To write a mute character, you must first understand what a mute character is. A mute character is someone who cannot speak. This can be due to a physical limitation or because they don’t want to speak. Silent characters can be a very powerful tool in storytelling because they can represent anything the audience can’t see or hear. In this article, we’ll learn how to write a silent character and the benefits of doing so.
Have Your Character Develop a Habit of Non-Verbal Communication
The truth is that it’s not easy to write a character who doesn’t speak or communicate verbally. To make sure your character doesn’t speak but instead communicates nonverbally (gestures and facial expressions), you need to have them develop an unusual habit in their everyday life that makes it clear they’re doing so.
For example, if I were writing a mute character, I’d probably give him the habit of constantly shaking his head when he thinks someone said something stupid or rude. In other words, my character would shake his head every time someone spoke to him after he made a thoughtless remark or rude action that he found offensive.
As a writer, it’s important to know how body language and facial expressions can help convey your characters’ thoughts and feelings. For example, if I’m writing about a shy character who doesn’t talk much but has strong emotions running through her head throughout the day, I might give her an exaggerated smile or frown when she’s trying to express something positive or negative.
Give Your Character a Good Reason to Be Mute in the First Place
If your main character is mute, it’s important to know why – and how that affects her life.
In a fantasy or science fiction novel, you might explain why the mute main character is mute. For example, if she was born with a disability and lives in a world where disabilities don’t normally exist, describing why she’s different could be an interesting plot point.
It’s important to know why your character is mute and how that affects her life because that’s critical to what makes her unique and how she can overcome the obstacles in your story.
It’s also important to show how your character reacts when the world around them doesn’t understand their silence. In real life, people who don’t speak can communicate through writing or sign language, so why not use those options in fiction?
It’s okay if you’re not familiar with these forms of communication; just try to use them sparingly so you don’t overwhelm readers who aren’t familiar with certain signs.
Determine Your Character’s Inner Challenges
Silent characters are often very complex, and it can be difficult to figure out how best to write them. Stubbornness is one option, but there are many others.
Your characters may feel trapped inside their own heads and struggle with the fact that they can’t interact with others because of their muteness, or have a sense of inferiority because they feel helpless due to their inability to communicate.
If you’re having trouble figuring out which emotion is best for your character, consider whether they used to be able to speak and how much time has passed since then. The emotions your mute character feels will determine how she responds to different challenges and helps you decide which challenges she should face in your story.
Depending on the severity of your character’s muteness, you can also add a physical element to his or her disability. If he or she used to be able to speak but lost his or her voice due to an accident or illness, some sort of scar might be appropriate.
If he or she was never able to speak due to a birth defect or genetic disorder (such as cerebral palsy or Down syndrome), a physical deformity could make him or her seem less human and more like a freak to others. Needless to say, such narratives require sensitivity and the opportunity for human resilience, courage, and identity to rise above the challenges.
Intentionally Limit Your Character’s Exposure to Language
Writing a silent character can be difficult – it’s hard to use dialog to convey who a person is when they don’t speak. As difficult as it can be, it makes your story more authentic and original if you don’t resort to hackneyed tropes.
One of the most common reasons to write a mute character is that they were born deaf and never learned to speak. This isn’t necessarily a bad reason, but you should be careful with it.
Make sure the main character wasn’t maimed at birth by an evil wizard or something – you want the character’s condition to feel realistic, not like a made-up story.
Also, deafness shouldn’t be the most important thing about your character; he or she should have other traits.
And don’t just build a mute character into your story because you need someone who can’t speak (for example, so that his or her lip-reading ability will save him or her from a trap).
Choose a Form of Communication for Your Character to Use That Isn’t Speech
This is a great opportunity to show your creativity and develop your character’s voice. You can use their physical gestures, facial expressions, and body language to convey emotion and personality. Show the reader their thoughts and feelings through actions rather than speech.
To do this well, you need to know about sign language or nonverbal communication. The best way to learn this is by talking to deaf or mute people, and researching online via search and forums the solutions they use.
