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Looking for ideas for a disabled protagonist story

Discussion in 'Fanfic Discussion' started by Tinman, Feb 5, 2019.

  1. Tinman

    Tinman Squib

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    Hi, not sure what I’m hoping for from this forum, but figured I’d poke around for ideas regardless. I’ve been deaf/ mute since the age of 4, though with the advent of better hearing aids I’ve mostly regained my hearing. I’ve been wanting to write a story in the Harry Potter universe for a long time, and I figure I should write about what I know. I’d like to include an animal companion, but besides that and not basing it in the stock standard
    Potterverse I’ve no idea where I want to begin. Are there fics like this out there to look at before I begin? I’ve made wonderful friends through the deaf community in the states, and I don’t want to write it as a debilitating curse, but it does come with some serious drawbacks, especially in regards to being accepted in my teenage years. Anyway, regardless, thanks for any help provided, and if I’m posting in the wrong place please let me know.
     
  2. TheTycat

    TheTycat Second Year

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    The only fic I can think of is Blindness by AngelaStarCat. It's in Almost Recommended here on DLP, and it's about a Harry who's blind but sees magic. It's interesting and I had fun reading it, but deserves it's almost for making Harry so OP. If you're looking for ideas for a fic of your own, I think your own experiences are probably more help than most fanfiction, which I'd bet are written by people who aren't familiar with being blind, deaf, or disabled in any way.

    My limited advice would be to just explore the consequences, both good and bad. The obvious one is how an 11 year old with a disability interacts with his non disabled peers. There's other practical problems too, for example, how's a wizard is supposed to learn to cast spells if he can't hear the incantation, or see the wand movements he's supposed to copy. Or even little things like do mandrakes' screams matter to a deaf wizard, or a basilisk's gaze harm a blind one? Also, don't focus on the disability so much it becomes the only interesting part of the character. If you want the story to be about exploring a disabled character, the character needs to have personality, and the disability should be part of a whole, dynamic person.

    There's a sticked thread for writing adivce that includes a lot about writing good characters if you're interested.

    Edit: If Harry's deaf, does he still hear Parseltongue? Snakes don't have ears right, so how's that work.
     
  3. Red

    Red Professor

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    I can't speak to fics that feature deafness, but if you sort by new on fanfiction.net you'll find plenty of examples of mentally disabled protagonists.
     
  4. Tinman

    Tinman Squib

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    Wonderful ideas! I had thought a curse inflicted upon my character at a young age, unable to let him produce sound, would be close enough to my own experiences, while putting a magical spin on it. I’ve spent the last decade of my life with different hearing aids, so being mute is what I’ve mostly had to overcome, though hearing aids are far from perfect. I wouldn’t dare write about blindness, I’d likely get enough wrong about it to offend someone.

    I haven’t thought about how he’d communicate in class, aside from writing things in the air with his wand. Is it more realistic that silent speech would be enough? Or is making an already angsty OC a silent spell caster too overpowered?

    I have no idea if low level legilimency would be seen as pervasive if used to convey images, used later on in the story, but it’s the only natural progression I can see, so if anyone’s got other ideas, I’m very happy to hear them.

    There’s so much to consider here, once you start talking about how much ALL the senses are needed for proper Magic.
     
  5. vlad

    vlad Professor Prestige

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    Republic started one a while back and it was good start.

    https://m.fanfiction.net/s/10835913

    The problem with this genre as a whole is that it's either an excuse for Daddy!Snape, or in chapter three Harry gets a familiar that sees for him or theres some magic spell that fixes his eyes or he becomes Mad Eye Moody 2.0. Or he learns telepathy...

    My advice. Write a Harry Potter story. Come up with the plot you want to write.

    Now, make Harry blind or deaf or mute or whatever it is you want.

    The one UNBREAKABLE rule is: *magic cant fix this*. No cheats, no cop outs, no technicalities. Every hurdle Harry faces from Malfoy being a dick and throwing shit at his cauldron, to fighting Voldemort, Harry must work around this. Make him a badass because he overcomes it.

    Maybe he sucks at transfiguration. Maybe he spends five years slowly getting better by replacing the need to visualize with the sense of touch.

