Hi everyone! I am YA author B A Binns , writer of contemporary and realistic fiction for teens. My tagline tells you what I am about - Stories of Real Boys Growing Into Real Men - and the people who love them.
For this month, the Genre-istas asked me to do a special post, as part of their April focus on Writing Other-Abled Characters. I've chosen to write about my work in progress, which features a disabled teen as one of the main characters. In this post you will get some history about disabled characters, as well as information on how I went about choosing to give one of my teens a congenital disability, cerebral palsy. You will also get a look at an excerpt from the manuscript. And, if anyone is interested in learning more about the story and getting a chance to be a beta reader, feel free to leave me a comment with contact information.
Last Saturday, Kathleen Delaney blogged about her experiences becoming an amputee, and how that effected her writing. A lot of the literature featuring disabled characters involve formerly able-bodied people who, through accident or disease, become disabled.
Ever one to face a challenge head on, I chose to place a disabled person in my current YA project.
|From a presentation on disability in children's literature|
Fortunately, I teach classes to authors on the subject of writing about people outside their own group - Adding the Spice Of Diversity To Your Writing. (http://www.babinns.com/spice-class/) I decided to follow my own instructions to students. That means beginning by tossing out everything I thought I knew about the condition and start as a complete knowledge. Otherwise, "Write What You Know" could too easily result in writing how you would feel if you were in that situation. Or, worse still, it could pull up a stereotype or caricature instead of a real character. I take students through this issue in several lessons.
Practicing what I preach involved following five steps:
- Readers are number 1 – so I always keep track of who I am trying to reach. Yes, most of the readers will be able-bodied young adults. But I also strive to appeal to disabled readers, and their friends and family. I hope many of them will both sympathize with the character, and identify with both his disability and his unique strengths and abilities.
- That means taking myself, and what I think it would be like to be disabled out of the picture.
- Then I took everything I thought I knew about being disabled and cerebral palsy and tossing it in the proverbial wastebasket.
- Doing research, both secondary and then primary research from experts.
- Taking extra effort to steer clear of stereotypes such as the A-Sexual Cripple, the Always Happy Cripple, and his/her cousin, the Always Angry Cripple.
|All ages at the Disability Expo|
|My model for Alex. not 14, but too happy to ignore|
The other main character is his next door neighbor, Tash Parker, an African American teen who just moved to this rural and predominantly white section of southern Illinois. In the following excerpt from the story I call Trooper, Tash has been walking her dog and hears sounds of pain coming when she passes the house and steps in to intervene.
Thank you for reading.
I hope you see Alex as a kid of inner strength, who doesn't bemoan his life and problems, but learns to live with him. And, by the end of the story, he even learns to dance.
If you are interested in reading more, let me know in a comment, and I will get back to you.
And if you want to talk about your efforts in writing about a differently-abled character, tell me that too.