How To Write Genuine Autistic Characters
Now to change gears and returning to a topic I mentioned here I want to talk about writing genuine autistic characters and do it in a manner that is respectful and about disability in fiction and role play.
First thing you need to be aware off is how educated you are. If you know little about autism then you should do your homework before you create an autistic character. It’s probably good for you to volunteer and work or spend time with autists to gain some experience before you start constructing one. If you are autistic yourself, try playing around with different levels within the spectrum or co-morbids. Like if you are Asperger, try playing an Aspie that has seizures, or a character that is PDD-NOS with a savant talent. Broaden your horizons.
Now what is a balancer? A balancer is positive trait that compliments the negative traits. In other words it balances them. If you have autistic character that lacks a balancer, sure you can write him but he would be hard for NTs to relate to or like and for some autists might be grating for a character to have too many faults and feel like he is something to pity.
Finally, I am still working hard making a believable autistic character I will definitely accept critique as long as it’s constructive.
Autistic Peoples Sensitivity Isnt Pickiness
In many media, autistic people are portrayed as comically picky. They want special clothes and cant stand any kind of noise. While in media this is presented as just something that autistic people do, in reality sensitivity like this stems from experiencing the environment in a different way from allistic people.
Autistic people dont have the same sensory experiences as allistic people. The screech of a siren is magnified in autistic peoples ears, and an itchy shirt can be unbearably painful. This isnt due to overreaction. The senses are amplified with autism, and disturbing stimuli are magnified.
Humanizing autistic people means recognizing that we come across as picky for actual reasons and that in our way of experiencing the world this perceived pickiness isnt an overreaction at all. As a child, I wasnt upset by bubble wrap just because it was due to a terrifying sensory experience I felt every time one was popped. My experience came from me as an individual and my perceptions of the world.
In fiction, if an autistic person is sensitive to something, like a noise or clothing, itll be for a reason. If an autistic character refuses to wear a certain pair of socks, for example, it might be because of the pain they feel when their feet rub against the material. It wont be because theyre being arbitrary and picky.
Autistic Person Person Who Has Autism Which One Should I Use
This is a highly debated question. You might have heard You have to say person with autism because youre talking about a person first the person is not defined by their disability!. While this is a nice thought, it is largely misguided, and this way of talking are mainly used by non-autistic persons while talking about us. The autistic community doesnt like this person-first language very much for several reasons.
First of all, if you need to use specific language to remind yourself that we are people, you may have a problem that no amount of linguistic workarounds can solve. We say a French person, not a person who is French or a person with Frenchness, because we dont need to remind ourselves that French people are people. Why should it be different with autistic people?
The second reason most of us dont like saying we are persons with autism is that our autism is not something that we carry with us. We are not a human person + a terrible disorder. We are fundamentally different. Being autistic is an integral part of who we are as people, and touches every sphere of our lives. If someone somehow managed to take away our autism, they wouldnt reveal the real us that was hidden behind it: they would create a whole different person. We cant be separated from our autism, and this should be reflected in the language you use while talking about us.
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Autism Doesnt Just Affect How A Person Views The World It Also Affects How The World Views Them
Many people with autism have been victims of ignorance, prejudice, and harassment, and unfortunately, this can continue into adulthood, long after the schoolyard bullies have grown up and moved on. So, consider how the world treats your autistic characters, and ask yourself, is this an accurate representation of how things work in the real world?
People with autism are a marginalized group, and when writing about any marginalized identity, its super important to do it with accuracy and sensitivity. If youre not autistic yourself, the best thing you can do to figure out how the world treats people with autism is to ask people with autism. Do plenty of research and chat with as many people as you can who are willing to share their personal experiences with autism.
The key is to gather a broad picture of what it might be like to walk in autistic shoes, so to speak. This will help you write your entire cast of characters effectively, not just the autistic ones, but the neurotypical ones too.
True Perfection Is Art A Guide To Writing Autistic Characters
A Guide To Writing Autistic Characters
Disclaimer:these are not the only way to write autistic characters, just stuff to keep in mind – autism is a spectrum and all autistics are different. And autistic people seeing this are free to add on!
youve probably seen this a million times, but research. Just do. Also when looking for articles on autism try to find ones written by people who are actually autistic.Im guessing youll probably have a harder time differentiating ableist bullshit from things that are actually true if youre allistic.
maybe stop making all autistic characters cold, emotionless, rude and painfully one dimensional compared to the other characters? Its. Not very nice. Sure, you can totally have a rather cold autistic character, but making that their only trait – and not having at least one other autistic character with a different personality – leads to negative stereotypes and Just General Autistic People Not Liking You Very Much.
you know Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang theory? Yeah, well, I know its never actually canonically mentioned that hes autistic But. Hes honestly everything you shouldnt do compiled in a neat little package.