    Maybe he's deaf and can't properly incant, so Harry *busts his ass off* and after two years of mediocre (at best) spellwork he jumps ahead because he's silently casting two years early.

    "Petrify him!"

    "It won't work Tom, or didn't Ginny tell you?" Harry readied his sword, listening for the telltale hiss and rumble of the Basilisk."

    And so on and so forth.

    We like Harry where he has insurmountable obstacles and kicks their ass anyway. We dont like when Harry sobs like a bitch or has the obstacles magically parted for him.

    Good luck, and use the WBA. DLP is nothing if not in favor of (if at times brutal) literary improvement of its members.
     
  6. Tinman

    Tinman Squib

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    Alright, ideas so far;

    I don’t know if I want the protagonist to be Harry Potter, I think that intimidates me too much, though every other bit of advice was good Vlad.

    He was Silenced at the age of 4, and is unable to produce sound in any fashion whatsoever, not his footsteps, not hitting something, anything. If he pushes down one end of a table, then releases, the plates on the other side rattle, so he can Cause noise, much like a normal mute would be able to. If anyone’s got ideas for how to expand this, or repercussions thereof, I’d be glad to hear of it.

    I have no idea what nebulous force I’d like to set after him, or why they’re after him, except that whoever his parents are, they’re no longer alive, and likely died in the same event that cursed him. I’m malleable on this, and if anyone has good reasons to write them in somewhere I’d like to hear them.

    I don’t know whether the curse was accidental, or an intentional silencing, meant to stop him disclosing information. What could a 4 year old have seen that would make someone silence him rather than kill him?

    Because of this curse, he’s a walking (not so much talking) breach of the statute of secrecy, so I haven’t decided whether he’s been living in the boonies or in the wilds. In the latter case, is there an accepted extended world idea of how students with no material wealth go to hogwarts?

    Regardless, I’ll be grateful for any ideas anyone has. I’m going to get to work on the beginning chapters now. Cheers for everything so far.
     
  7. Sorrows

    Sorrows Unspeakable Prestige DLP Gold Supporter

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    I would second that the key to such a story is not to make the protagonist's disability summountable by magic. I never much liked Blindness because Harry's disability very quickly became completely negated by his ability to see magic untill there were very few drawbacks and a lot of advantages to his version of sight.

    You have a unique perspective that most people writing such charecters don't have and you can draw on it to write something both compelling and insightful. You know how those barriers to communication effect relationships school work, and a myrid of other aspects of day to day life. You know about the ways you and your community overcame these challenges. Putting a HP spin on that would be really interesting

    For example: perhaps silent casting is sort of like sign language, the flourishes of the wand denote meaning. It requires the grasping of an unfamiliar form of language and precise muscle control, which is why people tend to verbally cast. It's the difference between speaking + body language and sign language. Naturally Harry (or whoever) has a advantage when learning, but still has the challenge of learning a far more intricate form of casting.

    Perhaps there are spells or magical devices that aid in communicating (without solving the problem completely) that take inspiration from muggle solutions...

    Anyway find a story worth telling and put it up in WBA. You'll get some worthwhile feedback, blunt, but worthwhile.

    Edit: Silencing works. It gives him/her several advantages without being too OP. I don't think the protagonist would have to live in the wilds if that was the case, at most they would have to stay in wizarding communities. Even then it's not a very visible curse so it shouldn't effect their movements in the muggle world that much.

    Hogwarts does not have fees, as far as we know all magical kids in GB are automatically granted a place (it doesn't make too much sense when you think about it but that seems to be canon.) If your not going to use Harry as your protagonist you can either go the OC rout or give this backstory to a side charecter (Neville? Luna?) or perhaps set it in a different time.
     
    Last edited: Feb 6, 2019
  8. vlad

    vlad Professor Prestige

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    He could be living at Saint Mungos, perhaps.

    Any idea can be done well, but I would resist the urge to make him living in the wild, unless your intent is a focus on Mowgli goes to Hogwarts.

    Obviously, if you are writing an original story, that's one thing. But generally less is more when it comes to butterflies, especially ones that set the scene.

    A deaf wizard comes to Hogwarts. That is your central point. Don't water it down to "a half-feral, misunderstood, legally ambiguous, impoverished orphan comes to Hogwarts, and also, he's deaf.

