I’ve mentioned our miniature Schnauzer, Ruffles, before. Well, she’s baaaacckk! To review for those who are new… Ruffles is 15 and a half years old, almost blind and mostly deaf. She can’t come down the stairs by herself and getting up is a struggle, so I’ll most likely soon be carrying her up, as well as down. She still has her internal clock, though it runs a bit fast. About an hour before dinnertime, she wakes and begins pacing. She sleeps either in my office or by my side of the bed. If I’m in my office and I see her even open her eyes, I grab her up and run her outside. You can guess why. At bedtime, I take her out then she gets three treats, one right away, one to entice her to climb the stairs by herself and one to get her to find her bed.
You’re probably wondering what all this has to do with writing. Well…I was watching her and thinking how like a little old lady she is - to tell you the truth, I hope I’m as spry when I get 15 in dog years - and that led me to imagining her as a character.
At her age, she’s a character in shades of black and light. If you write a character who’s not blind, but rather with very poor eyesight, then you are writing a character in shades of black and light. When I’m outside with Ruffles during the day, she can see me if I’m close, within a couple of feet from her. She can also see me if I’m three to maybe six feet if I’m moving. (I’ve learned to sway back and forth or wave my arms to catch her attention.) If we’re out at night, even with the floodlights, she doesn’t see nearly as well as when we’re in daylight. I have to stay right by her side. When we get through with business and walk to the porch, she sees even less. The porch lights are on, but they're dim. She sometimes will go round and round in circles as if she can’t see me or the door.
Keep Ruffles in mind when you write a sight impaired person. Such a person might totally miss something in the dark, but be able to see a bit in the bright daylight. They, too, live in shades of black and light.
And if your character is as small as Ruffles, you’d better keep your eyes open and watch your step. She wants to lead and stay close, so she weaves in and out of your feet and back and forth in front of you. She is, in this house, still the lead dog.
6 months ago