If writing SciFi, you might consider the role of tech to solve the speech barrier. Even in contemporary life, think of the amazing devices the famous theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking used to communicate – a Words Plus ‘Equalizer,’ and later a predictive text SwiftKey – all manner of ideas directly to others. It’s worth noting that Hawking, a British national, preferred the American voice with which he identified, and became publicly known.
If you don’t know where to start, think about how we communicate in everyday life without using words. Maybe your character has an expressive face that expresses basic emotions (like joy or sadness), uses hand gestures when speaking, or nods in agreement.
Listen to the Way People With This Disorder Talk and Move, and Incorporate It Into Your Writing
To write a silent character, you can watch videos or have conversations with people who have this disability. You can also watch videos of people who use sign language or communicate with other people who have this disability.
If you want to learn more, you can take a sign language class. You can also listen to audiobooks or podcasts on the subject.
If you want to put yourself in your character’s shoes and know what it would be like to be mute, you can simulate being mute by not speaking for a day. This way, you may find it easier to see how your character feels and give them more realistic characteristics that aren’t cliché.
Ideally, you would contact a professional who’s experience dealing with this disorder. He can help you ensure that your representation of these characters is authentic and accurate.
Have a Sign Language Interpreter or Other Voice for Them in Social Situations and Crowded Rooms Where They Might Otherwise Become Lost
When writing the social situations where your character needs to communicate with someone who’s not deaf, it can be difficult to imagine how she’d communicate to others what she wants or needs. One option that can be helpful in several situations is to have a sign language interpreter or voice for her, such as a butler or personal assistant who knows sign language.
For example, if your character is interacting with someone on a plane and needs to ask for a blanket or headphones, her personal assistant could speak to the flight attendant on her behalf. If your character is at a wedding and needs to talk about something other than the ceremony, the sign language interpreter could help her converse with other guests.
The details you include depend on what kind of story you’re writing and what time it’s set. Some details you might consider:
- How often is the interpreter/personal assistant used? Is this person always by their side? Or do they only use them when they know they’ll be dealing with hearing people?
- What does this person look like? Is she always dressed formally or does she change her clothes depending on where your character is going and what events are taking place there?
- Are there places where your character doesn’t want other people to know about their disability? For example, if your mute character works in a work setting where everyone else can hear but communicates via email, they may be more comfortable if no one knows about their inability to speak. In these situations, it may make sense to have the personal assistant absent so that the other characters don’t see him/her talking to your main character.
Practice Writing How People Interact With Each Other Without Dialogue
Practice writing how people interact without dialog. You can do this by creating a bunch of different archetypes and practicing writing the same situation, once with and once without dialog.
For example, write a scene where someone is casually talking in the park. Then write the scene again, but take away all the words.
- How are they still communicating?
- What body language are they using?
- Is there a characteristic facial expression?
- Are they sitting close together or far apart?
- Are they touching each other? Are they making eye contact?
- Is someone reading on their cell phone?
- What does that say about how interested they’re (or aren’t) in the conversation?
You may find that you prefer to write your scenes without dialog at all. If you revisit some of your favorite books or shows, you’ll probably notice how little actual verbal communication is used in some of them.
Writing a Mute Character Is All About Using Other Forms of Communication
As the author, you need to know they would be treated by others, and not let them use their muteness as an excuse to get out of talking to other characters or narrating their thoughts, experiences, or emotions.
Writing a silent character means you’re making a serious decision. Whether your character is mute from birth or becomes mute later in life (as is sometimes the case with novel characters), he or she’ll not be able to communicate verbally with others.
Think about your own experiences with communication:
- How would you feel if you suddenly couldn’t communicate verbally?
- What feelings would go through your mind if someone spoke to you directly for the first time and you couldn’t respond?
- Would you already know sign language or would you’ve to learn it first?
- How would people around you treat and respond to a new mute person if they didn’t know them before and didn’t understand their situation?
These are all questions you need to answer as a writer if you want to create an authentic, dynamic, three-dimensional mute character. When you make these choices in writing mute characters, you prevent your character from falling into hackneyed tropes or clichéd stereotypes that readers might find offensive or boring.