Hannah Harrington tells us about how she wrote Speechless and that "silence has just as much power as words do".
I get asked a lot about the inspiration behind Speechless. I wish I could boil it down to one light bulb moment, but all I remember is one day thinking of what it would be like to take an oath of silence.
For some of us that might not be such a challenge. But I wanted to write about someone who would have a very difficult time with such a decision—someone who depended on speaking as part of their identity. Enter Chelsea Knot, the protagonist of Speechless: she’s a gossip queen who is always airing dirty secrets as a form of social currency. Getting into other people’s business and spreading it around makes her feel better about herself, for all the wrong reasons.
Who would have a harder time being silent than a gossip monger like Chelsea? And what on earth would cause her to voluntarily give up speaking? These were the questions I had when shaping the story. The stakes would have to be pretty high to get someone like her to shake up her life and reform her old ways.
In Speechless, Chelsea has a fall from grace early on all due to her big mouth. She shares a secretshe shouldn’t have, and the consequences are dire. As a result she loses her place as a popular girl and is alienated by most of the rest of the student body. Not only that, but she becomes a victim of the behavior she once partook in. Suddenly her so-called friends are name-calling, harassing, and bullying her, both verbally and physically.
Bullying is a major issue in our schools today, one that recently is fortunately getting more attention. It’s something most teenagers face in one shape or another—either as the bullies, the bullied, or the observers. Speechless features characters who fit into all of these categories. A lot of high school is about finding out who you are, and that’s difficult enough without other people trying to tear you down. Chelsea has to deal with a lot of that, and at the same time with consequences for her own selfish behavior. She does a lot of growing up over the course of the novel, and by the end of it she isn’t perfect, but she’s learned that while it’s hard to stand up for what is right, at the end of the day you only answer to yourself. I hope that people take away from Speechless that silence has just as much power as words do.
Has this inspired you to enter the Silence and Secrets contest?