have been more successful than others – some have become too complicated, whilst I’ve recently finished a short story with a deaf teenager that turned out well.
Maybe now is the time to say that one of the protagonists in my novel happens to be deaf, but it isn’t a story that overtly deals with deaf issues, though these will be revealed in the way she moves through the narrative anyway. I don’t set out to write stories that have deaf characters in them, though sometimes a story will occur to me arising from something I’ve experienced or a ‘what if’ moment sparked by an experience or character.
So much of my world is connected to the hearing world. It’s impossible for it not to be – I’m a lifelong reader, and most of, if not all, of the characters in books I love are hearing. I love music, and all my family (apart from my sister) are hearing. My husband is hearing.
I don’t make distinctions like this when I love somebody, when someone is a friend, or a family member, though communication is important, and sometimes I do feel ‘deaf’ when I can’t follow something. I have to make it known that I can’t – by asking for repetitions, by asking for subtitles or captions, by reminding people that a deaf person is trying to follow.
I am deaf – but I don’t go around constantly saying this – simply because it is something that is a deep, intrinsic part of my everyday experience. I accept it, and often revel in it because it opens up a different human experience. I don’t always wear my hearing aids at home, though I do love the sound that I can hear with my hearing aids. I have bad days and amazing days – days when I wish I could hear something more clearly, that there was more access, then days when I connect with people, when I’m happy simply to be who I am and not somebody else.
Like any person – hearing or deaf – I’m a complicated mess of contradictions. So it comes as no surprise that the fiction and non-fiction I write…