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booksatrillion
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01 Dec 2017, 2:20 pm

I wanted to know if there were any tropes that I should avoid when writing an autistic character or things that you personally dislike when it comes to autistic representation. Also what experiences you would like to see explored further in writing?



TheAP
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01 Dec 2017, 2:45 pm

- Avoid having your character talk in a stereotypical "autism voice", aka super detached and logical.

- Use a humanizing, not behaviourizing, approach. This means instead of just describing the behaviours your character exhibits, show why they behave that way; describe the inner feelings that cause them to behave that way.

- One of my pet peeves is autistic characters who take everything literally, even when they have enough life experiences to understand certain expressions. Autistic people aren't completely incapable of understanding metaphors and jokes.

- Don't have your character display autistic-like behaviours just to show how autistic they are. As with any book, every scene should contribute to the plot. And autistic people don't act "autistic" 24/7.

- Some books portray autistic characters that don't react or care when someone bullies or abuses them. This can unintentionally spread the message that it's okay to do whatever you want to us, because we don't care. Avoid this.

- Above all, remember that your character is a person first and foremost, besides being autistic. They will have their own strengths, weaknesses, interests, flaws, opinions, joys, pet peeves, etc. Make sure you create a person, not a walking diagnosis.

As for what experiences I'd like to see explored, I'm a sucker for a book that just shows how the autistic person copes with the world. But it's cool to see autistic people being the heroes in fantasy or sci-fi tales too. Also, I've seen people say that the media portrayal of autism tends to be too whitewashed and heteronormative, and they'd like to see autistic characters who are people of colour or LGBT. It's completely your choice, though. The most important thing is to present a realistic, respectful portrayal of autism.



LegoMaster2149
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01 Dec 2017, 2:59 pm

Don't try to portray autistic characters as savants. In reality, the number of autistic people who are savants are very low, and there aren't many savants in the world that are recognized, either. It kinda is a pet peeve that some people think that all autistic people are very smart in stuff like that, because it makes me feel like that they expect us to be smart. Anyway, there's my piece of advice.

-Lego (Written on December 1, 2017)


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booksatrillion
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02 Dec 2017, 6:07 am

Thank you for the advice!
No worries LegoMaster2149 they aren't going to be the savant stereotype because that has always bothered me as well!

And TheAP thank you for such a detailed reply! It's really helpful! I'm not too worried about them being detached or unrealistic as I based most of their autism related characteristics on my own experience. And although I play into the not understanding jokes and metaphors thing it is partially due to the fact that they grew up in the underworld with only their mother for company. I kind of worry the autistic traits may be overlooked due to their upbringing though which I would hate to happen. If you can think of anything that would be recognizable enough to show they are autistic I would love to hear it! I plan on adding a special interest (gardening/plants) and a meltdown later in the story but any more suggestions would be awesome!
The story is not from their perspective so you can't really hear their inner monologue. I don't want them to be interpreted incorrectly but I do have a third person omniscient narrator but I'm not sure if chiming in when something happens will come off correctly. I don't want to take away from the experience by popping in an explainer line.
And although my character isn't abused they do experience trauma in battle and when losing a loved one. I've never lost someone close to me so I can't really use my own experience for this. Any resources on how trauma or mourning affect people with autism would be greatly appreciated!
The story won't be entirely about how they cope with the world but they play a very large role. I'm not too worried about whitewashing Kassim (the character) because they can change appearance or shapeshift as they wish, they also have no fixed gender or sexuality because of the planet they they came from. (As I wrote this I realized the irony that they are autistic and from another planet lol)
This really did help me work out a couple problems and it was really helpful! Thank you so so so much!! :heart: :D



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02 Dec 2017, 10:52 am

Nice screen name, Booksatrillion!

How many square miles would a trillion books cover?

I imagine it would cover the whole Earth....



booksatrillion
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02 Dec 2017, 3:17 pm

@kraftiekortie Thank you!! And this is a really good question, I hadn't really thought about it! So I did some quick math! A standard sized book is nine inches tall so 9000000000000 inches would be about 142,000,000 miles and earth's surface area (if my google search is correct) is 196,936,994 miles so a trillion books wouldn't cover the entire earth but it comes pretty close! :D



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02 Dec 2017, 4:23 pm

I would say the key to creating autistic characters is to base your representation upon actual autistic people whom you know. In the absence of that, seek out YouTubers who are Aspergian or autistic.

If you don't do either, it is quite likely that the character you create will be a stereotypical/caricaturized one like Sheldon in "Big Bang Theory."



booksatrillion
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02 Dec 2017, 11:07 pm

@kraftiekortie Yeah I know, a lot of the autistic traits of my character are similar to my own experiences or the experiences of friends. I just wanted to see what other people would/wouldn't want to see :D



Sofisol612
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08 Dec 2017, 6:33 pm

I mostly agree with the previous posters: avoid the savant cliche and do not exaggerate the autistic traits. Even though having more autistic characters help with ASD awareness, if they are all like Rain Man it does exactly the opposite, as NTs start wondering how I can be autistic if I look nothing like that boy in Atypical. I think people need to know that not everything we do or say is autism-related.

As for what I´d like to see in an autistic character, I think I´d love it if someone wrote something about an autistic girl or woman with more gender-specific autistic traits, just because there aren´t many fictional books about aspie women. I still like books about autistic boys/men, if they aren´t too stereotypical.

One more thing: a previous poster mentioned the humanizing/behaviorizing dychotomy and you expressed you were concerned about overexplaining because you had a third person narrator. But there´s no need to worry: you don´t need to have a first person narrator to humanize your character. You only have to make sure that every time your character shows an autistic trait (such as stimming, saying something inappropriate, having a meltdown) the reader can see he´s doing it for a reason (e.g. he´s anxious or excited about something, he doesn´t know what to say or believes his comment is polite, there was a sudden unexpected change in his routine and he feels lost and doesn´t know what to do...) As long as the behavior has a reason other than "he did that because he´s autistic" it would be fine. You can show some of your character´s thoughts or introduce the explanation with some dialogue.


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