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A friend and I are writing a manga, and there is this mc(main character) that is having the speech disorder - she stutters.


Writing the question directly to avoid confusion.

Afterwards providing some attempts to clarify both what the question is about & details.

Finally I will add Background, and then some Context and References.


Question

How should I write a character - that suffers from a speech disorder (stuttering)?

I'll add some examples below, as the question might seem broad.


Examples

Some previous attempts of mine have been:

  • To write about how I myself as a stutterer feel (that is, I write on my phone).
    • However, other (stutterers) might disagree(everyone is different) other stutterers maybe, don't use any help at all (and talks either way)
  • Because we all are different I try to be "inclusive" or, how to put it. I try to make it more "general" Instead of only writing how I myself feel about stuttering.

Background

I have this speech disorder myself, I stutter so much so I write on notepads/my phone and show it to the person instead of talking in real life.

What does this have to do with the question?

It is, that I am unsure how to write the person (not the stuttering-itself).


Context and References

I have tried to search for specifically writing about the speech (disorder) and not the usual, brief stuttering one might get when scared or surprised.

Like 'wow!'

"Ww-w-wow!"

or 'really'?

"r-really?"

What I actually mean is more like, actually having difficulties(actively struggling) to say the word "wow" or, "really".


A more concrete example

My real name is William. So I often have (major) difficulties saying my own name because of the 'W'.

So I end up just saying

my name is W-www-w (...)

And then - after a few attempts - literally writing on my phone "William" and showing.

But I didn't find any question that is directly about what I am asking.

Note: some might think stuttering appears when there is a stressful situation, like "introduce yourself in front of a class" but, my stutter is, regardless if I am stressed or not. that is, I stutter as much as alone as if I would be in front of a class.

Comments

One thing I considered doing is, having the character just write on phone, (in some anime/mangas they write in notebooks so it's - kind of the same but different)

We can also of course use sign language; (both of which has been in manga before)

As a attempt to re-phrase what the question really is asking it is:

  • How should I go with writing how the character feels, but so it doesn't feel as a cliche, because I guess writing about myself is not that good (I think?) this is my first question so sorry if trivial parts is missing.

Internal References

Some references that were (in)directly helpful were:

Indirectly helpful:

Directly helpful:

External References

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    I want to read this manga. So much opportunity here not only to be didactic (which I don't consider a bad word), but also for great storytelling. And manga is an excellent medium, since verbatim is a key challenge for your MC. Since you're writing Own Voice, nobody can tell you better than you how best to portray yourself. So do it unapologetically. It's not just about text or technique; it's about the impact, both for the MC and the reader, of living with a stutter. You could use multiple paragraphs or panels or PAGES to get a thought out. Can't wait to see what you do!
    – kmunky
    Apr 13, 2023 at 21:21
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    I would recommend to read up on the condition, as stuttering has a lot of different causes, therapies, and co-morbidities. Additionally, there is a similar but different condition called disfluency, which is more related to pre-school aged children who are still developing motor skills for speech. In written works, Stuttering is usually portrayed as repetitive sounds, but it can be based around syllables or entire words.
    – hszmv
    Apr 14, 2023 at 10:33
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    @kmunky Wow! this made me so happy; I ill ask my friend if its okay; and yea ^_^ thanks! for me it is okay! Apr 14, 2023 at 10:59
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    @WilliamMartens That would be a repetitive sound. Repetitive words would be "Like like like this"
    – hszmv
    Apr 14, 2023 at 11:17
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    President Biden was born with a pronounced stutter. stamma.org/your-voice/… -- As you say, it is somewhat predictable, and part of the way he deals with it is to avoid words with sounds he knows will make him stutter, especially in speeches. He trained his current speech writers to avoid these sounds. We can still detect a stutter, but it is subtle so many don't notice it or if they don't like him, call it stupidity or dementia if they don't like him). I just mention this as another strategy your character may try, or another might suggest.
    – Amadeus
    Apr 15, 2023 at 9:04

3 Answers 3

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So if I'm interpreting this correctly, you want to write a character who stutters based off yourself, but want to know how to avoid them coming off as cliché or offending other people who stutter/stutterers due to being nonrepresentative, right? And have attempted to search for resources only to find a sum total of nothing useful? (can attest to this, the advice out there is terrible.)

I stutter myself and also often wrestle with how to bring this into fiction, so you're not alone! If you don't mind, I'm going to divide this answer into two parts:

Avoiding cliché

You would think that, especially because the clichés about stuttering are not exactly true to life, this would be easy to do. However.

A trap it's easy to fall into here is accidentally writing in a way that lets people project the clichés into your story, even though they're not actually there. This is because there are a few narratives about stuttering that are incredibly common in fiction (although, IMO, not realistic and actually fairly offensive), to the point where people will actively expect to see them if a stuttering character shows up. The three main ones I know are:

  • stuttering as a symptom of cowardice
  • stuttering as a symptom of shyness, anxiety, low self esteem, or similar
  • the stutter magically vanishing, typically as a reward for character development

As someone who stutters myself and knows that RL doesn't work this way, I am not primed to look for these the way fluent people not familiar with stuttering outside fiction are. I have multiple times been surprised to find a stuttering character interpreted in a way that fits into these tropes when I didn't think it was there in the text. (Examples: Khalid from the video game Baldur's Gate 1 being treated as cowardly, Simon from Terry Pratchett's book Equal Rites losing his stutter and that being interpreted as a reward for his character development through the book by fluent readers) I've been taken aback to find that the cultural narrative here is just that strong that people will just... bring their own clichés.