STOP WITH THE PERSON FIRST BULLSHIT.It implies that autism is a horrid curse and invalidates autistic peoples identity, and guess what?We dont fucking want that!
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What Makes An Autistic Character Interesting
Theres an incredible Ted Talks by director JJ Abrams, in which he discusses: how magnetizing the unknown is, how uncertainty is all around and how our answers to the unexpected are rarely as interesting as the unexpected itself. Abrams deems this wonder The Mystery Boxand, in many ways, I feel this is a great way to look at autistic characters.
For example, its no coincidence that many of the most interesting autistic characters our community has have never openly disclosed their diagnosis . Instead, these characters spend years ducking and weaving from labels and, in the place of confirmation, our speculation builds, as we become infatuated with an individuals characteristics, before they can be viewed as just another occupant of the spectrum.
Thats not to say that all autistic characters should hide their diagnosis though as, while JJs theory is great, anyone who watched the series finale of Lost will know that creating intrigue without explanation can be thoroughly unsatisfying. The only problem is that, in many cases, when someone starts by creating an autistic character, they often put diagnosis before the person and then, in what can feel like a race to prove just how autistic a depiction is, the portrayal is given every quirk and trait under the sun.
To me, this is problematic for 2 big reasons:
Autism Is Caused By Vaccines
Nope, nope. Nope nope nope. This was never a thing and has been repeatedly disproven by every paper written since the one that claimed it.
The belief of this myth has been a contributing factor not only to the stigma which still exists about ASD and those who have it but also to the decline in people being vaccinated against disease as children.
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How To Write A Great Autistic Character
- May 10, 2020
- James Sinclair
Unforgettable stories are forged from one of two places: an extraordinary character in an ordinary location or an ordinary character in an extraordinary world too much of one and your story becomes out of touch, too little of each and your story becomes well, The Irishman.
Yet, against all odds, the autistic view has fascinated audiences since1969 an unlikely development given that, within every representation of our community, there is a character who is neither unique or overly familiar in a world which, depending on your perspective, is both outside the box and bog-standard.
Shows like Atypical, books like The Rosie Project, even comics like the Fantastic Four are all living proof of this and, as 2020 continues to bring more depictions than I can find time in my calendar to cover, it seems that this isnt a trend people will tire of soon.
In small droves, this never use to be a problem but now, as we take centre stage in full-blown features, one wrong depiction has the potential to set autism awareness back faster than you can say Im an excellent driver.
So, how do we make sure a representation stays accurate yet interesting, and what does the future of autism in stories mean for the future of the autistic community?
Special Interests Are Meaningful
Autistic people often have a specific subject they are passionate about. A common misconception is that these special interests are always related to math or science. Sheldon from the TV series The Big Bang Theory is a good example. Hes obsessed with nerd culture and science. Many autistic people like these things, and theres nothing wrong with that, but many other autistic people dont. I, for one, hate math and chemistry, but I do like things like astronomy, biology, psychology, and sociology.
Unfortunately, writers seem to think of special interests as simply a box to be checked. Autistic people in fiction have special interests because theyre autistic. The special interest is never given the weight and meaning that it really has.
One good representation of an autistic character is in the book Acrylic on Wattpad. This story was written by an allistic person, which shows its entirely possible to write autistic characters even without having experienced it yourself. In the book, Tessa is an autistic girl, and her special interest is art. She loves drawing people and is an expert on art to the point where she gets angry when people choose the wrong pencils for shading.
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Sheldon Cooperthe Big Bang Theory
The character of Sheldon displays many characteristics of autistic spectrum disorder. The shows creators have said they did not deliberately write Sheldon as an autistic character, however Jim Parsons, the actor who plays him, has said he has always assumed the character has Asperger syndrome.
This character is somewhat polarising. Although he does show an autistic character living a successful life and able to show personal growth, he is an exaggerated character. Some people feel that this contributes to perpetuating some harmful stereotypes.
This is a common criticism of autistic characters in film and television.
Avoid A Sagging Middle
- Your beginning is solid. Your end is exciting. But the middle is a chaotic mess that bores the reader. Trust me, it happens more than you might believe.
