Currently I am writing a book. Slowly. It’s a side project that I am doing mostly for fun, partly to just practice and get better at writing, and there is a small hope that I may someday get it published… we’ll see. The book, currently with the working title “The Star” is a fantasy novel that focuses around a young woman named Silvia. In the first chapter we are also introduced to a character by the name of Matthias, who is mute.
Matthias was a rather mysterious youth who showed up in the village about 8 months before. He was tall, strong, with worn hands and a kind face. He always wore a particular scarf, even through the summer. He was also mute. As far as she knew he couldn’t read or write, besides being able to write his name; his only way of communicating seemed to be gestures and expressions, but she eventually had grown used to it. Most people were surprised that she could so easily tell what he was thinking. Silvia’s father offered him a job to help tend to his herd of sheep, and for a while he stayed with them, eventually building his own shack a little further up the hill. Often, when Silvia came without her father to help tend the sheep, she would talk to Matthias for most of the day, he would listen, nod occasionally, and smile. He was a good listener, and Silvia felt she could tell him anything.
The challenge with this character is trying to keep him as an engaging and involved character, allowing him to interact with other people, all without speaking. It’s been a very interesting exercise for me, as I want him to have personality and to be a likable character, yet being unable to have dialogue. I’ve tried to use gestures to show what he is trying to communicate.
“Thanks, Matthias. You’re a good friend.” She looked over at him again. “Do you think I should go?”
He looked at her a moment, and then, to her surprise, he nodded.
“Really? I mean, I know it’s what I’ve always dreamed of, but, I can’t think about leaving father behind.” She looked over to the pen where the sheep were kept. “And besides, what will they do without me?”
Matthias tilted his head to the side and looked at Silvia, squinting his eyes slightly. “No, you’re right, that’s just an excuse.” She looked again at her feet. “I really don’t know what it is. Is it fear? Am I afraid that I’m going to fail? Am I afraid to leave? I think that maybe I doubt my own ability. Everyone here tells me that they love my work, that I should train to be a professional artist, but honestly, I think some of them are just scared of my dad.” She chuckled, and looked up to notice Matthias smiling. “I’m sorry to be dumping this on you… I guess I just needed someone to talk to I guess. I’m just so confused.” She threw her arms up in the air. “Emotions suck!” She folded her arms on her knees, then rested her forehead against them, leaving her staring at the ground.”
I’ve been trying hard to make sure that I simply describe his actions and not explain there intent, letting the reactions of other character describe the intent, or at the very least the purpose of the intent. It’s hard, to be honest, but at the same time I think it works. Working and writing for this character has been a very interesting experience so far, and it’s also been a very good exercise in practicing and improving my own writing.