Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Cure, Q&A: Meet Nora Watson

I don't have a consistent practice for how I develop characters. It all depends on what arises first, the idea for the story, or the idea for the character. Sometimes I'll have a particular person in mind as a body double, often I don't. What I intentionally do, is avoid giving a great deal of description to my main character so that my readers might reasonably imagine themselves as the protagonist. Although, since most of my lead characters are female, that might not work so well for any male readers, but maybe it doesn't matter so much. I don't know.

For Nora, I didn't have particular description in mind. I thought she was probably of average appearance, so pretty, but of course she wouldn't have acknowledged such a compliment if it was passed her way. She has long brown hair (it's way easier to just let your hair grow, then ever cut it or style it) that she generally ties back into a ponytail or messy bun, and she had brown eyes. She looks a lot like her mother. She's about five foot six, or 168 centimeters tall (or my height) and slender.
My brother, Matthew Thorne's rendition of Nora, created for when I posted the chapters here on this blog (sorry, no longer available).
Of course, there's a lot more to Nora than her appearance. As I was developing the story for The Cure I decided that there needed to be something unique about her. She couldn't just be some smart, average of appearance, teenage girl who was awkward with people. There had to be something else. There had to be a reason for why she had so few friends, why she was an outcast for more than just the purposes of my story. That's why I made her deaf.

I've been fascinated with the deaf culture since I was young...since I first saw The Miracle Worker, which is a movie (starring Anne Bancroft) about the early childhood of Helen Keller. I've always admired that she achieved so much considering she was both blind and deaf. I know some sign language (although not nearly enough to successfully communicate with a deaf person, I'm sure), and I volunteered at the Bob Rumbell Centre for the Deaf in Toronto for a short period during my undergrad. I also took several opportunities in my Masters to work on projects related to the Deaf culture.

I have one small regret around making Nora deaf, and that's that I made her deaf and not Deaf. That means she's physiologically deaf, but not culturally. The reason for this is that, she's the only deaf person in her compound. She had no one to learn from. This is why she speaks and reads lips, rather than uses ASL. I try to point out in a couple of places that lip reading isn't perfect, that she can't understand what people are saying when they don't look at her, and even then, she has to fill in bits as best she can. I also have people occasionally remark on her unusual 'accent,' to note that her speaking voice is differentl because she can't hear it herself.

 Small piece of back story that never comes out--Nora's mother was sick when she was pregnant (Rubella), which is why Nora is deaf.
My own depiction of Nora, created early this fall, because sometimes it's fun to draw.

Finally, I made Nora a huge science nerd. That's because I wanted to demonstrate that girls can be smart at science, too. I was kind of an all around student in elementary and high school. I was good at music and art, but I also achieved good grades in math and science. I did, after all, start out my university career in biology.

So, there's the background on Nora Watson, my heroine.

Feel free post questions if you want to know more about her, or my other characters (although there will be additional Q&A's on them to come).



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