    As a writing exercise, consider rewriting the Sorting. Your wizard comes to hogwarts. He is dressed like all the other students. It is not customs or wealth that separate him, but the whole hall is looking at him as McGonnegal called his name to be sorted. He cant lip read, because she said his name from behind a giant scroll of parchment. How does he react? Obviosuly, once he realizes it is his turn, he knows what he is expected to do - go up and sit under a hat...

    Then the hat speaks to him. Is it the first time he has heard words? Words so clearly? How does he react to this magic hat that allows him to - if this is the right word - listen?

    Later, how will he feel when he learns this magic has been lost? That the enhancements cannot be replicated?
     
  9. Tinman

    Tinman Squib

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    Without any offence intended or taken, deaf and deaf-mute and mute, though often synonymous, are very much seperate disabilities.

    Regardless, your advice about not diluting my story is excellent, and just what I needed to hear. I was just writing my thoughts on the sorting hat as I saw your post, and how I’d deal with making it a non-entity in regards to the story.

    I’ve gotten my outline started now, and figured out what, if not necessarily how, I want to write.
     
  10. pbluekan

    pbluekan Unspeakable DLP Supporter

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    So, one of the biggest issues I see with fics where a major character has a disability, psychological issue, or disease, is that the disability or whatever becomes the entire focus of the piece.

    Sure, these things are major hurdles a character needs to overcome, but to have them overcome them again and again and again and again is entirely unimaginative and stale. Essentially, every conflict in the story shouldn't be based upon your character's disability. It should be something overcome as part of their development and then left as something overcome.
     
  11. Republic

    Republic The Snow Queen Prestige DLP Supporter

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    Seriously, do what frightens you. Sail uncharted waters. It'll probably suck, but that's how you improve.
     
  12. Palindrome

    Palindrome A bigger, darker mark Moderator DLP Supporter

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    Hey, this sounds like a really good idea. One generic bit of writing advice before we move on: don't be too hard on yourself. Just write and listen to feedback, and remember that the only way to get better is to write more.

    I completely agree with Rep, write Harry Potter. For entirely selfish reasons, of course: I'd much rather read a story about Harry Potter than about an OC - in fact that's generally rule #1 of HP fanfiction. Write HP. It also gives you a lot more material to work with, in terms of plot.

    Here's how I'd approach it, personally: have Harry's experience directly mirror yours as close as possible, so you can put as much as your feelings and experiences in as possible. If there never was a 'reason' you developed deafness/mutism, for instance, use that - Harry should feel the same way you did, good and bad.

    Really like your idea of having all noise magically Silenced. That fits in really well as a nice spin on a magical disability and adds a few more unique challenges - and some advantages - in there.

    In-universe, the point where Voldemort attacked him could be a good cause for it, perhaps as a direct consequence of surviving the killing curse. Perhaps Harry didn't die, but a part of him did - the ability to impart an impact on the world through his presence. Perhaps if he'd been slightly luckier, he'd only be missing a shadow instead. Or maybe it was a complete coincidence and it's just a genetic quirk - nobody except perhaps Voldemort would necessarily have the answers.

    It doesn't even matter if you've actually decided on the answer yourself - the important part is how he feels about it, and how everyone around him reacts.
    Harness your own experiences and emotions, tap into your insecurities and triumphs and focus on a character arc of having Harry learn how to accept himself.

    (Sorry if any of this didn't make any sense, I tried but tiredness just hit me like a truck and I think I lost the plot halfway through)
     
  13. Tinman

    Tinman Squib

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    Huge thanks for all the feedback. The advice about writing about Harry Potter and not an OC was heavily needed. It does mean I have to figure out where he’s been that’s not the Dursley’s, since I’m going with the unable to cause sound route, but it stops a totally fabricated backstory from having to be written.

    I’m going to try and put at least 5k words to page, hopefully more, and then I’ll post in WBA.
    I’ve started writing the meeting with Hermione on the express now, and what envy I have! If at 11 I’d found someone who saw being able to talk to me as worth learning AN ENTIRE LANGUAGE I’d have been over the moon.