This means that it's probably not enough to just not write these tropes, especially because you as a stutterer cannot judge very well whether a fluent reader will read them into your work anyway. I would suggest going to the effort of actively subverting or undermining them, or in SOME place spelling out clearly that the trope will not be happening. Things like - the stuttering character is brave to the point of recklessness, maybe saying that since they have to run a gauntlet just to order coffee every day everything else seems manageable. Or lampshading in a scene in which someone says something a la thinking the stutter will go away if they get over their Issues (TM), or suggesting that why don't they try singing instead of speaking? And the stuttering character rolling their eyes and telling them they've obviously been reading too much bad fiction, if it was that easy they wouldn't stutter.

For the record, needing to do this sucks. I don't think I'll ever be able to write a character who stutters who is also generally nervous because I know it'll be interpreted as causative - this sucks. The fact that if you manage to avoid these clichés you've probably already produced a refreshing unusually well-portrayed stuttering character is good for you in the moment, but overall also sucks. But with the state of stuttering portrayals it's the advice I have to give.

Avoiding offending other people who stutter

This is a reasonable worry, because as you may know the stuttering community has a lot of veeery different experiences and attitudes towards stuttering. I've worried about this myself a lot because I know my own attitude is an outlier.

That said. The fact that you stutter yourself means that if you base your character's attitudes on yourself they will definitely be representative of one person who stutters - you. And they will almost certainly not be representative of some other people who stutter, just because it's such a diverse condition. So where to go from there?

My main advice would be to make sure that you depict everything the character is going through and what they think and feel as that character's experience of stuttering and not The Way Stuttering Is, Always, For Everyone. An easy way to do this, if you can swing it, is to bring in another character who stutters at some point (potentially for a bit part) who has a very different experience and outlook on life. If that's not possible, maybe give your character some history of interacting with other stutterers with a different experience. Even something as simple as a memory of interacting with someone in a shop once who also stuttered and was significantly [more/less] accepting of it can help avert this. If you're not sure what other experiences and takes there are, I suggest checking out the stuttering community - some of the podcasts on Stuttertalk may be a place to start.

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  • first things first, thanks for the answer! i will read it now, and Yes (kind of) you're correct, im kind-of basing it of myself (and also, Nice to see another who stutters too :) wishes from Sweden!) Jan 15, 2023 at 19:14
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    Hello from Germany! I hope this helps, let me know if anything isn't unclear. I was so happy to see another person who stutters on writing SE, I dropped everything to go write this answer :D
    – Tau
    Jan 15, 2023 at 19:15
  • yea ! thanks!! really; will do! this made my day; EDIT GREAT ANSWER Jan 15, 2023 at 19:15
  • NOTE; I accept this (MARVELOUS i have to say) totally Brilliant answer, but (being new in this writing SE) - I appreciate any answer the future has to offer as well; (this one really cleared it up though, really really great answer) so, should I add that to my question to let people know? (this answer is , to me - really helpful, and yea just, flawless!) but I still want to give others a try as well, and finally: THANK YOU! :'D Jan 15, 2023 at 19:23
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    I'm very happy my answer helped! :) That said, if you really want to hear from others, it may make sense to unaccept this answer for now and see what else shows up - you can always accept it again in a day or two if you still think it's the best one, but this makes it more likely other people will have a look at the question. (Also, I think it at least used to be a community norm to not accept answers immediately, although everything I'm finding re: that is at least four years old now so it may have changed.)
    – Tau
    Jan 15, 2023 at 20:17
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I'm not sure it can work, but maybe you can sometimes express your character thoughts using some graphical convention like specific speech bubble and sometimes use ordinary speech bubble where he stutter. It may even be possible to use both at once to show what the character wants to tell and how he fails to do it.

Just my two cents. I believe I would be quite empathic with a character written that way.

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  • HI and so so sorry for late reply I was sleeping in, although this is a useful answer; my question was more about the character itself (not the way the manga would be presented) but; I feel this is useful anyway; so thanks for your 2 cents! really ^^ (for example, when I stutter I don't "see" or "make" any certain speech bubbles in real life) <- but as said, it's still a useful answer, thank you! :-) Jan 17, 2023 at 10:09
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    Yes, I agree what I'm suggesting is a narration trick. I'm not stuttering myself but my kids have writing disorder. I believe that people that have that speech disorder know very well what they want to tell even if it doesn't come out, and of course it's not working that way in real life and thoughts are not formally expressed internally. But of course it's a mere trick to make ordinary people more empathic with stutterer, nothing else.
    – kriss
    Jan 17, 2023 at 13:37
  • Yea! and respect from sweden to you! :) thanks for the answer! :'D Jan 17, 2023 at 14:16
  • once more, thanks for the answer; and all the best to you and your family! :) Jan 18, 2023 at 7:54
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To make a character like this authentic, then just fill the character with some of your everyday experiences. Trust me, reality is sometimes the most authentic thing you could do while writing or drawing something like this. Every great artist takes influence from real-life experiences one way or another, and as Picasso said: "A good artist borrows, a great artist steals." No-one can accuse you of plagiarising your own real-life experiences.

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  • yes; thank you! and I do think this is a good answer! I just think that in order to avoid cliche writing, since writing about My stuttering is not my goal but it's more "in general", so I don't write something that only occurs to me, that would maybe even make other stutters put off (or something) even though; thanks! Upvoted because this serves as a base at least! :) Jul 1, 2023 at 13:05

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