- Sagging middle syndrome is a thing, and the only way to avoid it is to plan.
- Look, I like pantsing, but planning the middle of your novel will help your pacing exponentially.
- Make a rough outline of what needs to happen to get your characters to the climax. Add a few lighter/character-driven scenes where there are too many action scenes in the sequence. Remove events which are unnecessary. And make sure that everything makes sense!
- This counts for second books in series as well. It should be good on its own, not just as a filler.
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Things To Know Before Writing That Autistic Character
Autistic characters have been cropping up in more and more fiction as autism awareness increases. Books like The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Trueman Bradley: Aspie Detective, Mockingbird, and Saving Max are recognizable for the fact that they heavily feature autism in their plots and themes other books have autistic characters as supporting characters. In the push to diversify fiction, the inclusion of autistic characters has been one way to show different types of characters however, when including any type of marginalized groups in fiction, including autistic characters, its extra important to get the details right and avoid stereotypes. Otherwise, you might be doing more harm than good.
As an #ActuallyAutistic person, I wanted to write down a few things that I often see in fictitious autism that doesnt necessarily fit real life, or some ways that writers handle autism that they dont necessarily realize is offensive or harmful. I generally advocate people not tackling struggles that they dont directly experience in fiction than for someone to interpret it second- or third- or fourth-hand and write it for them. But if youre determined to write an autistic character, yet youre not autistic yourself, here are some things to know.
Autism Looks Different For Everyone
When developing your characters, its helpful to remember that autism is a spectrum that manifests itself in a multitude of ways and can look very different from person to person.
For example, some autistic people need no additional support at all, and they may even fly under the autism radar for years before being diagnosed. Others have much more profound needs and will require comprehensive support from family, friends, and carers throughout their lives.
Social and communication skills also vary massively amongst the autistic community, and the tired old stereotypes rarely fit the description of any real-life autistic person.
Consider your characters space on the spectrum, and avoid perpetuating the myth that autism is a one-size-fits-all disorder.
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How To Write It
Im going to use a favourite post of mine to describe this. Basic setup: autistic person sees the door is open, and is worried that the toddler might go outside while no ones looking if its left like that.
Shutting Down: Person will try to construct the sentence, realize that it isnt processing, and wont use language, probably communicating vague distress instead. Asking why wont do anything, because the problem is that they cant talk. Might struggle to find an alternative to language and need step-by-step prompting
Word Salad: The door is open. Yeah, so what? Babyin?
Most Relevant Phrase: Repeating The door is open: like with the shutdown, they understand they cant add on to the sentence at all, and have no choice but to just prompt you over and over until youre on their train of thought. Step-by-step prompting works best here too, especially the yes/no thing in the link.
Its important to note that sometimes, autistic people have no ability to find an alternative to language, and they just need to be low-stress until they feel clear-headed enough to try manoeuvring around the problem.
You Keep Using These Words I Dont Understand
Alright, lets get a glossary going! Well update this post whenever we use a word that could be hard to understand . If there is any word on the blog that you cant understand, check if weve explained it here. If we havent, shoot us an ask and well do it ASAP. :)All of the titles are clickable and will take you to the corresponding tag so you can check out everything weve written about a subject.
AAC: Augmentative and Alternative Communication. Encompasses all means of communicating used by nonverbal people which are not spoken/sign language, such as using a text-to-speech device or a pictogram system to communicate.
ABA: Applied Behaviour Analysis, the most common type of therapy autistic children are subjected to. It can have lots of negative long-terms effects on the persons life, such as PTSD or vulnerability to abuse.
Ableism: Treating disabled people poorly because they are disabled.Treating someone differently because they behave in autistic ways, punishing autistic people for stimming, forcing nonverbal autistics to communicate verbally , etc. are all examples of ableist behavior.
Alexithymia: Difficulty identifying ones own emotions, very common in autistic people. They may not know how they feel at all, or simply unable to name their feelings. They are often unable to answer the question How are you? or How are you feeling? and may be aware only of whether they are feeling good or bad .
Autistic: Someone who is autistic
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The Seven Imperfect Rules Of Elvire Carrfrances Maynard
Although it is never named as such in the book, Elvire Carrs big problem is that she is autisticquite severely soand has no idea how to interact with other people.
Elvire also shows some learning delays so is not as high-functioning as some of the characters in this list. She is however a great ambassador for the autistic community: well-researched and well-written.