    Questions though? Do people actually want to hear about screaming Es, wrong way Os, how you’s that look like hit you’s and Wills that look like salutes? Cause that sounds boring to me, but that was how it was, especially before my implants. Or are those problems too narrow, and I should focus on the social impacts more. Fitting in, working with teachers, trying your best not to slow down classes and such.

    Between the ages of 11-14, I carried around a small whiteboard that latched on my belt, with a pen beside it. Anyone have anything magically cool to replace it?
    --- Post automerged ---
    I’ve been having a hard time approaching how my silenced Harry learns most magic. I’d like to help him with runes, since they seem the closest thing to a silent magical discipline besides potions. Are there any fics with excellent but not overpowered rune usage? Cwyscross’ c’est la vie has them almost right, but declares HE some kind of magical runes prodigy to compensate. What other magical disciplines could be used silently without rocking the boat too much?
     
  14. vlad

    vlad Professor Prestige

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    Go ahead and write it. Most things can be written in a way that is interesting to read about, you just have to learn to do it.

    Take for instance Yes Minister, which is comedy gold based around the premise of the civil service making sure nothing actually happens.

    If this is your first time writing a fiction story, then yeah, parts of it are probably going to come across as wooden or blocky.

    Thing is though - we've all been there. Every person who's works you read, at one point was writing absolute shit.

    My first Harry Potter published works were pretty bad. But whew, that self-insert pokemon fic that nobody will ever, ever read... was a very special level of awful.

    I second Rep. Do it! And then if it doesn't pan out, think about how you can condense the scene, or tell it a different way.

    This is a process.
     
  15. momo

    momo Seventh Year

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    Consider Hogwarts and focus on a few things about your writing. For example, if you can truly understand the interactions, the tone of the magic in the series (Hogwarts is for better or worse the center of magic in the HPverse) you can turn your story from average to good or even great.

    At the end of the day, (almost) everyone reading Harry Potter fanfiction is a fan of the original series. You're trying to be unique which is honestly refreshing. And while disabled!protagonist stories honestly don't seem like an easy place to start, I can't think of a better person to try than someone with actual experience. Getting even somewhat close to capturing the tone of cannon would boost your story.

    I see that you plan on having a lot of H-Hr interactions (not necessarily romantic) in your fic. I understand why someone in the situation would be "over the moon" but you will want to pay careful attention to how you portray Hermione. Reading your post (and I could be wrong) she is going to be a good person, a smart person, and Harry's closest friend. There's nothing wrong with that but Hermione is (like many other characters in this series) inherently flawed. Don't forget that. To a teenager, going to professors about something, having a sense of superiority, although common, can rub off very poorly.

    Try and portray Hermione as the heavily flawed person she is, even as she is Harry's closest friend. Not going to lie, this WILL be hard. I honestly can't remember a single fanfic where Hermione has played a major role and been characterized well. But if you do it, it's another thing that could make your story great.

    The most common way people go about this is having them have a fight during which Harry gets depressed and then they are friends again. In the name of the loser that created this cliche, don't do that.

    Characterization should be consistent. Harry can't work to overcome a disability, understand that he has to be able to do somethings on his own by working harder than others, and then have one person become the dominant aspect in his life.

    That doesn't mean they can't be friends.

    Also want to second @pbluekan in saying that the biggest flaw disabled!protagonist stories make is having the disability be the center of the story, don't do that. Another flaw is people just make it irrelevant. Don't do that either. Find a balance. Work on the disability. Then overcome it. Bonus points if you can overcome it in a way that's beneficial to the future plot without being a god-tier weapon in a universe of humans.
     
  16. Republic

    Republic The Snow Queen Prestige DLP Supporter

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    There is such a thing as silent spellcasting. IIRC, there's no canon indication that Ancient Runes have any magical properties and are anything beyond translating lessons.
     
  17. momo

    momo Seventh Year

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    Have to agree with rep here. Runes is basically fannon and honestly useless for someone like harry. It takes time not there in a fight.

    And they are just a language.
     
  18. Sorrows

    Sorrows Unspeakable Prestige DLP Gold Supporter

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    First years take: Potions, History of Magic, Defence Against the Dark Arts, Astronomy, and Herbology and flying.

