Of all the heroes I’ve done, none stood out as strong as John. He might have been mute, but he was very “outspoken” in other ways. And more than that, he came alive from the very first sentence I wrote to introduce him.
Originally, I intended to write a historical romance based in Alaska where a hero with a disability would be given a wife from a group of brothers who thought he was stupid. They did it as a joke because they were mean. Some day I might write that story, but John was nobody’s fool and he was much too strong of a character to have a wife dumped on him. As soon as I introduced him, he wanted to marry Eliza, and nothing was going to change his mind. So even though John never spoke, he was able to change the entire book to suit what he wanted it to be. :D
I have a deaf son who is named John (named after my dad). My son is profoundly deaf in both ears and has a cochlear implant. In preschool, his teachers suspected he was either autistic or mentally retarded. Though I knew neither was the case and testing cleared him of this, there was a stigma during that time that he was not as smart as the other kids.
This part from my real life led into a lot of the town’s people thinking the hero, John, wasn’t smart. It was a stigma (and a frustration) the hero had to deal with. A couple of people came around to realizing he had normal intelligence and treated him as such, but there were always a couple who didn’t.
(For anyone who is wondering, my son is now in the second grade, and his teacher realizes he’s smart. In fact, last year when he was in the first grade, he ended up getting into second grade math because he’d already mastered first grade math. Thankfully, he doesn’t let his disability hold him back.)
I could have chosen a hero who was deaf, seeing as how my own son is deaf, but I wanted to do something slightly different. I wanted a hero could hear so he was aware of what people were saying. But I also wanted a disability that would require facial expressions and hand gestures, things that are similar to someone who is deaf. My goal was to get a better perspective of what my son goes through, what is it like for him to try to communicate to people without speaking? So I chose for him to be mute.
I thought it would be hard to write a mute hero, but it was surprisingly easy. Like I said, he was such a strong character that it didn’t require any effort on my part. His facial expressions and gestures came without any effort. I don’t know if it’s because I got used to picking up on what my own son was telling me during that time or what, but John’s actions were easy to write.