The monster villain of my story uses music to hypnotize and kill victims. My protagonist is deaf and loves music, but he’s immune to the hypnotic tune because he can’t hear it. How do I depict this respectfully?
Thanks for the question! It is great that you are putting in the thought and effort to make a story that is a respectful representation of disability.
Your story idea does go pretty deep into the experience of being deaf. That is going to take a lot of research and, if at all possible, consultation with a deaf sensitivity reader. I have talked about key aspects of representing deafness in this Q&A. That link also has a number of resources that can help get you started.
There is a myth that deaf people can’t enjoy music, and it is great that you are going against this stereotype. Do keep in mind that the way that deaf people experience music is different than hearing people. One useful resource is Touch the Sound: A Sound Journey with Evelyn Glennie. This documentary is about percussionist Evelyn Glennie who is “one of the world’s foremost solo percussionists” and it focuses on her perception of sound as a deaf musician. Also, there are many more resources about this topic online, so you should have a lot of useful information to start with.
With the plot details that you have shared, I have one main concern. This plot is using the Disability Immunity trope. While this trope is intended to be empowering by showing how a disability can be an advantage in certain circumstances, it can actually send a negative message about disability. This is because creating a story focused on a specific circumstance where the main character’s disability is an advantage makes it seem like the character could only be victorious in those circumstances where their disability is helpful. As a result, it implies that the disabled character wouldn’t be victorious in normal circumstances. Focusing on the character’s disability in this way also downplays the role that the character’s heroic qualities, like their cleverness and determination, play in their victory.
Whether a disability-based immunity is a problem or not comes down to how it is done. It is okay for a character’s disability to help them sometimes, as long as it isn’t over emphasized or made into the key to their victory. This means making sure that the character’s disability immunity is only mildly helpful. If the character’s disability helps them overcome some of the challenges in the story, then there also need to be challenges where their disability immunity isn’t helpful. For example, the monster could have other songs that cause direct harm that the main character wouldn’t be immune to.
It is also important to keep in mind that your main character doesn’t need to be immune to the monster’s music at all. There are plenty of ways for them to overcome this challenge with hard work and cleverness that don’t require an immunity.
Regardless of what you decide to do about the character’s disability immunity, it is important for the character’s actions and heroic qualities to be the main cause for each of their major victories. One thing that might be helpful is to really think about the turning point of the story and think about different options for how it can be done.
To conclude, I just want to say that it is great that your story is about music, with your main character being a deaf person who loves music. There is a lot of potential there. However, as you work on the plot, remember that showing that disabled people are equal means that disabled characters don’t need special circumstances to be heroes. We can be heroes under normal circumstances and it is important to show that.
I hope that this helps! Good luck with your writing project,
— Fay from Writing Alchemy