    Of those there are only three classes that require verbal casting: Transfiguration, Charms, Defence Against the Dark Arts. Let him fail at these classes, at least at first, perhaps he has no choice but to learn silent casting or skip them all together. But silent casting is a laborious, difficult skill to even begin to get the hang of so he's left far behind and gets really discouraged. Strangely it is poor stuttering Professor Quirrel who gives him the best advice on how to advance and even offers him some extra lessons....

    Or something.

    If your Harry is going to be deaf, I don't think it's too much to have a spell that writes words in the air as they are spoken, or an accurate quick-quotes quill that writes down what a specific person is saying.

    If he is magically mute, but can hear, I'm not sure you want to solve the communication problem right away. Perhaps he is excited to arrive thinking they will have something better than a whiteboard /pen, but really the mechanical process of writing is the best they have, if only with a wand. Other spells/devices require words/sound to transcribe.

    Dumbledore does have one obscure [device] that can transcribe thoughts onto a [thing] but using it requires a level of mental control/precision that Harry is yet to aquire. Cue something to strive for, possibly with extra lessons from Snape.
     
  19. Thaumologist

    Thaumologist Supreme Mugwump

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    A few thoughts, a bit scattershot though.

    The majority of your readers are not going to be deaf/mute/blind/paraplegic. As such, they might not be aware of the culture.

    For example, my sister is partially deaf. As such, the rest of the family learnt some basic Sign (British). However, we only ever really use SSE, rather than BSL (this means we sign the equivalent directly, rather than following the grammar - BSL is a completely different language than English); and normally not even that - fingerspelling or removing most of the words: "[where] [eat]?" instead of "where do you want dinner?". This was sufficient for us, but apparently would have been considered rude if we ever used this to communicate externally.

    You mentioned that Hermione might learn sign just to talk with Harry, or might already know sign.

    If Harry is mute, your readers and characters might ask why he doesn't just carry around a whiteboard and marker to communicate, only using sign- as the closest equivalent many people would think of would be someone from another country coming over, not speaking the local tongue, and refusing to learn. You'll need a reason that makes sense, especially for an eleven year old boy who's been cursed, on why Harry uses sign at all.

    However, that then runs into the problem of "If Harry can write his speech, then is he really silent?". And whilst the answer is yes (it runs the same problems as sign, in that you need someone to pay attention, and you might not be able to grab it), you're working around the problem without really giving it much narrative weight, and it might not come over very well.

    If he was raised in the wizarding world (which would make sense if he's a walking violation of the statute), then where did he learn sign? Was he tutored by muggles, tutored by a wizard who knows BSL, or did he learn WSL?

    Also, just looking at your profile, it says you're based in Australia. A quick check showed that letters in AuSLan are incredibly similar to BSL (slight angle difference on L, M, N, V - AFAIK for BSL, this comes in perpendicular to the fingers, rather than at ~135°), but close enough that that hopefully wouldn't confuse anyone. Taking 'Will' from your post, this looks similar enough through a quick check in AuSLan and BSL, although ASL is different, and closer to a salute. As such, I'd probably avoid having direct trouble with people interpreting words unless you specifically research them ahead of time, and make sure they line up in BSL too.

    On top of that, you have slang. We were taught that the sign for a local city was something along the lines of "smelly city". However, that would (almost certainly) not be how they would have referred to their own city (I'm pretty sure "smelly city" went both ways, to be honest).

    On the other hand, it's probably a minority of your readers would know BSL, and that they'd raise the fact you're using the incorrect language. But I don't actually know how bothered they would be - I don't care if I see a Dudley call Petunia "mom", because it's a minor issue, and doesn't really impact the story. I'd maybe be a bit concerned if Dudley called Petunia "Haha" (apparently Japanese), because that doesn't make any sense, and I wouldn't be used to it. But I'd be more likely to either ignore it, or just keep reading anyway, rather than raise it.
     
  20. vlad

    vlad Professor Prestige

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    "Finally, a boy around here that I don't have to listen to," Daphne snarked, but her tone was light and her lips quirked upward.

    Harry grinned, letters flashing from his wand at a spitfire pace.

    TALKING ISNT WHAT I LIKE BEST ABOUT YOUR MOUTH, EITHER.

    : D : D
     
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