Anonymous asked realsocialskills:
I’ve found a lot of guides for what NOT to do with autistic characters in writing, and basic “to dos” like “treat them like people.” These have been useful and I have taken it to heart. But I’m actually struggling with how to show that a character IS neurodivergent without relying on stereotypes or anything offensive. It’s a med/fantasy setting, too, so I don’t even know if they would have a diagnostic label. Any suggestions?
I don’t write fiction, so mostly I’m going to turn this over to followers.
There are a few things I can think of to suggest, though:
Read a lot of things by autistic people describing their experiences.
- If you want to write autistic characters, you have to know a lot about autistic people
- The best way is to find out about what people say about themselves
- Read more than one perspective
- Loud Hands: Autistic People, Speaking is probably a good starting point
- Do not read stuff written by nonautistic parents of autistic children for this - that will give you information about parents; not information about autistic people
Watch/read/etc media with good autistic characters:
- The only thing I can think of offhand is Community seasons 1-3. Abed is a very good, non-stereotypical autistic character.
- There are probably other things too, but I don’t know what they are
Make your character’s disability matter:
- Autistic people are disabled
- Autistic people are also capable of doing worthwhile things
- These two facts do not cancel each other out
- If you want to write a realistic autistic character, their disability has to create practical problems from time to time
- This does not have to be a big deal or a major plot point or a focus, it just has to be there
- It’s ok to write stories where it’s a major plot point, but it doesn’t *have* to be.
- People with disabilities are disabled all the time and it causes a lot of practical problems, but we do things other than be disabled, and we care about things other than the practical disability-related difficulties we face.
- Make sure that disability matters and that it isn’t the only thing that matters
Be realistic about social violence:
- If the culture you are writing is anything like ours, your autistic characters will be treated poorly in it
- If you want to do justice to your autistic characters, it is important to show that. Because the way they are treated influences every aspect of their lives, including how they see themselves
- If you write a culture in which autistic characters are treated as fully human all of the time, it will need to be very different from our current culture
- And one of the ways in which it will need to be different is that there will be a *lot* more severely disabled people around being treated equally in public space
- If your autistic character is the only disabled character in the story, it’s because there are a lot of other autistic folks being kept out of the space they’re in.
- The pervasive discrimination against people like them will affect who they are. Acknowledge that context, or else change it and write in their disabled peers.
Get feedback from autistic people about specific things you’re considering, and about drafts:
- You’re probably going to write in some stereotypes on your first attempt
- There’s no way to completely avoid that at first, getting this right will take practice
- But it’s better if you don’t make your initial, inevitably somewhat stereotyped, attempts really public
- Get autistic people to beta your initial attempts so you can get some experience first
- If you post in #askanautistic, you will likely be able to find someone willing to help you
Do any of y'all have suggestions?